Sunday, September 25, 2016


Now Playing: Peter Murphy - Cuts You Up

My parents and brother were watching Inside Out a little earlier today, and I got back to thinking to that whole art being either beautiful or useful. (And how ideally you want both but one side of the scale tilts, whether a lot or a little).

My whole last semester of creative writing made me certain I wanted my art to be beautiful. I considered often--but briefly--what it might have been like to write the kind of book that would be dissected in English classes of the future, and every time I thought, "I'd rather be shallow. I'd rather be good at being shallow."

I admire Inside Out for being one of those rare films that can be both beautiful (great animation, vivid colors, emotionally poignant, funny) and useful (thoughtful, layered, unique message). But maybe all this hostility towards art that is useful happens because I fear that it can't ever change people.

My education argues otherwise. I never went through a literature or film or history course not being reminded (subtly or blatantly) that art influences people's opinions and feelings, that entire wars can start because of books, that a film can humanize or dehumanize a living being.

And I love my parents a lot. But due to many external circumstances, they're the kind of people who have a very complicated relationship with "negative" emotions. Mainly sadness and anger. Sometimes we've argued about our arguments. It's the strangest thing to be angry and sad at them because they don't always let me be angry and sad. And to be fair, they don't do it out of malice: they try to push those feelings away from themselves on the belief that they're unproductive.

When they were watching Inside Out, on my brother's last day of his quick, mid-semester visit, I wondered if that hour and a half could really change them. Today or tomorrow or ten years from now, when they're reflecting on it.

I have doubts. I don't know how many people came out of that movie--came out liking that movie--and had newfound appreciation for emotional complexities and the merits of accepting and addressing sadness. Or if it only reached people who'd already had a disposition for embracing that message.

Closing questions: is there a book or movie or video game or even a song that changed me fundamentally?

How did it do it?

How long did it take?

What is it called?

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"Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century... The scientists make a finding. It inspires science fiction writers to write about it, and a host of young people read the science fiction and are excited, and inspired to become scientists...which they do, which then feeds again into another generation of science fiction and science..."
- Carl Sagan, in his message to future explorers of Mars.