Most of you know by now that I’m really interested in human psychology, emotions, and how our relationships with others can influence our internal views of ourselves. And sometimes, a specific word will get stuck in my head that I feel inclined to write about, such as “honesty,” “growing pains,” “grief.” or “stubbornness.” Today, the word that’s stuck in my head is “pity.”

 Before even googling the actual definition of pity, I’d like to try and craft my own interpretation of what that means. In regards to self-pity, I think what that means is you’ve reached a point in your life where you feel unnoticed and unappreciated for the hardships and privations you go through. Maybe you don’t think your entire life is awful, but you think most parts of it are hard, and the only thing that makes you feel like you’re getting any sort of attention or validation for it is through feeling bad for yourself. So it’s not healthy, but it’s usually not malicious. I don’t think people who self-pity are bad people. I think they are damaged and haven’t developed healthy coping mechanisms for their stress or grief.

Webster says that pity is “the feeling of sorrow and compassion caused by the suffering and misfortune of others.” (I suppose in a situation of self-pity, the only word you would have to change is “others” to say “one’s self.”) When I was a bit younger, between the ages of 14-19, I would say I really struggled with self-pity. A couple of the aspects that contributed to this unhealthy cycle was a low self-esteem and a poor support system, and throughout the years, both of those things have improved enormously. Even though I was dealing with a lot of factors and stresses that were out of my control, like my parents splitting up, not being ‘popular’ or well-liked in school, and not being happy with my round face and my oily skin, it was still essentially my own responsibility for the way I felt about these things. I couldn’t change the fact that this was me and this was happening to me, but I could change the way I responded to it. So I learned to understand, accept, and even love the “broken” parts of my life. Although my mom and dad getting a divorce was a difficult change to adapt to, it actually turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me. Turns out, we’re all much happier in my family now that my parents are separated. I can’t change the fact that other girls and boys didn’t want to be my friend in high school, or the fact that I had acne and frizzy, curly hair, but I could change the way I felt about myself. And gradually, I was able to drop the self-pity. It wasn’t something that happened overnight, but that seldom happens with any self change. It was a slow, soothing process of letting go of the sorrow and disgust I felt towards myself. Instead of trying to change myself to better fit my peers, I tried to say, “You know what? I’m going to like myself today. And I’m going to like my face and my body today.” Eventually, I did start to feel really good about myself. And then one day, I realized that I was truly happy for myself and happy with the person I had become. Other people noticed, too. Change really starts from the inside and works itself outwards, like a spiral. I didn’t realize how much the way I perceived myself could affect how other people viewed me, too. And then, after I started to feel better about who I really was, I started having an easier time making friends and feeling confident in my interactions with others. Having a strong sense of self-esteem does wonders for your social abilities, even if you’re typically shy and reserved, like I am.

I’ve noticed people in my own life getting sucked into a cycle of self-pity, so this next paragraph is for those people. Sitting around and feeling bad for yourself gives you a burn in your stomach- a hot, mournful, painful, yet somehow self-satisfying burn that you start to feel like you deserve. Even though you may feel like you don’t deserve anything better in life because of what has happened to you or what your circumstances are, it’s unfair to yourself and others to self-pity. In the long run, you are only going to continue to perpetuate a low self-image and drive away your loved ones. And trust me, this is coming from someone who felt bad for herself for years. It’s a selfish thing to harbor so much self-pity. It makes other people feel like you’re unhelpable. And you don’t deserve to feel like a burden and a waste of a life- you deserve to feel like you are a worthy life and you have potential for growth and happiness. You don’t want to lay in a hospital bed alone someday, cold and gray, wishing you had just given the act a rest and enjoyed your life a little bit. Because at the end of the day, it’s not that deep. As Pam Muñoz Ryan once said, “You don’t have to get over it, but you do have to get on with it.”

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Have you ever done something so naturally, you just assumed everyone else was the same way? Not necessarily in a bad way- maybe you grew up thinking everybody brushed their teeth in the shower, and then one day you found out most people think that’s crazy, and they’ve never heard of anybody doing that before.

Yes, that actually happened to me. I had a girl over at my apartment once, and when she saw me brushing my teeth in the shower, she was actually speechless. And apparently, brushing your teeth in the shower is “cursed”. 

Anyway. That’s kinda how I felt when I realized I had synesthesia. But then came the wonderful realization that even though it’s uncommon, I’m not the only person who experiences it. And there’s even an entire subreddit dedicated to the subject!

I will say this- it’s hard to explain synesthesia unless you experience it yourself, but here’s the dictionary definition: “A condition in which one sense (for example, hearing) is simultaneously perceived as if by one or more additional senses such as sight. Another form of synesthesia joins objects such as letters, shapes, numbers or people’s names with a sensory perception such as smell, color or flavor.”

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Basically, it means two or more of your senses have blended together. For example, some people associate different sounds with colors- like a high C is red, or a drum beat is blue, etc. Some people associate smells with colors, or smells with sounds. Some folks with synesthesia can see sounds, which is so fascinating to me. For me, I experience grapheme-color synesthesia, which means I consistently associate numbers with very specific colors. The consistency factor is important to the concept of synesthesia- when I was a kid, the number four was dark green. And now, as a twenty-year old, four is still dark green. The colors never change, and that’s what makes synesthesia so fascinating. 

The day I found out other people didn’t have colors for their numbers, I had the toothbrush feeling. I can’t imagine thinking of a number, and not seeing its color with it. Another trippy thing is when you meet a fellow person with synesthesia, and they have different colors for their numbers. Fights have broken out on Reddit over the fact that number nine is obviously red. I also associate colors with names, but not all names. Off the top of my head, I can tell you the name “Julia” is a medium blue. “Sarah” doesn’t have a color, interestingly. 

There’s a relatively well-known young adult book out there about a girl with synesthesia. In the novel, she insists on using the “correct” chalk colors to correlate with her numbers and letters, and that’s a perfect example of how dead-set these phenomenons can be. For me personally, I’m not bothered by writing everything in black ink. This has to due with the fact that I don’t look at a physical number and view it in that color- my synesthesia happens within my mind, when I think about that color. On a sheet of paper, everything is black, but when I visualize a number in my mind, I see that number in its color. Does that make any sense? For some people, however, they do see the colors on the paper, and that’s the type of synesthesia the girl in the book experiences. It’s an extremely diverse, versatile, personal experience. 

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There’s no real explanation for why it happens to some people and not others, but the research is fascinating. Some researchers believe it can be genetically inherited, though nobody else in my family experiences this phenomenon. I read somewhere else that people who experience synesthesia have more gray matter than average person in their brain, but there’s also no conclusive evidence for that. The reason there is so little research probably has to do with the fact that synesthesia is so rare, and thus, there isn’t a whole lot of data to go off of. It’s estimated that about 1-2% of the population experiences some form of synesthesia, and like I said, there are a variety of different types. Interestingly, synesthesia is more common in artists, writers, and musicians, and as many as 25% of artists experience it. Damn!

 Another possible reason for this experience has to due with your neural connections. A researcher at the University of Cambridge proposed that folks with synesthesia have an overabundance of neural connections, and there is more connection between the different modules of your brain. In a nutshell, the information is kinda just getting jumbled along the way, but instead of being annoying, it’s actually really fun. Hence why there isn’t really any treatment for having synesthesia- I’ve never met a person who wasn’t proud of their condition, including me. It’s certainly a fun conversation starter.

It’s not entirely useless, either. I record pass codes, important dates, and even my social security number purely in color. I just scribble down the swatches of color, and boom, I can read the numbers in my head. It’s a fun way to carry around confidential information, and not have to worry about anyone else reading.

Every few months or so, I go back to my color key to make sure the numbers are still the same, and every time, they are. I’d love to do even more research on this phenomenon, and I have some further reading planned. I’d love to hear your experiences with synesthesia as well- how does it affect you? What are your colors, your sounds, your smells? Is your 9 the same as my 9? 


Works consulted: https://www.livescience.com/60707-what-is-synesthesia.html

Images: https://www.reddit.com/r/Synesthesia/comments/6vwpei/my_timbre_to_color_synesthesia/

Meet Jack Coulter – the artist turning synesthesia into art

 

Coming up next: Gift Guide: The Perfect BOOK for Everyone on Your List

I feel silly even having to preface this, but for the people who don’t know: MBTI is NOT science. It’s a fun little personality test that I personally love, but by no means do I think you should base your entire life and opinions of others off of the MBTI.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I would definitely recommend looking into it. It’s one of the more famous personality tests, and while some will argue that the sixteen types are actually quite vague, I personally think mine was spot on.

I’m an INFJ, like everyone else coined on this list. Of course, some of these are just theories; we can’t actually go back in time and ask Plato if he was an INFJ, but researchers and psychologists have put a lot of energy into organizing these lists. These, to me, are the most interesting (and surprising) INFJs coined on the web. I mean, any time you can group Hitler and Eleanor Roosevelt together into anything is kind of wild.

Just a little background on the INFJ type- INFJ stands for “Introverted, Intuition, Feeling, Judging.” INFJs are sensitive people with extensive imaginations, but they are certainly not idle dreamers. INFJs are determined and passionate about what they love, and are willing to take all the necessary steps to turn their dreams into realities. Generally, INFJs are soft-spoken, but can become fiercely protective of what they believe in, especially when they think their morals are being tested. INFJs are also very often good at speaking in human terms, and tuning people into them emotionally. Even Adolf Hitler, a malicious, evil nutcase, knew how to sway the German public into falling for his politics, because of his passionate speaking abilities. In that sense, INFJs can be very manipulative.

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It’s also noteworthy to add that many INFJs are extremely private, and can sometimes have difficulty letting others in. I don’t listen to a lot of Taylor Swift, but from what I’ve seen, she is relatively quiet about her personal beliefs and matters of that realm.

Although I admittedly don’t care much for her music, I wanted to touch on Taylor Swift because she’s such a great, widely-known example. Taylor Swift is clearly a creative, emotionally sensitive musician, and definitely has that people-pleasing quality that INFJs are known for. She’s also a perfectionist when it comes to her music, and, based off her lyrics, probably gets lost from time to time in the little details of life. I myself do this a lot- I lose sight of the big picture- so I admire Taylor Swift for speaking about her imperfections in her music.


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Like I mentioned, Plato is believed to be an INFJ, and he’s actually one of the first results to come up on various sites when you google “famous INFJs”. Though I’m not familiar with a lot of Plato’s writing and philosophy, his personality reflects through his understanding and passion for “human” issues. Plato had an incredible understanding of human behavior, and his mission as a philosopher was to improve society in a gentle, sweet-voiced manner. Those who knew Plato described him as being gentle and soft-spoken, while still remaining passionate about his beliefs. Many INFJs (including Plato) are characterized as incredible writers, hence why I enjoy my personality type and identify with its traits.


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It’s initially surprising to know that Adolf Hitler was believed to be an INFJ, and honestly, I had my doubts too when I first read that. How could somebody so different from Plato, Taylor Swift, and well, me, share my personality type? Despite the fact that Hitler was a hateful, cold-hearted dictator, there are elements of him that align with the INFJ type. Like Plato and Eleanor Roosevelt, Hitler knew how to address an audience and gather their attention with his passionate speaking, even if it was in the name of evil. He was passionate in his endeavors, even if they were heartless. He was sensitive to the societal norms and desires of Germany, hence why he was able to manipulate the public so well and (initially) convince the nation to rally on his side. It’s kind of terrifying, really, how even a madman can understand human behavior and emotions so well, but lack any sort of empathy or goodness.


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Eleanor Roosevelt is another believed INFJ, and I wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment. The former first lady was warm and friendly, with an interest and dedication in improving society for the better. Although she could be considered an idealist, she was still determined and willing to take the concrete steps that would turn her visions into reality. I have so much admiration for her selfless actions, like visiting hospitals and genuinely asking the patients how they were doing. Her quotes are also extremely inspiring to me, and I have a few of them jotted down in my notebook for when I need a spark of motivation.


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Moving onto fictional INFJs- there are dozens of them. As you may have expected, many of them are wise peacemakers, but INFJs also take the form of emotional, sensitive, hopeless romantics. Though I personally don’t watch Game of Thrones, I see Jon Snow’s name pop up a lot on MBTI forums. I think I know the basics about Snow from just hearing about the show- he is quietly forceful, original, sensitive, and likes to stick to tasks until they are completed. He also strikes me as being highly intuitive, and from what I’ve seen, is interested in helping the people around him with their emotional issues. He seems to be one of the most unproblematic, well-respected characters on the show, which would make sense, but correct me if I’m wrong.


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I was so happy when I discovered that Eponine is an INFJ. “On My Own” has always had an extremely strong emotional hold on me, and now I know why I relate to the lyrics so much. If you’re familiar with Les Miserables, you’ll recognize Eponine as the sensitive, romantic young woman who falls for Marius. INFJs can be extremely affected by their emotions, especially when their hearts are broken, which I can personally attest to. As an INFJ, she quickly feels betrayed by lies or misleading information, and can swiftly become self-critical of herself. Despite being highly emotional, however, I think of Eponine as a strong female character in the book and musical. She exhibits strength and humility throughout the story, and I admire her for that.


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Who else was a Star Wars fanatic as a child? I was! Obi-Wan Kenobi, of course, is one of those wise old man stereotypes I was telling you about in the INFJ realm. He serves as a counselor for several of the characters, and is well-known for his gentle, caring demeanor. Like all INFJs, Obi-Wan Kenobi is a complex character with strong, often private emotions, but his pursuit is always in the greater good. He lived his life with ambitions and great purpose, and was wholeheartedly devoted to the cause that he believed in. Honestly, I would have to say that he is one of my favorite fictional INFJs that I have discovered thus far.


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Last but certainly not least, I had to touch upon Nitta Sayuri, the focus of Arthur Golden’s famous novel, Memoirs of a Geisha. I read the book in high school, and to this day, I still consider it to be one of my all-time favorite novels. Even though Sayuri is fictional, I related to her emotions and felt her love and pain throughout the entire book. The writing is beautiful, and Sayuri (Golden) often uses metaphors and quotes to hint at the deeper meaning of her life. She is working through her ultimate goal with passion and desire- the goal of reuniting with “The Chairman,” Ken Iwamura. Though her sense of self is strong, Sayuri can be easily affected by the views of others, which makes her eager to please (even if it means getting into trouble). Ultimately, and perhaps unknowingly, Sayuri’s greatest mission is to understand life itself, no matter how troubling the life of a geisha may be.


If you’re interested in learning more about MBTI, there are tons of websites and forums out there. I love Personality Cafe, and Personality Club is very informative as well. If you want to take the test yourself and explore the other fifteen types, I’ll leave that link below!

Take the test yourself! It’s free. https://www.16personalities.com/personality-types


Sources: https://www.personalityclub.com/blog/famous-infj/

Pictures:

https://www.tennessean.com/story/entertainment/music/2018/11/19/taylor-swift-new-label-leaves-big-machine-republic-records/2054405002/

https://www.laphamsquarterly.org/contributors/plato

https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Nordic_race

https://people.com/books/new-biography-explores-eleanor-roosevelts-romance-with-a-woman/

https://gameofthrones.fandom.com/wiki/Jon_Snow

https://lesmiserables.fandom.com/wiki/%C3%89ponine_Th%C3%A9nardier

https://starwarsfans.fandom.com/wiki/Obi-Wan_Kenobi

https://weheartit.com/entry/168238553

Coming up next: Malachite: Balance and Abundance

Let me get this out of the way: I’m not completely against buying stuff. I believe that like all areas of our lives -food, sex, sleep, etc.- these things that make us feel good can be healthy in moderation. Money is obviously no exception to this; it’s something we need to survive in our modern society, but it can also be easily taken advantage of. I’ve noticed a growing trend on YouTube in the last couple of years- an increased amount of haul videos, shopping overloads, giant PR packages, “I Spent X Amount of Dollars on Wish.com”, “I Tested $1,000 Worth of Makeup”, the list goes on and on. These videos do have good intentions, and I’m aware that they’re often for entertainment purposes, but that doesn’t change the fact that they can carry damaging undertones. We, as humans, already have an unquenchable urge to always want more than we have. It’s human nature, and I’m guilty of it myself- hence why I think the culture of consumerism can be dangerous in feeding these constant wants and needs. Yes, they are entertaining, but on a deeper level, are they really messages that we should be subjecting ourselves to and admiring?

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I don’t think all product placement and advertisement is a negative thing, I more so have a problem with how content creators are going about doing it. If a YouTuber wants to recommend a product or a brand that they genuinely enjoy using and consider the investment to be worth it, than yeah, I’ll listen. Jenna Marbles is actually particularly good at this- she rarely flaunts brands and products excessively, but when she does recommend something to us, it’s something that we can find useful and practical. I think the line is crossed when YouTubers are buying just to buy, and flaunting just to flaunt.

Listen, Mia Maples and NikkieTutorials, you can do whatever you want with your money. And I agree that these types of videos can be entertaining and a lot of fun to watch, but everything can have a darker, deeper meaning to it. “It starts creating feedback loop and people have to keep outdoing themselves and do something more shocking, more outrageous, in order to stay relevant,” revealed another YouTube-watching friend of mine.

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The problem is, if you’re going to market yourself as just an everyday, relatable teen, you also have to deal with the flip side that viewers are going to attempt to follow in your footsteps. How can you justify dropping $400 in the blink of an eye on a pile of clothes or makeup, and putting it online, when the majority of your audience can’t even afford a pizza? What is the message you are trying to get across? And how do you think you’re coming across to young people?

I’ve noticed that a lot of content creators seem to lack “identity”, in a sense that they don’t come across as truly happy with themselves to their audiences. Instead, they seemingly promote their self worth with brands, products, sponsorships, and materialistic consumerism. I’m not saying that all YouTubers should analyze themselves on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs for us, but really, when the only content you can put out about yourself is what you’re buying, it definitely carries a gloomy message: “I am over-reliant on my possessions.”

Adolescent years are already hard enough on teenagers. When you take raging hormones, self-esteem issues, and then add in constant bombardment of materialism, the already fragile front of youth continues to crumble. We don’t need another video of a content creator exulting their purchases, but maybe, what we do need, is realness and empathy. We need role models who share their pain and their adversities, not just their pleasures and perks. Most of the time, all this really leads to is jealousy, comparison, and depression. What we really need is more love, more sharing, and more emotions- not just tangibility. We need more love.

Further reading: https://fulleryouthinstitute.org/blog/the-high-risks-of-consumerism

Pictures: http://magazine.art21.org/2017/01/09/this-week-in-art-1-9-1-15-artists-call-for-inauguration-day-strike/#.XKuI5ZhKjZs

https://lauramchugh1.wordpress.com/tag/consumerism/

Coming up next: Crystal Diary: The Unconditional Love of Emerald

This article could very easily turn into an existential crisis, or, at the very least, criticism of modern corporate America, but I’ll try to keep it on the topic of psychology first and foremost before I derail into philosophy. I actually planned on writing this article months ago, but ironically, the posting schedule is lining up VERY well with my real-life stress. I’ve been absolutely drowning in it lately, and the more I stress, the guiltier I feel about letting myself relax. So why am I like that?

The year is 2019, and with the chaotic advancement of data and technology, I think we’re all feeling slightly overloaded. At the age of barely twenty, I’m already feeling completely overloaded with tasks and information. I can’t imagine what it’s like to add a family, a full-time job, bills, healthcare, and a house into the mix- and I sure don’t get excited thinking about it.

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It’s kind of sad, isn’t it? We as millennials are constantly being bombarded with criticism from the older generations, who constantly remind us that we are lazy, entitled robots who don’t know what hard work is. This sentiment really pisses me off, because it’s so lacking in perspective and a sense of reality. Each generation will be vastly different from the generation before it, mine included. We are the pioneers of the social media age, and while it’s a ton of fun, the constant change in technology places a lot of stress on my shoulders. Add in the fact that just being alive is becoming more and more expensive each day, college has been proven to increase the blood pressure of young people, and a buffoon is currently running our country, and boom! You have a recipe for stress in 2019.

It’s no one’s individual fault that these are the plights of a modern college student. If anything, I think it is collectively the fault of everyone in power- the government, the education system, and corporate America. Mental health has only recently been recognized as a valid universal topic, and up until recently we’ve been living in a very “suck-it-up-and-get-the-work-done” world.

I think that type of conditioning is part of the reason we have such a hard time relaxing. We are constantly set up to always be ready for the next task in life, one after another, like an assembly line of life. We are an assembly line, and the only way to survive is to keep chugging out labor for corporate America. Sometimes a lucky one sneaks out, but the key word there is “luck”. That, and unwavering hard work and self-assurance.

Even when the work is done, we still can’t escape the thought that there is something left to do. It’s all very relevant to the theme that society teaches us to never stop working hard, if you take any time for yourself to focus on what makes you happy, or anything that’s not work-related you’re “selfish”.

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The concept of selfishness has been really interesting to me lately. I’m in the middle of reading The Satanic Bible by Anton Szandor LaVey (great book, by the way), and one of my favorite notions he discusses is the celebration of the seven deadly sins. “Satan represents, indulgence, instead of abstinence” plants the seed to this idea, barely a quarter into the book. Also, here’s a quote from page 85 that more or less sums up my point:

“Satanists are encouraged to indulge in the seven deadly sins, as they hurt no one; they were only invented by the Christian Church to ensure guilt on the part of its followers. The Christian Church knows that it is impossible for anyone to avoid committing these sins, as they are all things which we, being human, most naturally do.”

I’m not saying I hate Christians, but I do agree that guilt is instilled in us for giving into our most human desires. That could be an entire article in itself, so I’ll try to keep it solely on “sloth.” Satanism isn’t the only religion that highlights the importance of self-care; I’ve also noticed a lot of positive mental health themes in Buddhism. I’ll link one of my favorite Buddhist talks by Ajahn Brahm at the bottom: it’s very relevant to this subject, and overall, just a really fantastic video.

Since a young age, we are instilled with the thought that any time we take out for ourselves is selfish, wrong, and unimportant. Basically, if we enjoy something that’s not related to work/income, we are led to believe that it’s less important. Obviously I believe that work is an essential part of life, whether we like it or not, but why can’t work be fun? Why can’t we be a little more silly, a little looser, a little less serious? Why, even after the work is finished, do we have such a hard time letting ourselves be selfish and relax?

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I think it’s possible to have a job you love and still be successful- it just takes a lot of hard work. I’ve been thinking a lot about my future- student loan debt, bills, rent, internships, jobs, everything. And I’m also thinking about the universe- how insignificant humanity is, how our entire history, in regards to the rest of the history of time, is absolutely minuscule. We have hardly even made a dent, and the truth is, after we die, we’re not really important anymore. The only thing that matters is right now- being alive in this moment, and enjoying life to the fullest before our timer runs out and we become infinitely meaningless.

It sounds cliche, but do what makes you happy and gives you the most joy. Optimize your life with as much fun as you want, because once you realize you’re dying, it’s going to be too late.

“Relax- Everything is out of control!” By Ajahn Brahm: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zY6Q-OnMTEE

Coming up next: Fashion Journal: 1970-1979

Photos: https://phys.org/news/2019-02-theory-universe-thought.html

http://www.rgbstock.com/photo/q0J6sos/Cookie+Cutter+People+2

https://thesatanictemple.com/

 

Let me begin by saying this: sex is fucking great. No complaints here. But are drugs, money, and sex appeal as incredible and life-changing as the Top Billboard songs make them out to be? Nah.

As I expected, I was able to find a ton of research and information about this particular topic, so I’ll leave the links to those pages below. I want to incorporate a lot of my own thoughts and opinions into this article, but these additional findings are interesting!

First and foremost, 92% of all Top Ten Billboard songs are about sex. Sex appeal, arousal, body parts, f*cking bitches, yada yada yada, you get it. You know what DOESN’T make up 92% of my time? All and any of these above. It maybe takes up about 5% of my daily life and thought process. Let’s make a pie chart real quick, just for shits.

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I can’t speak for everyone, of course, but I personally spend more time consumed with the overbearing existential dread of life rather than hooking up with babes at the club. So why are songs so obsessed with sex and drugs, you may ask? Because escapism.

When the stress and strife of average life becomes too much to handle, we humans like to seek relief and distraction. For some people, unfortunately, it’s drugs and other extremities, but it doesn’t always have to be negative. I, for example, find a lot of relief and joy in playing The Sims 4. It’s quite literally an escape from reality, and a way for me to distract my mind from the distress of everyday life. In healthy, reasonable amounts, escapism can be okay, and it’s also completely natural human behavior. Sex more or less works the same way, especially in the form of music. Sex is a form of release, euphoria, fantasy, and yes, distraction. As listeners, it’s easy to get attached to these attractive subjects, and find personal connection within them.

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Okay, fair enough. I sure do like using fantasizing as a way to escape from everyday life. But still, ninety-two percent seems a bit extreme. I mean, there’s only so many times I can hear someone sing about how great sex is before it starts to seem redundant. Especially when these songs portray sex as a fix-all to our problems. I’m sorry to break it to you, but if you’re having a shitty week, some good sex isn’t going to change the fact that you’re having a shitty week. It might distract you for a little while (ESCAPISM!), but it’s not going to “fix everything” the way sexual songs can condition us to feel. Like I said, sex is damn fun, but it’s not going to be the solution to every problem, every single time. Sometimes, it is good to look your feelings straight in the eye and just experience them, and accept them.

There is another reason why sex is so popular in music, and this one is actually more scientific-based. I was just checking out an article on this subject by The Atlantic, and I came across an interesting quote by SUNY Albany psychology professor Dawn R. Hobbs. “Approximately 92% of the 174 songs that made it into the [Billboard] Top 10 in 2009 contained reproductive messages”, he says.

So, there you have it. There may be a link between our subconscious biological drive for reproduction and our obsession with sexual songs. It certainly evokes strong emotion in listeners, but could there also be something deeper? Are we psychologically pleased, subconsciously or not, by music that moves us to reproduce? It seems logical to me.

Like I said, there’s a ton of research on this topic, so feel free to do some research yourself. I’ve included some source links below, including another article I published on the topic of escapism. As always, leave your thoughts below!

Sources & stuff to check out!

https://www.quora.com/Why-are-almost-all-popular-songs-today-about-sex-love-drugs-or-money

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/09/92-top-ten-billboard-songs-are-about-sex/337242/

The Psychology of the Sims (and more on escapism): https://diplomatsdigest.wordpress.com/2019/01/31/the-psychology-of-the-sims/

Escapism picture: https://lifehacker.com/how-to-snap-back-to-reality-when-escapism-becomes-av-1723091630

Coming up next: The Relationship Between ADHD and GAD

 

For my mini-series of the month April, I wanted to do something a little bit different and a little bit…incohesive. I have a list of psychology-related questions in my phone notes, and for the last few months, I’ve just been slowly adding to it with every new thought that comes to mind. And so, for this month’s series, I am going to be tackling four of those questions!

So I guess this is “Psychology Wednesday”?

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The first subject I’ve been really interested in lately is viral kinetic sand/slime compilation videos. They definitely carry ASMR-like qualities, in regards to sound, but these videos also have relaxing visuals. Especially for kinetic sand videos, the visuals are what make them so addicting and mesmerizing to watch. But why are they so mesmerizing? Why do we experience so much satisfaction watching someone slide a knife through a pile of sand? Goddamn, I feel like Vsauce right now.

First of all, if you’re unfamiliar with what kinetic sand is, I’ll give you the general rundown. “Kinetic sand” is a special type of sand that contains silicone oil, making it extremely moldable and more compact than regular sand. Its properties are rather hard to explain if you’ve never actually seen it, so if you have no clue what I’m talking about, I recommend popping over to YouTube to watch some compilation videos.

Without even doing any further research, I can say that my absolute favorite thing about these videos is the precision. We, as humans, like “satisfying things”- alignment, perfection, and smoothness. Take the golden face ratio, for example; scientifically, a perfectly symmetrical face is considered to be the most beautiful and appealing to us.

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Surprisingly I actually can’t find a lot of research about this, so I’m going to carry on with doing a lot of inferring. I also have the Wikipedia page for “relaxation” open on another tab, so let’s see what we can gather from that. According to the official definition, relaxation is “the emotional state of a living being, of low tension, in which there is an absence of arousal that comes from sources such as anger, anxiety, or fear”. For me in particular, watching satisfying videos of a knife crisply slicing through kinetic sand and cutting it really hits me in my relaxation zone. Could this be because I associate anger and anxiety with fragmented, messy disorganization? Probably. For many of us, watching something relaxing and still visibly stimulating creates the opposite effect on our brains- everything is clean, organized, and agreeable with our subconscious. When things work out exactly the way we want it to, it obviously creates some level of satisfaction in our minds, reminding us in a visual way that everything is going to be okay.

Maybe we’ll never know why these types of ASMR videos bring so much peace and relaxation, but nonetheless, we can’t deny the fact that it has created a positive impact on the world. As someone who loves ASMR/relaxation videos myself, I’ve noticed improvements to my mental health and sleep schedule since discovering this community, and I hope you can too!

Source: https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/9k9xm7/the-oddly-satisfying-strangely-soothing-world-of-sand-slicing-videos

Pictures: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZiW6sSaruok

 

Coming up next: Spring 2019 Lookbook

*REPOST*: I accidentally deleted this!

The Sims is a very addicting game. That’s indisputable. But today, I’m interested in exploring the why of the game. Why is The Sims so addicting? Why has it aged so well? Why do we enjoy controlling tiny, pixelated computer people that can’t communicate with us or give us anything in return?

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The short answer, I think, is that humans are interested in playing the role of “God” to give themselves a sense of power and control. Which, I know, may sound dark, but I think there’s a lot of truth in that. Also, when I say we like to play the role of “God”, I don’t mean so in a theological sense. I just truly think that we, as humans, enjoy being the ultimate controller of our environment. If we have the choice to make things our way, we jump at the chance, and quickly organize ourselves into a natural rhythm.

My rhythm, actually, is one of the more mundane, conventional uses of the game. I like my sims to wake up at the same time every day, use the bathroom, take a shower, and eat breakfast, in that order. Then, it’s off to work, or school, for the majority of the day, until the sims return home, go to bed, and repeat the same cycle the next day. Does it sound boring? Yes, it absolutely does. But, for some inexplicable reason, I am absolutely obsessed with it.

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I think that part of the reason I want to give my sims a happy, normal life is because I want to replicate the life I’m dreaming of for myself. I love to imagine myself in a life filled with order, organization, and repetition, and my sims are a perfect embodiment of the lifestyle that makes me happy. When everything goes to plan in my sims’ neighborhood, I feel extremely at peace.

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There’s something called “escapism”, which I think really sums up the obsession people have with The Sims. Essentially, escapism refers to the idea that humans need to escape from the overbearing tensions of life, especially through the form of digital media. Maybe for you and your friends, it’s logging onto Netflix watching an adventurous television show, or taking a break to scroll through your phone, but for me, it’s The Sims. The game is a digital escape from reality- a place for me to create my own universe and fully immerse myself in it. Escapism, when used in a healthy amount, helps us to recharge our emotional batteries and give us a break from the toil of everyday life. It’s completely normal, and it’s something all of us do at some point in our day.
I’m curious if my diagnosed ADHD and OCD plays a role in my obsession with the sims, but then again, I know plenty of other people without those conditions who love The Sims as much as I do. Some people love to play the game conventionally as well- with a nuclear family, a family pet, a big, beautiful house, and a steady income. Other people enjoy the game for its interesting and even slightly humorous approach to death. Sims can die by old age, drowning, and electrocution, among other things, and are subsequently visited by the Grim Reaper to take their souls. Similarly to how a ten year-old girl might enjoy destroying her barbies for fun, teenagers and young adults alike find entertainment in killing off their sims. It’s just the element of shock and inappropriateness, I think, that draws gamers to giving their sims such horrible fates. To somebody who has never played The Sims, that might sound terrifying, but again, it’s all relative to the euphoria of being “God.”

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Additionally, The Sims has an element of storytelling that makes the gameplay appealing for writers, artists, and other creative minds. As someone who used to pick berries and flowers from my garden and pretend they were people living in a fantasy world, I liked the idea that you can be anything you want in The Sims. There are tons of expansion packs that introduce characters such as vampires, aliens, werewolves, and witches. The more expansion packs you purchase, the more intricate the game will become. I myself haven’t spent too much money on additional content, mostly due to the fact that they’re quite expensive, but I admire the appeal and purpose of these game enhancers.

There’s a deep reason The Sims franchise is so timeless and successful. It’s versatile, it’s creative, and it’s the perfect opportunity for both young and old gamers to explore their dream life. I am eager to see where The Sims 5 will bring us, assuming there is a 5, but I’m confident that it will continue to delight its fans with innovative, creative content. Now, I’m curious to hear your thoughts and experiences with The Sims. Do you prefer playing the game conventionally, or finding completely outrageous ways to (most likely) torture your sims? The possibilities are endless.

Escapism picture: https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Escapism

Coming up next: The Movie Tag

*Spoilers*

If you’ve been keeping up with my previous Movie Meaning Mondays, you may have noticed that the topics I’m writing about are pretty random. There’s a reason for that. For the most part, all of the articles I write that answer some sort of big question are topics I’ve googled in the past, but couldn’t find any answers to. In the past I’ve written about Chitty Chitty Bang Bang being an allusion to Nazi Germany, and why The Sims is such an addicting game. Today, the topic I’d like to see explored is themes in Coraline. I’ve always viewed this movie as being a warning for domestic abuse, or at least an allusion to it. Like I said, I haven’t been able to find any other articles about this opinion, so I’m going to pioneer it right here and now.

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Per usual, I’m going to re-watch the movie, sum up the plot, and then plug in all of my personal opinions and thoughts. I don’t mean to brag, but I’ve seen Coraline so many times, I can literally quote it word for word. It’s genuinely an incredible movie, and one that I’m excited to spill the piping tea on. If it was even remotely possible for me to get in touch with Neil Gaiman, or even Henry Selick, I would totally include an interview with them. Alas, they’re probably busy doing famous people things, and the chances of them ever acknowledging my writing are slim to none.

If you haven’t seen Coraline by now, you’re probably either a thirty year-old man, a ten year-old girl, or simply just living under a rock. For my age demographic, we millennials were essentially hit over the head with the release of Coraline. It was beautifully innovative, it was released to theaters in 3D, and in a nutshell, it was nothing that any of us had seen before. Coraline has grossed $192 million dollars worldwide since its release in 2009, and since then, has become a familiar piece of nostalgia for other 18-22 year-olds. Animated horror fantasy films almost always seem to do well (Corpse Bride, The Nightmare Before Christmas, etc), and Coraline is no exception.

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In the first scene of the movie, we see some creepy needle hands taking apart a rag doll with button eyes, remodeling it, and then sending it back out into the world. It seems like a random scene for a while, but around the halfway point of the movie, the story starts to make sense.

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So after that weird interlude, where does this story actually start? At the Pink Palace Apartments, where the Jones family is moving into their new apartment unit. Coraline is a spunky, rain boot-wearing, blue-haired explorer, who ignored and (in Coraline’s opinion) emotionally neglected by her parents. Mr. and Mrs. Jones are overworked writers for a gardening magazine, and as the stereotype goes, are much too involved in their work to pay any attention to Coraline. To cope with her frustration and loneliness, Coraline sets out on an adventure around the apartment complex. While exploring her gloomy, desolate surroundings, she comes across Wybie Lovat and his sassy black cat sidekick, who remains nameless throughout the film.

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Like many other oddball characters throughout the film, Wybie mispronounces Coraline’s name, and then teases her for her strange mannerisms and broad imagination. Needless to say, Coraline and Wybie don’t get off on the right foot, with Coraline left feeling stubbornly offended. In between their back-and-forthing, Wybie reveals his his grandmother is the owner of the Pink Palace apartments, and that she usually doesn’t rent to people with kids. When Coraline asks why, he replies reluctantly that he’s really not supposed to talk about it. Spoooooky. Wybie rides off on his bicycle, leaving Coraline with more questions than answers, and the “dowsing rod” she’s holding in her hands leaves her with a nasty case of poison oak.

The next day, Coraline receives a strange, wrapped-up item from Wybie, with a note that reads, “Hey, Jonesy, look what I found in Grandma’s trunk. Look familiar? Wybie.”

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Ah, yes, remember the doll from the beginning?

Rightfully, Coraline is pretty confused to receive a ragdoll doppelganger, but she surprisingly doesn’t seem too creeped out. Still feeling ignored by her parents, Coraline takes the doll with her on an excursion around the apartment, exploring every nook and cranny. Eventually, Coraline comes across a small, suspicious looking door, covered up by wallpaper. Coraline somehow manages to get her mom’s attention for a few minutes, who uncovers the door and opens it, revealing bricks on the other side. Coraline is disappointed, and unassumingly goes to bed that night, making nothing of the events of the day. UnTIL…

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In the middle of the night, Coraline finds herself awaken by the sound of a mouse. She follows the mouse down the stairs and into the parlor, and watches in amazement as the mouse goes behind the tiny door. When Coraline opens the door herself, there are no longer bricks- it’s a beautiful, ethereal-like tunnel, leading into the darkness.

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Coraline crawls through the tunnel, and pushes through another tiny door, and finds herself in an exact replica of the room she was just in- the only difference is, it’s a lot nicer. The paint is fresh and new, the house is now decorated, and a delicious smell is wafting from the kitchen. As Coraline quietly ambles into the kitchen, she is met by another surprise- her “Other Mother.”

Nightmare Fuel: 2.0.

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Essentially, The Other Mother is an exact copy of Coraline’s mother back home, except nicer, prettier, and equipped with button eyes. Coraline’s Other Father is also just as charming and personable, and throughout the night, the Other parents entertain Coraline and shower her with attention. After feeding Coraline a delicious meal and giving her some magic mud to make her poison oak clear up, the Other parents send Coraline off to bed in her Other bedroom, which is also beautifully decorated.

Coraline falls asleep, but wakes up to find herself back in her regular room. She might have just brushed it off as a dream, but notices that her poison oak is indeed completely gone. Escastically, she gushes about her experience to her parents, who more or less pass it off as a dream. Determined to find someone who will listen, Coraline sets off on an excursion to meet the other tenants of the Pink Palace. She first comes across Sergei Alexander Bobinsky, weird-ass blue guy who claims to have a jumping mice circus living in his house. Upon further research (Wikipedia), Mr. B was apparently a “former Chernobyl liquidator.” Maybe that’s why he’s blue? And also batshit crazy?

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Anywho, after that odd encounter, Coraline meanders onward to chat with her other neighbors, two retired burlesque actresses named Miss Spink and Miss Forcible. The nature of these two old gals’ relationship isn’t really mentioned, but I like to believe they’re two aging lesbians, spending the rest of their life together. Once again, Coraline is warned of foreshadowing danger, which she more or less snubs off.

And, as if we couldn’t hit Coraline in the head enough with the notion that the Other apartment is dangerous, Wybie comes into play. He may not be aware of the door’s existence, but he explains to Coraline that his grandmother’s sister was “stolen.” And no, it’s not spoiling the plot for me to tell you grandma’s missing sister has something to do with the Other apartment. If you hadn’t inferred that by now, well, I’m not sure where you thought this movie was going.

Despite these overwhelming warnings, Coraline indeed embarks to the Other apartment the next night. This time, she’s introduced to Other Wybie, equipped with button-eyes and also a lack of speech, much to Coraline’s delight. Coraline’s adventures continue in the Other apartment, where she explores the beautiful garden with her Other father, and witnesses Other Mr. B’s jumping mice circus with Other Wybie. It’s fantastic and thrilling, but much to Coraline’s dismay, she once again wakes up in her regular room the next morning.

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Now back in the real world, Coraline spends some “quality time” shopping for school clothes with her mother. Her parents are still constantly busy, but it’s at this point in the movie you realize their business doesn’t come from ignorance. They just moved into a new apartment, Coraline’s mother is dealing with the stress of a neck injury, and their biggest concern at the moment is just to work hard and give Coraline a better life. And, admittedly, Coraline is kind of an obnoxious kid. Coraline’s mother obviously feels guilty about overlooking her daughter, but Coraline continues to be ungratefully pissed. After Coraline’s mother leaves to go grocery shopping, Coraline once again visits the Other world. And today, Coraline’s adventure in the Other world includes…scary animated boobs!

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Seriously?! Isn’t this supposed to be a kid’s movie?

Context: Coraline gets to see a burlesque performance of Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, who then, uh…strip out of their skin?

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It’s a very, very weird movie. But I love every minute of it. It kind of feels like a weird, nightmarish dream you’d have when you’re seven years old, but never forget about.

Later, the Other mother tells Coraline that she can stay in the Other world forever if she wants, eternally showered with entertainment and lavish gifts. There’s only one tiny condition- Coraline has to have buttons sewn into her eyes, to which Coraline essentially replies HELL NO.

Finally! Coraline makes a morally agreeable decision in this movie.

Officially creeped out of her mind, Coraline decides it’s time to hit the road and peace out, but the Other mother has trapped her. The tiny door is blocked, and Coraline, who now realizes that the Other mother is evil, gets thrown into a dark, dingy cell, behind a mirror. It’s here she meets the souls of three dead children, who reveal themselves to be the past victims of the Other mother -or the “Beldam”, as they call her. In a nutshell, they all suffered similar situations to Coraline- the Beldam spied on their lives through the doll, lured them into the Other world, and then…ate their souls?

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That’s f*cking dark for a kid’s movie, man.

To save Coraline from meeting a similar fate, the dead children urge Coraline to win her escape and free their souls while she’s at it. That’s not a lot to ask, right?

As Coraline agrees, probably scared out of her shit, the Other Wybie rescues her from the other side of the mirror, and helps her to escape back through the door and into her regular apartment. But don’t worry, the story is nowhere near over.

Basically, Coraline figures the Beldam kidnapped Coraline’s parents in order to lure her back into the Other world. It’s not ever really revealed how she kidnapped them; my assumption is that her parents didn’t go through the tiny door, but that leaves a whole lot of nothing for alternate explanations. Did the Beldam just magically teleport them into the Other world?

Furthermore, Coraline comes to this conclusion when she and the sassy black cat discover another one of the creepy dolls, except this one is for her mother and father. She tries to explain the situation to Wybie, who calls her crazy (understandably). I mean, he hasn’t first-hand witnessed any of this. Why would Coraline expect him to believe her?

Ultimately, Coraline decides she must go back to the Other world to save her parents, on top of unearth the souls of the dead children. The cat also comes along, for no apparent reason other than moral support. Which I can understand, because can you imagine the PTSD Coraline must have been developing?

Before she embarks back to the Other apartment, Miss Spink gives Coraline a small stone with a hole in the middle of it, with the reasoning that it’s good for “bad” things, or something along those lines. I know that seems like a tiny detail, but bear with me, because it’s important to the story.

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Coraline crosses back to the Other apartment, and bravely strikes a deal with the evil Beldam. The game goes as so: if Coraline is able to locate her parents and the souls of the ghost children, the Beldam will let her go. But if she fails, Coraline will have to stay in the Other world forever, and have buttons sewn into her eyes. It seems like an unfair deal to me, considering the Beldam is definitely not going to let Coraline go even if she wins, but we’ll get to that eventually. Coraline plays the game cunningly, using her hollowed-out stone as a tool to help her find the eyes of the ghost children. While having a heated argument with the Beldam, who’s now pissed at Coraline for finding the eyes of the ghost children, Coraline discreetly notices that her parents are hidden inside a snow globe. She throws off the Beldam by throwing the cat at her, then grabs the snow globe, and narrowly escapes from the Other apartment. And don’t worry, the cat escapes too, albeit really pissed that he was used as a diversion.

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Coraline safely makes it back to her apartment, where her parents are safe and apparently don’t remember anything that just happened. You might think that the movie ends here…but once again, you’re wrong.

So, while Coraline was escaping from the Beldam, she somehow managed to sever off her weird needle hand in the process. The lone hand is now after the key to unlock the door, which Coraline is now conveniently wearing around her neck.  

While Coraline is asleep that night, she comes into contact with the ghost children in her dream. They thank Coraline for freeing their souls, but warn her that the Beldam is still out there, on a hunt to get that darned key.

So Coraline wakes up, and in the middle of the night, decides she needs to go drop the key in an old well a ways away from the house. The severed needle hand catches up to her and almost gets the key, which is a terrifying sequence, but out of nowhere, Wybie comes flying in on his bike to save the day. He smashes the Beldam’s hand with a rock, and they throw the whole mess, key and all, down the well. The well, I think, intentionally mirrors the tunnel to the Other world, which is an interesting touch in the movie.

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Finally, the movie ends on a happy note. The next day, Coraline and her parents throw a garden party, where all the neighbors meet to plant the garden. Wybie also shows up with his grandmother, to whom Coraline plans to tell her experiences. The movie ends with the black cat sneakily walking past the Pink Palace apartments sign, and then disappearing into nothingness. The end.

Hopefully, you saw the movie before you read this review. If not, I’m sure that sounded like a whole bunch of unsettling madness.

Coraline is described on Wikipedia as a “3D stop-motion animated dark fantasy horror film.” It’s a fitting enough description; I wouldn’t say Coraline is an primarily “kid’s movie,” but the fantastic animation and spine-chilling creativity makes it fascinating for youngins. And, although many of us millennials did see the movie when we were in elementary/middle school, Coraline has managed to age with us. I love this movie just as much as I did when I was ten, if not more. The story is told in a mystical fantasy realm, but the themes of the movie are powerful and hard-hitting.

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A notable chunk of Coraline is the symbolism of bugs and insects. As the Other mother progresses and becomes more and more distorted, she takes on a bug-like, creepy-crawly form. In literature, spiders often represent power, mystery, and sometimes, manipulation. The spider lurks on her victims and traps them in her web, just as the Beldam attempts to feed on Coraline. Noteworthy, Coraline wears a firefly clip in her hair, perhaps representing the vulnerable pray. Although the spider represents powerful female energy, she is merciless and hungry for game.

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There are quite a few deeper interpretations of Coraline, but one that I’ve formulated myself is the metaphor for domestic abuse. Similarly to how the Beldam showers Coraline with “love” and attention, an abusive partner/friend will manipulate their victim with similar tactics. In order to gain the trust of their target, abusers will often overshadow their intentions with gifts, compliments, and entertainment. The ghost children, unfortunately, have taken on the role of victims in this movie. They agree to let the Beldam sew on button eyes, so that they can continue to receive “love” and attention. It’s an extremely dark subject, especially since those being preyed upon are children.

That being said, I don’t think this movie is fundamentally supposed to be a warning against domestic abuse to children. That’s certainly a valid takeaway, but the general theme of the movie is much more broad than that. In a nutshell, the movie is reminding us not to trust everything that seems good and positive. It’s difficult to know somebody’s intentions, especially when you’re young, and it’s easy to be manipulated by someone who presents themselves as being wonderful. Eventually, however, the true colors and intentions of the abuser will shine through, past all the glitz and gaudiness.

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I recently re-watched the movie with a friend of mine, who suggested that the movie could also be a metaphor for drug use. I think this metaphor applies in a shortened sense, particularly for the kaleidoscopic garden scene, but is maybe not applicable for the entire movie. That being said, Coraline’s “escape from reality” is definitely comparable to the thrill one experiences when using drugs, probably psychedelics. As someone who’s never used drugs, I’m not the best person to ask about this, but maybe someone reading this can clarify those experiences for me. Do you see a metaphor for drug use in the movie Coraline?

As I said before, Coraline is one of my absolute favorite movies of all time, and I always enjoy taking the time to analyze it and break it apart. I feel like every time I watch it, I notice something new, make a new connection to real-life situations, or simply just understand the film on a deeper level. Now I’m interested to hear your interpretations of the movie, and how it has impacted your life. Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!

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Coraline movie trivia: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0327597/trivia?ref_=tt_ql_2

Some more interesting Coraline interpretations: https://vampiresquid.co.uk/heres-undeniable-proof-that-the-other-mother-from-coraline-is-actually-satan/

https://www.shmoop.com/coraline-book/literary-devices.html

https://janimationsblog.wordpress.com/2016/10/19/coraline-movie-analysis/

Coming up next: Self-Care Collab with Brad Krause

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“We accept the reality of the world with which we’re presented.” -Christof


*SPOILERS! Watch the movie first if you haven’t already!*

Have you ever seen a movie that’s so, so good, it’s almost painful to watch? That’s how I feel when I hear the first few bars of The Truman Show theme.

If you tuned into last week’s movie review, you know I had a bitch of a time trying to find Chitty Chitty Bang Bang online. Luckily, The Truman Show is currently on Netflix, so you can head over there yourself if you’re interested in seeing this movie. And seriously, you have to. If you’ve gotten this far and haven’t watched the movie, close this page and watch it right now.

I was purposefully very sarcastic and cynical in my last review, but I’ll try not to be in this one. The movie is already so cynical and dark, it pretty much speaks for itself. So what is The Truman Show?

Well, it stars none other than the eclectic Jim Carrey. You know him for his slapstick humor, but did you also know him for his more serious performances? (As far as I’m concerned, he only has a few.) Jim Carrey’s performance is raw, singular, genuine, and above all, emotional. He slides into the role of Truman Burbank so quickly. Carrey really brings him to life in a seamless, authentic manner. You almost forget Truman is just a movie character. Though the film is marketed as a satirical comedy, that label is hardly the tip of the iceberg. Yes, it’s a comedy, but it’s also a cynical exposé of religion, media, government surveillance, and reality television.

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Essentially, the movie is about a television show called The Truman Show. Truman Burbank, the star of the show, has lived his entire life unaware of the fact that his entire life is being filmed and broadcast to the entire world. His wife is an actress, his best friend is an actor, and everybody in his city, “Seahaven”, are actors as well. And the city, for that matter, isn’t even really a city at all. It’s a giant freaking set, inside a dome, installed with 5000 24/7 secret cameras. Despite the fact that we, as viewers, know Seahaven isn’t real, it’s easy to consciously forget. We ourselves often forget to distinguish reality from fantasy, and Seahaven is a sharp reminder of that.

I feel like at some point in our lives, we all worry that the world revolves around us. I myself have been secretly worried in the past that my entire life is like Truman’s- a conspiracy that everybody is in one, except for me. Maybe it is, but I think the more likely scenario is our fight-or-flight instinct. We all have a desire to feel like we are in control of our own lives, for primarily survival reasons. It’s a very “you-can’t-get-me-if-I-get-you-first” feeling, in a way. The directors of the movie could have very easily glazed over this and made a pure comedy out of this conspiracy, but Peter Weir is a genius. The movie is funny, but it’s a dark, slightly uncomfortable humor. Humor isn’t the primary point of the movie, the point of the humor is to make the sadness of the film more bearable and accessible for viewers.

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Everyone is tuned in to watch Truman’s unassuming life, who, like I said, has no idea his entire life is a television program. At least, for the first thirty years of his life. If Truman never figured out his life was all a reality TV show watched by millions around the world, that wouldn’t be much of a movie, would it?

This does raise an important question. We (hopefully) know that what is happening to Truman is immoral, so why do millions of people tune into The Truman Show? Why does almost nobody see anything wrong with this? Because we’re fascinated by human behavior. It makes us feel more normal about our own habits; it comforts us. It’s not much different than turning on a reality TV show or tuning into your favorite content creator- we crave to see every element of their lives and compare its normalcy to our own.

In order to keep Truman from trying to get out of Seahaven, creators of the show instilled a traumatizing fear of water into Truman when he was very young. Truman witnessed the death of his “father” in a boating “accident”, forever leaving him with intense aquaphobia. Of course, there was never a real boating accident, and the man playing Truman’s father is just an actor. Nonetheless, Truman’s intense fear of water effectively prevents him from ever leaving. As I said before, all Seahaven’s residents are actors. They either have a set script to read, or they are fed lines to repeat via microphone by Christof, the creator of The Truman Show. Christof has overwhelming power over Truman’s life, but gives Truman just enough freedom that the audience can see his true emotions and natural human behaviors.

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Despite the fact that all of Truman’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors were technically real, Christof did manage to Truman’s personal life intensely. When Truman is in college, the Christof and the show crew have already picked out a future wife for Truman, Meryl. Despite Meryl suddenly appearing in Truman’s life and essentially pushing herself onto him, Truman falls in love with another “student” on the campus. The actress, whose real-life name is Sylvia, sneaks Truman out on a secret date so that they can spend one evening together before she is “taken away.” Sure enough, an man who introduces himself as Sylvia’s father, shows up immediately and drags her into a car. As she is being pulled from Truman, Sylvia tries as quickly as she can to tell Truman the truth about his life (“It’s all fake, none of it’s real, it’s a set,” etc.) Despite her efforts, Truman isn’t able to figure out what she means, and is left completely shocked when Sylvia’s “father” announces they’re moving to Fiji.

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Translation: Sylvia is being removed from the show.

Truman, of course, in his unknowing obliviation, really believes that Sylvia is in Fiji, waiting for him there. Even after his marriage to Meryl, he spends years planning an escape to Fiji where he can reunite with Sylvia. And if that’s not the most f*cking tragic, heartless thing you’ve ever seen, I don’t know what is. Truman even uses scraps of women’s magazines to try to recreate her face, so that he can find her when he gets to Fiji. Outside of the show, Sylvia is now a member of the “Free Truman” campaign, which demands that Christof end the show forever.

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Side note: the show’s adamancy to make sure Truman falls in love with a pre-picked actress never sat right with me. Wouldn’t it make more sense to let Truman fall in love with whoever he wanted, to make his feelings and human behavior more authentic and enjoyable to watch?

Anyway, fast forward past college. Truman is thirty, still working a desk job, married to Meryl, and still secretly planning his adventure to Fiji to find Sylvia. Around this time, Truman begins to notice strange, unexplainable events that all seem to revolve around him. A spotlight from the set falls in front of him, a circle of rain only follows him, and the radio in his car appears to be describing all of his movements. And then, shit kind of hits the fan when the actor playing Truman’s dad sneaks back onto the show and surprises Truman. Although Truman’s “dad” is quickly removed by other actors, Truman is decidedly suspicious and wary of his life. With nothing holding him back any longer, Truman decides to take his first trip out of Seahaven, and subsequently drags Meryl on an impromptu car trip.

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Though he has a deathly fear of water, Truman’s determination pushes him through, and he crosses the bridge out of Seahaven with Meryl (who is freaking the FUCK out, by the way.) Ironically, the scene in which Truman and Meryl are driving out of Seahaven is the most genuine moment they ever have together. Obviously, Meryl is just an actress who never felt any authentic emotions towards Truman, but on this car ride, they’re both screaming and having a wild time together. It’s fascinating, and twinged with humor as well. Of course, there is no freaking way Christof is going to let Truman get out of Seahaven, and he blocks Truman’s path with a series of implausible accidents. Truman floors it through warnings of a “forest fire”, but his journey is stopped short when he reaches “a leak at the nuclear power plant.” Though Truman jumps out of the car and tries to run into the woods, he is captured and held down by workers in hazmat suits. It’s genuinely disturbing to watch, and broadcasts a terrifying truth: those who dare to speak the truth are often seen as dangerous to society. And, similarly to how the show creators manufacture fears for Truman, our own government/society manufactures fears to keep us in line.

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After being returned to their home in Seahaven, a heated argument breaks out between Truman and Meryl. Truman, now fully convinced that he is being watched under some conspiracy, lashes out at Meryl when she denies his accusations. In a moment in panic, when Truman grabs a knife from Meryl’s hands, she screams out, “Somebody do something!” and breaks character, before being quickly removed from the show. He reflects on his strange life experiences with his best friend, Marlon, who is secretly being fed replies by Christof. “Truman, if everyone was in on it…I would have to be in on it.” We appear to see some wavering in Marlon’s eyes and voice, as if he himself is struggling to keep up this lie from his closest friend.

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Truman’s growing suspicion and awareness of the world around him reminds me of a book quote I’ve always loved. When we stop focusing on the small things in life and turn our attention to the big picture, when we question things, we see life in its painful, beautiful glory. I’ll insert the quote here, and let you chew on that for a while.


“Mom says each of us has a veil between ourselves and the rest of the world, like a bride wears on her wedding day, except this kind of veil is invisible. We walk around happily with these invisible veils hanging down over our faces. The world is kind of blurry, and we like it that way. But sometimes our veils are pushed away for a few moments, like there’s a wind blowing it from our faces. And when the veil lifts, we can see the world as it really is, just for those few seconds before it settles down again. We see all the beauty, and cruelty, and sadness, and love. But mostly we are happy not to. Some people learn to lift the veil themselves. Then they don’t have to depend on the wind anymore.” When You Reach Me, Rebecca Stead.


In an attempt to keep the show together and prevent Truman from leaving the Seahaven, Christof re-introduces Truman’s father, who uses amnesia after the accident as the reason for his prolonged absence. As Truman cries and falls into the arms of his “father”, audiences around the world cheer, and the show ratings skyrocket.

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After Meryl moves out and leaves Truman, he begins spending his time sleeping in his basement. One night, a member of the production team notices that Truman is sleeping slightly out of sight, and remaining seemingly unresponsive to external stimuli. Christof sends in Marlon to wake Truman up, but when he pulls back the blanket, the world is shocked to see that it’s only a dummy. Upon further searching, Marlon discovers a makeshift tunnel in Truman’s closet.

With Truman now missing in action, a city-wide search in Seahaven breaks out. Arm in arm, flashlights in hand, hundreds of cast members marched through the streets calling Truman’s name. To make the search easier, Christof cues the sun to rise in the dome, even though it’s the middle of the night. We watch Christof take control of the sun, and once again, a biblical allusion is made. His power as an almost celestial-like being is getting out of control, and he’s destroying reality with every move. Panicking, Christof realizes the only place they haven’t searched for Truman is on the water, despite his life-long fear of it.

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Sure enough, when Christof turns on the “ocean cams”, we see Truman sailing across the sea on a small boat, looking surprisingly happy and at peace. The world once again cheers at Truman’s discovery, but it’s unclear if they’re happy that he’s trying to escape, or just happy that Truman is back on TV. Nonetheless, Christof is pretty pissed that Truman is trying to escape, and simulates a dangerous storm to try to coax him back to land. Christof sends in lightning, thunder, rain, wind, and even capsizes Truman’s boat at one point in an apparent effort to kill him. “We can’t kill him in front of a live audience!” cries one crew member. “He was born on a live audience,” replies Christof coldly.

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Despite capsizing and risking his own life for the sake of truth, Truman somehow manages to pull himself back onto the boat and keep sailing. At this point, completely dumbfounded, Christof stops the storm and watches Truman sail onward. It’s amazing how despite the fact that he’s so close to death and losing everything, Truman appears to be, like I said, the happiest he’s ever been. He is finally pursuing his freedom, his right to a true life, and he’s clearly willing to die for it. He sails on peacefully, now having overcome Christof’s storm. And then, Truman’s boat hits the wall of the dome.

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My favorite element of this scene is that it’s completely silent, except for intense, instrumental music. We can’t hear Truman as he smashes his fists on the wall of the dome, gazing up at the sky in despair, the integrity of his life and trust now completely destroyed. It’s a physical manifestation of challenging fate and reality, physically touching what has restrained you for all your life, and coming face-to-face with your greatest fear. As he begins to walk around the inner perimeter of the dome, he appears to be walking on the water, as if he has taken on a newfound celestial form. He finds a stairway leading up to an exit door, which is really just another theological allusion- the stairway to heaven.

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Before he can push through the door, Christof speaks to him for the first time in his life through a loudspeaker coming from the “sky”,  and actually tries to convince him to stay in Seahaven. It really does come across like God is speaking to Truman, because all Truman hears is a man’s voice coming from the parting clouds. He introduces himself as the creator of the show. “And who am I?” replies Truman.

He tries to tell Truman that there’s no more truth in the real world than there is in his little dome world, but does ultimately reveal to Truman that yes, his life is a television show being watched 24/7 by millions of people. Christof attempts to comfort Truman by telling him that he is real, and so were his feelings, despite the fact that his entire life was artificially monitored. Irritated by Truman’s dumbfounded silence, Christof laughs and says, “Come on, say something! You’re on television.”

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With a slight smile, Truman looks up at the sky and repeats his famous catchphrase one more time: “And in case I don’t see you, good afternoon, good evening, and goodnight!” He spreads his arms, bows, and unflinchingly exits through the door. If you pause the movie at the right time, with his arms spread open wide, Truman appears to look figuratively crucified. As Truman leaves the show, Christof is flabbergasted, crowds across the world go wild, and Sylvia springs up and out the door to finally reunite with Truman.

That’s where the movie ends, and it feels so right. Christof has finally lost his battle to Truman, and Truman’s unconditional desire for accepting life beyond what is in front of him has won. We don’t know what happens to Truman after he exits the show, and it’s perfect. I nearly cry every. Single. Damn. Time.

We’ve now established this is a pretty hefty drama/comedy film, but the thing that makes The Truman Show so singular and remarkable is its cynicism. The Truman Show may just be a fictional movie, but it’s also social commentary on Christianity, metaphilosophy, simulated reality, existentialism, and reality television. This movie came out about twenty years ago, but it’s still relevant to our own modern society and personal relationship with media. With technology as our catalyst, we are the stars of our own Truman shows.

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As you may have picked up on by now, the character of Christof does take on some form of an analogy for Christ. He is the controller of Truman’s universe- the overseer of all, with the power of utter surveillance on those literally below him. It’s also noteworthy to mention Truman’s own namesake: is he really a true-man, we wonder? Yes, his emotions and thoughts are real and his own, but will he ever be able to accept a life beyond his false simulation? Will he choose danger, real pain, and freedom over the safety of what he thinks he knows? Truman basically answers that question in the intense sailing scene- he would die for his own freedom. He represents, a dark, desolate future where we repeat history again, but this time in the form of government surveillance. Truman really doesn’t give a shit, he’d rather be dead than live in a fantasy where nothing is what it really seems.

What we can infer, however, is that Truman and Sylvia will soon be finally reunited. Sylvia, the catalyst for Truman to lift the corner of his veil and see beyond what is in front of him; Sylvia, the only true thing in Truman’s life.

As I said, this is is hands-down one of my favorite films of all time. It’s entertaining, it’s funny at times, and ultimately, it’s extremely powerful. I’m excited to hear your thoughts as well on the film, and if The Truman Show has had a similar impact on your life. This movie is 10/10.

Movie trivia: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120382/trivia?ref_=tt_ql_2 

Watch the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=loTIzXAS7v4 

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