January 12th, 2010

little blue dog

homesick alien blues

This CNN article reports that people are depressed after seeing "Avatar," essentially because being immersed in a fantasy alien world makes them discouraged and even repulsed by what we, as humans, have done to ours.

I don't like the article or what it reports, because it focuses only on a perceived problem, rather than a solution. For example, there are a lot of quotes about feeling sad, but none about what these sad people intend to do about it, like perhaps make a change.

It's quite possible the article just decided not to include quotes such as "This film made me sad, but it also made me realize that I can live my life to exemplify values important to those aliens."

Well, probably because that sounds pretty ridiculous. But why not? It's just as valid a sentiment as "The pretend world in the movie made me sad."

Nothing wrong with being bummed out, of course, but what irks me about the article's focus - and the idea that audience depression is a widespread enough phenomenon that it's deemed newsworthy - is that it hints that people might doubt their own ability to effect positive change in their surroundings or lives. Then I get irked at myself for having such a dismissive, kneejerk reaction, but when the article quotes a person who confesses to be contemplating suicide as a form of escape from this world to a rebirth, hopefully, in a better one, it's difficult for me not to criticize the perspective that death is preferable to sticking around and trying to solve some problems.

Our ability to adapt is incredible, and it's sometimes a liability. It allows us to acclimatize to our circumstances, sometimes to the extent that we fail to notice how things might be headed in an unhealthy direction. Also, even while adapting, the ability to adapt allows us to forget that we have it, tricking us into thinking that living in a different way would be too difficult. In most cases, it's not.

Maybe this is one of those things that everyone has to learn individually. And if it comes from a pretty movie about beautiful, peaceful aliens, so be it. One of the most important life lessons I ever learned came from listening to Howard Stern, of all places.