Sunday, December 16, 2007

Toward a sociology of thrill-seeking, drama queening, and horror-movie-liking

A couple days ago I directed you to this article about the "time slowing" sensation that we experience "in" (actually after) crises. Then I saw two horror movies about the end of the world, both of which were shockingly gutsy and fascinating in some respects and both of which featured chickenshit "God did it" endings. These things will intersect here in a minute.

Why do I love (many) horror movies? I am as non-violent and skeptical a person as you are likely to meet. Monsters don't exist for me, except the human kind that I would rather not dwell upon. I don't believe in post-apocalypse; we will either peter on until we peter out, or will do it up right and proper (about which I have my doubts). Survivalism is for ninnies (sorry, you survivalist ninnies whom I love, but this isn't your finest trait. You will never need it, like your appendix.) And I don't like to dwell upon the real, human kind of monster.

I wonder now if it isn't the richness with which my brain records stressful events and crises. If I'm scared in a mediocre movie, does my amygdala get involved and overwrite the experience with the neurological equivalent of "thick description" or "purple prose" with an extra "track" of memory? If so... neato.

I like extreme sports (more than a saftig... er, no, let's call a spade a spade and say "fat" thirtysomething couch potato like me would be expected to do). I like to be challenged. I like to be scared (at least in retrospect).

Is it because I like the richness of the memories I associate with this stuff?

Does this give us insight into why people who have been through traumatic emergencies often turn to religion and think they have heard or felt the voice of (a) God? Do they have uncommon clarity and direction in their memories that seems to spell out what they must do or what the defining moment of their existence is?

Is this why one's wife's sister or best friend so often seems smokin' hot in pop culture? The thrill of risk (I will almost certainly get caught cheating)? Is this why kink culture is delightful? Why young people strive to offend? Why people flame-bait, shoplift for thrills, skydive, run with the bulls?

A flight of fancy, but still... oooOOOOOoooooOOOOOOh!

(And now that I've typed that last exclamation, let me direct your attention to THE BEST CARTOON EVAR: Shin Chan (the FUNimation Entertainment translation rocks)!

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