Saturday, January 18, 2014

Misery Porn

Juliette Bonoche in Blue

I watched the film Trois Colours: Bleu countless times when I was in depression.  Trois Couleurs: Bleu, a European film, is about a woman, played Juliette Binoche, who, after losing her family in an accident, attempts to "liberate" herself from life only to be haunted by memories from the life she had before the accident.   

In Jan Wong's book, Out of the Blue: A Memoir of Workplace Depression, Recovery, Redemption and, Yes, Happiness, Wong asks, "can a darkened environment soothe a depressed person...?"  It's an intriguing question I never considered before.  I would have to say yes, a darkened environment can soothe a depressed person.  Trois Colours: Bleu, for instance, is a dark film (film is a form of environment) and I found it soothing, when I was in depression, which, I guess accounts for why I watched it so often.  It's also a damn good film.

Taking pleasure in Misery Porn is normal for the depressed person and I tend to gravitate toward Misery Porn while in depression:  the story about the woman, for instance, who survives the holocaust, only to discover years later that the man who tortured and raped her in the camps and consequently fathered her two children is also the son she gave up when she got pregnant as a tween; at the end, after years of therapy with a crack pot psychologist, she gets Dementia and Alzheimer's and dies on the streets, lost, freezing to death in an isolated northern Manitoba community, where nobody cares because she's Aboriginal is decent Misery Porn.

Some of the best Misery Porn I would recommend is (in no particular order):

A Streetcar Names Desire (the play)
Sophie's Choice (the film)
The Bluest Eyes
Star Wars Episode 1, 2 & 3
Young Adult Vampire Fiction

I finished reading Wong's Out of the Blue on July 31, 2013 and like Wong's previous book, Beijing Confidential, I loved it.  Prior to purchasing the book, I e-mailed Jan Wong, telling her I really enjoyed reading Beijing Confidential and that I look forward to reading Out of the Blue.  Wong actually responded to me, noting that there is a scene in Out of the Blue that is an extension of the plot from Beijing Confidential.  I felt honoured  that Wong took the time to respond to me.

The following things, from Out of the Blue, caught my attention:

  • Depressed people are hypersensitive. 
  • Caring about someone doesn’t mean talking, talking, talking.  Being there is enough.
  • Read Jung Chang’s Wild Swans.  It’s about the Cultural Revolution and I only understand the  Revolution through film, like the Red Violin, which is a poor (but not useless) substitute for a first hand account of a significant historical event.
  • When I am stressed, food is my therapy and this is normal.
  • Chinese aphorism: Kill the chicken to scare the monkeys.  Sadly, I forget what it means and in what context it was used, but I liked it (and remembered it) nonetheless.
  • The Vortex Effect:  Joan Didion’s theory that things, events, streets, etc can trigger a depression.   In 2003, Didion lost her husband and wrote about it in The Year of Magical Thinking.  In 2005, Didion's adopted daughter died.  Blue Nights is that story.  I have the book and will read it shortly.
  • There is research to suggest that going through depression is good for you.

Both Wong and I recovered from depression and, I think, any person who has encountered depression would appreciate reading Out of the Blue.  I would also recommend that HR Professionals read the book.