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Easy and Tough

Banes at 12:00AM, Jan. 11, 2018

An old movie called Sullivan's Travels is about Sullivan (natch), a film director who makes successful but shallow comedy movies. He wants to abandon these efforts and do a more serious project about the plight of the downtrodden.

After some wild adventures posing as a hobo, Sullivan experiences some downtrodden times himself and sees other struggling people watching cartoons and, realizing what joy the light comedy gives them, learns that what the ‘downtrodden’ want out of entertainment is pleasure.

I enjoy my fun, light, “escapist” fare, to be sure.

But I've often noticed that when life is going well overall, with no major pain and struggle, I've liked my entertainment to be more challenging, satirical, dark, ironic, complex or…“confronting”.

And when I'm down, or things are harder…when life is challenging enough, I want to laugh. Or at least to escape with an emotionally easier set of movies, TV, literature and music.

I've observed this in people around me as well - the ones who have difficult lives want easy entertainment. I used to feel weird about it, and vaguely guilty sometimes, that I felt pretty good in life overall but sought out more difficult, challenging, or ugly-emotioned diversions.

Anyway, that's been a pet theory of mine, since before I ever heard of “Sullivan's Travels”.

You think I'm on to something? Or am I just…on something?

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bravo1102 at 5:24PM, Jan. 12, 2018

@ozoneocean: yeah I like Behind Enemy Lines. Escapist war movies.

ozoneocean at 11:50PM, Jan. 11, 2018

Owen Wilson movies for me. Yeah, I'm sick. XD

usedbooks at 6:14PM, Jan. 11, 2018

When I'm unemployed, I mostly like to watch light/comedic spy shows particularly if they involve made-up government agencies. Since I work for a government agency (seasonally), I draw particular amusement from them (especially episodes about bureaucracy or budget). When I'm stressed or in a dark mood, I often enjoy dark comedy. When I want to be moved and let loose emotion, I watch animated films. I have to be in the right mindset though because I will be very thinky and weepy. (Great for script/webcomic inspiration.)

bravo1102 at 5:38PM, Jan. 11, 2018

Sullivan's Travels is one of the classics of the Great Depression. The most popular movies were the light musicals and screwball comedies. When I went through my darkest times earlier in the millennium I went out and got the boxed sets of the Marx Brothers and Bob Hope to get me through it. There's also what I call "comfort movies". Your old favorites of whatever genre not just comedies. So for me Gone with the Wind or other Depression era film is comforting. Bad horror films that I can sit and laugh at are comforting. Check your brain at the theater door and just watch. Then there is something to be said for the endorphins released through a good cry. So a comfort movie can be a tearjerker. I actually studied this in film class back in the day. My professor loved the insight in it.

Albino Ginger at 11:41AM, Jan. 11, 2018

I have noticed that same pattern in my own life.

Tantz_Aerine at 10:33AM, Jan. 11, 2018

You're definitely onto something.

KimLuster at 6:16AM, Jan. 11, 2018

I think you're spot on!! I've noted this phenomenon for years... But I wonder if this is largely from the readers and viewers perspective... It seems that creators of stories often write darker stuff when they're in a darker place. Ann Rice, for intance, wrote Interview with a Vampire, in which a pretty vampire child tragically dies... just four years after her own young daughter died! Stephen King wrote some of his most messed-up stuff during his Binge-Years (drugs and alcohol)... Food for thought! Great article!!

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