Toxic Media: It Is NOT A Wonderful Life

INTRODUCTION
When you spend enough time in therapy, you start to see things in the wild that are of concern when it comes to mental health and engaging in healthy thinking in general.

It’s like buying a new red station wagon, where you drive down the street and you see every single red station wagon. Previously, you had ignored those red station wagons, because they meant nothing to you.

Today, I’ll be going through a few movies to talk about some things I noticed that are worth discussing.


JERRY MAGUIRE AND ROMANCE MOVIES
I did not see Jerry Maguire when it first came out, mainly because I was not the target demographic for that movie. This movie is for people whose hearts melt whenever they encounter romantic notions.

The less healthy, the better.

The thing about romantic movies is that they all carry many of the same unhealthy attitudes and behaviors that one would find in an unhealthy relationship. More to the point, there are individual dysfunctions that are at play in these interactions.

The first thing to recognize is that romance movies happen in an environment that has been artificially created for the purposes of the movie. It’s not an environment that anyone can or will find in real life. People who try to replicate it end up sorely disappointed when reality smacks them in the face.

The characters have personal problems that appear to be mostly minimized, if not completely written off, to focus on the relationship instead of the individuals. If two individuals are not healthy, then there must be no expectation that their relationship is healthy.

There is an unrealistic portrayal of the power of a woman’s essence, which is sexuality, appearances, behaviors, and more. There are women who abuse this power to exploit men or women. My concern is that it shows women that they can “fix” a man or partner by being sweet and sexy. She can also use her status as a single mother who is struggling to inspire a broken rescuer.

Only then will the money-hungry billionaire robber baron recognize the errors of his ways, and sell off everything so that he can be with the Denny’s waitress forever.

This leads to another toxic avatar, which is hypergamy. It’s usually the woman who is poor, and she’s a waitress or prostitute. The man is always the super-wealthy guy who just can’t seem to get it together when it comes to attracting women. It’s a big “win” [or “W,” as the kids say these days] for the woman because she never has to work, ever again. And, of course, he got the Pretty Woman.

Yea, YOU saw what I did there.

Obviously, this story leaves many people behind, such as wealthy women, men who work crap jobs, and those of us who suffer from General Ugliness.

As I said before, I had not seen Jerry Maguire when it first came out, because I am not in the target demographic. But in early 2017, I saw an art installment that captured my curiosity. It was The Jerry Maguire Video Store. It’s basically set up just like a video store, but they have nothing but copies of Jerry Maguire.

Over 14,000 copies of Jerry Maguire.

Yea, I went to the Jerry Maguire video store.

Fortunately, I made a video of the store. During the time that I made this video, the store received over 20 more donated Jerry Maguire tapes and DVDs.

This got me curious enough to actually buy it online and watch it.

Late Summer 2019: In Bend, Oregon with drummer Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz [Weird Al Yankovic] to do some pawn shop drum hunting.
This outtake photo shows my Jerry Maguire video store t-shirt. This is the only photo that I can find of me wearing it.

There is SO much that could be talked about in this movie.

For starters, the movie appears to be Codependency disguised and re-packaged as romance.

Jerry is emotionally unavailable, as we learn in the bachelor party scene early in the movie. Dorothy sees ALL of the red flags and conveniently ignores them. Boy, THAT hits home hard for me, as I used to be the KING of ignoring red flags.

Dorothy quits her job and runs to be with Jerry. It’s impulsive and irresponsible, considering that she has a child. I had a recent experience where a woman did this for me. She divorced her husband of 16 years, bought a one-way ticket to Oregon, and moved herself in.

Whenever someone is willing to dump everything on a whim for someone else, the chances are great that they will be sorely disappointed and ultimately left out in the cold. In my case, she walked out one day and never came back. I wish her the best of luck with all of it.

The Jerry Maguire Video Store card looks JUST LIKE my Blockbuster membership card. Both of these still live in my wallet.

There is not a great deal of emotional maturity in the movie. The behaviors of these people confounds me. Jerry is awkward, and I can relate to that. At the same time, I am capable of picking up on SOME verbal and non-verbal cues, and I am then able to respond appropriately.

Both Jerry and Dorothy’s boundaries are SO horrible that I wonder if consent is even possible. I think that consent is VERY important, because it is permission to engage. My favorite type of consent is ENTHUSIASTIC CONSENT, as it’s a case of the other person showing just how much they want to be intimate with you.

Jerry feels a sense of responsibility for Dorothy losing her job, money, and benefits, even though HE did not make the decision. He did NOT ask her to do that. All the same, he wants to make up for it, so he decides that marrying her is the best thing to do.

If I married everyone in my life who made a bad decision, I’d be like King Solomon, with 300 wives and 700 concubines. Half of those would be me marrying myself, because I have made more bad decisions than the average bear.

To a great degree, both Dorothy and Jerry are engaged in the act of rescuing one another. As a recovered rescuer, I can tell you that being a rescuer is NOT a noble thing. It’s a good way to lose it all to someone who doesn’t care if you live or die.

Dorothy doesn’t love Jerry for who he is inside. Instead, she loves him for his potential.

Her low self-esteem and his immaturity makes for a truly dysfunctional relationship, a bad situation, and codependent lives.

When depression is ruling your day, nothing is as uplifting as going to a video store, except maybe going to the Jerry Maguire Video Store.

RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER
This animated Christmas classic is the kind of thing that I enjoyed as a young child. But when I watched it as an adult who has been through therapy, I found myself torn between watching it for nostalgia purposes, and NOT watching it because it’s full of trauma and dysfunction.

Rudolph was born different. I relate this to myself being different, thanks to my Level 1 Autism. He gets teased by the kids, and neither his parents nor Santa defend him. In fact, THEY ALSO attack him! Santa was SO mean to him.

One scene that got me in particular was when Rudolph’s dad tried to cover his nose with dirt. This is a behavior known as “masking,” and it is difficult and horrific for Autistic people to try to do. It’s basically investing energy into hiding who you are while pretending to be something you are not.

Of course, everyone finds out. That’s what happens when you try to engage in masking.

EVERYONE shuns Rudolph, to the point that he runs away from home and ends up in a series of perilous situations. He ends up joining a group of misfit toys that nobody wants.

“Hey, what do you say we both be independent together, huh?” –Hermey

The contempt and outright hatred of Rudolph is staggering because he is a CHILD mostly alone, except for Clarice and Hermie the Elf, who wants to be a dentist. No adult is on Rudolph’s side, which is something that leaves a child feeling abandoned.

The worst part is the ending.

I know what you might be saying. But, DW, the ending shows Rudolph finally being accepted, being hailed as a hero, and being promoted to the front of the pack.”

To that, I would reply that the ONLY reason that Santa accepts Rudolph is because Rudolph has a special ability that Santa can exploit to keep his enterprise rolling. Never mind the child labor violations.

In other words, Rudolph is welcomed into the fold because everyone knows he has an ability that can be exploited by the only employer in town, Jeff Bezos Santa.

The message to me is clear: Society will shun you, unless profits can be made from you. If you are NOT profitable to the corporation, then you are garbage not worthy of keeping around.

A better ending would be an adult Rudolph starting his own business and telling them to take a long walk off a short pier. It is IMPORTANT to distance yourself from toxic people and situations, if you value your own mental and emotional health.


IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE
This is a movie with a not-so-subtle Christian influence, and it’s a movie that represents what is/was wrong with me, and how that is exploited by an equally dysfunctional society.

George gives of himself, and seemingly does not receive. He suffers a great deal through it all, to the point that he has decided that he is going to end his life by jumping off a bridge.

George’s desire to end his own life is understandable, as his only purpose in life is to suffer so that others do not have to suffer.

I relate to this in that I felt that I always had to give and sacrifice if I was to expect to keep certain friends around. I did this for a long time, until the Cancer Scammer entered my life. When that happened, and I started focusing my attention on her instead of these “friends,” they turned against me like rabid dogs.

Those are NOT friends.

Back to the movie.

This is when an angel named Clarence talks to George. Clarence needs to “earn his wings,” for some reason. This is the ONLY reason why he is talking to George. Otherwise, he’d be like the rest of the angels, enjoying his wings and not having any concern about mere mortals in a state of ignorant bliss.

What does Clarence do for George? He shows George what the world would be like, had he NEVER been born.

George sees everyone he knows and loves, and they are going through suffering. The reason they are suffering is because George is NOT there to do the suffering for them.

Seemingly, George’s purpose in life is to suffer for others.

Every scene that Clarence shows to George has only two possible outcomes: Either the people suffer, or George suffers for them. This is a rather bold assertion. It’s also a false dichotomy, as it ignores the possibility that other people might step up and fix things, or that another person who has power might move into town and change things up.

Of course, George feels badly about seeing his family, friends, and community suffering. His Codependence, as well as his desire to rescue everyone, drives him to change his mind. He now wants to live, so that he can suffer for everyone else!

I can understand this. One reason why I never wanted to have children, or even get into a serious relationship, was because I didn’t want to have to see them suffer, or possibly die. But this is the nature of Life, and I have to accept it.

The moral of the story is that, in the end, suffering for others is what life is all about. Sure, the community works together at the end to save the day, which is something they should be doing regardless of whether or not George even exists. Their generosity and support and the end was mere acknowledgement from everyone, for the man who was killing himself for them LONG before he considered taking his own life.

But George represents a Jesus-type of savior who will hang on the cross for everyone else. As someone who has done this many times in his own life, I can tell you that this is NOT a healthy thing to do, to suffer so that someone else can avoid it. Hoisting the entire community upon one man’s shoulders is neither healthy nor sustainable.

The hard truth is that suffering is inevitable for everyone. Nobody gets out of this alive, or pain-free. If I can do something to alleviate the suffering of someone, whether they’re close to me or not, and I can do so without harming myself, then I will do it. But I won’t be trying to rescue my entire town.

And I won’t be sending anyone my paycheck for the better part of a year because they cry and need help. I already did that once. It’s embarrassing. It’s also damaging. I lost out on a good deal of money, and also lost my reputation, friends, home, sanity, and self. As for the Cancer Scammer, she died of a drug overdose, thanks to all the money I sent her for her “cancer treatments.”

George Bailey’s attempts to rescue everyone by giving all that he had wasn’t an act of kindness or caring. Rather, it was just a different type of suicide. As my life experience has taught me, you can kill yourself and still be physically alive.


MY CONCERNS ABOUT THIS MEDIA
I’ve heard it said that young men who watch sexual pornography end up having unhealthy expectations when it comes to relationships and sexual encounters. They also reportedly end up with a skewed perspective of women in general.

Romance movies, and institutions like The Hallmark Network, are emotional pornography, and the prime demographic for this type of media is mostly women.

Much in the same way that sexual pornography may distort a man’s view of the world, emotional pornography does the same to a woman’s view of the world. It gives them unrealistic expectations.

All of these unrealistic expectations do not remain contained within the owner, and spill out into society. It affects how people view one another, what they’re willing to do, what they expect, how they interact, and much more.

I suspect that it can prevent people from having healthy, realistic relationships, by giving them unrealistic expectations. A relationship can be healthy ONLY if BOTH people involved are healthy.

Plus, a distorted world view can bring about great sadness, or even depression.


IN THE END
It only takes ONE unhealthy person to destroy a potential relationship. I have been on the giving AND receiving end of this, as have most people. Nobody is perfect.

And while we understand that we’ll never be perfect, we can always strive to be better.

Maybe the intentions of these movies and those involved in the movie AND story might be good. The reality of it all is that these stories are very unhealthy. It is also possible that they are merely exploiting known sociological vulnerabilities.

Dysfunction is part of the human condition, and it’s something where each person has a responsibility to themselves to work to repair and improve their own dysfunctions.

In this entry, I discussed a romantic comedy, a children’s Christmas animation, and a 75-year-old Christmas classic intended to inspire everyone to sacrifice themselves like Jesus if they want to have anything resembling purpose in life.

Each of these pieces of media target different groups of people. Nobody walks away unscathed from toxic media, save for the people who profit from it all.

As I’m thinking of a way to end this, I am reminded of something I forgot to mention about Jerry Maguire. That movie contains lots of catch phrases, such as, “Show me the money!” or “Help me, help you!”

But there is ONe catch phrase that is possibly the worst, which is, “You complete me.”

No, you DO NOT complete me, for I am a complete person on my own. A relationship is NOT a completion of person. It is an enhancement, or a bonus, or maybe an extension. But it is NOT a completion.

It is essential that a person view themselves as being whole and complete if they expect to experience love in a healthy adult relationship. Being made whole is the entire point of therapy.

If I am not already whole on my own, then we can’t have an amazing relationship. This is also true if we’re busy living in a fantasy world with unrealistic expectations and unhealthy behaviors.


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Published by DrumWild

Writing about drums, music, and philosophy.

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