In Japan, there’s a huge demand for sad movies, sad TV, and sad books. If it makes audiences cry tears, it sells. When business people have a stressful week, they’ll go over to a crying club and watch a sad film so they can weep openly. The movies are judged by their ability to induce tears.
The media we choose is a form of self-selected medicine. It allows us to have emotions and experiences that we can’t easily access on our own. Often times it’s because they have been suppressed.
There’s a reason kids spend hours playing video games. It’s the only place they’re allowed to freely explore, without the adults controlling their every move. We force kids to do busy work they don’t want to do, and then put them in uniforms and cheer (judge) their every move in sports. That’s not what kids want. They want true freedom so they can do whatever they desire. They want to act on their whims and curiosities, to make their own friends, without being judged or controlled. And the only place they’re allowed to do that freely is in a virtual world.
That applies to a lot of adults, too.
We privately select media to feel things we want to feel, to experience things we aren’t allowed to experience. There’s a reason that the countries that watch the most porn are Muslim states (like Pakistan and Iraq). And there’s a reason that the most conservative U.S. states (like Mississippi, Lousiana, and Georgia) watch more gay porn than anywhere else in the world.
[A quick note for people who think porn is bad: You might be morally wrong. The FBI released their data on the number of reported forcible rapes in the United States, between 1990 and 2013. The numbers have steadily declined ever since online porn went mainstream. Rape is one of the worst things that can happen to someone, but the odds of it happening have been cut in half. Historically speaking, women have never been safer. Thanks to porn.]
It’s easy to judge media in other cultures and think “how weird!” but just look at ours. The media that most Americans escape into is about people who get violent, angry, and murderous. I think the last time I saw a man really cry on TV was Walter White, right between fighting his wife, kidnapping his own child, and murdering a clan of neo-Nazis. But he was super calculating and intelligent, so you know… It was awesome.
We choose our media to feel what we want to feel. We look for remedies in the external world because we don’t know how to fill the voids within. Maybe it’s joy you need, maybe it’s sadness, maybe it’s forbidden, maybe it’s just numbing out. I think it’s safe to say we all turn to Facebook to feel more connected and significant, and a little less isolated.
I guess the point of all this is to be conscious of the media you consume, and to think about why you’re constantly turning to it. It’s a reflection of the emotions you desire, and the experiences unknowingly suppressed in yourself. There’s no need to judge it. It is what it is.
For me, I have a frustratingly hard time crying. I can shed a few tears watching movies or reading books (I never explicitly seek out those experiences to cry, it just happens incidentally). But in real life, I mentally shut tears down as soon as I feel them coming. I’m not sure where that impulse came from. It definitely didn’t come from my family. It’s something I put on myself a long time ago, and it’s been very difficult to change.