"I know bad things happen. Bad things happen. But you can still live. You can still live."
So, this week. I know I'm not speaking for only myself when I say it has been a difficult one. Many of us are feeling hurt and disappointed after the 2016 presidential election, and it's not necessarily because the candidate we supported didn't win. I have supported losing candidates as many times as I have winning ones and it didn't feel like this. The hurt is because of the person that received the majority of electoral college (not popular) votes and will be taking office in January. You may like Donald Trump. You may have voted for him. That is your right. It is my right to say that he is the worst candidate and very possibly the worst human being to be nominated for president in my lifetime, because George Wallace predates me. And now I live in a country in which millions of people either don't mind the truly heinous shit the man has said and done and stands for or they outright support it. My faith in most things feels completely broken.
It's hard to get up the energy or the excitement to talk about movies when we all feel like this.
So I'm going to talk about something that I haven't talked about publicly at all. In fact, it's not something I've even talked about privately with anyone outside of my doctor and my wife. I have suffered from depression for what I suspect is many years; again, I can remember sitting on a set of stairs at my grandmother's on my sixth or seventh birthday and weeping uncontrollably because I hadn't accomplished anything in the last year and because I was a year closer to dying. The actual clinical diagnosis has only been for a while. I'm getting treatment for it and every fucking day is a struggle, some less so and some more so.
This isn't a case of me feeling sorry for myself, either. I know that I have a good life. I have the best wife whom I'm crazy in love with. We have a great marriage. I have awesome kids who are like a little present every day. We have a house. We have jobs. I have family and friends who I love dearly. I have this place and all of you. But the reason that depression is such a motherfuck is because it doesn't care about any of that. Look at this way: I'm also diabetic, but diabetes doesn't give a shit if I had a good day and I'm happy in my marriage and all that. It's still going to attack my body. Depression is like that. Just because things are going fairly well for me one day doesn't mean it's not going to make me want to kill myself that same night. I know many people reading this (including my very good friend Adam Riske, whose openness on the subject I have always admired) experience the same thing, so I am not a snowflake.
I hate writing this. I'm not one to talk about myself a whole bunch. One of the reasons I like hosting our podcast is because it gives me a chance to talk with my friends about something other than me or my life. But I got so low this week (to be fair, it was even before the election on Tuesday) that the only thing that brought me back was some of the friends who reached out. Doug. Rob DiCristino. Amy Coppage. Josh Pearlman (a prince). Heath Holland sent Erika and me a note that may have singlehandedly brought be back from the brink. And while the majority of days I see social media as being a mostly poisonous place where everyone can be anonymously shitty and divisive, it was a respite around election time. Everyone I'm connected with was expressing the same things I was feeling, only more hopeful and optimistic. And while it doesn't have the power to cure this particular depressive episode, it does make me want to at least try to fight it off. I got messages that said that our site and our community has helped people through difficult times, and that it would be something that these same people would turn to for help now. I don't take that lightly. It means more than I can ever express, actually. Thank you for that.
Which brings me back to movies and to Super 8. I have been laid up with back pain since the morning of the election, trying to find movies to take my mind off of everything. It's always worked in the past. Back in the '90s, when I had more time and fewer responsibilities, I would disappear into a dark theater for 12-15 hours at a time during an especially difficult day. But this time, nothing was helping. And the thought of trying to actually write about any movie -- be it The Love Witch (so good) or Don't Fuck in the Woods (you're fine) or The Frontier (still haven't seen it) -- seemed totally impossible. It all felt hopeless. I felt hopeless.
Beyond the Gates, it is a movie about healing -- sometimes too explicitly so. I get it. It's not a subtle movie. I know that people have major problems with Super 8, whether it's writer/director JJ Abrams' slavish attempt to recreate an '80s Spielberg/Amblin film or his overreliance on lens flares or an alien monster that shows up in the second half and throws off the balance of what is already a very good coming of age movie about some kids trying to make a horror movie. I can't begrudge anyone their issues with the film, even if I don't agree with them. I love Super 8. I have loved it since I saw it opening weekend. It was my favorite movie of 2011. I continue to love it every time I see, and rewatching it tonight when I'm at one of the lowest points I can remember made me appreciate it in a whole new way. It is medicine for my heartbreak.
I'm sure a big reason I'm finding solace in Super 8 is because its naked appeal to my sense of nostalgia is comforting, even though that's a big part of why people attacked it when it was first released (and for some reason, many of these same people are jizzing all over Stranger Things because memory is a fickle thing). But I don't just love Super 8 because it reminds me of the movies I used to watch as a kid. I love it because it reminds me of what it was like to be a kid. Joe Lamb was me. His friends were my friends. We spent our weekends shooting little homemade horror movies and comedies. We might disagree because we liked the same girl (though, unlike Alice Dainard, the girl in my story never liked me back). I know what it feels like to care so much about something so small and weird like monster movies when the rest of the universe is saying I should be going to baseball camp.
There's a great scene in the movie -- one of many -- in which Alice Dainard sneaks into Joe's room and they watch some Super 8 footage of Joe's late mother. Forget just how absolutely wonderful the young actors' performances are. Forget how lovely and delicate Abrams is in the way he directs the scene. Those are reasons the scene is always great. There's a particular moment that stood out on this viewing, though, in which Alice, now in tears as she reveals that her father was supposed to be working the shift on which Joe's mom died at the factory, says that she knows he wishes it was him and that sometimes she does, too. Joe's immediate response is "Don't say that." There is such sincerity, such decency in those three words. After a year and half of absolutely poisonous rhetoric, it felt revelatory. Joe could easily blame Alice's dad for what happened to his mom. Part of us always wants to find a scapegoat to help ease our own pain, because it's easier to feel angry than it is to hurt. I heard so much of that during the election. I have heard a lot of it since the results, too. Joe doesn't do that. He takes the high road. Him, a 13-year old kid.
I won't make the case that Super 8 works as a 1-1 metaphor for this assfuck of an election, even if it does tell the story of a "kid" who longs for the presence of a "female figure" and who feels like he's misunderstood in his own "home" and then there is an enormous
Or maybe that monster is like depression. It shows up out of nowhere, tearing your whole world up and leaving you confused and scared and the only way to face it is to say "I know bad things happen, but you can still live." When Joe watches the alien fly away in the movie's final moments and lets go of his mom's locket as Michael Giacchino's score (one of my favorites ever written) swells, there are no words for how deeply I am affected. I cry every single time. I'm crying right now as I write this, though I'm not sure if it's because I'm remembering the scene or if I'm just terrified of letting go and putting all of this out there into the world. I'm scared that I can't take it back. I'm scared that it's going to change the way everyone looks at me or thinks about me. Or maybe it's because this has been such a difficult week and the uncertainty and disappointment at being on the wrong side of history that weights on us all is breaking me down once more. Maybe it's just late.
Thanks for reading this, not just today but any day you're here with us. I know bad things happen, but you can still live. We have each other and we have movies.