Detour into escapism

So a Summer of overwork and isolation, combined with one fucking outrage after another, one fucking betrayal after another—Amnesty sucking off pimps and exploiters, the right to abortion being blatantly carved away State by State (yep, I’m in the US) to the snores of liberal “allies”, a fucking government shutdown looming over funding for one of the few organizations in the US that provides health care to poor girls and women—has led to a crashing return of depression. This is not to mention police brutality against the vulnerable which is not punished even when there are eyewitnesses and videotapes.This is not to mention the poisonous fruits of American foreign policy in every region of the world—those drowned children can be laid at Cheney’s feet as well as Assad’s. This is not to mention trans-absurdity completely derailing discussions of sex-based oppression and how to combat it—to let us live, to get us free, god dammit.

After a pretty severe episode, complete with compulsive suicidal ideation, in 2011-2012, with the help of therapy and medication (yes, I know these are just fixing the symptoms and not the system, and that they do more harm than good for some women) I’ve been managing the depression pretty well, though it has never disappeared—not in my adult life. But it’s been growing and I find myself back in the place where I’m not functioning, not doing daily tasks that need to be done, not doing my work, barely keeping clean and dressed enough to go to the office, and not really caring. Just tired and can’t focus, other people seem unreal to me or actively annoying, the grey washed-out uselessness of it all, spiked by crimson horrors in the news and radfem blogs I read.

In the midst of this, my very annoying romanticism and heterosexuality have also asserted themselves. WTF!? Peri-menopause, maybe? A few months back on a loooooooong flight for work I watched a couple of Bollywood movies. I remembered that back in the 2000’s, when I lived in a developing country where folks regularly screened these in bars or other public areas, there was one guy I thought was sexy, as opposed to most of the guys who didn’t do anything for me in particular. So, I picked a couple of movies with him in them. And, boom, I’m crushing on this guy in a ridiculous way.

When I’m really depressed, I get obsessive about things or people—it’s a way of distracting myself from the sadness, rage, despair and fear, frustration at being unable to think clearly, to make and follow-through on small or big decisions. So, what in a less depressed phase would have been a fun little moment of—“Oh yeah, that guy is as hot as I remembered”- has expanded into my watching every movie, every video on youtube, looking at fan sites and Bollywood news sites—any moment when I’m not forced to do something else. I’ve made a playlist of some of the songs from the movies—so that I am thinking about this guy even when not able to watch him. Truly, this is weird behavior for me, possibly for any person over 15?

The reason I decided to write about this for this blog, is the sheer irony of it for a truly pissed off radfem. In my limited experience, Bollywood is incredibly, over the top romantic, and quite sexual despite the (now changing) “no kissing rule”. Men and women are endlessly beautiful, as are clothes and settings. Stories are simple and big whether sad or happy. And there’s music and dancing at every turn. I think part of my current attraction is that the “heroes” in these movies are silly, soft, and laugh at themselves in ways that Western movie stars never would—and they enthusiastically perform as many fun, sexy, or just odd dance moves as the women.

These movies are selling a different brand of hetero relationships, a different brand of masculinity, but just the same I know that all this romance and sex is nothing but propaganda for a cluster of the most heinous gender hierarchies in the world on that sub-continent. The movies I’m watching (there are definitely other flavors) either present couples (only ever hetero–though there can be nice same sex friendships) as equals (on the surface), or with the men as benevolent dictators—who happen to be in charge of everyone but really have their charges’ best interests at heart. Ugh. While I’m watching these, I have a feeling akin to when I used to watch porn occasionally—turned on, and ashamed at the same time—not because of the sex, but because of the hate and dehumanization being enacted onscreen. In Bollywood it’s much gentler and dressed up really prettily, but it’s there, no question. These movies have generous splashes of racism, ableism, and homophobia thrown in with the misogyny too.

Knowing all this will not in any way prevent me from watching the next movie or clip I can access. Dude has dozens of movies, appearances, interviews, blah blah blah. For the moment, I’m going with it. I’m going for a tune-up with the therapist who helped me right myself from the last crisis, and will focus on getting the depression under control. Based on past experience, the crush/obsession will fade as I can face real life a bit better again. And I’ll have learned a little Hindi along the way.

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2 thoughts on “Detour into escapism

  1. Your comparison of a bollwood film with porn is super apt. Yes i love ever bit of a bollywood movie, and then i hate myself for loving all that it portrays. Bollywood still portrays women to be an eye candy, the damsel in distress, someone who needs to be protected or saved. Though things are changing bit by bit. I can give you a list of some good hindi movies to watch if you are still interested in the over the top beautiful world of bollywood 🙂

    • Hi there. Thanks for commenting. I am slowly finding other Bollywood fans who enjoy them on one level without shutting off their brains and feminist analysis on another. For me as an American, I find the more straightforward sexism/misogyny in Bollywood preferable to the supposedly liberal but just as misogynist–and much more violent–movies and TV shows in the US and UK.

      Yes, please do share your list of movies!

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