What Movies Tell Us about Ourselves
Updated: Jul 25, 2019
“The particular egoic patterns that you react to most strongly in others and misperceive as their identity tend to be the same patterns that are also in you, but that you are unable or unwilling to detect within yourself.”
- Eckhart Tolle
Have you ever noticed how two people can have completely different reactions while watching the same movie? I find this fascinating. Movies are like Rorschach tests, and so it’s really interesting to read movie reviews, as they tell you so much about what’s important to the person writing that particular review.
I’ve noticed that people with a lot of latent negativity will easily become provoked by upsetting films, while relatively happy people won’t be bothered by the same film; they just shrug their shoulders and say, “Well, that was a bad movie,” and move on to the next thing, while others will be thrown into an existential crisis about the fate of humanity because of a particularly bad film.
Take Star Wars, for example. People with trust issues might zero in on Lando Calrissian betraying Han Solo. People who are grappling with parental issues would probably focus on the fact that Darth Vader was a lousy and absent father to Luke Skywalker. People with a fear of heights would probably notice all the falling that happens: Boba Fett into the Sarlacc Pit; Luke down onto the weather vane in Cloud City; the Emperor being tossed over the ledge on the Death Star by Darth Vader, etc. People with anger issues might enjoy Han Solo’s blasting away Greedo during the famous “Yes, I’ll bet you have” scene in the cantina. Those with control issues might not like the way that Obi Wan is always telling Luke to “Let go of his conscious self, and act on instinct.” Obsessive worriers will probably latch on to C3PO’s neurotic “We’re doomed” persona, while people who are concerned about aging and mortality might pick up on Yoda’s spry nature at the age of 900.
But in all seriousness, we really do seem to tune in to the issues and vibes (in films, books, and in life experiences) that resonate with our own internal struggles. We seek out external forms that are in synch with our own energy state, and we strengthen those energies within ourselves when we consume those images and narratives that validate and reinforce our own interpretations.
I've had the privilege of working with Japanese students for several years, and I've noticed that Japanese culture is very light, in comparison to American culture. They don't have hardly any shootings, or violent crime, compared to the United States. I've noticed that my students hardly ever go see violent movies while they're studying abroad in Boston; they just don't seek them out because they don't have violence within themselves - it just doesn't occur to them. They seek out comedies and Disney movies because that's what resonates with their own energy state. Their energy is light, happy, and friendly, like a Pixar movie.
What does it say about our collective American energy groove that we're obsessed with post-apocalyptic zombie shows and horror movies that only arise from the most debased parts of our consciousness? We have an appetite for this because there is something within us that resonates with this extraordinary degree of pain. I can't help but imagine that if we each made a conscious effort to stop feeding this pain within ourselves, as individuals, we might stop perpetuating this pain, collectively.