Dec 10, 2008

Dear Zachary

I've mentioned this before, but Gia and I have incredibly different ideas about what a fun night in front of the television entails. Doesn't make me love her any less. I'm just pointing out the difference. I like movies. Even movies I've seen 10 or 12 times before. If I check out the cable guide and see that Jaws is on, I'm probably gonna watch it. Well, that's not quite fair. Jaws is Gia's favorite movie of all-time, so she would probably join me. But I digress.

Generally, I like to watch old movies and Gia likes to watch reality programming. Not Survivor, I'm talking about Court TV or MSNBC Investigates and such. She eats that shit up.

But every once in a while she sucks me into one of her programs. She did it this past Sunday night when MSNBC premiered the documentary Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father. While not normally my cup of tea, this was a pretty impressive feat of film making about an incredibly powerful and disturbing subject.

I don't want to get into the exact subject matter because it's shocking, and I'm gonna talk about keeping it from you in a little bit. But first I'm gonna come clean with the results of some recent soul searching.

I don't have one.

A soul that is. At least in some situations. Take this film. It was shocking and heartbreaking and it made Gia openly weep. It made me look at her like an alien from another planet. It's not that I can't recognize the tragedy in the situation. No...I can see that. It's just that I can't bring myself to feel any worse for the victims of the crimes shown in this film than I do for any of the hundreds and thousands of victims of similar crimes that occur all the fucking time.

Am I supposed to care more because the initial victim of this film was the childhood friend of a boy who would later become a documentary filmmaker? That just doesn't make any sense to me. What about the nameless woman who was killed by her psycho ex-boyfriend that was on the news tonight? Shouldn't I have just as much empathy for her and her family?

A little over eleven years ago, Princess Diana of Wales died in a tragic car accident and the whole world mourned. Well, the whole world except me. I didn't know the woman and people die in tragic car accidents every single day. Some of them have left behind even more people that actually cared about them than Princess Di did that day. And I have been affected by certain celebrity deaths, but not this one. I tried to explain that to people, but everyone just thought I was cold.

And I really don't think I am. It's just that I don't know how much I can bring myself to get worked up over tragedies just because the persons involved were well known or because a film was made about them. I just can't separate them from other lesser-known tragedies.

But I would be interested to hear what y'all think about this? Am I just a soulless husk of a man who needs therapy, or I am just a bit too rational about the whole subject of tragedy? The world needs to know.

Oh, and about the film. We weren't aware of the subject matter prior to watching the film, and about an hour or so into the film something occurred that I can only somewhat callously call a "big twist". It certainly was shocking to us, and Gia was absolutely devastated. But the cynic in me wonders if a documentary about real-life tragedy is any place for a cheap gimmick. If you've seen the film, you know what I'm talking about.

If you haven't seen it and...I can't believe I'm typing this...you don't mind some spoilers, you can read about the story here or elsewhere on the web.

___________________________________________________
Note: Remember to play the Bug-Eyed Trivia Challenge every day. All the cynical bastards are doing it.

23 comments:

pure evyl said...

I am right with you on the death of Princess Di. People die in car accidents every day. You don't see the world mourn the death of some Joe Shmo who feel asleep at the wheel and left a family of five to fend for themselves. Who's to say that his death is any less tragic. It's just bullshit in my opinion.

And my wife's favorite show is Snapped. And yeah, I sleep with one eye open.

Steph said...

I'm with you as well, Earl. I don't understand how people mourn people they never knew.

In Gia's defense, the woman in me understands that it probably isn't the individual victim that made her weep, as much as the idea that tragic shit happens in the first place. At least that what it is for me.

But then, people tell me I'm a little cold too.

I'm not.

That damn expat said...

I'd cry for random people all the time if I allowed myself to watch those shows. So I don't and the world, my world, is a better place.
I didn't cry for princess Di though but that statement might not be true if I were British.

I don't think you are soulless. People just react differently to those kinds of things. My fiance reacts like you and I thank heavens for that.

Faiqa said...

Don't worry about not having a soul. Maybe you'll upset a tribe o gypsies and they'll curse you with one.

mikeb302000 said...

Princess Di's death didn't do anything for me either. I guess there are more of us out there than I thought. Just like you said, some other celebrity deaths do get to me, especially the ones that involve drugs and alcohol.

Avitable said...

I don't mind a documentary that has a twist. It can still be a real, true portrayal of unscripted life and utilize a few tricks to keep people intrigued.

I agree with you on your point about the soul. I don't mourn people that I don't know. I don't understand about the emotional outpouring people felt over the deaths of Diana, John Lennon, JFK, JFK, Jr., Kurt Cobain, or anyone else. It just doesn't affect me in the slightest.

Michelle J said...

b.e. do not fret, to me you have a very big soul!! Doesn't matter that you do not mourn or feel sad about things or people you do not know. That is pretty normal i think. Some people are just more emotional than others. I felt badly about Princess Di but i didn't mourn her death. Not one bit. I just felt badly for her kids.

Your funny and a good person. Go with that!!!

Michelle J said...

b.e. do not fret, to me you have a very big soul!! Doesn't matter that you do not mourn or feel sad about things or people you do not know. That is pretty normal i think. Some people are just more emotional than others. I felt badly about Princess Di but i didn't mourn her death. Not one bit. I just felt badly for her kids.

Your funny and a good person. Go with that!!!

downtown guy said...

We can't possibly mourn every death. When people cry for individuals they do not know but know about, it's generally a matter of that individual sort of symbolizing all the faceless others. Does that make any sense, or am I babbling?

Candy's daily Dandy said...

You are not without a soul. I understand that the death of Diana and the subject of the documentary just didn't do it for you..it does not mean you are cold. I am sure they're are other things that may rankle your emotions. Everyone expresses emotion differently and your logic expressed here makes complete sense. I wish I had a bit more of that in me.
I am a pathetic sucker who cries while watching Hallmark commercials on TV. So, under your formula, what does that make me? Soul-ly gifted??? A Soul sister?? A Soul jedi? Whatever.

Heff said...

I feel EXACTLY the same way you do. On the other hand, I've been told on several occasions that I don't possess a soul...

Jennifer and Sandi said...

I was so obsessed with Princess Di's death, I watched every moment of the event and visited the crash site in Paris. Maybe that's sappy? I have no idea why, I just thought she was an incredible woman and felt bad for her kids.

Signed:
Soul-Searching Jennifer

Cap'n Marrrrk said...

There's a reason I don't watch that shit, it's because I don't want to feel that particular emotion.

Life is tragic enough as it is, and it's all we can do faced with our own immanent deaths (and that of our loved ones and pets), NOT to freak out on an hourly basis.

I care about people, some in the specific and some in the abstract. If I were to care about all people, all the time I wouldn't be able to get anything done. If you're in my tribe, then I'll give a damn.

BTW, you don't have a soul because they don't exist. You have heart and empathy, which is different.

Slyde said...

Im not sure if you are souless or not, but i can attest for sure that you are a bastard....

B.E. Earl said...

Evyl - I've never heard of Snapped. I ain't gonna tell Gia about it either.

Steph - You? Cold? Nah!!!

Expat - A lot of Americans were really affected by Di's death. So I don't think it was just a British thing.

Faiqa - Niiiiiice!!!!

MikeB - Yeah, I'm kinda shocked that most of the comments have been more like me.

Avitable - Strangely, for a little while at least, Cobain's death affected me pretty deeply. But that is just because my life at that point was almost solely about music and Cobain was a huge part of it. And I had just seen Nirvana in concert shortly before he died.

Michelle - Another one for the dark side.

DG - Makes sense to me.

Candy - Actually I was gonna mention that. I well up at Hallmark card commercials too! And episodes of Buffy and Field of Dreams and...well, you know. But real-life tragedy? About someone I don't really know? Feh!

Heff - anyone that can rock facial hair like you do most definitely has a soul.

Jenn - While you are the first commenter her to admit that, I know plenty of people who felt the same way as you including lots of my family members. That's kinda why I included her death in this post.

Marrrk - I'm with you on souls and the make believe people in the sky. I just used the word because it was easier than explaining otherwise.

Slyde - There it is!

Holly Hall said...

Well, I went ahead and read all about it, this film and case. I don't particular need to watch such films. After all, my day job is hearing all sorts of stories of sadness and tragic losses. My patient's have this to bring to me. No need to seek it out in my free time. :)

And for the most part, I feel for them, my patients but it doesn't get me down. It doesn't really affect me like it use to. Deaths like princess Di have no affect on me. I have enough to process in my real life! But, with my patients, I have learned how to help but not jump in with them. This is a hard won skill.

But, it does happen. It happens when I recognize something of myself in their story. And in Zach's story. In his story, there is a 13 mth old, and a woman who is a health care provider. This is recognizable for me. If there are kids involved, this gets to me every single time.

The details of the mom's distrubed state are pretty typical. Obviously not well, this woman. But, people have rights. Personal freedoms as it were.

It's a balance really. How do you protect personal freedom while protecting the safety of themselves and those around them.

And the whole thing about the death. Jesus. This is tough to digest. Ok enough, I always seem to do mini posts in your comments.

got my own blog for that.

;)

Holly

B.E. Earl said...

Holly - While I was certainly outraged at the system that allowed this woman to roam free, it's just a sad story that happens all the time. Unfortunately.

Cap'n Marrrrk said...

I just read the wiki.

Note to self: DO NOT WATCH THIS FUCKING MOVIE!"

Yep, shit like this happens all the time.

ajooja said...

Yeah, I chose not to watch this movie because of the subject-matter. Life's too short, you know?

As for death, I handle it much differently because of my family history (father and sister killed when I was 9) and my line of work.

I don't look at "death" as death unless it's someone I know. Even then, it depends on how things go.

Brandon said...

I just watched the trailer and I started crying. Seriously. Ever since we had our little girl, anything involving children anymore can set me off. I know the heartbreak that I would suffer, so it pains me to see people suffering in the same way.

Water Logged Canine said...

Is the twist that the dead guy's child see's dead people? Cos I already saw that one.

artfulkisser said...

I think you can mourn the death of someone who moved you during your lifetime and yet you may not have known them. In fact, I just posted something about the premature death of an Australian poet just before I came here today. I never knew her and I'm not a huge fan of poetry but she touched me during her lifetime. My shock may have been coloured by the fact that she died from cancer and my mum has cancer and so may have been more to do with that. But I don't really know. Princess Di never really touched me during her lifetime so it was no big deal for me. But yes, circumstances can sway your reactions. I certainly know that whenever I heard about a car accident involving a mother and her newborn after I'd had my baby, it would jolt me to the point of paranoia whenever I got in the car.

B.E. Earl said...

Marrrk - that is probably a good idea.

ajooja - that's an interesting way to look at death. I like it.

Brandon - yeah, that's why I have cats.

WLC - Damn it! You gave up the ending! ;)

AK - I think you absolutely can be affected. I just posted the other day about the death of Odetta. But some folks get affected to the point of obsession. And that's what I saw with the death of Diana in a lot of cases.