02 April 2006

Laugh to change context (or “Laugh to banish”)

Okay, as annoying as I find this, it's equally as interesting. In January, my roommate, Carmen, and her mother, Danielle, ended up watching High Tension. My friend and I watched it some time prior, and we found it lived up to its name. We turned the lights out, ate pizza, and watched a scary-ass movie while it began to storm outside.

However, Carmen and Danielle, throughout the film, would continuously make jokes, spoof the film, and overall just ruin the effect which my friend and I were so eager to enjoy — hence renting it in the first place. We wanted to be frightened, to be transported to that place where we could flinch and gasp.

Carmen and Danielle ruined that effect by making their own context in which they could safely enjoy the film. In doing so, they ruined its intended effect and, ultimately, rendered the film moot.

Just this weekend, a bunch of us watched King Kong. As we'd not seen it yet, the scene with the giant insects on Skull Island obviously set us off gasping and grossing and just generally being icked right out. And again, as soon as something uncomfortable takes place, again started the sarcasm and the jokes. To make light of the poor bloke on-screen being digested alive by slug-things à la Half-Life 2, was to render the scene's power over them powerless.

If they'd remained hush and watched through, the cinematic experience gains hold and you are partially conceiving of the atrocities on-screen in a relative manner. Enough to make you squirm, at least.

This also reminds me of then I attended a screening of The Blair Witch Project years ago, and the fucking kids down in front would maintain their ruccous during the 'frightening' parts of the film. It ruined the overall effect for me, for everyone else, and kept them safe from being drawn into the film and its affects. The overall design and concept of the film would have been a wonderfully frightening time, had the dozen or so teenage twats down in front kept their mouths shut and comments to themselves.

Which in effect brings us to the concept of laughter as banishment. If I try to evoke some sort of monster… please, no laughing.


Anonymous said...

I like this post. I never really connected 'laughter as banishment' to something that actually happens normally, for anyone - mostly because I typically used to think of 'banishing' after intently focusing on a symbol for a half and hour while chanting maniacally. This is nice.

Of course, as far as movies go, it isn't just the laughter and snide jokes that neatly sidestep any emotional impact. Just about anything can do it - some baby crying in the audience being a favored example. Especially, for some God-accursed reason, at the most violent and/or adult-themed movie in town. Or if a couple right behind you has to translate the movie into another language for their kid. Any kind of break can do this. Do you think laughter is a more effective means, in particular? Or just more portable and handy than a small child?

However, you're wrong about The Blair Witch Project. Trust me on this one. That shit wasn't scary so much as hyped all to hell and back. (Except for that final scene in the house. Ok, I admit, that part was terrifying. But the rest? Not so much.)

I have no blog but I must talk.

-Charlie's Horse

Anonymous said...

Laughter is often used to banish more than just horror in a movie too. I once watched a video called "Blue-Eyed", about a former elementary school teacher who in the 1960s developed a program based upon eye color to show her children what racism feels like. The video I saw involved a group of adults at a workshop. Laughter here was employed to banish the feeling of discomfort when you see a human being mistreated.

Aside from the obvious annoyance of laughter ruining your mojo, it can also be very dangerous, as it tends to prevent a person from fully engaging in what may be happening around them. It is far easier to laugh something off than to actually confront a problem.

- Peki

kylark said...

Last night while watching The Matrix Reloaded (while stoned, of course) I realized entertainment works because some part of your brain thinks it's real. Not just thinks, but believes and experiences it as real. Which is why it's so irritating when somebody does something to take you out of the film, or when a movie has some stupid gaffe that makes you remember it's only a movie.

I'm working on a theory that entertainment can not work unless some part of your mind thinks it's real. I have no idea yet what the implications of this may be.

As far as laughter and banishing, have you seen Miyazake's My Neighbor Totoro? There's a great scene where the father and the two daughters banish scary spirits by laughing really loud. If I ever have kids, I'm teaching them this technique.

Fell said...

Charlie's Horse,

Heh, blogs may be overrated. I'm not sure yet. Though, I've met some excellent people. I think what I really need to do is expand this concept more into a practical and pragmatic methodology, by which I can attempt to teach others.


That is interesting, and the more I think about it the more I am becoming aware of how much humour is used to banish all sorts of things — even the pertinent matters which we should be addressing as people.

This brings up something from first part of The Secrets of the Matrix. In it, David Icke goes over Masonic symbolism and the founding of the U.S. He reviews the Statue of Liberty, and traces her image back through history. It is a part of the sun symbolism, the order, the maintenance, the ever-watching eye, et cetera.

What stuck with me was one simple thing Icke said: That the symbolism was reversed. In this, I started reeling about in my own mind. If the States' founding fathers can establish a civilisation upon symbols that are, in fact, reversed, then they can just set it in motion and be confident in knowing that the human mind will consistently fill in the blanks for them. It will actually pave the roads to their souls for them, by creating a social tapestry based around the symbol of the sun, inverted freedom, and an illusory liberty. Until the masses can think in a symbolic way and interpret for themselves, they remain prisoners of the methods and orders they impeach upon themselves.

All because of the established symbols: The very basic building blocks of how one develops: Raised first by others, peers, family: Only when it's too late coming into their own, where the foundations of the soul have been wrought.

Getting back to the topic at hand, we laugh to banish. We laugh to banish the demons. And it may be the demons we need to be embracing, as they're the buried-over aspects of reality and ourselves that the symbols have come to sweep under the rugs.

If I truly choose the Will to Power, what do I fear except fear itself? What do I have to laugh about, except my own humility? I return to a quote that sticks with me, from Apocalypse Now:

I've seen horrors… horrors that you've seen. But you have no right to call me a murderer. You have a right to kill me. You have a right to do that… but you have no right to judge me. It's impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror. Horror has a face… and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not then they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies.

I began to wonder where the civilisation of the Moon had gone? Where were the matriarchs of yore? I see a moon adorn Islam, but have yet to research the power of that symbol. But where is the feminine energy, the shadows, the night?

And all the monsters and creatures of the dark that the good Christian West made monsters of in tales and sermons, is what I am trying to return to. I think we may be the Fallen. And even Science has rendered us a mockery for the most part, laughing to banish us from their periphery.

And onto further things, in regards to the effects we endure while watching a movie: EEGs drop to about 12 or 13 Hz while reading a book or watching a movie, which is technically a slight 'altered state.' Video games, I am not so sure of the effects. I recently wrote a letter to video game developer Will Wright on the matter, which he in turn forwarded to Wired magazine. It's nothing special, but they will be publishing it soon in a Rants & Raves section. It had to do with his development of the new game Spore, and how the medium is allowing us to do all these amazing things, yet a video game cannot elicit emotions from its players (except for maybe frustration).

Will Wright explains how games are unleashing the human imagination

We seem to lose ourselves to an sympathetic state when the EEGs slow. If the character is relative to ourselves, symbolically or through analogy (think, Luke Skywalker or Frodo Baggins and their innocence befoer their Call to Adventures), then we can vicariously travel and share in their journeys with them.

Yet, the symbolic language of the West still seems stuck at a point where it we will not allow ourselves to think any more abstract than past a certain point. The sun, symbol of all that is ordered, the "yang" I believe. It is built in. But when the feminine demon rears its head, creative thinking, genius, art, most are wont to dismiss it.

To banish it with laughter.

Which leads me to ponder what are most of us laughing at, at any given point? Have our own interpretations of the events and actions been reversed as a consequence of the reversed symbolism that may be prevalent in North America? Do we have the depths necessary to question our actions and come up with an honest answer?

Oh, and Kylark, I am currently reading an excellent essay on the symbolism of The Matrix: Revolutions. He wrote on all three, I believe. Check it out!

Okay, that is enough of that for now.