Emotional Literacy and Movies

There is no money in emotional respect. Audiences will watch a film like "The Greatest Showman" in droves as they don't yet care about emotional respect. They will laugh at what is signified to be funny, and cry at what is signified to be sad. It is not because they are "sheeple" or "dumb" - they are emotionally illiterate. Like the baby that is endlessly entertained by covering one's face with two hands - it is the spectacle of an event beyond concept that riles them up. Emotionally illiterate people do not understand why they are being affected by a film scene, but instead, celebrate that they are; i.e., they may value the existence of a subject rather than its purpose. How to diagnose your emotional literacy with a focus on movie-watching:

  • Do you believe that you feel something just because it happens?

  • Do you believe emotions are uncontrollable, essential objects of being?

  • Do you find a movie to be good if it got you to cry or laugh?

  • Do you try not to think about a movie's technical aspects besides its effects or actor's performances?

If yes to one or more of these questions, then you may be emotionally illiterate.

  • If you believe emotions occur because they are supposed to occur, then you believe in a meaningless tautology that is uttered due to an inability to explain one's feelings, and attempts to extend that incapability as a universal concept, which it is not.

  • If you find emotions to be uncontrollable, then you should look at the wonders of antidepressants, which have controlled emotions to the detriment of many for years. Not only is it chemically achievable, it's also naturally obtainable by extending one's knowledge about why one is feeling an emotion beyond the immediate trigger (nostalgia, sad image or audio, loss).

  • If you find movies that get you to laugh or cry as good, then how are you different from a baby as someone screams "here I am" as they pull hands away from their face? The answer: not very different. Your conclusion about a movie's quality based on its manipulation of emotions should be thus: You find the movie very good at manipulating your emotions. One should find other grounds for evaluating the film as a form of artistic expression. If you want baby/mindless entertainment, sure, stick to the emotional argument.

  • If you try not to think about technical aspects of art like film besides effects or an actor's performance, no problem. However, do realize that those two aspects are only two of many components attempting to manipulate emotion. There is also: color grading (how a film is colored - black/white, orange/blue, grey, blue), sound design (music, sound effects), set and costume design, and cinematography. While the actors may be the pawns to glue these other aspects together, remember that filming the same scene with an iPhone will not elicit the same response as all the post-production work. Thus, remember that your emotional literacy depends on much more than what you see, but all the components that attempt to signify emotions that you as of now may not acknowledge - but your brain does.

Why write about this? It is not because I want to project some sort of film pretentiousness. It is instead because the most considerable ill that I find today (and it existed for all time past as well) is the typical individual's emotional illiteracy. I will be direct: this illiteracy causes wars, death, and suffering. For those in power and emotionally illiterate, emotions are a human experience that is lived, not observed. And thus anger and sadness and hatred may prevail for those who do not understand themselves. For their chemical reactions are now amorphous, essential pieces of themselves, which they believe should control the body. Not only is that untrue, but damaging to human intellect, peace, and understanding.

Lastly, to those individuals that are peaceful, understanding, and intellectual, but also subscribe to prostrating before their emotions: you serve to hurt those you love most by enabling them to be as angry, sad and misunderstanding as the worst of us. The goal of humanity is not to be slave-driven by emotions, but rather to utilize them to understand oneself and one's perception of the universe. Emotions are tools, not the product. So don't buy tools that ultimately want you to conform to them, i.e. manipulative music and movies. Rather be controlled by tools, invest in tools that conform emotions to yourself. Then you'll understand that happiness and glee come from your inner literacy, not your powerlessness in the face of life's manipulators.