Scale it Down a Bit

Dear CF,

Tales of mastery in compressed time: I immediately thought of Antonio Banderas in The Mask of Zorro, Uma Thurman in Kill Bill, The Karate Kid. In other words, films in which the training is precisely the point. Then I thought about what you really meant in your post—stories where mastery is purely instrumental, like The Matrix. Where it is precisely the exceptionalism that makes the story worth telling.

In a rom-com setting, the exceptionalism of perfect love is normalized so that people import those assumptions. I suppose it’s a simpler mistake to make than we realize: as fantasies go, it’s easier to believe you can form that Instant Connection than it is to believe you can bend spoons or dodge bullets.

I do have a number of friends who have this tendency. They report feeling really seen by The Guy. They attribute to him extraordinary powers of empathy and insight. He has 20/20 emotional X-ray vision. He gets them. They feel understood.

I never know how to address this claim—it’s so poignant, so fervent, so unlikely.  I’m sorry to say I’ve never—not even when I was truly agog, mad with desire, hungry to strip someone’s mental workings bare—experienced this.  I’ve always remained conscious of a self that goes unperceived and unknown; have been both grateful for that protection and nostalgic about the inevitable distance that accrues over time from the core proto-selves we cut our teeth on.

I suppose I felt a fundamental sameness with one person once. It seemed to me we understood certain foundational things about each other—again, I refer not to the adult but to that old Freudian core self; the loops and whorls of the frightening child. ‘Course, the devil was in the details. Or I may simply have been wrong, may have merely displaced my rom-com projection onto a different and more idealized decade.

If nothing else, movies teach us ranges of response. They model the moments we eventually inhabit, and—by virtue of the unconscious power they hold—we’ll consult them before we consult our own reactions. This seems dangerous enough, no?




One Response to Scale it Down a Bit

  1. Carla Fran says:

    I like this idea of training as the story, and imagine what this would look like as a rom-com (and not in the fashion of Hitch or How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days type routine progression). What would it look like? These movies are so great because they show us the joys (and rewards) of discipline. If we apply ourselves, work in uncomfortable conditions, and build ourselves up after getting beaten down, then victory (or in Uma’s case, revenge) is ours!
    How does a protege train for true lurve? I think this is how things like The Sterling Men’s Institute come to be…that could be quite a movie…

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