What DO You Feel, Voyager? (1/16/2020)

Clearly, I’ve not been exceptionally good at explaining myself…

It’s not like I flat out don’t experience emotions. I quite obviously do. If this blog has made anything abundantly clear, it’s that I’m little more than a swirling mass of anxiety and insecurity, thinly veiled as someone who knows what he’s talking about by sounding intellectual. I am, in fact, just a broken mess of a person whose thoughts are just a series of inconsistencies and contradictions that make absolutely zero sense.

“But what do you feel when you watch stuff? You can’t be completely empty.”

True enough. And I obviously am not. But I’ll put it this way. It’s not like I don’t want to enjoy the things I watch. It’s just that a disproportionate amount of that enjoyment comes from thinking about what I’m watching, not being emotionally invested in what I’m watching. The theory, the cause-and-effect, all of that. I like the more procedural side of things. How X leads to Y, and so-on. That said, I obviously do feel certain things. But my brain compartmentalizes them a bit differently when it comes to “good” and “bad.”

I don’t feel the bad emotions a thing wants to get out of me, generally speaking. Not even the bittersweet ones. My brain’s response to those things is to analyze. If something “bad” happens but is handled well, the most I’m going to feel is… basically entirely neutral. Nothing more than a “huh. okay, they did that pretty well.” Contrary to the character I play, I don’t actually feel sad when characters lose. Like, for example, I didn’t genuinely feel sad when Uraraka lost to Bakugo. Mind you, that particular example may have been colored by me in no way expecting her to win. But the point stands that, with moments like that, I just don’t feel anything more than “wow. okay, that was pretty powerful,” at the absolute best.

“But you feel bad when characters die or lose their memories or make huge sacrifices or whatever.”

Yeah… no. I wouldn’t call that feeling “bad.” I’d call it feeling annoyed. See, the thing is, because of my brain’s “emotion-intellectual switch” when it comes to these things, when things like that occur, it hits analysis mode. So while the best thing I’ll be when faced with either is neutral, the opposite end of that is irritation. Because so many times I run into stories that care more about their message than they do about the logic surrounding it. Either the scenario that got them into a situation was stupid as all hell, but contrived to make it a thing – “Hey! Let’s do this obviously stupid thing that we know would be a bad idea, per the rules of the world we live in, even though we absolutely have a choice and could just… not do this stupid thing.” Me: Yeah, you’re gonna die and probably deserve it, so I’ve no sympathy for whatever’s about to happen to you and your writer’s kinda crap. Or the consequences of whatever the sacrifice is were nooot well-considered. But they went with it anyway, in the interest of being all artsy. “You’ll be immortal and live on as a ghost. No one will remember or be able to see/interact with you.” “It’s okay. I’ll be happy knowing that my friends get to-” Me: Yeah, no. Bulls–t. You’re going to go insane. The human brain isn’t wired that way. An eternity without being able to actually talk to anyone and eventually being forced to watch the people you saved die without being able to say goodbye to them or anything? You would go insane and become some sort of dark god and probably instigate some entirely new, dark and twisted cycle. That is how my brain functions. If I have any emotion for bad things, it’s most often because I’m annoyed, not that I actually felt the thing it wanted me to feel. Bonus points if you figured out those examples, I guess.

Yes, death comes with a bit of an added stitch for a handful of reasons. On the more obvious note, I just don’t want anyone to die. I don’t need genuine peril to care and if someone’s dead, they’re no longer around for me to watch them do cool stuff or be cute. That’s the entirely selfish reason. The less selfish reason is I’m bored of it. Across media as a whole (but perhaps especially in western media? I dunno) it’s just overused. Bob and I have a sort of running gag. Whenever we hear someone talking about the need for a series to kill off characters in order to be taken seriously, we evoke a line from one of our mutual favorite videogames. “You know what the problem with Skyrim is, these days? Everyone’s obsessed with death.” Setting aside the selfish reason of “I don’t want people to die because I wanna keep watching them,” it’s also just a desire to see characters for whom the stakes are much more unique to the individual, or at least unique to the series. But this is something I can get over… if it’s handled extremely well. If it’s just going to be “okay” or “good,” killing off anyone is going to annoy me regardless. There’s not really a way around that. And if it’s poor, I’m gonna get pissed. There were a few reviews I prevented myself from writing on the site because whatever I’d just watched made me that angry. And I don’t want you guys to have to deal with that.

“So… you only feel the happy stuff?”

I guess? Shounen hype usually works on me. But other things can get in the way of it. Which, I suppose, is true of pretty much anyone with anything they generally enjoy. Cute things almost invariably work on me because I do just genuinely love cute stuff. It’s part of the reason I love particularly sweet romances, so much. They’re adorable and while I can’t say I really know what that emotion feels like, I like the sweeter depictions of it. Also, funny things tend to at least get me to smile, even if I don’t actually find it all that funny. I think it’s just that I have this natural thing where I like watching people have fun. And it probably extends to humor? I’m not really sure. Because I catch myself smiling at stuff I don’t actually find very funny, all the time. Does that happen with anyone else? It’s kinda weird. Could just be that I’m anticipating the joke, so I’m getting ready for it? I’unno.

But yeah. I mean, if anything, I do genuinely get swept up in those moments of an underdog overcoming some insurmountable enemy. Gohan vs. Perfect Cell, Gon vs. Hisoka, Bell Cranel vs… damn near anyone he ever fights. It’s a good feeling, watching people overcome something that seems impossible. At the same time, though, my happiness with a thing doesn’t really scale. I wasn’t happier watching Gohan defeat Cell – having watched Gohan’s journey – than I was watching something more condensed like Kurogane, Ikki defeat Toudo, Touka in Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry. My enjoyment of things like that pretty much plateaus at a certain point. And that point is rather mild. The only time in recent memory where the opposite was true is when Ash won the Alola Pokemon League. But that’s because Pokemon, itself, holds very special meaning for me. And is pretty much the only show that does. I doubt I will ever gain another of those. Because Pokemon hit at a time before my brain was like this. So the effect just… lingered.

I suppose there’s also the factor of getting me to nerd out? Like… with fanservice. Not the sexy kind. The kind where you cram a lot of nerdy things I like into one space and show them all doing cool stuff. Avengers: Endgame, for example. Though I doubt anything will ever beat that first Avengers movie. Just because it was such a milestone, actually getting to see all of those characters on one screen together for the first time. I think I’m on a tangent, though. Yeah. Getting me to nerd out is another way to get me all happy and stuff. But it’s not like it’s some deep, profound happiness. It’s literally no more complicated than “Heehee, lots of cool things are happening, right now.”

I’ll try to boil it down this way. When I watch something, I do expect to enjoy it. But the extent to which I enjoy it on an emotional level is pretty much solely dependent on how fun it is. Anything beyond that is more or less pure mechanical appreciation. There’s obviously going to be the occasional crossover. Things that are supposed to be bittersweet or just plain bitter may get the occasional emotional response out of me that they were going for, but it’d basically be a miracle. Things that I designed to make me feel good may just… not yield any kind of reaction, or may even make me angry if they’re particularly badly done.

I’m an inherently negative person. But that’s why I try to keep my actual review content positive. Life is too short to focus on the things you hate. So I hardly make anything more than a passing reference to things I disdain. Dwelling on them isn’t worth it. But I know, with the way I talk about things – especially with the character I play, these days – it can be difficult to know how I actually feel about things. I know for every time I complain about a character dying or a character being “shafted,” it can seem like I’m just not tolerant of certain things as a whole and am far more emotional than I let on or outright say I am. But that’s not really the case. I just figured I ought to clear that up. Because it’s a genuine thing with me. It’s like I said recently, the only thing I ultimately want is to be understood. So hopefully we understand me a little better now.

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