There's a lot I can't watch; there's a lot I can't read. There are whole swaths of office conversation I can't participate in. I don't know anything about zombies or "Hunger Games" or imaginary serial killers or fictional warscapes. Because y'all, I just can't.
For so many people, it's escapism -- harmless entertainment. But at its core, that scary stuff all feels so possible to me, so probable. I can't pull apart the fact from the fiction.
I mean, not actual zombies, of course. Not literally. But there are an awful lot of apt metaphors for zombies and the kind of mindlessly predatory human behavior that leads to very real pain. There's an awful lot of truth in any tale that paints us as capable of horrendous cruelty. I can't find anything to enjoy in it. My willing suspension of disbelief function shuts down.
So I just can't do the water cooler talk about this stuff. I watch comedies and light dramas -- nothing where anyone dies or kills anyone else. Nothing where anyone shoots anyone or hits anyone or is even especially mean to anyone else. I read literary fiction or comedic essays or political commentary or, when my kids will share, Calvin and Hobbes.
And yes, I obsessively read the news -- where everything is so horrible that no one has to go to the trouble of fictionalizing it. It stands on its own. It upsets me, but I'm not seeking escapism or entertainment when I read it. I'm trying to understand the world around me and my place in it. Granted, I'm failing. But I'm trying.
My husband and I have a number of temperamental peculiarities in common, and this complete aversion to gruesome, or even unpleasant, entertainment is one of them. A few years ago, on the insistent recommendations of several friends, we tried to watch the roundly acclaimed "Six Feet Under" -- the cable drama about undertakers. We gave up 30 minutes in, shuddering involuntarily as a woman on skates rolled blithely toward a speeding car and her doom.
"Why is it fun for people to watch that?" I whimpered to Jim as he decisively shut the image down.
"Honey, I just don't know," he said, scanning the DVR for an episode of "The Office" to restore our equilibrium.
It's not that I'm a prude. I don't, in fact, have any objection to sexual content in movies and books and television. Sex, if you're lucky, is part of life. Violence isn't -- or, at least, it shouldn't be.
I don't even care much about the kind of language that most people object to. My kids have heard it from my own mouth, and they'll hear it from others, too, I'm sure. It's not ideal, of course.
But I've never understood parents who respond with scandalized indignation if their child sees a woman's breast on a screen or hears a socially unacceptable word, but will happily let that child watch scenes of war, violence, acts of callousness and cruelty.
How is a breast worse than a scene in which one guy pumps another guy full of bullets? How is a mere word -- a sound -- more offensive than the kind of dehumanizing gore at the heart of the video games my sons aren't allowed to play? Where is the logic in that?
So, hey. Enough about the zombies already. Did you watch "Modern Family" last week? Y'all, it was hilarious.
I really love that show.
Contact Mary Fortune at thirtytensomething.blogspot.com.