When we shy away from things that make us uncomfortable, we don’t give them the attention they deserve.
I was very disturbed when I watched Once Were Warriors — a film about a Maori family’s struggles with poverty and domestic violence in New Zealand. It put a bad feeling in my stomach thinking about how Indigenous people still suffer from the consequences of colonialism, and about how many lives are destroyed by abuse and alcoholism.
I didn’t like that feeling.
I remember going home and watching How I Met Your Mother to get my mind off the rattling thoughts.
It’s easy to distract ourselves. We live in a consumer culture, one of amusement and diversion from the suffering and evil that saturates our world.
If something is uncomfortable and difficult to approach, it’s so easy to find something else to take away those disturbing feelings. We’ll fixate on whether a dress is blue and black or white and gold, rather than issues of racism on our own campus.
Artists strive to engage people in universal questions. Some believe it’s their duty to show people the hypocrisy and injustice surrounding them.
The problem is that our society has conditioned us to think of art as nothing more than another item to be consumed.
Blockbuster films, for example, are constructed to please and amuse as many people as possible. Popular and successful formulas are recreated over and over to maximize profits. People consume films like donuts: acquire, eat, discard, repeat.
There’s no critical thinking that goes into it.
When directors make movies that make you uncomfortable, you shouldn’t rush to find something to take your mind off of those feelings. Try to determine why exactly you feel that way.
One reason Once Were Warriors made me uncomfortable was that I didn’t even know the Maori people existed. It seemed so far removed from my life in North America.
It disgusted me because I was ignorant to what had happened and is still happening. If I’m not a part of the solution, does that mean I’m perpetuating the problem?
It isn’t wrong to see a film for amusement, but entertainment shouldn’t be the only goal. We have the opportunity to make changes to our world, but it’s only possible when we realize why we find ourselves disgusted by the uncomfortable.
Michaella is the Journal’s Graphics Editor and Editorial Illustrator. She’s a second-year sociology major.
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