Greetings unto you, skinbeasts. It is indeed I, Comrade Buckminster. In my grace and my mercy, the which passeth all understanding, I have come to this online lair of lesbian literary frivolity to pinch-hit for Benny. She’s got a bad case of the galloping fantods this week.
Apparently it’s all been a little bit much lately, between the lawmakers who lock their adopted children up before “rehoming” them with child rapists, and the gormless knobheads in the Canadian Senate trying to pervert a transgender rights bill with a provision that can be roughly summarized as “WAAAAAH TRANSGENDER COOTIES WE ARE SCARED.” I’d call them wankers, those Conservative senators, but wanking is a fun, sensible, and life-affirming activity. Trying to bar trans folks from public washrooms is just sheer triple-distilled douchebaggery, which warrants a five-year penal sentence to be served at the bottom of a septic tank.
Here’s an open message to those senatorial shites: Hey assholes, if you’re so damn scared to use the potty in the same room as a trans person, you can share my toilet. How’s that for a solution? I get to use it first, so don’t fall face first into something juicy. Wait, I mean “do.”
All right, I know, it wouldn’t work out- you’d find some other stupid ridiculous thing to be terrified about, even if I relieved you of your bathroomophobia. Fake beards, maybe, or a kind of poncho that you turn inside out and then it is a different colour, OH THE HUMANITY.
In short, it’s raining suck, hallelujah, and Benny’s hiding under the bed, quivering a little and mainlining jellybeans while she waits for it to be safe to come out. And so, lucky skinbeasts, you get the benefit of my wise and worldly perspective today.
Let’s face it: humans do not have the talent for happiness that cats do. Try and find a cat who suffers from clinical depression or body dysmorphia, just try. Humans cannot pass a single day without going down to the fountain of bad thoughts and drinking deep. This is why we have come among you, we furry evangelists, to spread the sacred gospel of Oh God Will You Just Relax For Ten Minutes.
All this leads to an interesting question- interesting, that is, if you are a smelly human and cannot entertain yourself with the twist tie off a bread bag and a piece of bellybutton lint.
When and why and how is it entertaining to read about someone going through terrible bad wrong things? Why can we love a story that absolutely grinds us up with sadness, or horror, or despair for the universe? And what’s the difference between a story that moves us with its agony and one that leaves us hiding under the bed, wishing that we’d never learned to read?
Naturally we all have different triggers and breaking points. Benny has a sort of anti-bucket list of books and films that she can’t bring herself to read or watch, though she knows they are event horizons of genius. Number one on the list: Grave of the Fireflies. She can’t hack it. But that’s just a personal weak spot, a particularly squishy bit on her soul. There are stories that beat us up not because they press on our individual weaknesses, but because they are designed to brutalize and break.
Stories like that, stories that are meant to do our minds violence, piss me right the hell off, if you want to know the truth. Your opinion may differ, of course, but if it does, you’re wrong and I’m right- because, well, I’m a cat, QED.
So where do I draw the line between, say, A Monster Calls (heartbreakingly lovely) and The Giving Tree (a primer for spousal abuse)? Or between Requiem for a Dream (everything is horrible forever) and I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream (everything is also horrible forever, but with personality)?
Maybe this is the simplest way to summarize my feelings: There’s suffering that reveals a person, and there’s suffering that obscures personhood. A writer can inflict terrible bad wrong things on a character to show who she is, to make her more human. Or a writer can inflict terrible bad wrong things on a character and, in doing so, make her voiceless and anonymous- just a suffering slab of meat, as in a slasher flick.
You’d better make me love a character if you want me to follow her on a dark journey. Otherwise, I won’t have the energy. There are a lot of other problems in the world that require my attention.
(Just checked on Benny. She’s whimpering a little and singing “Nearer My God To Thee,” badly. I’m going to go sit on her head until she snaps out of it.)