The Thing I Like About …

Thesis:  the part where she looks through her fingers at the snuff film.

In Thesis, Angela is a grad student writing a paper on violence in film and television.  She explains to her advisor, her family, and her new friend Chema that she deplores violence, and wants to study its role in film so she can show its negative effects on society.  She and Chema stumble across a video that seems to be an actual snuff film, with the “star” getting beaten and ultimately shot by her kidnapper.

Chema, used to images of violence in the movies he watches, witnesses this snuff film with a calm detachment, looking past any visceral response to the parade of clues the film offers to the identity of its makers.  Angela, on the other hand, is disgusted by the images, and becomes physically ill.  She only stays in the room with the film because Chema is telling her a list of clues.  And then …

… she opens the fingers of the hands she has clapped over her eyes, and she looks between her fingers at the film.

She needs to see it.

In the film, Angela never seems to figure out – or at least she doesn’t admit so openly – what Chema and the audience figure out pretty quickly: she is intrigued by images of violence, curious about actual violence, and drawn to study it more out of fascination than scholarship.  She is a good person, and therefore this fascination has caused her personal discomfort that she masks with open condemnation of the very thing she seeks out.  And in the end, the only way she can escape the violence of the snuff-film makers is to become violent toward them herself.

We – hopefully – try hard to turn away from the darkness inside us; we don’t, for instance, strangle other drivers who cut us off in traffic, or kick a cheating partner to within an inch of his/her life.  Okay, okay, I read the papers – some of us actually do those things, and more besides … but that’s why it’s in the papers, because we’re not supposed to do that stuff, and the vast majority of us don’t.

But pretending that the darkness isn’t there is another thing entirely.  If we put blinders on to ourselves, then it becomes easier to put blinders on in regard to our actions/mistakes.  If we live a lie we tell ourselves, it becomes easier to lie to others, until we are exactly and precisely the thing we said we didn’t like in the first place.  When we acknowledge our darkness, we can confront it and deal with it and maybe even eliminate it altogether; when we accept who we are, we can change the parts of us we want to change, and become more of who we would rather be.

And we won’t have to hide our faces behind our hands.

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