Thursday, April 28, 2011

Asexuality and Psychiatry

Greetings,

As might be obvious by the fact that I am plainly in no way, shape, or form a passionate Aries, I am not your usual blogger.  Your usual blogger was kind enough to give me some help with homework last week, and to express appreciation I have chosen to guest blog for him.

As far as I am aware, asexuality is very new to public understanding.  Science has understood asexual reproduction for quite some time, but the term "asexuality" used to describe a sexual orientation is fairly new.  Even newer is the idea that some people who, for whatever reason, do not experience sexual attraction or do not desire sexual relationships might still desire romantic ones.  Many times when I (or when people I am close to and have talked to about this subject) have attempted to discuss asexuality with others, the reaction is to assume that something is wrong because we do not want sex.

"Well...okay so...were you raped as a child?"

I have gotten this question a lot since I started discussing my asexuality.  I often respond by asking why this is relevant.  The LGBT community has already had to make strides to dispel the myth that lesbianism or male homosexuality are "caused" by abuse, and this battle is not won either.  I am romantically exclusively attracted to women and so I identify as gay despite my asexuality.  When I came out this way in high school, I did receive the occasional stupid question about whether or not I was raped as a child.  The assumption was often that a love for women could not possibly just be natural, clearly a terrifying Satanic monster of a man must have forever scarred me and warped my fragile, innocent mind.  Now, the assumption is that the same Satanic monster must have damaged me so badly that not only am I afraid of men, I'm also just afraid of sex in general.  Aside from the extreme frustration I feel at the assumption that if someone is raped, the perpetrator MUST be male, I get very frustrated with the assumption that any sexual or romantic orientation that deviates from the heteronormative mold must be a result of trauma.  Both my coming out experiences (my gay one and my asexual one) have exposed me to this breed of ignorance.

So what is the difference?

In the DSM-IV TR (the current diagnostic manual for psychiatric disorders), homosexuality is not included.  Granted, there are still therapists (like the one I saw in high school) who will look for ways to pathologize homosexuality anyway.  Generally speaking, however, most psychiatrists and psychologists at least medically understand that homosexuality is not an "illness" or a "disease."  This is not so for asexuality.  In the current DSM, there is a disorder known as Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD) characterized by a lack of sexual desire or fantasy for some period of time.

I'm not completely ignorant on the topic of sexual pathology.  I'm a psychology minor at an overrated, highly expensive liberal arts college and I took a course in abnormal psychology my sophomore year.  We learned in this course that for something to be called a "mental illness," it must be a source of distress for you or those around you.  With this in mind, one might think "oh well in that case an asexual can just tell a psychiatrist he/she is happy that way and then he/she won't be diagnosed that way, right?"

Wrong.

In a society where asexuality is already very poorly understood, many men and women who are asexual enter relationships with partners who do desire sex.  Not wanting to threaten the relationship (or their chances at having any relationship) many asexual individuals have sex while deriving very little (if any) enjoyment from it.  In some cases, the asexual person in question will believe he or she is simply not ready or isn't in the mood or what-have-you.  This is what happened to me in my last relationship a couple years ago.  I told my partner I was not ready for sex.  It was obvious that she was becoming frustrated and impatient.  I would essentially force myself to kiss her and not feel anything.  No intimacy, no arousal, etc.  So, if you had asked me "does your lack of sexual desire cause you distress?" I probably would have said "YES!"  At the time, I had no idea that non-sexual romantic relationships were an option.  All I could see what that something about me made me unsuited to relationships and yes, that made me miserable.

My experience here is actually not that different from the experiences that many homosexuals likely had when homosexuality was pathologized in the DSM.  Originally, all homosexuality was seen as a mental illness.  In later revisions, homosexuality was only pathological if it presented itself as an "ego-dystonic sexual orientation."  This essentially meant that, like many people who would fit the bill for Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder, homosexuals were only pathologized if they did not want to be homosexual.

So in other words, if you're sick of belonging to an orientation minority that:

1. Cannot legally marry in most states.

2. Can legally be fired from jobs in many states.

3. Is often rejected by religious communities and families alike.

4. Is still widely discriminated against, stereotyped, and socially excluded.

5. Has a more difficult time finding people to have relationships than their heterosexual counterparts.

You must have an illness that requires therapy and possibly medication.

----

Hold up.  If you are unhappy because you are a member of a marginalized group of people and are having trouble finding happiness in a world that does not accept you, that means you're sick?  Does this seem ridiculous to anyone but me?  In the case of homosexuals, especially in light of many of the gay suicides in the news, some people are beginning to understand that the distress homosexuals might experience surrounding their orientation does not derive entirely from their own psyches and may actually be a reaction to the world they live in.  Though asexuals generally will not get fired from their jobs for being asexual, even heteroromantic asexuals do share many things in common with homosexuals:

1. Many of us still have parents who want grandchildren and are disappointed in us and/or for us.

2. Many of us still have friends who we will grow apart from because our interests, beliefs, and lifestyles are different.

3. Asexuals who want romantic relationships are likely to enter relationships that do not meet their needs.  Many of them will be pressured into being sexual relationships.  Unlike homosexuals who at least are generally aware that homosexuality is an option and may seek it out when they realize heterosexuality is not working out, asexuals often do not know that non-sexual relationships are an option and will continue to live unsatisfying and often emotionally damaging lifestyles in relationships that do not work for them.

5. In some cases, asexuals are victims of "corrective" rape by partners who wish to "show them" that they are not truly asexual, just like homosexuals can be victims of such rapes intended to prove that they are "really" heterosexual.

Obviously I am not interested in starting oppression Olympics between asexuals and homosexuals.  I have seen it happen before, ie: an asexual will express frustration at not being able to find a visible community and a homosexual individual will say that the real victims are those seen as sexual deviants, not those who are abstaining, blahbiddy blahbydoodahday.  I do not care whose pain is "worse" than who else's.  My point is to express that there are valid reasons for an asexual person to dislike who he/she is that do not relate to an "illness."

It is my opinion that sex is something a person should only engage in if he/she wants it for himself.  It should not happen if an individual is having it exclusively to please someone else, to keep a partner who will otherwise leave, or to prove something about his/her value or worth.  I keep wondering how many of the countless Americans who are on libido medication, marriage counseling for sexual issues, and so on and so forth might simply be asexual and unaware of it.  Of course I am not going to say that all (or even most) people with low sexual desire are genuinely asexual and would be best off in non-sexual relationships.  But if even some of the people diagnosed with HSDD are asexual and are exhibiting signs of a natural, healthy orientation, that is a problem.

Also problematic is how asexual is treated.  Let's imagine a marriage where one partner is sexual and the other is asexual.  To avoid gender stereotypes, the sexual person is named Teri and the asexual person is named Jaden.  They go into marriage counseling.  Teri wants to have sex every day and is extremely upset that Jaden does not seem to enjoy sex at all.  Jaden never wants to have sex and is upset about being pressured.  No psychiatrist is likely to tell Teri to take sex-drive eliminating medication so that both partners can be asexual.  Instead, most psychiatrists will focus on Jaden as the source of the problem.  Jaden will be put on medication or at the very least put into treatment designed to turn Jaden into a fully sexual person.  This quickly becomes an issue of privilege.  Who is being pathologized and why?  Why, in a situation where two partners have differing levels of sexual interest, is one considered healthy and the other not?

Jaden will likely be asked about early experiences with sex and messages about sex.  "Were you abused as a child?"  "Did your parents tell you nice things about sexuality?"  "Do you feel that sex is dirty/shameful/etc?"  I could just as easily turn these questions on Teri though.  "Did an abuser make you feel like your only worth was sex?"  "Did your parents tell you that you had to have sex in order to be valued in a relationship?"  "Do you feel like you can't be intimate without sex?"  "Do you resent people who won't have sex because it makes you feel insecure about your own desire?"

Most people would laugh at this.  They'd say, "but Teri wanting sex is NORMAL.  Of course a therapist isn't going to ask those questions because there's nothing wrong with Teri."  But who says there's anything wrong with Jaden?  Is Jaden unhappy with being asexual, or is Jaden unhappy being in a relationship that requires an undesirable activity?  This question, which seems important to me, is not asked often enough.

Sincerely,
A Friend of Rius

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Why Katy Perry (the artist) Is Ruining Everything

Greetings, citizens.

A bit early today, because I'm anxious to finally get this done: the long-awaited "Why Katy Perry Sucks" article of The Weekly Madness.

Before I really dive into this, I want to put on a disclaimer: I do not know Katy Perry personally, nor do I know anything about her nature as a human being, other than that she will do unwise things for money and fame, which can be said of most people. For all I know she is actually a kind-hearted individual who wants nothing more than to elevate the human spirit through music. But whatever the truth may be about Katy Perry the person, the artistic persona and facility known as "Katy Perry" has a tremendous amount to answer for. For the remainder of this article, the words "Katy Perry" will be in reference to that institution, and whatever implicit association the person may or may not have to it.

Now, why Katy Perry specifically? There are tons of artists who have committed crimes of conscience against various groups of people, surely; as I observed in my previous article addressing one of Katy Perry's songs, it is actually a very difficult phenomenon to avoid. As I said there, I still don't have the stomach to perform an exhaustive investigation as to which band/artist is truly the "biggest" offender. For the time being, my own awareness is settled squarely on Katy Perry, because she alone has managed to insult my own sensibilities from almost every aspect, and done so thoroughly enough to burn that name into my mind.

Lets take a look at this offense list.

First of all, we know from my aforementioned previous article that Katy Perry perpetuates unacceptable stigmatizing of and misinformation about the word "bipolar," per her song "Hot and Cold." Thanks to her, a countless swath of pop-lovers now believe it is totally acceptable to blow someone off and not even attempt to understand them, simply because they have a diagnosis. Admittedly, part of the blame for this falls on society in general for failing to educate people adequately, to guard them against such ridiculous influences; ridiculous though they are, I know from experience that far too many fall victim to them. And the sources should be held accountable.

Katy Perry, please change the lyrics of your song to something not so incredibly marginalizing and offensive. And let me be clear, here, that I am not just talking about the use of "bipolar" anymore. There is also a pretty choice line about how the boy in question "change[s] [his] mind like a girl changes clothes." It may be valid to be frustrated by someone unable to make up their mind about their feelings towards you, but don't drag women's fashion into it, Katy. Even Lady Gaga is hard pressed to address that issue without being problematic, and you don't have anywhere NEAR the kind of chops that she does. Not only do you sound like an idiot, but you encourage everyone who listens to you to do the same. This, in turn, leads to lots of invalidation all around - reinforcing stereotypes about fashion and gender norms is a great way to marginalize those who don't meet them. Your smarter fans may be immune to some of this, but your common denominator, especially the young ones, are not.

Again, parents and other guardians should take a role here in protecting their charges from this kind of mind-numbing stupidity. On the other hand that is awfully hard to do when it's the most popular thing on the radio and if your child doesn't listen to it, they are summarily unpopular. Artists like Katy wield a tremendous amount of power in that respect and it offends me to see them abuse it by dropping casual reinforcement of such ridiculously outdated stereotypes.

Which brings me to Katy's breakthrough hit, through which I was first introduced to my long abiding hatred for her - "I Kissed a Girl." Now, if I haven't already made it clear, my opinion of mental health discourse and Madness in particular is that it can serve as a mode of expression for all forms of marginalization and oppression, as any such experience can harm one's mental health and since "otherized" thinking and Madness are essentially linked. As such, when we have a song like this, about "experimental" sexuality, it catches my attention.

This song received critical acclaim from a portion of the feminist community for acknowledging the existence of female/female relationships in a pop song, and a portion of the bisexual community for giving exposure to people who enjoy the physical company of men and women. It also received raging, terrible fury from the feminist and bisexual communities for its token, even fetishization of female/female relationships, and its reinforcing of the stereotypical image of the "bisexual slut." Frankly, I'm inclined to agree with the latter analysis.
With lines like "It's not what good girls do" and "I hope my boyfriend won't mind it" (paraphrase), this song pretty clearly demonizes anyone who legitimately does want to "experiment" with a consenting partner, and given how hard it can already be in some communities for a person to discover a non-heteronormative sexuality, I don't think we need any more of that kind of discouragement. Katy Perry is making it harder for bisexuals AND lesbians to be taken seriously, and that should make anyone Mad. And you will be considered Mad if you challenge Katy Perry thusly to any of her fans, who are legion.

It goes deeper than this, though; this song is just an example of an overall trend in Katy Perry's work, especially evinced by her recent candy-themed "California Girls." Her whole image is built on the "nice girls doing things they shouldn't" stereotype, which is actually a form of social poison. It reinforces the paradoxical expectation of women to simultaneously be innocent/naive and to have near-freakish libido (quoting a particular rap artist here, who wants "a lady on the street and a freak in the bed"). This is a project worked on from youth: young girls are taught to protect their innocence and wait for true love, and as soon as they reach hormonal age, they are bombarded with messages of how they must have sex. The only way to rectify this dissonance is with something like Katy Perry: craft a "good girl" persona that is also capable of being "bad."

In this manner, not only are girls forced into a crippling blend of identity crisis and the spectacle consumption (e.g. upholding damaging stereotypes) that results, but sexuality itself is completely degraded. It is reduced to a "naughty" act, with all of the lack of seriousness that terminology implies. This process, which personae like Katy Perry reinforce, turns sex into a scripted sequence of the "good girl" doing something "bad," but it's okay because of (insert justification here). Even within the rules of this system, people are being encouraged to do things they shouldn't, which wears on the soul. And looking at it from the outside, the system creates a model of sex divorced from practical consideration of real consequences, like pregnancy or STDs or the devastating emotional effects it can have, by overemphasizing the fabricated consequence of "not being a 'good girl' anymore."

And let there be no mistake that the "good girl" archetype is being pushed and prized. Katy Perry offers us another star example with her hit single, "Teenage Dream," a song with less substance than the Twilight novels (burn) and an even higher dose of implicit pedophilia. The premise of this song, essentially, is that "teenage" love is somehow more pure and perfect, especially as it is coupled with the "innocent" veneer of Katy Perry's persona, heightened by lyrics concerning the impact of "buil[ding] a fort out of sheets." This child-like activity stresses that the significant aspect of the relationship is its innocence. The song goes further still, the prechorus suggesting that the characters "go all the way tonight - no regrets, just love," a mere half-step away from saying point blank that sex and love are the exact same thing. Hasty decisions, framed in a context of naivety and immaturity, are prized here, and the overall impact of the song is one giant shout that "good girls" are somehow more desirable and appropriate.

What is insidious about this project is that it doesn't attempt to undo logical and emotional wisdom entirely, but rather to cripple it by creating a false paradigm for it to operate in. People go through all the right motions of weighing their options and trying to come up with an informed, good decision (we hope), but their context for doing so is one where the biggest concern is whether or not it matches the "good girl" stereotype. Even if a given person manages to escape that trap, others around them - potential boyriends, especially - will likely not have escaped, and will expect them to behave in accordance with that paradigm, and be upset if they don't. This leads to a general debasement of the populace into people who rarely think about the potential consequences of sex, and an utter estrangement of the few who do.

But before I completely lose the track of my argument here, I'd like to bring things back to more familiar waters for this site: Depression. What, Katy Perry has something to say about this phenomenon, too? In a manner of speaking, yes. See "Firework," one of the most-played singles between roughly November 2010 and Current.  "Firework" is part of an increasing trend of seemingly "upbeat" or "empowering" singles, whose popularity owes largely to their ability to make people feel special about themselves, a feat that is admittedly very, VERY lacking in our current market, if the above is any indication.

And somehow, even this manages to work completely the wrong way. Like many of the recent "empowering" movements, such as the "It Gets Better" campaign, it places most, if not all, responsibility for improvement squarely on the shoulders of the person who is being beaten down. "Firework" urges people to recognize their inner beauty and to let it shine, dazzling everyone around them, which is a beautiful message in theory, and a completely perfect way to get even more ostracized and beaten down in real life. This kind of message works wonders for a person who is more or less accepted to begin with and is going through a rough time, and is completely and horribly invalidating for someone whose life actually is awful and has no colors to show that can improve the situation.

I will concede that there is one line that catches my interest, as it is somewhat unique and somewhat helpful: she suggests to the listener that doors may be closed to you precisely so that you can open new, better doors. This suggests the need for change, which is good, but even this does so in a way that, again, puts all responsibility solely on the sufferer, and moreover takes blame away from the people causing suffering by suggesting that the "closed doors" are somehow meant to be. That's got to do wonders for a person being shut out by all possible sources of support, to believe that this is what they deserve.

What Katy Perry is doing is trying to take an empowered viewpoint to the disempowered, and that simply does not work. There is, as many current ethnographers and anthroplogists and other theorists on the human condition are discovering in the post-colonial world, a "violence of the assumption of proximity." Katy Perry does a huge violence on the seriously depressed by assuming that her viewpoint and philosophies are compatible with theirs and in any way helpful. To some, maybe they are, but I know that to many they are another notch on mainstream "sanity's" bedpost of conquest over mental health: be a Firework like Katy Perry tells you to, or there's something wrong with you.

Anyone who doesn't follow this "obviously" upbeat and inspiring message could be labeled a malcontent. The Mad get Madder.

As a final thought, consider that most of Katy Perry's work, like most artists these days as I understand it, is very heavily controlled by the producers in question - thus my insistence that we not view this rant as anything inherently against Katy Perry the person, but rather the artist/institute. And viewing it that way, what we see is an entire company dedicated to institutionalizing these anti-Mad, anti-thought, and overall extremely problematic mindsets. It is especially concerning to see a song like Firework, so directly concerned with people getting themselves into a better place of mental health, being concocted by such an obviously institution and money-motivated organization.

Ponder that and tell me that mental health itself isn't being made into a commodity in our culture, subject, like all commodities, to the regulations of the institutes responsible for them.

Thanks for your attention and your patience, New Mad Nation.

Sincerely,
R

Friday, April 15, 2011

No madness this week

Hi everyone,

I am taking a break this week. I am feeling a little overwhelmed between the fact that I finally got employed and am now working a very stressful job, and the bajillion other things that are piling up everywhere. We will return to regularly scheduled Madness next week.

Part of the New Mad Nation's philosophy, where "it shall be okay to not be okay," is an acknowledgment and acceptance of people's distress sometimes preventing them from being able to function. I hope you have all taken this to heart and will excuse my very brief hiatus.

Thanks as always,
-R

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Distress in the media - "Strength in Friends" and "Bitter loner" tropes.

Greetings, New Mad Nation!

This is my 16th post. That means we're starting my 16th week. Man, I can hardly believe it sometimes; we've definitely come a long way. Are you telling all your friends? Because this train isn't going to stop, but progress might get tedious without some fresh injections from the community. I need ideas, stories, anything to rant about, towards, or in support of. I can come up with my own if I dig enough, but I want to make sure the Citizens have a voice. Want to write a guest blog? Go for it! Email it to me at multimage99@aol.com and we'll see about getting it posted. Otherwise, the comment box below is your friend and mine.

All that said, it's time to dive in to my topic for this week, which is distress in the media. A few weeks ago I suggested that I might make a rant about the tropes of "strength in friends" and "bitter loner," and now I've decided to go ahead and do just that.

I'd like to start with something that I actually support, for a change, and talk to you about Little Miss Sunshine. Say what you want about this movie from any other angle, but it has a unique and refreshing approach to distress and dysfunction. The uncle, Steve, starts off having just been released from a hospital after trying to kill himself. This fact is handled rather without delicacy by his family, and thus with tremendous realism. It isn't over-dramatized, and he is given the chance to have his own narrative about it. Whether you agree 100% with everything he says or not, he is not portrayed at any time as a completely broken man who needs to be "shown the light" - in fact, he actually acts as one of the strongest voices of reason in the entire cast of characters. The man who was hospitalized is frequently saner than anyone else in the family. And that's exactly what I'm talking about when I say that the labels of "mental illness" don't necessarily have anything to do with your mental health!

Little Miss Sunshine really stands out amongst movies about mental health, in my experience and opinion, perhaps rivaled only in stark humor and insight by Harold and Maude, although I would absolutely love to have other titles added to this list. It honestly handles the fact that turbulent emotions are sometimes the only appropriate ones; it shows that "bitter loners" can still be functional human beings and that, while relying on family can be powerful, it can also suck. The whole affair ends with everyone but the family themselves being completely scandalized, chalking up a victory for "dysfunction" in a glorious subversion of the standard approach, where either the dysfunction would disappear, or it would somehow cease to be "dysfunctional" because everyone would approve of them. They are weird as fuck but once they accept that, they are successful. It's awesome.

Most movies that deal with distress are not like this.

Take the classic scene in Return of the Jedi, where Luke and the Emperor enjoy a brief philosophical battle with such perfect lines as Luke's observation, "Your overconfidence is your weakness," with the scathing rejoinder, "Your faith in your friends is yours." This pretty much sets up, from a long time ago (1983 - "and a galaxy far, far away"), the dichotomy between Goodness/Friendship and Evil/Solitude in Western film. It is hugely popular in Blockbuster releases and other media designed for mass consumption. Take the confrontation between Harry Potter and Voldemort towards the end of The Order of the Phoenix. It's basically the same damn conversation! Harry comes to understand that Voldemort's weakness is that he has no friends and therefor no one he can really trust. Everyone wants to stab him in the back because he is evil incarnate and therefor not to be trusted himself. Evil has no self-coherence in the overaching narrative; that kind of cooperation is reserved solely for "the good guys."

The lesson that being good wins you friends and being evil gets you stabbed like the Ides of March is a good one, I think, but A.) Totally inaccurate and B.) easily read backwards. Never mind the moral lard we're injecting people with about the nature of good and evil, let's take a look at the implications about friendship and solitude created by this paradigm. While it doesn't logically follow that, if evil implies backstabbing, then backstabbing implies evil, that won't stop people from subconsciously creating that association. Likewise, the association is made between having friends and being good.

I don't like this. Often times people are stabbed in the back precisely /because/ they are good people, and they are surrounded by imbeciles, non-believers, or downright villains. True, this is often the premise for a one-man hero adventure film - take Hot Fuzz for example, although since this is also a parody it rather proves my point for me - but he is always rectified in the end and everyone is on his side; it turns out the whole thing was just a misunderstanding, more often than not, and once the truth comes to light, everyone is his friend again. This strikes me as patently unrealistic.

Perhaps a more pressing issue is this question of friendship and goodness being associated, which by extension indicates that a lack of friends is a lack of goodness. The "bitter loner" trope emerges thus. We often see such a character redeemed by finally being able to accept the good graces of those around him and mesh with "the team." Even if he retains a certain "loner" feel, he still has "friends" now and that makes everyone more comfortable and clearly labels him as "good" once and for all. You see this a lot in video games, where you can never be quite sure of the new character's allegiance due to his aloofness, until he finally learns the meaning of friendship. (I'm looking at you, Amarant of Final Fantasy IX. [And Auron of FFX, Cloud of FFVII, Squal of FFVIII, Shadow of FFVI, etc. etc.) This can make for a compelling story line on occasion, but I feel the theme is repeated to the point of absurdity - rarely if ever does a loner character stay completely without friends, while still able to act in the name of "good." The one notable exception in this series that I can think of is Kain from FFIV, who actually IS used for evil, and even though people try to befriend him once he finally proves "good" again, he cannot accept their forgiveness and remains a loner basically forever - after he helps the good guys defeat evil, he abandons them. I LOVE this character. Not that I necessarily agree that you should run away from people trying to forgive you (I don't necessarily disagree either), but the moral ambiguity and the realness of it are just damn compelling.

Why, in almost every other case, does the loner end up with friends? Why do we have an obsession in our society with seeing this outcast "rectified" by joining up with the rest of the cast? I notice this more in the "mainstream" A-list films, of course; more independent work is often rife with exceptions to this, which I always appreciate. But the bulk of mass media will rarely have a character who is both unambiguously "good" and also a perpetual "loner." Is it because people are afraid of loneliness? Even when it is embodied in someone else, it seems.

Now it may seem that I have gone completely off topic here. Why, on a mental health blog, am I arguing about morality? Because what this kind of media message about goodness suggests is that loners are "not good." If they were, they would have friends. Mass media teaches us that "bitter loners" are either completely ambiguous about morality or, if good, must eventually develop friendship. Even The Batman in movies like The Dark Knight acts as an unequivocally "good" loner only through force of sheer necessity - he doesn't actually want to be estranged from the people of Gotham, and in his own dark way is indeed championed by them. Though "dark," he is still a friend of the people. Meanwhile, kids who sit alone in their room, refusing to hang out with those around them, often for completely legitimate reasons, are stigmatized for their decisions. Everyone knows, thanks to these kinds of messages, that if loners are not out fighting crime, they must be bad people, or at the very best of serious moral ambiguity. Why else would they avoid the rest of the "good" people out in the world?

This is all to say nothing, of course, about the countless onslaught of media messages that portray distressed teens and adults as whiney, mopey, "emo," and otherwise worthless, which do NOT help. True though it may be that some people deliberately cultivate this aesthetic, many others certainly do not, and they are much maligned by the seemingly deliberate conflation of these two sides on the part of the media.

I could spend another hour or two ranting about the fallacies in the "Strength in Friends" trope, especially in terms of how group-thought is often a consequence of this idea in real life, which leads almost exclusively to marginalization and oppression, particularly of those with mental or emotional turmoil, but I think you're starting to get the gist of my point by now. I'd love to see some additional suggestions and observations, or even some counters to any of my points - of all the Madness I've Madnessed so far, this is one of my most open and conversational. What are your takes on this issue? I'd love to know, I'm not 100% married to any of the ideas above; after all, I've never conducted any kind of thorough study on major blockbuster hits over the past thirty years (although now I almost want to!). That's why the discussion aspect is so important, I think.

Thanks as always for reading, fellow citizens. I look forward to next week, where I may expand on this discussion to cover the way that the News media handles similar issues of "loner"-ism - or anything else the Citizenry suggests.

Sincerely,
R