It’s embarrassing to say that movie-watching anxiety happens to me quite a bit. Especially in our current culture where intense action sequences and reality based character moments are the norm. I mean, how often have you cringed when an awkward scene from The Office or Louie occurred? Did you feel like you had to leave the room? Increase that experience by 10 or more, and you have my common reaction to movies like Argo and No Country for Old Men. Great movies, but I do like having control of my heart rate and breathing. Therefore, probably never seeing those movies again.
Of course, this would be a great excuse if it were just related to modern movies.
“Okay, I can’t do this anymore,” I said to my husband once.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
“Can we just pause the movie? I can’t handle this right now…”
He tilted his head. “Um… sure, but I need you to tell me what’s wrong.”
“My favorite character I like is going to die, I know it! I feel like I can’t breathe! Just pause the movie!”
“It’s The Great Escape, honey. It’s just like Chicken Run--”
“THIS MOVIE IS NOTHING LIKE CHICKEN RUN!”
I’ve been thinking about this a bit since Sunday after seeing Deadpool during a brunch showing at the Alamo Drafthouse. My anxiety is often amped up by graphic violence and high threats of danger, which I was expecting going in. However, I shielded my eyes once or maybe twice throughout the entire movie while feeling no stress. My breathing remained even, my body did not shrink into my seat like an accordion, my eyes were not tearing from fear that my favorite would die. Why was this?
The obvious answer might be the fact that it was a comedy. Come to think of it, one of my top 10 favorite movies is Shaun of the Dead and my favorite TV show is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I avoid horror movies and war/gangster/violent-lifestyle dramas at all costs, so it takes a lot of convincing, bribery, and alcohol to get me to watch them. The straight horror and violent drama films always have the same reaction from me, where I have to split the movie over several days. Yet despite the fight it took to get there, the films that are grounded with comedy win my heart. It takes me back to when I first saw Aladdin and the Genie first shot out of the lamp. I was terrified by that immediate impression but in the next second it turned on its head when I heard Robin Williams’s voice say, “Oy! Ten thousand years can give you such a crick in the neck.” That was a telling moment, I think. Even though people could get decapitated left and right or a stare-down could go too long to the point of discomfort, I find that in most cases comedy provides not only humanity but escapism from what I fear.
And not all hardcore violent movies give me anxiety.
My husband’s latest fascination is a series of Internet videos called “Everything Wrong with [insert movie title here].” After watching one on Mad Max: Fury Road, he told me that the shots were set up to reflect Max’s point of view during one of the chase sequences. Rapid cut to’s and shaky cam and what not.
“That explains why my anxiety ramped up during that scene,” he said afterward.
“Wait, what? You had a near anxiety attack?” I asked.
“Yeah. You didn’t?”
“No, I wanted to put warpaint on my face and start a fire! Then I could dance wildly about the flames as the Doof Warrior plucks and pulls notes that would make my enemy captives wail in pain from the sheer amount of awesomeness happening around them! FOR VALHALLA!”
KC Ryan is currently a Level 4 student at DCH. An office worker by day, she spends her nights writing, improvising, recording podcasts, and having existential crises. She’s a co-host of Parsec Award-nominated podcast Anomaly Supplemental about general sci-fi and fantasy topics. Her greatest achievement so far is convincing her husband to watch Project Runway.