A while back I thought it might be worth doing to occasionally blog about “items of joy,” things that made me happy even when happiness felt illusive. I had a harder time than I expected coming up with said items of joy, but it evolved into “My New Favourite Thing,” so that’s okay.
Anyway, the one item of joy post was about Doctor Who, which despite being one of my favourite shows and the thing I turn to when I’m feeling down (Day of the Doctor makes me happy every time), is notorious for tearing out the hearts of its fans and stomping on them. And yet I called the fact that it will break your heart three times a season a selling point, because why invest in a show if it can’t do that? I even borrowed a line from the show itself, from the classic (as in good, not as in classic series) episode Blink: “Sad is happy for deep people.”
Between some personal disappointments and the season’s first taste of snow, it’s a grey and downbeat day here in Parts Unknown HQ, so that quote suits my mood today. As such, here’s some downbeat quotes from some generally upbeat TV shows and why I think they’re brilliant moments. Many of them are going to be Doctor Who related, let’s just accept that.
Also, some videos of things that bring a smile to my face no matter what, because balance is important.
Bojack Horseman sums up the human condition
Buddhism teaches that desire is the root of all suffering. And nothing has really driven that point home for me like the cartoon horse who’s a faded sitcom star from the 90s.
I’ll avoid spoilers as best I’m able here. In the first season finale of Bojack Horseman, Bojack wonders why, after getting what he thought he most wanted, he’s still not happy. At which point, we get this exchange between him and his former ghost writer:
Denise: “That’s the problem with life, either you know what you want and you don’t get what you want, or you get what you want and then you don’t know what you want.”
Bojack: “That’s stupid.”
The sad fact is, that really does sum it up. Being content with what we have doesn’t drive us out of the cave to slay a mammoth and perpetuate the species, so instead we’re driven by always wanting the next thing, the next challenge, the next prize. We know what we want, but we can’t have it, and that makes us miserable, or we have everything we want and still aren’t satisfied, and don’t understand why.
And Bojack himself puts it best… that’s stupid. But if you can’t shake off the cycle that, again, is written into your brain from the day you’re born, and learn to be happy, that’s life. Which brings me to my next quote… after this musical interlude from the New Pornographers, because MAN do I love Brill Bruisers.
Achewood reminds us we’re stuck like this
Achewood is a bit of an acquired taste, but if you can get past the unusual tone, often simplistic art, and bouts of experimental storytelling, it’s hilarious, moving, and addictive like few other comics out there. It seems to have drifted to a halt, which is sad, but its archives are still filled with gems, such as the MoviePhone Defense, the saga of the Great Outdoor Fight, or the most gentlemanly death threat ever.
And then there was the day Michael Jackson died.
Two of the cast are talking Michael Jackson, and how his death is affecting them, and they’re a little confused as to why, since they weren’t even big fans. Until Cornelius Bear, the cast’s elder statesman, explains: losing Michael Jackson was losing their “Elvis,” and with it, “the private lie that someday you will be young once again, and feel at capricious intervals the weightlessness of a joy that is unchecked by the injuries of experience and failure. In other words, you two died a bit today.”
And then he finishes off with the line that drives home the real tragedy…
“Welcome to the only game in town.”
Getting old isn’t pretty. Knowing that the things of your youth are farther and farther away stings if you let it. The missed opportunities, the things you never did, they weigh on you more and more if you let yourself dwell on them. But life doesn’t really present another option. Tomorrow becomes yesterday whether you like it or not, and that’s all there is.
Jesus. I thought I’d be able to find something uplifting here. Not so much. This calls for puppets singing Space Oddity with astronaut Chris Hadfield.
Doctor Who quotes and plenty of ’em
Exchange the first. Backstory: in the Time War, the Doctor was forced to wipe out his own people, the Time Lords, in order to end the war between them and the Daleks that was burning all of time and space. In The Doctor’s Wife, the Doctor thinks that on a rock outside of space as we know it, there may be surviving Time Lords. He explains to his companions, Amy and Rory, that if there are, maybe he can explain to them why he had to do it.
“You want to be forgiven,” says Amy. The Doctor freezes mid-stride, looks back, and with just a hint of sorrow in his voice betraying the deeper sorrow in his heart(s), replies…
“Don’t we all?”
I always liked that line. I didn’t understand how powerful a moment it was until a dream showed me that I, too, on some deep level, wanted to be forgiven for a stupid thing I did a long time ago. And that desire to be forgiven becomes a deeper wound when forgiveness is impossible, be it because there’s no one left to offer it, or the person you wronged hasn’t been a part of your life since 1994, and probably hasn’t thought about you in years.
At which point, there’s really no choice left but to forgive yourself, and maybe beat yourself up less.
Exchange the second. At the end of his first episode, the 12th Doctor re-establishes his relationship with his companion, Clara, who’s been having a hard time accepting his change from the youthful, energetic Eleven to the older, dour, Twelve.
“I’m not your boyfriend,” he says.
“I never said you were,” she replies.
“I never said it was your mistake.”
With (literally) new eyes, the Doctor sees his relationship with Clara, now more than ever the most important person to him (Eleven may have been twitterpated with her, but he never truly recovered from the loss of Amy Pond), and understands it was never what he thought it was. Take it from me, that can sting like a mother. Even two years and change later, learning that one of your most valued relationships was never what you thought, could never be what you hoped… it hurts. But it’s important. Because not seeing the truth, embracing what is ultimately a delusion, and then running into the painted wall you thought was a tunnel hurts far worse than just accepting your reality.
That last paragraph got away from me a little. But I’m not going to elaborate.
Exchange the third. Let’s wrap this up with something ultimately a little more hopeful: the signature quote from Vincent and the Doctor. In this episode, the Doctor and Amy share an adventure with Vincent Van Gogh. As a special thanks, the Doctor takes him to the present, to a Van Gogh exhibit, to show Vincent that he wasn’t the failure his own time claimed him to be. He would be remembered, treasured, for generations to come. In the end, Amy hopes that this will help Vincent overcome the depression that plagued him throughout his life, prevent his suicide and cause more Van Gogh masterpieces to be painted.
But as she realizes that depression is a harder monster to fight than the literal monsters they’d faced together, the Doctor says this…
“The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant.”
In this case, the tragedy of Vincent’s end doesn’t necessarily detract from the joys they shared with him.
Now, from here, I should make it clear that I am NOT discussing clinical depression or any sort of mental illness. I am not an expert on depression and cannot pretend to be one. I’m talking about sadness, and however deep sadness becomes, it is vital to understand that feeling sad and suffering from depression are not the same thing.
When you’re sad, it’s hard to imagine being happy again. Every reassurance, pep talk, reminder of better things feels hollow and empty. The thing that’s made you sad, the thing that’s broken your heart, that is all there is or ever will be.
But it’s an illusion.
It’s like when I’m sick, properly sick, and my world is consumed with nausea and suffering. The very thought of eating food turns my stomach. Not just in that moment: the thought that I may ever eat food, or ride in a car, or anything of the sort seems like the fever dream of a madman (my own fever dreams are just aggressively boring). But the next day, the nausea fades. Sleep comes easier. Car rides are no problem. And pretty soon I’m not just hungry, I’m ravenous.
So it is with sadness (again, NOT depression). Soon you smile again, soon you laugh again, and eventually the things you couldn’t be around because they re-opened the wound fade. Threeish years ago I couldn’t deal with season three of Scrubs: JD’s arc of pining after Elliot while she’s in a relationship seemed custom-built to destroy me. Now I can watch it no problem… except JD is still being a complete tool. Nothing changes that.
So the key is to take those reassurances, put them in a box, and remember them when the clouds begin to part. Because even if you’re not ready to hear them, they may well have still been worth hearing.
Because the bad things don’t make the good things unimportant.
Thanks for bearing with me, folks. Those of you that did. As your reward, allow me to share with you 32 seconds that can make anyone smile.
See you next time, with cheerier tales.