Anybody who has interacted with me on a semi-regular basis knows that my sense of humour is blunt and sarcastic, whilst my general demeanour (specifically my way of talking and use of English diction) can come across as condescending.
Doubly so when I'm on the internet and have to type out my sarcastic responses; if anything I can come across as mean-spirited.
A couple of days ago I posted an image that was a joke at the expense of a set of people; furries to be exact.
It was simply that, just a joke if a little dark, yet when coupled with the rather curt sentence above said image (only there due to my incredibly spotty wifi over the past couple of weeks so I had no idea when my internet was about to crash on me) it came across as rather mean-spirited or even as a rather sneering jab at those involved in the culture.
Now, this blog isn't a rallying cry against me deleting the post.
I was actually given the option to edit it to make my joke clearer, but I took the "nuke" option instead because editing it with my spotty wifi might not have even mattered. I am thankful that the Community Team reached out to me and mentioned it, because I hadn't even given it a second thought.
And of course, why would I?
I have never been interested in the furry culture, nor have I ever really taken time out of my day to understand why people are engaged in said culture to begin with. Due to not being engaged or involved in it, I am therefore not on the receiving end of the jeering or jokes that come with being a furry.
In short: I didn't get it.
This is a topic I have been thinking about for a while now, months in fact, before shelving it. This incident mentioned above though, led me back to the topic at hand and I the easiest way for me to talk about it is through relating it to the media in which I digest.
"Not getting it" isn't a slight upon myself by the way, nor is it a slight upon anyone else who doesn't get something; it isn't demeaning, it isn't an insult and it isn't questioning your moral compass or your intellect.
Sometimes you can be a thorough professional, a well-rounded human and a resonably intelligent person and still not get something.
Take Watchmen for example.
The original concept for Watchmen was to have a dark, revenge-driven, noir epic featuring superheroes from the Silver Age of Charlton Comics. Characters such as Blue Beetle, The Question, Peacemaker among others were to be turned into bitter, dysfunctional versions of themselves by writer Alan Moore, to create a more "realistic" verison of their characters seen in the comics up until that time.
Of course, DC (who had just acquired the heroes of Charlton Comics for a hefty fee) didn't want said heroes to be dead or broken beyond repair since they eventually wanted to include them in the mainline DC Universe; however they urged Moore to create new characters since the original pitch was so strong.
So, Moore created the original characters we know and loathe today, all of whom are wrapped up in a dark tale that has the overwhelming message of "If superheroes existed in real life, it would suck tremendously because they would be flawed, dysfunctional people with egos inflated by the heroics they perform or severe mental health issues because of the things they have seen and done.
They wouldn't inspire you, they would always disappoint you."
With this background information I now ask the question... How did Zack Snyder interpret this information and overall message when adapting the story to screen?
"This is amazing and incredibly gripping, why don't more novels like this exist? Superheroes in the real world would be dark and gritty and badass."
To put it bluntly, Snyder didn't get that Watchmen was meant to be a dark tragedy amongst superheroes.
And it isn't really his fault.
Snyder never really found the Bronze and Silver Age comic books all that interesting, with characters like Spider-Man, Superman, Wonder Woman all feeling too childish for him.
Comics like Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns felt like much more his style after having grown up on the work of Frank Frazetta (look him up and you will see why), which meant that instead of receiving the message originally intended for both of those comics mentioned, he instead came away with something incredibly different to what was intended.
I am a fan of the Watchmen movie, despite its director missing the point entirely, but I bring this up because Snyder didn't intentionally go out of his way to make a movie that misses the point.
His upbringing, his childhood influences, his social circle growing up and the material he was exposed to (as well as his personal beliefs, social or political standing etc.) prevented a piece of art connecting with him effectively.
I bring this up not to shit on Snyder but because it is very relevant to the point I am exploring.
My experiences as a child, as a teen, as an adult; my social circle and my standing in life, my political view, my sexuality, my race... Basically my life experience as a whole is so vastly different from the next person that I just simply don't get certain things, nor do I understand why certain things connect with people.
Take Moonlight (2016) as a prime example.
It is a fantastically directed, superbly acted, beautifully shot movie about an African-American boy coming to terms with himself and his place in life as he grows up in poverty, tries to navigate his messy home and school life and accept himself as the person he is.
At least, that's the stance my friends take on it.
It didn't connect with me whatsoever.
Now, those friends I mentioned, all of them are members of the LGBT community and proud of what this movie achieves and represents. Within my social circle, I am the only person who didn't love it.
Now, this is not me saying that you have to be a member of the LGBT community to enjoy the film.
I, for one, think it is an important movie for representation, it is a very well-made movie and overall I believe it to be a solid 7.5/8 out of 10.
It's a good film.
Yet, how could I ever expect the message contained within the film to land with me?
I went into it with high expectations and ultimately felt let down afterwards and blamed the film for it. The film, upon reflection, is quite obviously not aimed at me.
It is instead aimed at the marginalised, the repressed and those who feel they have no voice because the world would judge what comes from their mouths; basically it is not aimed at me in the slightest.
I'm a straight, white male who does not have to endure those snide remarks or condescending attitudes from people, I don't get wolf-whistled at in the street, ogled by strangers, talked down to for my choices in romantic partner or have to feel unsafe in a club or even on a mode of transport.
Before people take this as a tirade against "privilege" just know that I am not someone who downplays the experiences of people (including straight, white men like myself) just because you are who you are.
Doing so defeats the purpose of trying to be understanding and be considerate of everyone.
But when art pieces specifically target a marginalised demographic, how can I expect it to connect with me at my very core?
It isn't the films fault I don't get it, it isn't even my own fault that I don't get it (I can't just decide to be a homosexual Asian all of a sudden). Sometimes things fly over my head because of who I am at my core, unable to be changed.
And I always tell myself "that's okay."
So long as I try to grasp the why of course.
Recently I attempted to watch FLCL, an anime beloved by many for its tackling of a coming-of-age story set against some wild animation and stellar fight choreography.
Needless to say, as you can guess by the theme here, it did nothing for me whatsoever. Not for lack of trying though.
Its symbolism of the different guitars in the show representing different stages of life; Haruku being the literal embodiment of adolescence; the strange things occurring to Naoto's body being a direct allegory to puberty. The characters of Canti and Amarao being representations of who Naoto will be when he grows up, or even the drinks (sweet and sour) showing the difference between a child and an adult... I grasped the meanings displayed within the show yet, depsite this, the show still falls flat for me, being nothing more than a cacophony of sounds and colours.
The show has substance, but it is buried beneath its presentation, so deep in fact that the metaphors are ruined for me by the overall bombastic display the anime achieves.
This is the other side of not getting something.
You try to understand it, you reach out to all available sources to research the topic and try to grasp what it is that people love about it,, yet it doesn't happen and the product still leaves you out in the cold.
And that can be frustrating, especially since the worst part is that, most of the time, you identify what it is that has prevented you from "getting it."
At least, I find it to be.
This is because I always seem to end up getting a sense of FOMO (a Fear Of Missing Out) and that if only I could get some more knowledge on the subject then I too could be included.
But that's the point: Sometimes I just can't get it.
Most people I know who love FLCL saw it during their formative years or young-adulthood (again, just going off the people I know, this isn't to say you won't like it if you are forty years old).
They watched this show during their formative years, when school was their main priority, when growing up was playing on their minds and they had all of these worries and dreams that Naoto is lives with.
I watched FLCL after my adolescence has passed, when I'm no longer worrying about growing up but about gaining new knowledge, learning how to be a more well-rounded person, what my career path is, how my girlfriend feels today, whether I have enough money for bills and rent, saving up for our house and even a possible emigration abroad.
Sometimes, I suppose, I just have to accept that things won't ever click with me and that connecting with art can be affected by where I am at in my life right now.
Really, there's nothing I can necessarily do in order to "get" everything because it is just not physically possible.
After all, how is one person meant to be able to connect with everything, whether it be another individual, a group of people or a piece of art?
I think for me the worst thing is trying to understand everything that drives me bonkers, because it makes me confront my own mind and its hypocritical nature.
Warframe and Monster Hunter World are boring slogs with a focus on grind and less of a focus on narrative... Yet I love Final Fantasy XIV.
Happy Gilmore is a dumb Adam Sandler film but I can watch Dodgeball multiple times in one evening.
Breath of the Wild has never connected with me due to its focus on fairly repetitive exploration, while Mario Odyssey is one of the best games I have played all year because of its exploration.
It frustrates and irritates because I have never wanted to dislike anything I watch/play/interact with because why would I?
I am set to gain more from having an open mind and trying to engage with and understand new experiences than I am from being predisposed to not connecting with them.
I suppose that weight of not being able to connect with everything allows me to have a modicum of self-reflection. Why do I dislike this game and not this one?
How come I can't connect with these types of people?
How could I do this and enjoy it yet try this and not enjoy it?
In a way, it comes back to my original point:
I made a joke about a group of people and never once thought about people who belong under that generalised banner. After taking it down, I had that moment of self-reflection: "Why did you not express your intent more clearly?"
The answer, as previously established, is because I didn't get it at the time.
Not because I was adverse to trying to understand but, as this two-thousand word blog has established, because each individual's experience is unique (stating the obvious is something I do understand how to do).
The easiest way to understanding these unique experiences hwoever, is simple: reflect on your lifestyle and then ask others about their own.
Reasoned discussion about the merits of Moonlight (it's still a fine movie, okay) are important because it allows me to see the every day view of someone who might be gay, bisexual or part of the transgender community. Without this reflection and communication I would never learn or gain insight into a whole other community.
FLCL might not connect with me on an emotional level, but it means a hell of a lot to some people who see their own formative years portrayed on-screen and engaging with them about how it makes them feel is really important in furthering my own knowledge of the connection between art and its audience.
Talking to friends who like Warframe is important because I need to feel better that no matter how bad my taste in gaming is, it could always be worse.
Basically, understanding where my lack of connection may stem from, prevents me from seeing in wholly black and white; it can even help me learn something too.
Some people don't ever seem to get that.