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25 September 2012 @ 06:07 pm
Why is it wrong to be happy?  

We caught the last 40 minutes or so of “Singing in the Rain” on TV the other night. A couple of things really struck me about Gene Kelly’s performance, his body language, and his actions.

The first bit that caught me was when they’re dubbing the vocals for the film-within-the-film. Debbie Reynolds is singing, and Gene Kelly comes to sit at her feet and gaze up at her adoringly. It’s completely sappy, goopy, delightful, and sweet.

I cannot imagine seeing it in a modern film. I can’t imagine seeing the male lead sitting at his partner’s feet, gazing up at her in what we today would likely see as submissive, feminine regard.

And then there’s the titular dance number, which, holy beans, guys, if you haven’t seen it lately, go watch it again. It’s really just the most extraordinarily open, honest, joyful expression of love imaginable…and again, it’s almost impossible to envision a modern male lead performing it with no hint of self-consciousness. I mean, nevermind the actual skill necessary to do the dance: I can barely fathom a modern movie actor opening himself up and showing that kind of pure *joy*.

Misery, yes. It’s not that actors don’t present vulnerability, but they almost exclusively do it in sorrow, rage, desperation, tragedy. It’s all misery, never joy. And I was just talking about this to Mom, who said, “I don’t think happy is lauded much. We’re very much into being pleased with others’ pain so we can feel better about ourselves. “At least I’m not as badly off as THAT guy.”"

And she’s completely right, of course, and I know it, but seriously, what is wrong with being happy? What’s wrong with working toward being happy, with applauding others’ successes and taking joy in them, in seeing what someone else can do and being inspired by it? What’s wrong with being joyful and open and being willing to show you’re excited or in love or want to dance?

I mean, forgive me for going all John Lennon on you, but imagine if people spent half as much energy on being happy as they do on being miserable. It frustrates the hell out of me that we *don’t*. The world needs joy a lot more than it needs any added misery, so why, for the love of frogs, don’t people focus on that?

(x-posted from the essential kit)

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Chrysoulachrysoula on September 25th, 2012 10:02 pm (UTC)
So... I think part of it is a very modern culture thing and I think it has to do with news and ratings and money and survival instinct. We want to hear about bad things so we can enable our own survival and that of our loved ones. And the media corporations are happy to oblige. Being happy and being cautious don't easily go hand in hand; it's easiest to be happy when somebody else is taking care of things for you (as with very small children). Heck, that may be related to manic pixie dreamgirls, too. Girls: a lot more allowed to be giddily happy than boys are, especially girls designed to trigger a boy's 'take care of' instinct.

Thinking about Jane Austen, and Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth knew about being happy, knew to cherish it, knew how to seek it out and maintain it. She found happiness in walks, in anticipation of new sights, in actual new sights. She certainly didn't revel in misery. Mind, some of Miss Jane Austen's characters did-- Marianne from Sense & Sensibility reveled in both joy and misery to a dangerous degree. But-- I guess my point is that to some extent it's training. And expectations. And more training. And then kindhearted attempts to temper those expectations which may in fact instead train to expect misery.

Anyhow, we don't train ourselves to let joy linger, to show it and share it, to seek it out. And I say this as somebody with a horrible anxiety disorder that makes me spend way too much time anticipating horrible avoidable and unavoidable ills.

And I do really blame 24 hour news cycles, honestly. They have a big hand in it. Spending regular time on news sites makes me a little bit unhinged.

For what it's worth, while I'm not arguing that the 'pleased with others pain because at least we're not as bad off' thing doesn't happen-- everybody says it does. But it's never been something I've felt, you know? The closest I've come is guilt-- I have so much, I'm so lucky compared to some other people, why can't I appreciate it more, I'm not appreciating it _enough_, how could I ever appreciate my life enough-- but mostly, um. Pain makes me cry.

Gonna link to a favorite quote of mine now. Linking because it's long and tangential, about pain rather than happiness. http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/225221-i-was-walking-along-the-bank-of-a-stream-when

So final answer: it's less profitable to others for you to be happy, but it's not _wrong_. I think people who aren't making money off somebody's fear, misery and/or discontent _do_ value happiness in others, and my evidence for this is _your_ Kickstarter, where your backers were _enthralled_ by your happiness.