Watch Me Entertain Myself!

Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Love And Death

I blame Hollywood movies for two things: love stories and death scenes.

Growing up I believed in Hollywood love stories. Most of them run at a convenient two hours long, with a tried-and-tested formula: boy meets girl, boy loses girl usually through a misunderstanding initiated by the villain, boy clears things up with girl, boy gets back girl. Often they end with boy and girl in a tight embrace with lips locked, as the music score swells in time with the fade-to-black. Or fade-to-“The End”. And then come the end credits. To be fair, Hollywood just borrowed that from the original source: “And they lived happily ever after, the end.”

Ah Love, true love! It’s funny how some fairy tales and romance movies have the nerve to call themselves “a tale of true love”.

Of course now I know better. True love doesn’t fall neatly into the boy-blank-girl template; heck, true love may not even include a girl in the picture. True love can be very messy. True love is hard work. True love is not all romance and roses. And true love never ends in a fade out with music swelling in a triumphant crescendo. Sometimes true love ends in an abrupt cut; and then one realizes that one wasn’t watching true love all along, but just a dramatization, a fictionalized presentation, a pleasant distraction.

And then there are the death scenes. In Hollywood movies when a lead character dies, he usually has time to deliver a long monologue declaring his love for whoever’s arms are cradling him as he lays dying. And in turn the people around him reiterate their love for him—just in time before he slumps dead. For the longest time I thought, wow, a person’s dying scene is such a powerful tool. It forces people to declare their love for the near dead. It can even force the kontrabidas in the bida’s life to have a change of heart and bury the hatchet (whereas just a few scenes earlier they were dead-set in burying the hatchet—on the bida’s head).

Ah Death, such power you wield! No wonder that, at an age when I was very insecure and wondered if anyone really loved me, I went through a phase (sometime around grade six all the way through high school) wherein I’d imagine my own death scene. The cause of death should be slow-acting; instantaneous death will deprive me of a final monologue. So no death-via-bazooka-aimed-point-blank-to-the-head. Usually I get fatally shot or stabbed while doing a heroic act, like blocking the bullet from hitting someone. A heroic act is necessary because it makes my death a noble one and gives people an excuse to declare their feelings. So for me, death was the ultimate love-detector test.

Of course now I know better. When a taxi plowed through my best friend in front of Sto. Domingo Church, none of his friends were beside him when he died a few minutes later at a nearby hospital. When my younger brother had a cardiac arrest at four years old, he died at the hospital; at the time of his death I heard a knocking at my bedroom door similar to how he knocks, but when I opened the door there was no one there. When my dad died he was sitting peacefully at the living room couch; we had to carry him to the car and bring him to the hospital to confirm that indeed he was dead. No dying monologue, no declarations of love.

Ah Hollywood, such power you once wielded over me. But now I know better.


Francis said...

if y = f(x), where y = melancholic prose and x = psychological state, calibrate mcvie's emotional weather forecast?!

...ang lugmok naman nito!

Quentin X said...

Art imitates life; not the other way around.

joelmcvie said...

@FRANCIS: Really? "Lugmok"? I wasn't feeling particularly down or depressed before, during and even after writing this particular episode. Hmmm, curious. =)

@QUENTIN: Well, may mga Hollywood movies na hindi naman talaga matatawag na art, hehehe.