Monday, October 25, 2010

A Pavlovian Response

While the efficacy to date has been questionable, my girlfriend's ongoing attempts to cultivate me into a fully-functional, socially-fluent human being show little signs of fatigue.

Over the past four years, we have logged a considerable amount of time watching films together, and yet, I'm still not sure what to do during those moments when her face crunches up and her eyes emit a salty discharge.

Derisive comments, for example, don't really work. We were watching Marley and Me at the cinema. The dog is the emotional vehicle in the film. The dog gets sick. It's sad. Then, (SPOILERS!) the dog dies. The characters on screen cry, and so do the estrogen-fuelled audience members. To make her feel better, I leaned into her ear and whispered "Well, there's a surprise!". To show that she appreciated my attempt to make her feel better, she punched my arm.

Now, if you're thinking "Sully my boy, you shouldn't be so confrontational", I'd say you're onto something. At least I would, had I not tried a gentler approach some months previous. We were watching I Am Legend at the cinema. It's a crap movie with crap CGI and a crap premise. Will Smith is craply moping around some strikingly empty metropolitan areas with his dog. The dog is his only friend, and the only semblance of his past life, before he lost (SPOILERS!) his wife and daughter. The dog becomes a zombie-dog and attacks the Fresh Prince, but doesn't survive the encounter. Will Smith has killed his only friend and reminder of a normal life, and is sad. He weeps in a manly fashion. I'm so busy scoffing that I don't realize my hot date is blubbering until a big ol' teardrop hits my hand. Thinking fast, I decide that drawing attention to a ludicrous emotional reaction to a terrible film is the best approach. I lean into her and ask her "What the hell are you doing?" She thumps me.

My problem isn't that I'm emotionally crippled, it's that I can't suspend my disbelief. Moments likely to cause her to choke up and remark "that's so sad" will make me think "that's an interesting technique to evoke emotion". More often than not, the techniques are hackneyed and convey little power, but my girlfriend, so filled is she with the milk o' human kindness will have a cry at them anyway.

I could keep you all day with examples of my emotional-callousness being rewarded with indolent bursts of violence, but not, dear reader, forever. I managed to break the cycle, and I owe it in part to Pixar.

We were watching Up (a quality film, by anyone's metric) on a tiny TV with fuzzy sound in her living room. Despite the technical limitations of the screening, it was a slice of heaven to be with her on the couch, watching a film we had put off watching until the other was around with our bodies arranged into that just-right comfort you don't want to disturb lest you can't recreate it.

During the opening montage in which we observe a young boy and girl become friends, fall in love, grow old together, and eventually part ways due to pesky mortality, it occurred to me that this family-friendly cartoon had put together a segment more engaging and profound than any film in recent memory. We both watched, rapt, and as it drew into the inevitable silent climax, my mind was processing what I had seen - the music, the lighting, the animation - was the flexibility of the medium a major advantage in this segment? My mind was buzzing with excitement. I looked down at her, as she clung onto my arm, and saw that she was, unsurprisingly, in bits.

She looked up to meet my gaze, bewitching me with those beautiful brown eyes, magnified by glassy tears. It was a beautiful moment.

I didn't want to fuck it up. But I had to give her some reaction! I pushed out my lower lip into a pout to register my sadness for the fake cartoon-people on the telly.

She pulled herself upright and gave me a little peck on the cheek. We settled back into our nook and enjoyed the rest of the film. It was pure heaven.

Since that moment many months ago, I've been repeating the habit of pouting during sad parts in films to win positive reenforcement for displaying my emotional intelligence. I didn't realize that I had made this a habit until my last plane journey. Whilst watching a heartstring-tugging scene in the (2010) Karate Kid on a 4" screen, I pushed my lower lip forward and held it there until the scene ended. Well I would have, if the air-hostess hadn't come along first, looked at me funny, and asked "Chicken or Pasta?"

*Artist's Impression


Gammagoblin said...

So basically you've developed the ability to be emotionally deceitful. Congratulations, you are well on your way to becoming a man now.

Most films are shlock. It takes a strong film for me to well up. A strong film like Willy Wonka! That ending gets me every time. <3 Gene Wilder!

Sully said...

Deceit, or compromise?

Nobody gets upset with the paraplegic for not standing up when a lady enters the room. Since my manly emotional-steeliness prevents me from entirely understanding my lady's reaction, it's EXACTLY the same thing.

You just made fun of cripples, you heartless son of a bitch.

Jason said...

Lulz were had. Great post, complemented nicely by the pic.

Sully said...


Your sycophancy is noted, and much appreciated! With each additional post expounding on various wrinkles of my relationship I feel a growing unease, so thanks for assuaging it somewhat!

Anonymous said...

To industry dear boy.

Anonymous said...
Do not dare insult the name of muhammed, praise be upon him. Allahu akbar.

Sully said...


Well, that's terrifying. Fortunately I haven't mentioned Muhammed or insulted his name on this blog. Yet.

Anonymous said...

مع السلامة

Anonymous said...

According to Google Translate that means 'Be Careful'.Shaking in my shoes...

Jason / Jay Jigga said...


Sheeeeeeeeeaaaatttt, take a compliment mofo.

I see there have been a few religious trolls in the comments lately...

Jesus said...

U'v always been such a little bitch muhammed, i really should kick ur ass in front of everyone!!