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Comfort Culture - De File — LiveJournal
Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
Comfort Culture
Yesterday was good, then bad, then somewhere in between. We're all drained from the holidays, despite or because of the fact that they went off so well. Luckily, I'd taped the Thin Man films on TCM for Kim, so she could drift to sleep to the sounds of Asta barking. Tylenol PM has nothing on Powell and Loy in Kim's world. The films take her to a place where comfort shuts out the pressures of the day, month, year.

Part of yesterday's difficulty was occasioned by Skylar watching the first third of Star Wars, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back and Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events in rapid succession. I warned her that the former was a lot darker than its predecessor, which she now adores, but had forgotten about the ravenous abominable snow monster in the beginning. The latter had a little too much death and not enough happy ending in it to win her over. She liked the visual aesthetic, but was disturbed by the narrative's dark teleology.

Today, as a consequence, she is going to watch her Barbie movies, Rapunzel, Princess and the Pauper, and the current selection Swan Lake. If you haven't seen clips from these films, you might have a hard time imagining how parents like Kim and I can regard them as tolerable. They certainly are strange for a first-time adult viewer. The computer animation, even on the newest one, is oddly, almost deliberately early-to-mid 1990s. The settings look like something from Myst. And the characters all look like plastic dolls come to life, in keeping with the need to make Barbie "realistic" in her lack of realism. Amazingly, though, the films convey good messages about friendship and forgiveness, downplaying the importance of appearances in the process. The storylines, as Kim likes to say, are "classic" in feel, even when the ending is changed, as it is in Swan Lake, to be less sad. Sure, the movies are designed to sell product. Sure, Skylar has managed to rake in a good deal of said product, between her grandparents and parents. But the experience of her watching the films themselves -- and I mean watching them over and over -- has been overwhelmingly positive.

Anyway, as I put on Swan Lake for her a little while ago and watched the opening scenes, I realized that the films have become "comfort culture" not only for her, but for me. Even as I type this, I'm finding myself soothed by the sounds coming from the television in the front room. I also find those Thin Man movies awfully relaxing, following Kim's lead.

I think I've said this before, but it would be a very good idea for someone to do a rich, theoretically savvy study of the continuum that links "comfort food" with "comfort culture." The factor of repetition is key, naturally, to both phenomena. Does the notion of "comfort" I'm invoking here provide a means of partially redeeming the repetition compulsion, balancing its conservative ideological function with a more sanguine quality?

Mode: glooming
Muse: the sound of Tchaikovsky, Barbie style

4 comments or Leave a comment
yourbestfiend From: yourbestfiend Date: December 29th, 2004 06:44 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Oh, I have lots of anecdotal evidence to offer you - my family practically invented "comfort food" (shepherd's pie, old fashioned mac n' cheese, creamed chipped beef on toast - I could go on), and I myself have been immersed in "comfort culture" the past few days, as my blog may suggest.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: December 29th, 2004 06:56 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Hooray! Does eating that food make you feel personally comfortable? Or do you perceive a tension between the sense that it is your family's comfort food and whatever personal tastes you may have that differ from theirs?

Any comfort movies? Records?

I'll admit to being turned on by the prospect of creamed chipped beef and mac cheese. My partner, being Italian-American and a Northern Californian too, does not tolerate such white-bread culture.
tpratt From: tpratt Date: December 29th, 2004 06:55 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

thin man movies

I like those movies, too. I was shocked at the amount of alcohol those folks throw back in the course of one of those films. Amazing. I'd suggest a drinking game where you take a drink every time Nick and/or Nora do, but then you'd probably end up getting your stomach pumped instead of having the anticipated jolly old time.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: December 29th, 2004 06:58 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: thin man movies

You said it. The first one came right after the repeal of Prohibition and was thus deliberately celebrating the return of legal liquor. There are also lots of hangovers depicted. Wacky.

I was thinking, while standing in the shower last night, about the 20s and what that alcohol (and cocaine) fueled culture must have really been like.

I have a hard time drinking more than a beer or two these days. Now I just drink the taurine-laced energy drink of the moment and let that high stand-in for the drunkenness it would otherwise mask.
4 comments or Leave a comment