One of those dreams I wake up from with my hands aching from clenching them. But not out of fear? More out of…conviction.
And again one that started as someone else’s story and became mine, and then became someone else’s again. It was all animated, Pixar-style, because at first it was a movie about a little boy, maybe eight or nine years old, who gains a power he doesn’t want. He can gain animal skills and abilities by thinking about them — claws to defend himself from bullies with, at first, when in the heat of the moment he strikes out and has claws — and ears to listen in on conversations with. But he doesn’t want to stick out like this and doesn’t know how to stop it, so he makes his hair grow larger and poofier to try to hide the ears (which he can’t get rid of anymore), and tries to hide his monkey tail (which he acquired for some feat of balance, I think to escape the second round of bullies who were coming to beat him up for having claws) from his older brother, who immediately is pegged for a bad guy. But in a creepy way — he’s college-age, dropped out and stays at home in a treehouse he built in the middle of the living room, but he keeps making lewd sexual comments to his much-younger siblings, all under ten, and no one is around to tell him to shut his mouth. So he’s creepy and too-sexual and not at all A Good Guy to these little kids. Plus he mocks this kid with the animal magic, so. An adversary.
Then, though, at some point the little boy became a little girl and…the world fell apart. At the seams. And the seams were objects of some kind? Little things, seemingly of no consequence, that when seen or beheld were cause, according to the producers of the film — you could hear them in the background snickering, like those older muppets in the box seats in The Muppet Show — were justification for the world to be torn apart. (In the way that, for example, the sight of the 1970s penny in Somewhere In Time rips Christopher Reeve out of the past, because of its disjuncture.) The objects that triggered the destruction tended to be small and pretty mundane — a necklace, an eraser, a cell phone — but each of them mattered to someone, and the producers wanted to punish people for their materialism. For liking the things. So they deemed that the world would rip apart over and over again, like in Groundhog Day, every time one of these objects became what they decided was too precious.
And this girl, who used to be the animal magic boy, still had magic, and at 10 or 12 now was aware that she could try, should try, to use her powers to hold shit together. But it didn’t work. She was the star of the story and the producers left her there, again like Groundhog Day in that she could hang onto her knowledge of what would happen even though no one else could. But the world kept ripping open no matter how she cried, begging people to do or say or think things that would keep the producers happy. When the world fell apart it was pretty horrific — rooms and people bubbled and burst; images arising from the minds of those caught in the bubble came into being and faded; which meant being around the creepy older treehouse brother was Not Good because he kept floating violent sexual images in there and scaring the kids before they all ceased to exist, and his 12 year old sister kept yelling at him to stop but he’d just laugh as he vaporized. Class A Creep.
But the problems were bigger than him. When the girl realized she couldn’t stop the whole place from falling apart she’d try to hold onto just parts of it. She made a map of her block in plaster, like those quick-setting plaster kits you put baby feet in to make this-is-how-big-I-was flagstones, and tried to…focus, I guess, on that, reasoning that if objects undid the world, maybe objects would hold it together too. And it worked for a bit but the producers got angrier and angrier that she was trying to control their story, and everything around her block disintegrated into a a void, and eventually they ripped up the block too, sidewalk crumbling away chunk by chunk, with neighbors screaming and everything. Then it would restart again, as they thought to edit it, refine it, make it better, and only the girl knew what had happened and would be happening again shortly.
She got better at explaining what was going to happen. Family and neighbors started to believe her and to give her objects invested with non-material meaning that she thought might work. There were a lot of stereotypes here. Like a surly goth kid who, when she explains what she’s trying to do — hold the world together by focusing on objects of love instead of just material value, for which they were being punished — the goth kid without a word takes off the spiked collar he’s wearing, which was a gift from his dead girlfriend or something, and hands it to her to try and focus on. Stuff like that. The collar in particular held the world together for a fraction longer than it had before, and the producers were forced to change the way they ripped things apart — instead of pulling horrors from people’s minds to unleash upon them, they just started smashing through the world, so it broke like glass in long webbed lines. The girl was furious and screamed at them but at that point it was a void so one she knew heard.
The people who had donated objects came to believe her more easily every disintegration, because she could walk up to them and explain to them why she needed whatever thing, because it was most precious to them and had been given to them the day before their dad died, or because it contained a lock of their childhood dog’s fur, etc. etc. She garnered this rushed respect from them as she ran around trying to collect enough meaning to keep the producers from smashing the world to bits, but it was never enough. She tried holding it together in different places — atop a hill, on a boat at a dock, in a town square. Nothing worked. Everything fell to ribbons. Toward the end, people who believed her were gathered around her, crying, yelling all the things they cared about to the sky, trying to prove that they were kind and decent enough to deserve not to be rewritten. But it never worked. It ended with some sort of moody non-closure shot, the camera panning toward the spiked collar sinking to the bottom of the water by the docks where the girl had dropped it in despair, right before the water sloshed away into nothingness again.
There was a soundtrack. It was amazing. I assume instrumental with huge swells. I know there was a soundtrack (despite not being able to describe it) because after the movie ended — because now it was a movie again — I was in a group of people watching it, and someone immediately tossed me an LP of the soundtrack, mockingly, saying at least the music was okay and they knew I liked movie soundtracks and LPs so here. I was enraged. This movie was great, how shitty was it to throw all that on a kid, and then to keep the laughing in there, keep sniggering at her for trying to save things. It was a stupid animated movie, the gathered people agreed. Derivative. Like if someone tried to mix Monsters Inc with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Into the Void.
I was furious. So over the next few days I hunted down everyone who’d seen that movie with me and argued them into seeing its merits. That is maybe why my hands hurt, I think. I would make them care the way the kid couldn’t — wasn’t allowed to — fix her world. And I would bludgeon their careless disgregard of the (admittedly somewhat…overstated, I guess) heart in that movie into compassion. I cited all the personal shit I knew about them and demand they stop being judgey standoffish critic assholes and actually put themselves in the position of this kid and think wouldn’t they try, wouldn’t they try their hardest despite all their pronounced Not Giving a Shit About Things, to hold the world together, even a tiny part of it, for the people they loved? And is that really something, Giving a Shit, that is so goddamn dangerous to their fragile egos that they have to deride it constantly every time its possibility arises? And it worked. I never convince anyone of anything, especially regarding movies, but it worked.
And then I woke up.