I used to be all about the drama. If a movie or TV show looked dark and sad and like it may rip my heart out of my chest and then repeatedly poke it with a dirty needle, I would buy my ticket or program my TiVo and enjoy the shit out of it. I would gasp or ugly cry, mourn and sigh at the penetrating sadness coming off of the screen and into my brain. I liked seeing the “real” world in all of its perverse and ugly glory.
Then I had kids, and all of that changed.
I remember reading through The Hunger Games books when I was pregnant with my firstborn. Kids killing kids. And as I approached my due date, and the end of the trilogy, I realized I wouldn’t be able to read this type of drama for a long, long time. Obviously the dystopian novels weren’t real life, but when you have an overactive imagination and a sensitive heart, that doesn’t matter. What mattered is that kids were dying, the world was falling apart, and I had a baby inside of me who would one day soon be emerging into a world that wasn’t exactly puppies and rainbows.
Once my daughter was born, my downtime, the very little I had, became all comedy, all the time. I binge-watched The Office reruns during 2 a.m. feedings. I watched and watched again all of my favorite romantic comedies. I never finished Parenthood. Now that I’m a mom of two and even more devoted to a drama-free viewing life, I can’t bring myself to even start This Is Us. I’m sure it’s brilliant and touching, but I’m also sure it will make me cry every week, and I have enough real life shit to cry over.
I’m fully aware that I’m missing out on quality books and movies and TV shows since I’ve chosen to abstain from the dark and dramatic, but I just can’t let myself go there anymore. I’m guarding my heart for now. I read a lot of news from all different outlets and about all different parts of the world, and it seems like the negativity in the world outweighs the positive, feel good stuff 10:1. That’s real life. That’s the world in which I’m raising my kids, and it takes such an emotional toll on me. I read about Aleppo or sex trafficking or the Flint crisis and I just cry because my kids are becoming adults in this reality, and it’s so heartbreaking.
Because of the tragedy surrounding me, surrounding us, I can’t bring myself to take in any of that which is of the fiction variety. During those sparse moments when I have time to myself to watch whatever I want, I choose the lighthearted comedy that makes me smile and doesn’t make me think too hard. I need a laugh more than I need a good cry. I need absurdity and staged falls and humorous relationships. I need well-scripted jokes and one-liners and feel-good moments that will make me remember the world isn’t all bad. I need the reminders that the world may not always be filled with giggling babies and cutesy courtships, but it’s also not full of death and destruction.
Maybe someday when my kids are older or I’m not as sensitive, I’ll return to viewing quality drama on the big screen and in the Tuesday night lineup. For now, though, I know this is best for me. Life as a mom is hard, living in this world in such a polarizing climate is hard, and when it’s finally my turn to flip on the TV, I don’t want to watch fictional difficulties that will only exacerbate my own perceptions of the world. Instead of watching murders and drug dealers and broken families, I’ll take simplistic comedy and feel good movies any day.