Notes from upstairs, with Melanie

Melanie Loggins, Academic Advisor

As I’m writing this, it’s snowing. It’s been foggy or raining or snowing for days, and I think the weather is making me a little more pensive than I usually am. It’s a quiet, introspective kind of week.
I was thinking about the movie “Portrait of a Lady on Fire.” Have you seen it? I don’t know many people who have, and I haven’t had a chance to talk to anyone about it. The movie is - how do I say this without overselling it?  The movie is perfect. Everything about it is impeccable. Go watch it. It’s on Hulu and we have it on Blu-Ray in the library. Put your phone down and get into it and, I promise, by the end of it you will feel some type of way.
A long time ago, when I was in college and discovering my love for film as an art, I saw a couple of movies that are still on my “All-Time Top Ten Can’t Live Without” movies. They were perfect, and the lines and images and ideas have never left me. In a small way, they are part of who I am as a person.
I was talking with someone about these movies this morning – the ones that made me – and I suggested “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” was the kind of movie that changes who the watcher is. I guarantee someone out there, young and figuring themselves out, watched that movie and it is part of them forever, just like those it is for me.
Then the person I was talking to asked me a question: did those movies help define me, or do I love them because they fit with who I was already becoming on my own? I didn’t know how to answer. What I do know is that my love of those movies made me keep watching interesting movies, and watching all those most certainly did begin to define who I am. You can’t have a steady diet of something and not be changed, right?
I learned the other day about a TV guy I don’t watch. I don’t watch much TV anymore. I mean, who does, right? A commercial? Who’s she? Anyway, this TV guy I don’t watch, he’s on a channel I don’t watch even when I do watch TV. You know how there are people who, you just look at them and don’t like them? That’s how he is for me.
Turns out, this TV guy is really popular with hardcore white supremacist groups, the kind that aren’t content with casual racism but work to actively harm people of color. (If you agree with that approach to the world, well, I would say the rest of this column isn’t for you.
But then, you’ve probably figured out that I’m not the columnist for you.) Since I don’t watch him, I had no idea that this guy had that worldview. And he’s very popular with a lot of the people who do still watch TV. And I can’t help but think that, if you can’t have a steady diet of something and not be changed. The people that watch him a lot are going to end up agreeing with him. Maybe not at first. Maybe at first they’re just like, whoa, this guy is intense. But the more you keep watching, the more familiar his rhetoric gets.
You can start to predict what he’s going to say, and that feels good. That’s satisfying, to feel comfortable and to know what’s coming. It’s like when you hear a song so often that you know the words, and you don’t even remember that you didn’t like it at first. That’s why you watch “The Office” for the third time, or your favorite movie again, or listen to the same albums over and over. Familiarity feels good, and that’s why it can start to feel good to watch the racist guy TV.
Did I decide to become the kind of person who watches lots of movies about all kinds of people? Or did watching all those different movies make me appreciate stories about all kinds of people? Either way, I am now a person who actively wants to know about people. I could choose to watch something else, and I’m sure that would change me, but I don’t want to be changed, you know?
I keep up with the news and I make sure I’m an informed voter and stuff, but when it comes to my free time, I’ll admit, I kind of stay in my echo chamber. I only read or watch or listen to stuff that helps reinforce who I want to be. It’s a choice now. I made a conscious decision to only let a certain kind of person affect how I grow and develop. And I wonder, what do you watch and listen to? Who is shaping who you become?