The Therapy of Film

When I was eight years old, two things happened. First, my parents got divorced. Second, I decided to watch every Star Trek film ever made

The divorce itself was exceptionally bitter and was filled with court visits, conversations with welfare officers, whispered angry exchanges and distraction kittens (“Your father came and took all his stuff today, look a kitten.”)

Needless to say it was not a fun time for me.

My decision to watch every Star Trek film ever made (even the bad ones) came shortly after this and was a direct result of my inability to cope with what was going on around me. I chose to handle those bumpy couple of years by immersing myself in a fantasy world of Gene Rodenberry’s creating:  trying to start a lunchtime Star Trek fan club and scrawling “I love Leonard Nimoy,” on my school folder whilst parading around my plastic Starfleet pin badge.

It all seems pretty psychologically obvious now, but watching that show was the only thing my dad and I use to do together before he left and I guess I wanted to re-create the feeling of happier, or at least simpler, times.

After I digested all the Star Trek films I found myself thirsting for more movies about the impossible, the crazy and the extravagantly fictional and so began my obsession with the fantasy genre. I moved on to the greats such as Labyrinth, Willow, Inner Space, Predator, Terminator, the Ewok films and Cameron’s Aliens, trying to recreate scenes in the playground by letting go of friend’s hand’s at the top of the slide and crying out “Newt!” as they tumbled into the woodchip.

This method of cathartic release via movies, or pop culture as therapy has become my coping mechanism ever since those heady years and I can mark out every major event in my life with a solo trip to the cinema or a re-watching of a key scene from Buffy, Angel or Firefly.

I go to the movie theatre as an innocent activity. At the same time, I also go when I am sad or confused. I can watch fictional tragedies in space unfold while I have a cry about the stuff that I am not dealing with in every day life. I go to watch horned demons with laser eyes killing vampires because I am not very good at getting out of my own head. Indulging in romances between superheroes and ordinary women helps me reflect on how the ideal of romance is never as good as the real thing.

I am sure every self confessed geek has a similar story: a comic book adaptation or parallel universe themed box set that is their equivalent of a comfort blanket or a warm hug in times of trouble, or an Indiana Jones film they prefer when they have the flu. I know I do. The one with short round. I am grateful to the James T Kirk’s, James Cameron’s and Jim Henson’s of this world because they created places for me to lose myself in for a little while and they told me stories which made me feel better about growing up too fast. they reminded me I was still at heart, a child. Now I’m just an overgrown one.

When the new Star Trek film came out I watched with trepidation and shortly after I had the first of my twice yearly visits with my fairly estranged dad. I was excited to talk to him about it, find out how he thought it held up the original, tell him how Zachary Quinto couldn’t do the Vulcan hand greeting and had to have his fingers taped together during filming, share something special again.

Turns out he had not seen it, had not got around to it and probably never would and I felt bad for him. It’s a really great film.


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