For the Love of Crazy

Lyn Lu and I live over 10,000 miles apart, but thanks to the unreliable, slow, virus-ridden software we know as Skype, we were able to get to know each other. This is the 21st century, where reading books is for old people and it’s not weird to take pictures of your food. I don’t even have to get out of bed to have someone halfway across the world  tell me that I should probably take a shower. We talked about how I knocked out my front teeth, how she has to take exams on Saturdays, how we both like to play chess, and how I’m not as cute as her roommate’s partner. When it comes to film, she likes cute things with big eyes, children learning what it’s like to grow up, and love stories that make you hate your boyfriend for not being romantic enough. I like guns, explosions, and girls. Needless to say, in our journey to find two related films to watch together, we had to go through quite a bit of options.


So yeah… maybe not this one…

We talked about everything from Puss in Boots to Ip Man, but it wasn’t until she told me about Double Xposure did we realize that we were both in love with psychological thrillers. Double Xposure is a film about a woman who believes she has committed two murders, only to later realize that she had imagined them both due to the murder of her mother early in life. There was something about the false reality that attracted us. Something about the truth being obscured by our own thoughts and our own past. Something about the world before us completely changing, making us question our own sanity and our own realities. It was from these themes that we decided to watch The Prestige as well —  a film about two magicians who hide and distort reality on a regular basis.

It is through these themes that I made a realization. No matter who you are and where you come from, a distorted reality is an interesting reality. And no matter how hard you try, you cannot prove that what we are seeing and feeling is real. The basic, raw  appeal of a mind awry is something that connects on a level much deeper than cultural expectations or engendered preferences. Here are five reasons that psychological thrillers transcend cultural boundaries.

5) Everybody Loves a Good Train Wreck

There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned meltdown. It is beautiful the way a man’s face becomes paralyzed, his eye’s locked in a forever glare, his brain working double time just to try and comprehend what is going on. Expectations and reality have just collided at 100 mph in a fantastic display of internal fireworks and sporadic thoughts. No matter how scared we might be, most of us still stare at the accident on the side of the road. We just can’t help but watch. It is not that we are glad that something terrible has happened, but we must satisfy our curiosity. The only difference between this and seeing someone struggle with their own sanity is that it is contained within their mind. We can only see what they choose to show us, or what they cannot help but show us. We take comfort in the knowledge that this is not happening to us. We are entertained by how rare and interesting it must be to live in constant turmoil with yourself. We try to explain why someone is the way that they are, as if to give reason to their madness. It is through the need to know as much as possible that we can’t turn away from this train wreck of a mental state.

I could watch this all day long.

4) Every Culture Experiences Insanity

No matter where you are, no matter what you are doing, there’s always that crazy guy living on the side of the road. He could be American, French, Chinese, or Dutch, it doesn’t matter. Every single culture knows what it is like to see a broken mind, and we can all relate to when we have felt a little crazy ourselves. I could eat grilled cheese and apple pie until the day that I die, but that does not mean that I will be more interested in insanity. Perceiving reality is one of the most basic functions that our human brains are in charge of, and whether I grew up in Scotland or on the moon will not change that. Differing cultures do have an impact on determining what is socially normal and what technically makes a person crazy, but they all adequately show that there are rules of engagement and if you break them then there is something wrong with you. What is crazy in America will not be what is crazy in China, but the process in determining what is crazy is the same in both cultures.

Even the cat knows this guy is insane.

3) Nobody Is Taught How To Be Surprised

Psychological thrillers are exciting. They are suspenseful, action oriented, and really make you think. It is not like we learn how to be surprised when we are younger. You don’t get graded on how well you flinch when the class bully pretends to punch you in the face, nor how well you scream incoherent expletives of road rage when the teenage girl driving in front of you cuts you off. It is inherent in our brains to enjoy being surprised. As much as we hate having to wait until our birthday to open presents, or for the food to finally get to our table after 45 minutes of hunger and agony, there is nothing like that sweet moment of surprise when we finally have everything revealed to us. Thousands of little pleasure neurons fire simultaneously like bottle rockets on the Fourth of July when we are surprised, so we keep coming back for more.

Clarence will be giving Surprise Lessons every Monday for $15

2) We All Have A Mind and Are Terrified of Losing It

We can all relate to psychological thrillers. They have to do with what people are thinking, and we think every single day. We know what it is like to lose a loved one, we know what it is like to fall in love, and we know what it is like to dream of something more. When we see that man on the screen battle with himself, we can imagine ourselves in his shoes. We know that the mind is fragile, and just as we can break bones and tear muscles, the mind can be broken as well. Cultures vary with how important altruism is, but no matter how selfless a culture is, the individual always cares about himself. We care about our well-being inside and out, so we are interested to see how someone else deals with psychological troubles. The constant fear of insanity is enough to drive a man insane, so it is nice to see someone else go crazy in order to reaffirm our own sanity.

All of this depressing television is really cheering me up.

1) Fun Is Universal

That’s it. Fun is fun wherever you are. Flashing lights, quick cut scenes, dream states. All of these things are just down right entertaining. We are born laughing way before we know what a country or a culture is. When you wave a toy in front of a child, they giggle. When you show a thriller to an adult, they exclaim “wow!”. Everybody likes to have fun, sometimes we have to choose work over fun, but that does not change the fact that we want to have fun, and that is a basic human characteristic, not a cultural characteristic.

This baby is way too happy.