Hiding in Movies

by Bill Brenner on June 3, 2010

The author used to pretend he was a character from movies and TV shows. Then he realized his own life was much more interesting.

I used to channel my OCD on movies and TV shows with larger-than-life heroes and villains. Star Wars. Superman. Star Trek. It beat the hell out of real life.

I guess it started when I was around 8 and first starting to get really sick from Crohn’s Disease. I had just gotten out of the hospital in December 1978 when “Superman: The Movie” first came out. It was the best possible escape from reality I could have found at the time.

I saw it repeatedly — first in the theaters and then whenever it was on TV. One afternoon, when it was set to premier on HBO, a coastal storm knocked out the power and deprived me of the movie. I went absolutely nuts.

It was the same thing with the Star Wars movies. Pretending I was a Jedi or crackerjack X-wing pilot was much more satisfying than being the fat, sick child whose home life was high tension as my parents’ marriage disintegrated in violent fashion.

Even as a young adult it was better to live in the world of make-believe than to accept life as it truly was. A lightsaber really would have come in handy. So would the power to choke people and control their actions just by telling The Force it’s what you wanted.

Then there was Star Trek. This was the obsession of my 20s, particularly the Next Generation. As a young pup working my way up the newsroom ladder under intense deadlines that in hindsight really weren’t all that intense, I would act like a young lieutenant on the bridge of the Enterprise, saving the day while the Romulans were firing away at the ship.

Remember the Star Trek juror, the woman who insisted on appearing for jury duty in a Starfleet uniform? When a colleague jokingly called me the Star Trek juror, I was genuinely insulted. True story.

At some point in my recovery, I stopped wanting to be people inside the movie screen. I’m not sure when.

I think to some extent we all tend to fantasize that we’re some larger-than-life movie or TV character. That’s why we get hooked on shows like Lost and Battlestar Gallactica. We’re suckers for the notion that you can be part of some huge destiny, just as Starbuck from Gallactica was destined to lead her people to Earth after the Cylons wiped out the 12 Colonies.

If you don’t follow the plot I just described, it doesn’t matter. It’s just a TV show plot, anyway.

As I found recovery and truly started to bring my OCD under control, I realized my own life as a husband, father, recovering addict and writer is much more interesting than Jedi battles and stopping a falling helicopter with your bare hands.

I still watch these shows from time to time. But it’s different. I put the films on, get a kick out of the action and appreciate the writing and character development, then when it’s over I move on.

I loved the 2009 Star Trek film. The casting was brilliant and the relentless pace was satisfying. But I didn’t find myself thinking the movie over in my head in an endless loop like I used to.

After all, I had a more interesting and meaningful reality to get back to.

I’m not a hero and I have no special powers. I’m not famous, either.

But I do just fine with what I have.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ann June 3, 2010 at 4:47 am

My son wants to be a super hero. Both of my kids have dress up costumes, but my son gets into costume far more often than my daughter. The video games are all about super heros too. Makes me wonder how pac man was such a fascination when we were kids!

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