The Coping Monster

Today I went to see the highly-anticipated (though not among the misogynistic crazies of course) revamp of “Ghostbusters.”  The previews packaged before the show were a range of features: teasing us with not one, but two Tom Hanks movies and the memorable trailer of “A Monster Calls,” based on the children’s fantasy novel.

Without knowing much about the movie, I found myself straight up crying during the trailer. Tears uncontrollably streaming down my face, the lump in my throat forming–I had woken up for a relaxing 10:30am matinee of women kicking CGI paranormal activity in the ass only to find myself already fighting all my emotions. I know I’m a huge feeler and cry easily, and visual storytelling particularly triggers that inside me, but this was flirting with hot mess levels.

Tickets to the feels train:

The premise you gather from the trailer is that this boy’s life, Conor, is an absolute mess because the world around him is. His single mother, played by the talented Felicity Jones, is dying of a terminal illness. There is unending hell from pre-teen boys at school. And for a 13 year-old boy with a face that just looks like he needs a big hug, you know that’s a lot for him to handle.

Partway through the trailer, The Monster emerges and you wonder if you’ve started to watch a Marvel spin-off starring Groot, voiced by Liam Neeson instead of Vin Diesel (I’d pay good money for a Fast and Furious/Taken crossover film). And you kind of hope that maybe Groot is here to save the day with his magical tree powers that actually is the cure for the very disease Conor’s mom has on Earth. But that only lasts about two seconds before all the interactions between Conor and The Monster have you wishing you ordered a large popcorn to suppress any potential whimpering.

“A Monster Calls” – Conor and The Monster. PC:

So what is it about The Monster that triggered this in me? During the week our country celebrated our independence, two black men died at the hands of police, reminding us that Monday’s holiday didn’t really have much to celebrate for some. A peaceful protest in Dallas was interrupted by the devastating murders of police officers. And if you decided to also check the state of the world, that week included bombings in Baghdad that took the lives of more than 200 and an ISIS attack in Bangladesh killing twenty people. And that just scratches the surface.

The powerful photo of Ieshia Evans, standing in protest in Baton Rouge that same week, has become an iconic image for #BLM and the state of our policing. PC: Jonathan Bachman/Reuters

As the world becomes smaller due to globalization, and more information is delivered at lightning speed, much of the news that floods us seems to only lead to one conclusion: we can’t go on like this. That the very narrative the human race is deciding to write for itself, on top of uncontrollable circumstances, is that it is full of hate. And whatever you believe in, I think most of us can take a step back and hope that we weren’t created for this. It is simply too much.

Because when it comes down to it, we all are Conor hoping for a fantastical creature to come out of nowhere, just for us, to tell us to “break something.” That this monster, unexplained in its existence, comes because it sees our pain and wants us to let the anger, frustration, and overwhelming feelings all out. That it is here not to make all of those very painful things go away, but to stand alongside you to somehow make existing better. Because in those moments, we have never felt more human, more limited, more vulnerable. That our physical bodies, no matter how much we scream, cry, and even pray–sometimes the world around us simply doesn’t respond like we want it to. Or that it needs to. And instead people keep dying. Injustice continues. And hate decides to trample love. And the only solution we can think of must be something not of this world.

The journey I am on now as an Asian American woman trying to her best to make the world live out the belief that #BlackLivesMatter, I often think of my Black friends who experience unending trauma and wish so badly the country they live in would encourage them to “break something.” That their emotions are truly valid and it’s okay. Because unfortunately, the heartbreaking truth is I know each of them has a monster calling inside of them, to help them cope with the pain. But each of them are trapped in a culture where there is no room for that. And that monster is uninvited. Instead, their vocal frustrations is seen as anger with no reason, their desire to bravely take a stance with their bodies is seen as annoyances and even violence, and their attempts to hold onto things to call their own is seen as perpetuating discrimination instead of naming it appropriation. And on top of it all, there’s no time to escape reality because survival in the current state of this country requires you to be aware of who you are at all times.

So when I see this trailer and the story it’s previewing to me, I can’t help but be swept up by its beautiful cinematography and hopeful soundtrack. Because for two minutes, it is the most cathartic experience I can dream of as it pushes us to carry on somehow even when life is only a series of crushing pain.


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