I mentioned in my last post that I watch a series called Ozark. It is an action/drama series, and like a train wreck , i cannot look away. I realized tonight that up until about 3-4 years ago , i loathed that kind of violence and high intensity in films, etc. I preferred comedy or a family style series. We are talking “Downton Abbey” or “Brothers and Sisters” here. Very low key.Sure i liked a a good classic horror movie, but constant shootings, drug lords, and even exploding cars or buildings were definitely NOT my thing.
Yet, some how i have over the years i have gravitated towards these more graphic , intense genres, and i had to ask myself why. Unlike most things i obsessively analyze, this answer came pretty easily.
Because they help me deal with my own life in deep, valuable ways.
I’ll start by using the example of several series: “Weeds” , “Sons of Anarchy”, Breaking Bad” , “Narcos” , “Ozark” and i most recently started “Queen of the South”. In all of these shows, there is a main character who rises up from some adversity( terminal illness, poverty, etc) , and out of necessity , becomes empowered . While usually this empowerment ends badly for them , there is still much value to be had in observing their process.
For example: In “Weeds” the main character loses her husband and is forced to turn to drug sales to support her children.In “Breaking Bad”, the main character( high school teacher) finds out unexpectedly that he has terminal cancer and will have to somehow support his family in spite of unsurmountable medical debt with no guarantees as to how long he may live. In the latest series “Queen of the South” the main character is born into typical Mexican poverty and through circumstance winds up involved with the Cartel. The other shows are similar.Their starting point is one of despair and desperation.They do not intend to get caught up, but inevitably they do. This, my friends , is surely how many of us have lived our lives – even if not on a criminal level or in these intense ways. I hear you all – saying “no way”.
But think about it. We are all born to whatever circumstances we are allotted, and we must find our way. We certainly start out with unrealistic aspirations ( even if only in our imaginations.) As. a child or teen, we all dream of a future, fantasizing about what could be or will be.We start to believe these dreams on some level and some( let’s just say half) people do actually put their nose to the grindstone and achieve a decent portion of them . Perhaps not becoming an astronaut, rock star, or famous actor but making comfortable and stable lives for themselves none the less. A small percentage have other extra advantages from the start.The other half are not so fortunate. I would like to say more than half probably, but i am not getting into statistics here. THOSE people ( and i am one of them )- struggle.
People like me, struggle. We struggle with making relationship choices, financial choices, and recreational choices . We struggle with damaged family relations and constant crisis of many types- including divorce(s), child rearing, custody battles and/or emotional problems requiring outside help. We were not born “with a silver spoon in our mouths”, nor were we born into powerful families. We may or may not be able to get an education beyond high school without some serious hard work and saving. Usually, we toil away at low paying jobs or , worse, accepting help from the government . Sometimes we just cannot even envision a better life after a few years on our own.It seems far away and unreal, meant for other people- not us. And that’s when we hit a crossroads. Do we do something about it? If so, what?
Financially, there are many ways to make money in this country, not all of them ethical , legal , or pleasant. There is drug trafficking, prostitution/pornography, a variety of money making schemes and internet hacking- just to name a few. These involve high risk with potentially high rewards.Very tempting in comparison to grinding away 50-60 hrs a week, eating Raman Noodles and living in tiny, depressing housing and taking buses for years while squirreling away whatever you can just to pay for a better education.
Relationship wise, we tend to have a dysfunctional view of acceptable partners due to a background of divorce, family alcoholism/addiction or growing up in even foster care.
These two alone can lead to poor lifestyle choices to cope- turning to alcohol, drugs, pornography or video game addictions, gambling, etc.And in turn this usually leads to other crisis- mental health issues, poor financial decisions, unwanted pregnancies, bankruptcy , lack of gainful employment and possibly even homelessness. This is just a small and very basic summing up of possible outcomes.
Is any of this starting to sound similar to those main characters now? Those unforeseen circumstances many of us find ourselves in can lead to life long consequences.
Sure, there are exceptions- some are just lucky or naturally smart, determined industrious enough to overcome a poor start.Some learn their lessons and eventually step up and do what they need to do- I fall into this category. But most, cannot and never truly overcome these early obstacles. They are the ones who usually fall prey to temptation or wind up the proverbial gutter- staying there for their entire lives.
Through these shows , i have learned much about strength, resilience, tolerance, hard work, toughness and craftiness and how to turn difficult situations around. I have learned that no matter what circumstances life throws at me, there is always a way to move forward. And while i certainly do not desire the bad endings these characters inevitably find themselves in, I have learned that i can make lemonade out of lemons –or at least avoid having to eat the lemons.As cliche as it sounds- i know now, more than i ever did before that “where there is a will , there is a way”.
Outside of the highly dramatized, made for media circumstances those main characters endure, i am pretty much just like them.I can relate to their flaws, fierceness, determination and desire to overcome. In fact, many times, when faced with what seems to be an overwhelming amount of obstacles, i ask myself “what would so-and-so do?” or remember an episode that somehow enlightened me.
So, in spite of the violence and other negative aspects, i’ll keep watching