In our mass media culture, loneliness is a cookie cutter stereotype. In the movies it usually filters down to someone who doesn’t make muster in the popularity game. They rarely get asked out or if they are the one asking, they frequently suffer rejection, often in a cruel way.
Their issue might be their odd looks (remember Powder?) or a personality too quirky for mainstream acceptability. Ironically, this frequently makes them interesting as movie characters but in movie reality they often suffer the brutalities of ego warfare.
The stereotype is that being lonely is the sign of personal failure and crippling ineptitude. Loners are dorks. Might as well tattoo a scarlet letter on their foreheads to warn everybody of the cootie potential residing therein.
The way society responds to loneliness is often borne out in the term lonely hearts, as in lonely hearts club. This usually translates as Lonely Losers Club. If you look at how movies portray a lonely heart’s situation, it is usually to emphasize their quirky natures as of to say, “This is why s/he’s lonely.”
In our society, loneliness also translates as being a major indicator that someone is harboring visions of becoming a psychopathic serial killer. They’re lonely. They’re loners. No one loves them. So they finally wig out and kill people to display their rage at a loveless society—and capture some fame in a society that rewards its killers with massive amounts of attention.
OUR ADDICTION TO SUFFERING
If you’re lonely, you probably watch a lot of movies. I do. And what I see is that the movies like to portray life’s shitty side. Movie, TV, and computer screens everywhere are filled with endless tours of angst. Even when there is a happy ending and ultimate success, which is supposed to make up for all the shit crammed down a character’s (and the viewer’s) throat, ostensibly to lead to a more emotionally fulfilling punch at the end, on balance it’s still a case of everything that can go wrong probably will.
The unmistakable conclusion I make to all of this is that as a society, we have an emotional shit fetish. We’re addicted to violence, conflict, and, well, shit. Markets respond to fetishes because that’s where the customers and their dollars are. If there wasn’t a demand for it, there would be no economic incentive to keep pumping it out.
I can easily see a world where we imagine and explore solutions more than expose problems. I can see a world where our stories explore the world as we want to see it be—the proverbial heaven on earth—than further exploit what’s wrong with it. We could show more of what’s possible and less of what’s shitty.
Barack Obama rode the wave of hope and change to office because people were so hungry for an optimistic vision. It’s that same force field of human desire that could be tapped into to envision a more loving, caring society. Right now people have a huge preponderance of the bad to imitate. It’s so easy to find shit to watch. Hard to get away from it. But finding visionary and solution-oriented material to be inspired by?
The bottom line is that most depictions one will see of loneliness highlights suffering and failure. It means if you’re lonely you stand a good chance of taking on aspects of the negative stereotypes. (“I am lonely, therefore, I must be a failure.”) That adds to the existing burden of feeling isolated and often unloved.
I would love to see some major changes to how we do things. One would be to create more resources for people to find positive solutions to problems. Another would be for our entertainment media to produce positive visionary material. The third would be to evolve ways for people to help people deal with social situations like isolation and exclusion.
The vision of this site is to help in some small way by somehow fostering networking where people can find and assist others. The ultimate aim is creating solutions.