I watch too many movies. If you ask me to quantify how much “too many” is, I couldn’t answer you. I just know it. At a certain point, I started viewing my environment through the lens of a silver screen. I became the protagonist in my life’s film. Narcissistic, I know...but it’s how I started justifying the world around me.
After all, if a movie is a distillation of human experiences, why can’t it be the other way round?
1. You start narrating your own life
It happens to the best of us. Whether you’re waiting for the bus or ordering a coffee, our minds generate an inner monologue:
“I’m walking into Starbucks. Crap. Time to order some latte spice extra-medium bullsh*t”.
This tendency to provide a mental voice-over for your life isn’t something subliminal, it’s very much an active narration taking place in your head. Just keep in mind that this should remain an INNER monologue.
I can tell you first hand that if you say “And that’s how I met the love of my life” out loud after meeting a complete stranger, you will get concerned looks.
2. You take “Picture Myself” to a new level
When I try on clothes, I don’t look at the mirror when I decide. I picture myself wearing the outfit in a cinematic scenario.
For example, if I want to get a blazer, I picture myself wearing it when getting my dream job, or while I dash through the streets of Prague with a James Bond villain in hot pursuit (in my case, they are the same thing).
When I pick music, I consider whether it will serve in the soundtrack of my life (i.e. when downloading a ‘Sam Smith’ song, I picture myself listening to it whilst mourning unrequited love. When deciding on whether to buy a ‘Nickelback’ album, I see myself with no self-respect).
3. You anticipate the worst possible scenario
When I was growing up, my Mom was always home for dinner by 7pm. It was just an unspoken agreement that everyone had to be home by 7 so we could eat together as a family. To this day, if she isn’t home by 7, immediately assume she’s dead.
With every moment that passes after 7, my brain conjures up worst-case scenarios. “Don’t be silly brain, she’s probably just stuck in a jam,” I tell my brain. “You’re probably right Darren. Or maybe, she’s been in a horrible car-crash! Teehee,” my asshole brain replies.
If there was ever one, this would be the downside to watching too many movies. We are conditioned to believe that when all appears well, a horrible accident will occur to propel our story forward. So, we live in fear of a grave plot twist.
It’s the worst.
4. You find meaning in the worst possible scenarios
If there is ever anything to learn from a film, it’s this:
“Everything happens for a reason.”
Life isn’t easy. Tragedies happen. What movies do, however, is show without fail that there is the opportunity to find meaning and redemption in every hardship. I found that even in the bleakest of circumstances I could always justify the adversity as part of the universe’s grand scheme that would eventually lead me to something greater.
When the hero loses the girl, he meets a better one. When a city falls, it’s rebuilt stronger. When all hope is lost, it’s found again in the Third Act.
I try not to think too much about this. I don’t scrutinise its logic or take it too seriously. I’m content believing that there’s some omnipresent director out there guiding me to a happy ending.
5. (You think) You can act
There is nothing wrong with perceiving yourself as the main character of your own life. It doesn’t mean that you think you’re the most important person in the galaxy, it simply means that you are comfortable living life as who you are. This does not, however, mean that you can be an actual main character in an actual role. Last year, I auditioned for a role in the Netflix TV series Marco Polo. Believing myself to be a manifestation of a movie character myself, I thought that acting would come naturally and my first ever audition would be a success.
It was not.
I completely botched the audition. I messed up my lines, missed my cues, and in an attempt to speak menacingly, I ended up sounding like a sexually ambiguous Batman.
Dear Netflix, I have yet to hear back from you after my audition. I was just kidding before! I believe I did an amazing job at playing “Armed Guard #2.” I nailed ALL of my lines (both of them!) I’m sure you just misplaced my number. If you were, however, simply too afraid to cast a thespian like myself in such a amateur role, I will gladly portray Kim Jong Un in a ‘House of Cards’ spinoff ‘House of Crippling Poverty.’
6. You do not converse like a normal person
For dramatic effect, many movie scripts write dialog in this way:
Claire Van Der Muffin: “I can’t believe he did that to you!”
Dante Savage: “I’ll teach him a lesson he’ll never forget.”
Dante’s lips curl into a malicious smile.
This is not how normal people talk.
In real life, if you ended a conversation with “I’ll teach him a lesson he’ll never forget”, the person you are talking to will reply “Oh, and what’s that?” There is no cut to commercial break. In reality, Dante Savage would have to admit that he has no idea what lesson he will teach. Claire Van Der Muffin is not impressed.
I once met someone at a friend’s house party and after a short conversation, I said, “I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship.” In my head this would immediately follow with a montage of my new best friend and I going camping and helping each other move furniture. Instead, a long silence followed because neither of us knew what to say after that.
Needless to say, we are BFFs.
7. You use movies to rationalize your place in the world
When I was in Middle School, I was (and part of me always will be) the weird kid rocking a bowl-cut, cargo shorts, and a Dr. Who wallet.
In my mind, however, I was the lead in a coming-of-age epic:
“Darren, the young, quirky underdog who has to navigate the perils of high school.”
Sometimes when I’m with my friends, I become a supporting character:
“Darren, the moody, albeit endearing, best friend of the more accessible and interesting main character”.
And sometimes, I’m not even a character. During my first week in the Army, one of the platoon commanders delivered a rousing speech preaching solidarity, determination and loyalty to country. In this moment, surrounded by hundreds of other recruits all swept away in this inspired moment, I was happy being an extra:
“Darren, solder #192.”
Seeing myself as a character in my life, no matter how small, helped me understand my place in the world and my role on the set of life.
8. You begin to have high expectations for your life
All movies have a common link: the ‘inciting incident.’ It’s the moment when the plot twists to give the film conflict and resolution. A movie, however, is usually 90 minutes long. Life is (hopefully) longer.
I began to expect my own life to emulate films. I began to expect drama and excitement at every turn. The truth, however, is that the majority of life is not that interesting. Truth be told, most of my days unfold without the least bit of drama. It’s unrealistic to expect that non-stop action and adventure await us each morning. For the most part, life is dull. It is boring. It is monotonous.
And thank God it is.
If we led our lives with non-stop excitement, the truly special moments won’t feel so significant. Wedding proposals would be lacklustre. Heartbreak would seem like an everyday occurrence. There would be little time to savour the small, intimate moments of beauty in our lives.
9. You love drama (yes...you do.)
Having said that, life is nothing without it’s own drama. Although we perceive the drama on screen as being outrageous and unrealistic, we mustn’t forget that the writers who wrote the scripts were inspired by reality. No matter how crazy something may seem in a movie, there is more drama in our own mad, chaotic world than any script could handle. So when it happens in real life…
We love it.
We love it when we have a night out and wake up in another city. We love it when we get into a shouting match with the office asshole. For God’s sake, we love to love! Heartbreak and misery and all! We recall and retell these memories with fondness and joy, not loathing and regret. This isn’t just for people who watch too many movies. Life wasn’t meant to be simple. We embrace the drama. We learn from it, grow from it, cherish it. Fond memories often emerge from suffering. If “to err is human,” embracing it is even more so. This is everyone.
This is all of us.