Did you know that you saved my life? Well, not saved, no one saves anyone, but you supported me in a time when no one else did. Every week, I'd get to escape for two hours at a time, sometimes, if I'm lucky, three.
I was in Jordan at the time, so I couldn't sneak into other movies and despite going into debt to my sister I could not afford going more than once.
Even for the months I was homeless, and the month I was starving, movies, on burned DVDs at the time, were still one of the main things that kept me going. Movies were my lifeline, connecting me to a better world as books had in the past. But I couldn't afford books at the time, and movies were a quicker dosage.
Unfortunately, tonight I have lost you, as if you were a piece of me that I had carried with me all along. As much as it pains me to, I think it's time for me to move on.
Tonight, I went with a great group of friends to watch one of the biggest movies of the year, a movie I had been waiting for for years. This was it for me, out of all the movies this year, or even next year, this was it. I'm not sure you understand how serious that is for a movie fanatic, but let's just say expectations were high.
The movie itself was great, incredibly directed and cast. The story line was a bit extreme and actions were irrational but which blockbuster isn't?
Recently, over the last year, I've learned a lot more about racism, sexism, white supremacy and Patriarchy. And I have grown better at noticing these systematic forms of oppression in my daily life; from work, to walking down the street I could pinpoint micro-aggressions that no one else seemed to notice.
I had also gone into the movie a bit angry by the casting of a white actress for an Asian role in another movie I've been looking forward to. But I didn't think I'd get this reaction from this movie.
For the first time, more than ever, I could see the messages playing out in front of me and for two hours it felt as if the entire purpose of the movie was to uphold Patriarchy and White Supremacy. You could see it in almost every scene, with nearly every male in the movie acting out in violence first and then asking questions. You could see it in the way the women, rational, were entirely ignored even though in my opinion their presence made the movie tens of times better. But instead we had two hours of males (primarily white) being entirely irrational.
I felt uncomfortable, and to an extent unsafe being in a room with so many others that did not notice this toxic behavior.
I'm not writing this to tell you never to go to the movies again, nor am I writing this to prove to you that Hollywood is Racist, Sexist and a bunch of other things. Don't even get me started on how Disabilities are portrayed in most movies. I think the majority of us already know this, with white washing nearly everything to 'sell movies' it's become normalized for us to see a screen full of white people with a few minorities as loose change. I can sit here all night and try to prove to you that these messages are negatively impacting our societies and upholding structures of oppression that might be oppressing you as an individual, but I won't subjugate myself to that.
If you're interested in learning more then please learn more, feel free to ask me but I will not sit here and try to justify feeling the way I do because I shouldn't have to. You may take this one of two ways, either see the hurt of a human being that has lost something they have cherished for years, something that means the world to them and accept it for what it is, as a letter to a lost lover that may never be found, or as an attack on all movies and an attack on you for not noticing these problems earlier.
This is not an attack, how could it be when you are just as oppressed as I used to be. This is a story of loss and uncertainty and you may take from it what you will. But I strongly urge you to think about these structural forms of oppression in your daily lives, within and outside movies.
I'm writing this because I hope there are others that share this awareness. I'm hoping with this, I can begin healing from the loss of something that I never knew I could function without. I'm afraid I will never be able to watch the majority of movies like I have in the past. Movies will no longer be my escape from a structurally oppressive world. Movies and media, are one of the main pillars that uphold these structures.
I'm also writing this because I've always known this, but it's amazing how long we can stay in denial, coming to the defense of a system we know has failed us over and over, but hanging on even to an oppressive system is more comforting than finding ourselves without it. I did not want to live in a world where I did not have the comfort of movies. Where I couldn't escape from the rest of my life for the short period of time despite knowing that it was harming tens of millions of people, if not billions.
I wonder what else I have turned a blind eye to because of this fear of the unknown. As I sit here and write this I am heartbroken, but glad that I have achieved this awareness, and at a loss of where to go from here. I could always drive to a movie, no matter how bad my day was. Now... now I need to seek a healthy alternative and to find the other areas this abuse has seeped into my life so that I can stand up to it every day until no standing is needed.
Ahmad Abojaradeh is Heartbroken, despite being the Co-Founder and Director of Mental Health for MCL, An Engineer, a world traveler, a Peer Support Specialist, a Novelist and the founder and editor of Life in My Days. He hopes to spread awareness of living a life of wellness through his writing, workshops and speaker events.