“I would rather entertain and hope that people learned something than educate people and hope they were entertained.”
Walt Disney couldn’t have been more right—in my eyes, at least.
Entertainment has always been my go-to mode of education and escapism. Books, movies, television shows—they all taught me about the world and gave me someone or something to relate to, whether my life was chaotic or not. I fell in love with the characters, stories…all of it. Escaping to their worlds gave me a break from my own. Their worlds showed me so many things, from opportunities to healing to understanding. Fictional or not, there were lessons to be learned. I would no longer feel alone when I found my connections in entertainment. I would learn about people and social context. I would escape on adventures and find myself experiencing it with the characters. I fell in love with this world so much that I became a writer with dreams of joining the film and television industry.
But I digress…
My connection to entertainment meant many things to me: education, escapism, future career. Check! Yet, it also gave me reprieve from my own struggles. I could watch a movie or two, and my anxiety could be alleviated. I’d listen to one of those songs that gets you dancing like no one’s watching, and my depression would lift in those moments (Wham!, Prince, Nirvana and David Bowie are some of my favorites). I would feel so much anxiety that I would become physically ill. I was plagued by nightmares, insomnia and doubts; I agonized over each of my mistakes. Sadness sometimes hit me so deeply that I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t even get out of bed. When my world didn’t make sense and I was overwhelmed with these negative feelings, I resorted to my therapeutic entertainment connection.
The earliest experience I remember is discovering Nickelodeon’s animated favorite Danny Phantom in 2004. I was 8 years old. For as long as I could remember, my parents weren’t happy together, and it showed. Later that year, they would divorce. Life was unstable, filled with conflict, misery and tension for all. I was unsure of how to help my parents or my brother when our worlds were falling apart. Danny Phantom made me laugh, taught me about true friendship and served as my mode of escapism; he was Amity Park’s hero, but he’d become my hero, too.
As I grew older, I connected with more and more characters. Full House struck chords with me in a sentimental way because after my parents’ divorce, my maternal uncle helped raise me and my brother; he took care of us much like Uncle Jesse did with his three nieces—just without an iconic ’80s Aqua Net hair-sprayed ’do and rock n’ roll rebellious attitude. Bewitched gave me inspiration for my colorful wardrobe (Samantha’s wardrobe, not Endora’s), and Knight Rider instigated my dream-car fantasies, along with Smokey and the Bandit and The Cannonball Run.
Field of Dreams made me believe in the power of angels and God, Himself. As a teenager, I moved to a rural place, far from friends and family, and like Tia Russell in Uncle Buck, I was hurt and angry. I watched Uncle Buck many times from childhood well into my teens. That movie helped me get through my high school years and taught me that although the situation of living somewhere entirely new may be hard, there were people in your corner and that you could get through the struggle.
These days, whenever my anxiety and depression begin to spiral out of control, I grab the nearest book by my bed or rifle through my insanely large movie/TV show collection. Almost instantly, I can feel my body detoxify itself as soon as I read the first sentence or watch the first scene, especially if I’m watching The Munsters or reading Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey. Milk and Honey was a game-changer and a lifesaver for me because Kaur had formed the words, the poems, that exemplified what I felt. “To All You Young Poets” is my favorite poem from her collection.
This method of self-care is among my most successful. My love for the entertainment industry is reinforced and my mental health is taken care of all at once. I binge TV shows, I set up themed movie nights (1987 movie night, anyone?) and I seek out new music and books all the time. I jump around from show to show—sometimes I finish and sometimes I don’t. I get in the moment and re-watch previously aired episodes of the 2010 reimagined Hawaii Five-O. I go back and re-watch season one episodes of Supernatural. I reread Milk and Honey or listen to my rock albums for the millionth time.
Now, I’m captivated by new shows like I Am the Night, A Million Little Things and Fam (these shows have amazing writers and actors; I love watching them). I vent my frustrations singing along to Nirvana’s “Nevermind” and I find positivity and amazing recipes in The Magnolia Journal.
At the end of the day, I may get a little hung-up on my connection to entertainment, but it’s not without its benefits. It helps me function, it helps me heal, it helps me relate and process and move on. It helps me make sense of situations and worlds I may not always like, but can at least try to understand. It gives me the chance to be weird and quirky and unusual in my own way—that’s just the bohemian in me. My entertainment connection, in a lot of ways, educated me and provided me with the means to begin my journey of self-identity, in addition to helping me understand and placate my anxiety. It still does all those things and more.
Put on some Nirvana (okay, I really love Nirvana and can’t recommend them enough). Watch a Bones or Arrested Development marathon. Pick up Entertainment Weekly. Check out the newest book on your library’s stands. Write your own words in your own reflection.
Maybe you’ll find some healing in your own entertainment connection.
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