Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Dark Victory

Dark Victory
seen on TV @ TCM

At some point in our lives, we have to come face to face with the hard truth that someday, we're gonna die. I've certainly given it my fair share of thought. I made peace with the inevitability of my father's death before he actually went, and I'm in the process of doing the same with my mother. As for myself, well, it's certainly not a topic I dwell on often, but once you hit middle age, it is something that starts to reside in the back of your mind.

The thing is, though, dying is easy. It's living that's hard. Movies like Dark Victory, as entertaining as they are, tend to get it the wrong way around. Look at Bette Davis' life in that movie: she's young and rich, with a big beautiful house in the suburbs, servants at her beck and call, and horses that she can ride all day. Of course she's not gonna want to let go of all of that. Most of us are lucky if we've got a pot to piss in. 

Would I wanna know when I'm gonna die? Maybe. There are days when I honestly don't feel like living this life is worth all the trouble. There are things I'm grateful for, of course, but there are things I regret as well, which I can't do anything about. Plus, on a larger scale, the world in general doesn't provide a great deal in the way of things to be hopeful about. As a result, knowing the day of one's death might be liberating in the sense that I wouldn't feel bound by the everyday rules of life; the rationale being that consequences would matter much less. That's probably the reason why most of us don't carpe our diem: we worry too much about what the cost would be afterwards.

That's also probably why there's a certain glamor associated with dying young, as Davis eventually does in this movie: one doesn't have to worry about wrinkles, sagging guts, aches and pains, losing one's memory, all that crap associated with old age. James Dean and Marilyn Monroe loom larger in our consciousness, in large part, because they died young. These days, there's slightly less of a stigma associated with age. We celebrate actors who age gracefully, like Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren, but again, it's important to remember that most of us don't have the resources necessary to keep us looking as fit and youthful as celebrities do.

I'm reminded of the recent Robert Duvall movie Get Low, where he plans his own funeral in advance and attempts to settle long-standing issues. In theory, that's not such a bad idea if you know when you're gonna go. Most people would rather cling to life, I imagine, but is that always such a good idea? If someone's in such great physical and/or mental distress that the quality of their life is low or nil, shouldn't they be allowed to decide that they wanna go sooner instead of later? 

Remember Terri Schiavo, that woman who was on life support but wasn't allowed to die? People were going crazy over that because the state was trying to make life-and-death decisions in what should've been a private matter involving only her family and her doctors. Maybe that's an extreme example, but I can't get behind the idea of someone else telling me I have to live if I honestly and unequivocally believe I'd rather die. But that's a state of desperation you don't see in a Hollywood movie.

Like I said, dying's easy. It's living that's hard. Trying to find a reason to live is something a lot of people grapple with all the time, and if you can find something, anything to live for in this life, well, I reckon you should consider yourself lucky.

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