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Like Abed Nadir from NBC’s Community and the title character from Ben Stiller’s The Cable Guy, I tend to use fictional stories—movies, books, and television shows—collectively as an interpersonal Rosetta Stone. A tool to unlock meaningful interactions with others. So when I say that I relate emotionally to a certain scene from Saving Private Ryan, I mean it. . . . Saving Private Ryan may not be the best Valentine’s Day movie, so here’s the point: Privacy has its benefits, but so does vulnerability. And in the grand scheme of things, the latter is a much more powerful tool.
And, on some level, I don’t want to be like Buddy. Mental health issues should not be romanticized, and my depression is not something I desire. But I appreciate that my awareness of the nuances of mental health allows me to connect more effectively with those who struggle through holiday celebrations. We must support and believe those whose mental or interpersonal circumstances act as holiday inhibitors. Too often during the holidays, cries for help are met with pontifications about gratitude, joy, and family. Like Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof, some cling to traditions at the expense of relationships, and I do not want to live that way.
Unlike big-budget video games, indie video games are uniquely equipped to create targeted experiences that tackle multifaceted topics like depression, anxiety, and grief. Some big titles (like Mass Effect, The Last of Us, Life is Strange, and Gears of War) tactfully portray mental health issues as part of larger, more nuanced narratives, and other AAA games (like Portal, Batman: Arkham City, and Star Wars: Battlefront—not to mention older console games like Super Mario 64 and Jet Set Radio Future) offer enough immersive puzzles, riddles, and strategy-based gameplay to potentially dull the pains of mental distress. But the relative sovereignty of indie titles allows them to craft narratives that are more direct and more poignant. They are not handcuffed to audience or stakeholder expectations regarding high-concept ideas, visual excellence, and multiday gameplay length, and this freedom is handy when tackling topics like depression and anxiety.
Internet content like Cinema Sins’ “Everything Wrong With…” videos propagate an increasingly popular belief that nothing is worthy of admiration. “No movie is without sin,” they say. And, technically, they may be correct. But art is, and always has been, less of a structure to observe and more of a terraqueous landscape to experience, and effective art criticism acknowledges nuance and complexity. So when a creator gains 7.449 million followers (as of January 11, 2018) by indiscriminately and unintelligently mocking the creations of others, we should take note.
Camouflaging my reluctance as professionalism worked for some time, but those hesitations, I eventually realized, are not unique to educators. Many individuals who suffer from depression believe that they should not burden their friends and family members with their internal struggles. Many individuals who suffer from depression fear the consequences of emotional vulnerability. Many individuals who suffer from depression believe that they must be strong for the sake of others. And some believe that if they show strength long enough, they can shove depression out of the way.
Kimmy does not allow the Tanner family’s cruelty to damage her self-worth. Despite the negativity, Kimmy remains confident and opinionated. She rarely misses an opportunity to flaunt her quirky individuality. Yes, Kimmy’s brand of self-expression includes stinky feet and shouted responses, but these eccentricities complement her larger-than-life persona. . . . Through the eyes of the Tanner family, Kimmy’s existence is an enigma, a puzzling juxtaposition of candid vulnerability and unapologetic panache. Kimmy should not be able to exist within the Tanner ecosystem, yet Kimmy flourishes in their presence, as if she is fueled by the doubt and insecurities of others.