The Doctor and the warm blanket of pop culture

by Kat

Young Amelia and DoctorAfter a particularly difficult weekend, I remember telling a friend how the period following emotionally fraught social gatherings felt like being hungover. I had no desire to move anywhere or see anyone, and the lights in my apartment needed to be dimmed. That day after, when I was feeling completely and utterly shitty, felt best spent hiding under a blanket, marathoning an intricately plotted television show. Mind you, this process only works for about a day — then the part of me who’s learned  self-care strategies beyond hiding in my cave-like hermitage pushes me to spend time around other human beings. I’ve learned by now that long term self-isolation tends to make me feel worse.

So that’s where I found myself yesterday: On my floor couch (two cushions adjacent to one another, facing my coffee table, reminiscent of a couch), watching Doctor Who Christmas specials and knitting a hat I’d started weeks ago. I’d survived the holidays through a consistent stream of CBT-based self-talk and promises to myself that the minute everyone left, there would be a ridiculous amount of television available.

For me, pop culture (e.g., indie films, folky singer-songwriters, and episodic television) feels like a warm blanket. I can respond to things on a television screen or song in ways I can’t in my everyday life — I’m allowed to yell at characters for making life choices that hurt others and have extended conversations about the minutiae of plotting. I talk at my screen as if the characters could hear me; that’s probably why I watch television alone when I’m in a terrible mood — I worry what people would think of me if they saw me angry with fictional characters.

Back to the warm blanket thing — I suppose it’s comforting to have a medium in which I can process strong emotions that I’m not entirely ready to face in the real world. I sympathetically cry with characters who have experienced hurts similar to my own and celebrate with characters learning to make healthier life choices. As I watched Doctor Who yesterday, I alternated between finding joy in characters’ emotional growth and weeping when things just didn’t seem fair. In the warm blanket of pop culture, I begin to acknowledge those emotional states I can’t seem to slow down enough to recognize in my everyday life.

I long for a consistent narrative as I attempt to understand the painful bits of life. Maybe television, films, and emotionally evocative music provide that for me. It’s an emotional mirror for those times when I can’t label what I’m feeling, but can see it in others. So dear readers, I’ll close with the Eleventh Doctor’s closing monologue from this year’s Christmas special:

“We all change. When you think about it, we’re all different people all through our lives, and that’s okay, that’s good, you gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be. I will not forget one line of this. Not one day. I swear.”