Optimism, Pessimism, and Zac Efron: Pen Pal Letter #7

We all end up the same way.

To Whom It May Concern:

My writing always has to have a message. That message most often is “Life is terrible. Be optimistic about it.”

Honestly, that tracks with my personal life. I’ve been described as an “optimistic pessimist” before and when asked for clarification that person said “You’re a pessimist but you’re really happy about it.”

That kind of makes me sound like I’m happy that bad things happen. That is not the case (or is at least a very limited way of understanding my feelings on the matter).

A few months ago, I watched the show Down to Earth with Zac Efron. It’s not good. Not only do the dynamics between Efron and his cohost, Darin Olien, appear a little icy, but there are a ton of inaccurate or unproven claims made about health and wellness. Not only that, but the show presents itself as an optimistic and helpful piece of media, but is truly a depiction of nihilism. There are many times when the show highlights social issues like food insecurity and then just moves on without making a thesis statement about them, leaving the audience with an idea of the problem without any ideas of how to solve it.

I loved every second of watching it.

Obviously, it has some redeeming qualities. Efron is fun and funny and energetic. Some of the guests are quite charming. Still, I would say that the bad in the show far outweighed the good. That said, I didn’t hate-watch it with derision. I did so with a lot of happiness.

The first YouTube video I ever saw from Jenny Nicholson was her review of the movie Beastly. I’m not sure what compelled me to click it at the time. I’ve never seen Beastly nor have I ever felt any desire to see it. Nonetheless, when it popped up as a suggested video, I moved my little curser over the thumbnail for the video, and I clicked.

The thing that I loved so much for that video was Nicholson’s enthusiasm as she described the terrible qualities of the film. I had seen other video essays about and film critiques of objectively bad movies, but they either had a tone of irritation toward the film and its creators or they had an echo of nostalgia like “look at this bad film I used to like before I had taste”. Her video had neither. It was just pure joy at watching and enjoying something not in spite of its flaws but because of them. There is good in the bad. It all just depends on perspective.

I don’t make value judgments on the optimist, pessimist or realist outlooks. No matter how we see the world, we all end up the same way. What I mean by that is that we all will fantasize about Zac Efron at some point in time.

When I feel like I am just writing the same thing over and over again, I try to remember that the thing I keep reiterating is the framework through which I view the world. I don’t know why I hold this point of view, nor do I think it’s good or bad. It is just what I have arrived at after my years of living so far. It’s something that is bound to come up over and over as I look at everything that did happen, everything that is happening, and everything that could happen. I’m still trying to figure out myself and to figure out the world. I am a poet after all. And those current thoughts and that struggle are worth telling y’all about.

Wishing you all the best.

Sincerely,

Joy


Photo by Artem Beliaikin from Pexels

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