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Why I Won’t See Scary or Disturbing Movies (Except If They’re About the Holocaust): Ever

Updated: Oct 15, 2023


Last night, Ken and Natalie were astonished that I refused to watch “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” with them, although I’ve been conveying my refusal to see films like this for years. I still regret seeing “Black Swan” last year, and if I can help it, I will keep avoiding films with seriously unhappy endings except for movies about the Holocaust and other autrocities.


So I contradict myself, but the deal is that I’m one of those people who is unduly influenced by the medium of film. I see a movie, and for days, it continues to play in my mind, unfurling the ending after the ending or showing me more background. If it’s a particularly good film or has spectacular acting, I might just feel like I’m one of the characters for a while. Back when I used to drink, I was an excessively cheap drunk (half a drink was all it took), and I’m pretty much like that with movies too.


This is not to say I don’t see serious films that have a lot to say about our social constructs. I saw and deeply pondered “Crash,” “Breakback Mountain,” and many documentaries and other films about Rwanda, Bosnia, and many other stories of great devastation. Having immersed myself in writing a book on the Holocaust for the last five years and having been intensely drawn to learn more about the Holocaust for years, I also see just about anything that comes out related to the camps, stories of survival or not, and other angles of this astonishing atrocity.


But when it comes to watching more popular films about trauma and danger, I’ve learned my limits. This is not to say that “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” isn’t an important set of films (in Swedish and English) and that we shouldn’t be watching how a victim reclaims her power or, in the case of “Black Swan,” what unravels someone in a perfectionist profession. But some of us (like me) just are too rattled by such films to process them. These kinds of films infiltrate my dreams, tip over my thoughts and thinking, and shake me from some of the work and life that calls most to me.


While Ken and Natalie watch the second and third in the series of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” over the next few days, I’ll be minding my mind by practicing the cello, messing around on facebook, reading a book, petting the cat or even watching, for the 15th time, “Mrs. Doubtfire.”

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