I wrote this at 5 am this morning. Because Bird Box shook me to my core.
I admit I’m not the best horror movie watcher; My girlfriend is the real aficionado, and I’ve slowly learned from her about you can relish the excitement in the darker parts of life. And I thought I could… until I tried to sleep last night.
Fortunately, I’m not the only one. The movie’s made a massive impact; 45 million individual accounts, a third of its total subscriber base, saw it on its first week, and more importantly, the movie’s memes are amazing. In fact, the first place I was exposed to the movie was on a Facebook debate; one person thought the movie was overhyped, and another sung the movie’s praises.
Impact facts aside, the central motivator of the movie… captured me. Minor spoilers ahead, but the creatures in the movie are so dangerous because they show the humans of the earth something…indescribable… that drives them to madness. Most people can’t take the vision and kill themselves, and the only ones who don’t were already deemed insane by society’s standards.
I couldn’t help but think: how could that happen to me? What would drive me insane? Maybe it’s fearing not having done enough in the world. Maybe it’s not helping my family and friends the way I should. Or, it could be trypophobia. Everyone’s scared of trypophobia.
Whatever the fear is, what’s truly scary is how these fears literally make the movie’s characters uncontrollable. If they’re driven to suicide, or driven to show others the creature, they are no longer have power over their own lives. I find that my favorite horror movie stories are about those concepts. As an avid manga reader, I’m a huge fan of Junji Ito’s Uzumaki and The Enigma of Amigara Fault; but those stories didn’t have me sleeping three hours a night.
However, there are countless things out of my control every day. There are countless things in the world humans try and fail at controlling: the weather, the Donald Trump candidacy, what our children are exposed to on the internet. It’s likely part of the reason why I was pulled to design as a field, because of what it stands for: humans’ ability to make the world as they see fit. It’s probably why I was so scared of having that control taken from me; as a designer, it’s a motivating force in my life.
What’s the takeaway? Designer’s fears are their superpower. When we understand what scares us — losing our control over the ability to reform our world — we come to grips with what is at stake. Countless complex problems are being addressed — and needs to be addressed — before it’s too late for the world as a whole. To do so, we have to remember this core — these powers we do have — so we aren’t swayed by the larger forces which keep us from accomplishing our goals.
Maybe. At least, it helps me sleep at night.