You’ll have to forgive me if I don’t feel like writing about music today. It’s a cold and rainy Saturday morning, about the usual I would expect from a Pittsburgh fall, but in light of the past few days’ events, I can’t help but feel uneasy. Sure, there’s been that overwhelming sense of doom since all the helicopters, barricades, and “less lethal” weaponry started arriving, but now it’s that calm period, that waiting to see when it’s all going to be over and we can have our city back. A little while ago, I was reading David Foster Wallace’s essay published in the early ’90s about the then-new David Lynch film Lost Highway. As he discusses various reasons why this film is (going to be) awesome, he mentions an aspect of why Lynch’s films are also really unpleasant to watch. “We need to believe,” he writes, “that our own hideousness and darknesses are secret.”
We’ve all had that experience reading a book or watching a movie and suddenly it’s over and you feel absolutely miserable and hopeless about this whole “being a human” business. I had this reaction most strongly while watching the latest Batman installment, The Dark Knight. I saw this movie three times in the theater, and unlike other movies where once you know how it ends you become less responsive, I became increasingly more upset each time I saw it. Part of what was frustrating about this experience was not being able to put my finger on what exactly it was that troubled me so much. A good friend of mine went with me every time to see the movie and had a similar reaction. For months, neither of us could figure out what it was about The Dark Knight that was so upsetting. At different points along the way, we made small progresses — something about the capacity and affinity in all of us to be violent and destructive, the mirror between Batman and the role of the United States, the idea of there being nowhere safe and no one to trust — but for the most part, the only thing we were ever really certain of was that the movie seemed to pull something together for us, even though we weren’t sure what that thing was.
So all week I’ve been thinking about The Dark Knight, and I have that same feeling I did each time I left the theater, taking the long road home, lying in bed and thinking about how quickly everything can be turned on its head. We know that something big has happened; that something has been set into motion that cannot be taken back. And maybe I’m being melodramatic about this; maybe by the time you are reading this Monday morning, Pittsburgh will have returned to its regularly scheduled programming. But my guess is that something’s changed, even if, like The Dark Knight, it’s going to take me a while to realize what exactly that means.