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On the day after our wedding anniversary, I woke with a slight hangover. It wasn’t the wine, because I don’t drink anymore. Or the cigarettes — gave those up too. The red curry at the Thai place was a bit heavy, but I didn't eat that much because we had to rush to our movie.

“How about The Many Saints of Newark?” I had asked my husband, looking over the movies showing that weekend. We normally see spy flicks, his favorite, but this was a mafia film. “It tells the backstory of the main character of The Sopranos.

My dad and I used to be really into the mafia. We watched all the Godfather movies and would trade paperbacks by Nicholas Pileggi about underground men who defied the bureaucrats and created their own dark and dazzling order.

My husband agreed with a shrug. I had never seen The Sopranos — when it came out in 1999, its optics of suburban decay and track suits depressed me — but when the cinema went dark, I felt a familiar sense of promise and awe.

The protagonist was a good-looking charismatic man, always dressed in elegant suits, always ready with the perfect line, the guy everyone in the family loved. But early in the movie he kills his father in a fit of rage. The old man was brutish, misogynistic, and abusive to the young wife he had just brought back from Italy. It felt like justice, but by the end of the movie, I was confused.

The blackness of sleep that night, usually enveloping and restoring, was slotted with images of the handsome man in the silk suit interchanged with tortures, drownings, shoot-outs, and bloody beatings. The next day, a cloud of nausea hung over me.

Our amazing bodies have a way of transmuting the food we put into them: filtering out toxins, retrieving nutrients, and eliminating what is not needed. How do our minds do this work?

Images from movies I saw years ago (Black Mass, Memento) still rattle around inside me like bits of calcified stone. We deposit things into the memory bank of the brain, but to extract them? We return again and again to disturbing stories, and some just never dissolve.

I've developed an intolerance to violence, I concluded. Or have I allowed myself to be sensitive to an intolerance I’ve always had?

1 Comment

Nov 02, 2021

I feel this. After I had my kids I suddenly was unable to watch movies with extensive violence, or where women/children were in danger. Even now I often have to leave the room when the protagonists are threatened. It isn’t an intellectual stand, it’s primal. As if my body, having grown babies, had a visceral reckoning of the cost of each life onscreen.

and like you I find that shows (especially when seen next to bedtime) bleed into my dreams - the colors, the emotions. It can be exhilarating but sometimes also alarming.

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