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The Philosophical Aspects Of Brain Candy

April 12, 2013

“Yeah, even me. But as soon as I got depressed, I got undepressed. ‘Cause as I was cleaning the gleaming guts of that bird off my car, I thought of a name for the drug – Gleemonex. The slogan – Gleemonex makes it feel like it seventy-two degrees in your head… all… the… time!”

Since I’m in an updating sort of mood I think I’ll present to you what I should have said in my philosophy class when given the subject, “Pick a movie and point out its theme,” I would have done The Kids In The Hall: Brain Candy. If you’ve never seen this movie before I highly recommend checking it out. True, while it’s not as great as their tv show it still has a lot of gems to it and I think the message is worthwhile. The plot of the movie is as follows:

Dr. Chris Cooper (Kevin McDonald) develops the most effective anti-depressant ever; it reaches into your brain chemically and finds your happiest thought, chemically, and makes you happy happy. The downside is that Don Roritor (Mark McKinney) is gutting his research and development and must find a new drug to justify the expense. Some hijinx ensue and to save his lab Dr. Cooper says that the drug is safe and effective. Aaand….that’s pretty much the plot of how the world starts falling apart.

[Spoilers beyond this point]

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Still here? Okay. So the drug turns out to be faulty by putting people permanently into their happiest memory which leaves them in a coma state (or at least reliving the happiest memory repeatedly) which leads to a worldwide crisis because like most corporations trying to get their drug to as many people as possible they make it available over the counter. To quote Don Roritor, “Your drug is effectively changing the world for the better. It’s important that you know that. Have you heard that crack is gone? Crime is down… and oddly enough, so is tourism.” Obviously I don’t think a company would allow for this kind of thing to be so…public. But it’s a comedy so what do you expect?

Instead of trying to find a cure he invests in ‘Comatoriums’ to which Dr. Cooper disagrees and this is after he discovers the problem and made all of the money off of the drug. I think what this movie is trying to say in its own way (despite it being plainly stated) is that happiness doesn’t come cheaply or in a pill. Undeserved happiness is a sure way to failure and trying to live in our own pasts to make our present happy will only lead to unhappiness for the families involved. You do need the sad, bitter, and lonely days to contrast with the happy. How can you ever appreciate what’s in your life if you have no means to measure it?

Yeah, your days might suck and they might be trying, but that’s the point: life isn’t meant for total and complete happiness all the time. In fact, I dare say that our ideal of what happiness is is totally out of whack with reality. I read a Psychology Today article that really made me think about my happiness and how it’s not entirely what we think it is (link). It’s contentment and not this over-blown sugar coated sickiening thing that most people see it as. None of us could measure up to that feeling. And we (I’m using the royal we because this is seemingly universal) we feel depressed when we fail–when we don’t measure up.

Another angle to this movie is the Corporation vs. The Everyman, yeah, the struggle between Roritor Industries and the small R&D crews is quite on the nose. This big monolithic corporation trying to find the next big thing other than Stummies really tears through its own people in its pursuit of a new drug. Then when up against the wall their scientist does what anyone aware that the noose is tightening would do: he lies. And that lie leads to bigger problems and bigger problems until it starts affecting everyone everywhere.

This is some nasty stuff and the complicated desires between business and good products. Any company that acted this way would rightly be sued into oblivion, but the PR spin seems to work in the end as everyone’s so goddamn happy. Other issues which are touched upon are creativity and depression and how Grivo plays this small club every night when he’s depressed, but when he’s happy he’s winning awards for his song Happiness Pie. Which says something even worse about the music industry because that’s what people seem to enjoy: sugary happy shit. The other is Wally and his closeted homosexuality and how he goes to outrageous lengths to hide the fact that he likes men despite the fact that it’s not exactly a secret and that he should just be himself, but society kind of told him a while back that you don’t get anywhere by being that open. He inevitably takes the drug and becomes extremely openly gay as well as falling into a happy coma.

Yeah…I really enjoy this movie and it says a lot about our culture of wanting to be perpetually happy and how if you’re not then you’re not really accepted as a person or by anyone–which isn’t true. That we should stop trying to be happy and just try to enjoy ourselves while we’re here. Or at least that’s what I got from it. Anyone else care to chime in with a differing view?

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