You Are What You Watch

or, what you watch depends on who you are? That’s a kind of nature / nurture question. Or a “what came first?” trope. Isn’t it? Were you born a sociopath, a psychopath, or did events beyond your control make you into one? Is there such a thing as “bad seed”?

I came to this question when YouTube recommended to me the 1978 movie, Every Which Way But Loose. The recommendation I resisted for weeks because I remembered it as silly. However, I’d just watched the Netflix documentary, Chimp Empire and thought, why not revisit it? Because I recalled it featured an ape. I wanted to compare what I’d learned via the 2023 chimp doc, with that which Hollywood had shown us forty-five years ago.

Furthermore, a new John Wick movie was just released and that series (beginning in 2014) popped up on a feed. I’d not watched any of the three previous Wick flicks; but my son was a fan. And, he was coming out for a visit.

Maybe, I thought, we’d do a dinner and movie thing? so I’d better catch up.

[Funny how our mind works, isn’t it?] Let’s get into it.

It’s the same old song

or, at least, the same story. I can draw a line from chimp behavior, to a 1978 Hollywood film featuring an ape, to an ongoing current movie series featuring a sociopath. Of course, there are differences. Largely due to cultural and technological ‘upgrades’. However, progress is not a word I would use to describe all that is happening.

John Wick

In the first Wick film, the ‘bad guy’ declares to our ‘hero’, “People don’t change. You know that. The times they do.” John Wick is trying to change because of a woman. Because of love. For love’s sake. Again, the antagonist posits wisdom, “It was over a woman. Of course.” (Wick was the most ruthless assassin the world has ever known. And, he worked for the worst of people – The Russian Mafia.) He wants out. He wants to settle down with Helen – the woman he fell in love with.

The trope is: Strong, silent, tough, alpha male falls in love, turns tender (shows tender side) and desires to start a family. He also likes to rescue animals.  Aww … how sweet. How cute.

Keanu Reeves as John Wick

Every Which Way But Loose

The trope is the same.

Clint Eastwood as Philo Beddoe









Chimp Empire

It’s the same story; but real and thousands of years old.

Alpha chimp in the wild

If Apes Could Talk?

However, they can’t. Nevertheless, judging by his behavior I’m pretty sure Jackson (the alpha chimp) wouldn’t have much to say. He seems very similar to Philo and John – ‘talks’ with his fists. Moreover, he’s a ‘man’ of few words.

All three are ‘men’ of action. They lead violent lives that often result in death and destruction. Tragically. Do they have a choice?

And Yet

the alphas, all three, live to fight another day.  Against all odds. (Another trope.) Because they have friends, or alliances. That’s because they are the best at what needs to be done. They are competent. Which is? Something that requires “focus, commitment, and will”.  According to … the laws of nature. And also story tellers and screen writers.

In other words, the strong survive. Regardless of whose story it is, or who’s writing it.

In Conclusion

I know I’m asking more questions rather than providing support to my headline. Because I’m curious as to what you think.

I know I am in a great minority as to why we do what we do. (Seventy-five percent of Americans believe in a Higher Power. And that Power guides us, but grants us free will.) The why of our  behavior. (Most Americans believe in choice. I believe free will is an illusion.)  I adhere to theories, beliefs, and positions that are not popular. Regarding individuals, populations,  and groups.

I think we are mostly driven by unconscious motivations. In other words, Freud was right. We are, I think, mostly neurotic, or separated from our true Self. We don’t know who we are.

The John Wick series is, I think, deleterious to the health and well-being of humans. Because it gives permission, or validation to the natural inclination that ‘might makes right’. After all, that’s nature’s way.

However, I could be wrong. Maybe it’s just entertainment. Maybe I’m overthinking?

Inherent Violence

seems to be a part of nature.

Clyde, the orangutan in Every Which Way But Loose, was beaten to death by his trainer after the movie. I’m sure the dogs and horses in the John Wick movies have been treated far better. Notwithstanding, school shootings didn’t exist before The Matrix (March 1999). The Columbine massacre happened the next month. Coincidence? Theories are many, but no single motive has been agreed upon.

In Every Which Way But Loose the sound track is Country Western music – love and loss. In John Wick it’s Metal – violent and aggressive. In Chimp Empire the soundtrack is Classical and natural. The violence, in each, is different also. In the two Hollywood movies it’s often vicious but comical. In the documentary it’s shocking. The technology (cars, phones, and special effects) evolves from ’78 to 2023. Especially the weapons – from tooth and claw to machine guns and bombs. The culture (bars, restaurants, food, music, language, currency) also evolves.

In 1978 it was okay to drink and drive! It was okay to hit people who were assholes. Helmets and seat belts were not the norm. And yet … some things don’t change. Such as human nature. [look here:]

In the 21st Century, something seems to have gone wrong. People, it seems to me, have taken a wrong turn. It could be the Internet? Almost certainly, social media. People have lost touch – in every which way you can.

Post Script

Earlier I posted You Are what You Read. That idea came from a 1998 Hollywood movie. For sure, more people watch screens than read books. Reading, overall, is on the decline. Moreover, that which is being read is more often less than stellar.

I believe that writing is thinking. Writing is a way to organize and clarify the noise in your head. My question is: Where does the noise come from? From screens? From a “collective unconscious“? (Jung was right, too.)

Let me know what you think? I’m curious. Have you watched the above mentioned movies?


6 thoughts on “You Are What You Watch

  1. Heroes and villains, good guys and bad guys, good and evil; the stories are always the same. And to add insult to injury of our pathetic view of the world, there is an epic battle in heaven waged between a horde of demons led by Satan and angels who serve God. Yeah, being a human is a pathology.

    In Reality, there is no such thing as good or evil there is only what we do. Human behavior reduces to a simple dynamic of “I want or, I do not want”. Everything else is just a story we tell ourselves in an attempt to justify our actions and beliefs. It is this rudimentary dynamic that needs to be scrutinized not the stories we tell ourselves.

    This old hippie disagrees with very few if any of the stories we’ve been taught to believe; nothing “is” as it appears.

    “Trash the car Clyde……..”

    1. Thanks for reading, First Cause, and for your input. Back again to Freud (who thought and wrote A LOT). He came out with ‘the Pleasure Principle’ as motivation, or “I want”; countered by ‘the Reality Principle’ , or “I don’t want”. Thus, stories. Or tales we tell ourselves so as to feel better, and give us some hope. Is my best guess.

  2. Hey bro, thought-provoking, as usual. Haven’t seen any of the movies, but I love the way you reach across the decades to find parallels and synthesize and compare. Very cool and creative. Agree, writing is thinking. I often start with a purpose, but once I start writing, it goes where it goes. Had a quote in my classroom, which said: “Writing comes from writing, not from trying to think about what to write.” And as for screens, well, I need to use one to read & reply to this, but I MUCH prefer reading a book to a screen. Who wants to lie in the sand by the ocean, looking at a screen?

  3. Thanks so much, bro! I try. “often start with a purpose, but once I start writing, it goes where it goes.” Very true. “Writing comes from writing, not from trying to think about what to write.” Also true.
    “Who wants to lie in the sand by the ocean, looking at a screen?” Not this ole cowboy. Or sit on the balcony, deck, porch.
    But these days, with my eyes so old, screens are easier. The aging gunfighter trope. John Wayne, and Clint Eastwood for that matter, played the part so well. And chimp Jackson, too, in the real world.

  4. Ha! I just watched another movie Youtube recommended. KILLERS (2010) – the almost exact trope as the Wick Series. I really liked it! My doppelganger, Tom Selleck, has a supporting role. Guess I’m hooked.

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