Readers Write In #202: Of Cinema, television and depression

Posted on June 7, 2020


(by Amit Joki)

Cinema and television are such wonderful artistic expressions, no? They make you laugh, they make you cry, they astonish you, they make you feel alive, they make you feel included, they make you feel love, all the wonderful things.

But one thing that doesn’t get talked about much is, how they cause depression.

Now, to be clear, I am not talking about those which are depressing by nature of their stories, like say Schindler’s List. No, I am not talking about those.

I am also not talking about how some people feel depressed wanting to look as perfect as Hritik/Ranveer on screen. No, I am not talking about those either.

I’ll just get on with it.

Proms and dates.

Proms and dates are as good a topic as any to start with. My earliest memory of witnessing prom dates back to Emma Watson walking down the stairs in a beautiful pink dress in Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire.

Now, as someone who is living in less jazzy parts of Madurai, as someone whose mother thinks any girl I talk with is out to steal me from her (boy could she be more wrong?), I have always been enchanted by the idea of proms and dates.

Tuxedos, Corsages, Limousine, picking your date from her house, having the Dad Talk (TM), the ballroom, hands on her hips, her hands across the shoulder, the eye contact, the slow dancing to some of the most exquisite songs I’ve ever heard – the date songs, rounding up the night by taking her to a cosy little restaurant for the dinner, dropping her off at her house with a good night kiss, anxiously waiting to hear if the second date is on.

I have been intoxicated by this idea for as long as I can remember. Western countries are so good. Taking a girl to the dance is almost a social convention!

Compare it with the place I live, where, there’s no healthy boy-girl interaction, where, if you’re found talking to a girl, everyone in the public turn into creepy onlookers.

I was more recently depressed when at the end of Season 2 of the Stranger Things, there’s a snow ball.

I searched up the cast and they were 16! Another scene comes to mind of Clay Jensen and Hannah Baker dance to the “Night We Met”

Incidentally, the songs that play in the above videos – Every Breath You Take and The Night We Met are one of my favorites.

I am a huge fan of The Good Doctor which is about an autistic person with savant syndrome. Freddie Highmore plays the character to perfection.

There’s an episode about a couple who met each other in cancer support group and the girl and the guy are so excited about their prom. But it it is at that moment that the girl gets sick and bedridden. Her prom dream is about to be shattered, but will it?

Thankfully, no. Thanks to the residents and doctors, they have a in-house prom party with Ed Sheeran’s Perfect being played in the background.

The show also explores the difficulty of dating an autistic person. Shaun Murphy (the autistic character), gets one of the wholesome romances I have ever seen and I shouldn’t be feeling jealous about it, but I sure did. I wished I was that autistic character in that universe so I could experience what he did.

I started with Emma and let’s end with Emma.

This was my last straw  when in Beauty and Beast they have a ballroom dance. Emma again is so beautiful, words wouldn’t describe her.

As someone who has been single his entire life, all the above scenes are excruciatingly painful to watch because when I am watching it, I place myself in the scene and when I am done watching it, the harsh reality of life comes crashing down.

I understand why Mallorie “Mal” Cobb did not want to get away from the dream world in Inception. I wouldn’t have too.

Now, I won’t begin about how depressing it was to watch Sex Education. I took solace in the fact that it probably took place in college. But no, I had to search for it and found out that apparently it all takes place in a school. Hmmph.


The second topic could be about trains. I will forever hate Gautam Vasudev Menon for he singlehandedly ruined my train journeys.

Every time I ride the train, I hope for a girl to be seated opposite to my seat. But the reality is, I wouldn’t find such girls if I searched the entire compartment.

You don’t know how depressing it can be when you’re expecting a girl to be within your eyesight but all you get are some old grandpas and grandmas happily munching away.

Life does not imitate art. A lesson I learned through much pain.


The third topic could be depression and its representation. Every time someone feels down in a television series, there’s people all around, going, “Sweety are you okay? Do you want to speak about it?” in all their fancy accents and all.

And the next thing, they end up at a therapist.

In here, if you say you think you have depression, people will go, “Say what?” People here will be more concerned with a common cold or cough than with the mental health. But given how kids are raised in Indian households, depression will be the last thing on their mind.


What I find depressing is that in the mostly-western Cinema and Television that I watch, everything that I feel like I lack here, everything that would make life more ideal, is “normal” in the western countries.

I don’t expect a date. I will be very happy to be the guy who has no one to dance with (although that would hurt a little). But I at least expect such a thing or a similar alternative concept to exist. I sometimes wish I was born in a Western country.

I recently watched Magnolia and when Donnie, the quiz kid, says at the mark 0.25,

“I don’t know where to put things, you know? I really do have love to give! I just don’t know where to put it!”

I felt a lump in my throat. I misted up a bit. I had goosebumps. I resonated with it so perfectly, it hurt. It described my life. It made me finally write this piece. So yeah, films and television can be pretty depressing and escapism isn’t always a good thing.