Monday, April 20, 2009

Obsession Is Never Cool

The drag queens in the documentary Paris Is Burning were nothing short of obsessed with the balls they so intricately planned. Obsession isn’t always a good thing though. While the balls gave these men hope and something to strive for, the balls also took over their lives and left them with nothing in return— much as other obsessions tend to do. Drugs, sex, alcohol, etc all consume people’s lives and leave them with nothing in the end.

A prime example of this is Charlie Sheen’s character in the CBS comedy Two and a Half Men. Charlie is a middle-aged, fairly successful jingle-writer for commercials, but other than his house he has little to show for his life, no kids, no wife, not even much in the way of happiness. Why? Because he spends his time and effort on having sex with as many women as possible and drinks in his spare time. Charlie is the closest thing to a sex-addict you’ll find on primetime TV. Just like the drag queens though, his obsessive hobby brings him little more than a fun evening. Once the fun is gone though, he wants little to do with the women, and so is left with nothing. He doesn’t get the fulfillment of a serious relationship or anything else of the sort to show for his obsessive efforts. So once again obsession proves to be self-destructive and unfulfilling.

While those two examples make obsession seem like a bad thing, is that always the case? I would argue “yes.” Right now I’m reading the Twilight saga because I wanted to see what all the hoopla was about. (Once again, the obsessive nature of most Twilight fans is a bad thing, if not for it consuming their time and money, then for the rest of the world that has to see thousands of pre-teen girls running around with Richard Pattinson’s face on their shirts.) The plot of Twilight is a great example of obsession as well. Bella Swan is 200%, over-the-top, infatuated with Edward Cullen. Sure, he brings her happiness and love and all of those wonderful things, but he is also self-destructive for her. Bella becomes obsessed with the idea of becoming a vampire so she can spend eternity with Edward, and in most people’s opinions that is not a healthy desire. Her life becomes centered on Edward and her desire, so when he leaves town she becomes a zombie, almost lifeless without him around. That’s the point where I’d say the mania has gone a bit too far.

I tired my best to think of a single example of a healthy obsession, and I think I failed. Anything when taken to an extreme becomes unhealthy because it consumes you and leaves you with nothing when it’s gone. Dedication to something is good, it’s “cool,” but over-the-top obsession is not.


  1. Within your first paragraph, you begin to conflate cause and effect. There is somewhat of an underlined statement that the men in Paris is Burning were in their position because they weren't in touch with reality and couldn't achieve their goals after becoming obsessed with the balls, when it was in fact the other way around. Though I can't state from personal experience what it's like to live on the streets, I'm almost certain the hopelessness comes before looking for alternatives.

    In other words, if the question is, "Which came first - the balls or the depressed, obsessive, unchangeable position of the people in the movie?" the answer is almost without a doubt that the balls were created as a way to escape from the situation.

  2. I agree with you completely. I was only noting that the balls did nothing to help their situations, and in many cases it only worsened the destitute states they were already in. for example, if someone spends a month preparing for a ball and then loses the ocmpetition, they have lost all their money that oculd have spent on food or other necessities and aren't even left with the satisfaction of having their work pay off in the end.