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Enter The Void: Caesar’s Lament (This Is Halloween)

Here I am, 26 years old, watching Tim Burton’s ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ and realizing this film is over half my age (18 years old to be exact). The movie premiered at the New York Film Festival October 9th, 1993; I’ve fucked girls who were probably taking their first baby steps at this point…

Excuse me while I rapidly consume several strong alcoholic beverages at this thought.

Jack Skellington, the anti-hero protagonist of The Nightmare Before Christmas, resonates with me at sixteen and continues to resonate with me a decade later, for both very similar and very different reasons.

I’m not sure what it says about the attractiveness of my body that I strongly resemble a stop-animation cartoon character but if a 5’11″ real life, black version of Jack Skellington sounds like someone you might want to have sex with, I may be what you’re looking for. I have a slender frame, with absurdly long arms and legs connected to a short torso. My head is large, round and clean shaven.

Finally, much like Jack or the Grinch, on the rare occasion that I smile, it originates from the middle of my lips and radiates outward to the edges of my mouth.

The scene featuring the song ‘Jack’s Lament’ has been and continues to be my favorite part of The Nightmare Before Christmas. Jack strolls off alone after making a spectacular entrance filled with flames, fanfare and waves of adoration as the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town and its citizens celebrate another successful Halloween.

He’s solemn and despondent; while acknowledging his talents as the master of fright, the repetitious routine has begun to bore him. Jack spends much of the song wondering if there’s a world beyond the only one he’s ever known and confesses his willingness to give up the crown of the Pumpkin King along with responsibility and notoriety that comes with it.

Jack accidentally stumbles into Christmas Town where his curiosity becomes inflamed by the bright lights, white snow and jovial spirits of the residents. Christmas Town is completely opposite of Halloween Town in every way and Jack couldn’t be more thrilled about this. He’s so thrilled in fact, he comes up with an elaborate, well intended but ultimately disastrous idea which  is largely the center piece of the film.

It is entirely possible to be an unusual, maladjusted teenager who’s largely ostracized from their peer group and possess a limited desire to ever be ‘normal.’

I didn’t say it’s likely, just that it isn’t outside the realm of possibility…

I’m not that teenager… not even close. Nearly my entire adolescence is dedicated to muting my peculiarities as best as possible for the social approval of my fellow students and family members. Despite an ever increasing love for rock music, particularly rock music exploring the ‘darker’ side of the human condition (anger, depression, isolation, suicidal thoughts and/or actions, violence, etc.) it’s not something I talk about because black kids weren’t ‘supposed’ to listen that ‘white people shit’ (if you’re black and over the age of say, 24, you probably have some experience with this).

Having already gotten my ass kicked a few times merely for being an easy target (small, quiet, nerdy) openly discussing my fascination with Gothic aesthetics and culture is fucking out of the question. I enjoy watching sports and other typical ‘masculine’ behaviors but also really like fashion and watching Dawson’s Creek; I’m already being called a ‘fag’ because I genuinely enjoyed the company of women I have absolutely zero chance of sleeping with (quietly objectifying them seems like my best and only option at the time, so that’s what I do).

My adolescent reality is the prism with which I view the film for a number of years and why I see Jack as a kindred spirit. Like me, he’s ‘dark,’ ‘scary’ and largely misunderstood as a result. I empathized with him when his attempt at playing ‘Sandy Claws’ fails miserably because I saw it as ‘normal’ society rejecting him.

A decade later and watching Jack’s Christmas Town debacle makes me laugh for the same reason my repeated failed attempts at being a ‘normal’ person do (well… in hindsight anyway): neither of us had any goddamn business trying to be anything other than who we are. Jack eventually learns this lesson by the end of the film when he makes his triumphant return as the Pumpkin King after kicking Oogie Boogie’s ass.

I eventually learned this lesson when I mature enough to accept myself for the strange, perverse, fucked up person  I am.

While I appreciate the bright, sunny days with clear blue skies, gloomy, overcast days make me the happiest. I wear mostly all black even during the middle of the summer in the South and wear jewelry that probably could double as a weapon in hand to hand combat. A large part of my life revolves around books and reading but I never particularly enjoyed school past the 8th grade. 

Cooking is my coping mechanism for my self-destructive tendencies and emotional shortcomings. I’m a socially awkward misanthrope heavily involved in nightlife because I enjoy being surrounded by large groups of people despite my irrational uneasiness at interacting with them most of the time (ask my some of closest friends who regularly order for me at restaurants and coffee shops).

Crazier still is that having an intensely personal conversation with a relative stranger or with a great friend is one of my favorite activities… and something I wish I experienced more often.

I give very good advice but very seldom follow it. I’m hardest on the people I give a shit about the most. And finally, despite having (mostly) resolved my mother issues, I continue to attract self-absorbed daddy’s girls who are charmed by the fact I’m an asshole because they (whether they’re willing to admit it or not) are usually as fucked up as I am.

You get the point…

I am who I am and at this age, I’m beginning to make peace with that. So now that the desire to be a different person… to be a normal person has faded, I now view The Nightmare Before Christmas as a movie about self-acceptance. People don’t change… we can only improve and evolve to become better versions of who we already are.

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