Thursday, March 17, 2016

Television Characters, Sixteen-Year-Olds, Protecting People, and Emotional Blackmail

1. Dreamed that, I'm watching a court case, sort of like it's on TV.  But it's more like I'm sitting on the bed, and the show is all around me. I'm right near the witness stand. I start asking questions and interfering in other ways. 

The people near the witness stand don't seem impressed. They seem annoyed with me. I explain that I'm watching them on TV—that they're TV characters. The court people don't seem happy about this. I inform them that one of them is played by an Australian. This doesn't seem to please them either. I am guessing only a few people can see me, but then I look at a man towards the back and he looks back at me.

I think maybe the Australian actress was Kate Jenkinson, but I don't know for sure.  

2. Started watching an episode of Home and Away

3. Thought Marilyn (Emily Symons) was being too manipulative when she brought up her dead children as a tactic to get Jett (Will McDonald) to give up his military dreams.

I totally get her fears of losing another child, and I understand why she wouldn't want him going off to fight wars. But to bring up her past losses was very unfair to him.  

Jett can only be Jett. He can't be expected to be Marilyn's lost children and live a life he doesn't want.  
4. Disturbed by Jett's reasoning for not joining the military.

He tells his parents that he's decided that if he really wants to protect people, he should start with the ones that mean the most to him.


What if everyone that considers joining the military had that mindset?

And what about parents who are not just against joining the military, but don't want their kids far away doing any type of work where there might be risk?  What if no one joined any overseas charitable organizations like the Peace Corps or Doctors Without Borders?  

What if no one became a police officer or firefighter because they didn't want their family to worry?  

5. Thought the best way to deal with our child wanting to do something noble but dangerous is to show our respect for the idea and then also be upfront about our fears. Maybe it would be a good idea to gently give our child alternate ideas of ways they could make a difference in the world. Then if they still want to do the dangerous, noble thing, I think we have to accept it.  

I think it's very wrong, though, to use guilt trips or other forms of manipulation to get what we want.

6. Started to watch the rest of My Mistress.

7. Looked up the age of consent, because I tend to make the mistake that it's older than it is.

In My Mistress, Charlie (Harrison Gilbertson) has sexual relations with his neighbor, Maggie (Emmanuelle Beart). When I found out he lied about his age—sixteen rather than eighteen, I thought something illegal was going on. But then Charlie responded to questions about his affair by shouting that he's sixteen. His general message was, he's old enough and therefore should be left alone.  

I Googled, and saw that the age of consent, in Queensland, is sixteen. So nothing illegal is going on.

8. Felt that kind of changes my viewpoint of what I just saw. I'm not sure why it should. Morals should be more important than laws.  

Or maybe I'm unsure about the morality of it all, so I need the law to guide me in what's right and wrong.  

9. Figured I'd have stronger moral views when it came to ages less than sixteen.  

Or maybe less than fifteen.

Fifteen and sixteen is murkier.  

10. Thought that age isn't the only thing. I think there's also a question of physical and emotional maturity.  An adult sleeping with a fifteen year-old who's emotionally mature and has finished puberty (looks like an adult), probably seems less awful to me than one who sleeps with a sixteen year old who still looks and acts very young.  

11. Did think that Charlie, in the movie, looks and acts pretty young. He doesn't look younger than sixteen, but he also doesn't look older.  

12. Realized that it's probably unfair and dangerous to use the apparent maturity of a teen to judge the morality of sexual relations with them.  

So, I think age of consent laws are a needful thing.  

13. Tried to decide how I feel about all this.

I'm confused.

I think maybe it's that fifteen and sixteen seems awfully young. Fifteen is illegal. Sixteen is not. Should I be okay with sixteen since it's legal in some places?  I did feel better about Maggie's actions when learning the age of consent was sixteen. What if I found out the age of consent was fifteen? Would I still think what she did was fine—as long as it's legal.  

Shit. I have no idea.  

14. Decided I feel that eighteen is the best age of consent. The young person is officially an adult. They're usually finished with school.They're ready to start a new stage in life.

Then when it comes to ages fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen; I think it would be okay in special circumstances. For example, let's say there's a tutor and a teenager.  They're on a private plane that crashes on an island. They're together alone for months. If they have a romance...fine.  I read a book like that once, but I forgot the exact details. I think, actually, the man and woman didn't do anything illegal. They waited until the teenager was at the age of consent, before they had sexual relations.  

15. Felt sympathy towards what Charlie's mother (Rachael Blake) says to him; then I realized it's another example of parent manipulation.

She calmly tells him to take the photos he wants of his deceased father. Then she asks him to leave, saying she can't live with someone who hates her.

I can totally understand not wanting to live with someone that hates you. I've had roommates that weren't big fans of me, and it's awful to be in that situation.

But the relationship between parent and child SHOULD be different than that of roommates.

If a teenager is mad at their parent, that shouldn't be relabeled as hate. Doing so is exaggeration, and it's manipulative.  

Now I can't remember all the dialogue in the movie. Maybe Charlie did say he hates his mother, and maybe he actually does hate her. The thing is, hate is often the emotion we feel when we're very angry with someone we love.

Charlie is angry at his mom, because he caught her kissing a man immediately after Charlie's father committed suicide. What's inferred is that the father committed suicide because of the adultery.  

Charlie's in a very dark place. He's angry and sad. I think what's needed is a good screaming and crying match, not a farewell.

Still, though, the mother's tactics did work. I think what she was going for is to have Charlie to feel guilt about the way he's been treating her. I don't think she actually wanted him to leave.

And in a scene, of them together, that I just watched, Charlie was hugging his mom.

16. Realized what the mother did was reverse psychology.

Does that count as manipulation?

I think it does.  

In some circumstances, I think reverse psychology is a benign type of manipulation. In this case, I think it's unfair.  

16. Thought of a time I was manipulative in that type of way.

It was when Jack was a young child. We were at Disney World together, and we kept fighting. There were disagreements and tantrums. Then, at one point, I lost my cool and told Jack next time he could go to Disney World with his Dad, and I'd refrain from joining them. Unlike Charlie's mother, I didn't get what I wanted. Jack didn't declare that he wanted me at Disney World too. He didn't cry out that he'd never want a vacation without me.  From what I remember, he seemed pleased with the idea of a mommy-free vacation.

Good for him.  

It's a good thing when people can stop manipulative tactics in their tracts.

If you don't, you just invite more manipulation.  

17. Had lots of confusing thoughts about manipulation.  

I have questions dancing through my mind in a jumbled mess.

Where do I draw the line between benign manipulation and unhealthy and unfair manipulation?

We all want people to act in certain ways towards us and do things for us. We also want people to NOT act in certain ways towards us, and there are things we want them not to do. If we behave with the goal of getting people to do what we want, is that always manipulation? Is it always wrong?  

18. Felt that very bad manipulation can also be labeled as emotional blackmail. I think this usually involves threats.

In the movie, when Maggie tries to break away from Charlie, he threatens to kill himself. This is definitely emotional blackmail. Sadly, it worked on Maggie, and this is when she agreed to have sex with him.  

In Disney World, what I did to Jack was emotional blackmail.  I think it was definitely wrong.  If I had really felt that I didn't want to do another Disney World trip, then the mature and decent thing to have done was cheerfully encourage Jack and Tim to go on a trip alone together. That's NOT what I had wanted, though. What I wanted was for Jack to realize he didn't want to go on a trip minus me.

19. Thought that the mother in My Mistress was also using emotional blackmail. I think the more mature thing to have done was fight it out with her son. Or maybe it would have been fine, if for awhile, the two of them shared an antagonistic quietness. 

20. Thought that expressing anger and sadness isn't manipulation or emotional blackmail.

I think it's only emotional blackmail when threats are made or when guilt trips are used.

Then again, maybe guilt trips and emotional blackmail are one and the same.  

21. Looked at a website about emotional blackmail, and according to them, I've been using the term wrong.

They say emotional blackmail must have four components—a demand, a threat, a blackmailer, and a victim.

22. Confused. I was thinking my Disney World example and the My Mistress example wouldn't count, because there were no demands.  

But then the website gives examples, and I don't see any demands.

23. Figured that sometimes demands can be implicit rather than directly stated.  

24. Looked at the website's definition of emotional blackmail: A system of threats and punishments used in an attempt to control someone’s behaviors.

It's kind of broad.

In a way, that's the method used by many when trying to discipline their young children.

Is it emotional blackmail for a mother to take her screaming and kicking child home from the grocery store?

25. Looked at another line on the website.  Emotional blackmailers demand something the victim does not want to give, in an attempt to gain the upper hand where there are conflicting interests or wants.

Again, this is something that often occurs between parent and child.  It happens in a lot of relationships. People in relationships often have conflicting interests.

26. Thought that there are ways to distinguish emotional blackmail from normal and NOT unhealthy conflict.

I think okay attempts at shaping behavior occur when,

A) what the person demands is fair and reasonable

B) the threat is reasonable.

Would it be emotional blackmail for a person to say to her brother, If you call me fat one more time, I'm not coming to visit you anymore?  

No, I don't think so.

What if the mother in My Mistress said, I'm not going to let you swear at me. If you do, I'm leaving for awhile.

It's fair for her not to want her son to swear at her. It's fair for her to take a temporary leave of absence.

27. Thought it was unfair for the mother, in the film, to tell her son to leave, because he's sixteen. As far as I know, he doesn't have anywhere else to go.

I think a mature thing the mother could have done, if she really needed time away from her son, is have a plan of where he could go.  Maybe there's a relative he could stay with? Boarding school?

28. Had idea that a lot of our interaction with others involves manipulation. Some of it is fine, and some of it is not fine.

I think it's a bad thing when we want something that's unreasonable; we're being exceptionally selfish; or we're chronically selfish.

I think it's bad when we use unreasonable threats or we use tactics to make the person feel bad about themselves.

I also think it's bad when we use manipulation try to stop someone from pursuing happiness...if what makes them happy doesn't cause great harm to you or others.  Of course, that's up for major debate. Some might think Marilyn, on Home and Away, had every right to try and prevent her son from joining the military. Because war kills. It does cause harm. But on the other side of the argument: sometimes NOT going to war causes harm.

29. Thought again that I'm falling into confusing territory.

I'm struggling what I said about using tactics to make someone feel bad about themselves. Because I think sometimes THIS is okay too.  Sometimes people are going to feel bad, and they should!

For example, the guy who calls his sister fat. If his sister manages to make him feel bad about his behavior, I think that's a good thing.

I think, though, that there are certain tactics that are unfair.

Marilyn bringing up her dead babies was unfair.

I think it's also unfair to bring other people into the mess.  The trick there is getting the victim to feel that no one, or hardly anyone, is on his side.  Sometimes this is done with the martyr tactic. This is where you tell them, YOU are okay with their behavior. You're strong. You're reasonable. But their behavior is hurting other people, and you feel so sorry for these other people.

Then there's the tactic of, I've done so much for you.This is the thanks I get in return? In other words, because I've given you stuff or done things for you, you're not allowed to be angry at me, or do things that benefit you and not me.

And there's the I'm-so-horrible tactic. I guess this proves I'm a horrible brother. I can't do anything right.  Can I?  Note: This shouldn't be confused with a true bout of low self-esteem.  Sometimes people really do hate themselves and feel worthless. What I'm talking about is when a person takes another person's reasonable anger and blows it up into something that's not reasonable. So...saying you don't want to be called fat by a sibling suddenly turns into you hating your sibling. Essentially, it turns you into the bad guy and the manipulator into the victim.

30. Thought about more crap. My head is so confused.

I think, though, that this is my conclusion.

We all manipulate others. We all give people guilt trips. These things are not neccessarily horrible. Sometimes they're not even bad.  There might be cases where we change people for the better with a little manipulation and a guilt trip here and there.

There is, however, manipulation that is unfair and emotionally harmful. I think most of us are guilty of this bad least a little bit, here and there. It's part of being human. It doesn't mean we're bad people.

Marilyn, on Home and Away, is a wonderful person. She's very kind. She's thoughtful. She's full of love.   Using the death of her babies was not fair and not nice, but it doesn't change the fact that she's usually a very good mother.

I acted badly at Disney World. Ten years later, I'm still ashamed of it. BUT I think for the most part, I'm quite decent at being a mom.

31. Felt what's not okay is people who use unfair and emotionally harmful manipulation on a frequent basis.  If once in the while, you lose the plot...fine. That's understandable. If you're frequently being emotionally harmful to get your way, that's much less fine.

I think it's also not good when a person doesn't realize they're being manipulative, and they actually imagine themselves to be the victims of the situation. Like the military thing, this too could be up for debate  What's seen as an email full of righteous indignation to one person might be seen as emotional blackmail by it's recipient.

32. Looked back at the emotional blackmail examples on the emotional blackmail website.

The first two are pretty cut and dry in my opinion.  If I ever see another man look at you, I will kill him; and If you ever stop loving me, I'll kill myself. 

I think the other examples are much more ambitious.

A) I’ve already discussed this with our pastor/therapist/friends/family and they agree that you are being unreasonable.

I think dragging other people into the situation is a VERY manipulative tactic, but what if there's good reason for it? For example, what if it's a woman trying to convince her husband not to keep the children locked up in the basement?  What if she's trying to convince him that it's reasonable to let the kids have some freedom?

B) I'm taking this vacation—with or without you.

What if Tim promised me a trip to Australia; then at the last minute changed his mind about going? I think it would be TOTALLY reasonable for me to say that.

C) Your family hates me. How can you say you love me and still be friends with them?

I think there are very few cases where people should forbid someone from being friends with someone else. BUT what if this person's family was truly hateful and cruel to the person giving the ultimatum? What if it went beyond normal in-law antagonism?  Then I wouldn't blame the person for feeling a friendship with the family equals a lack of love for the partner. In that case, the question is kind of a fair one. How can you love someone and also love the people who are horrible to the person you love? But I'm talking about bona fide, chronic abuse, NOT a mother-in-law that makes snide comments about her daughter-in-law's cooking.

Also...Though, I would never forbid a friendship, there are times where I want a friendship to be reduced.  For example, Tim was sending Christmas and birthday cards to someone in the family who wouldn't even acknowledge my birthday, and they rejected me on Twitter...twice. I would never forbid Tim to be friends with this person, but I did make it known that I wasn't happy about the gifts continuing.

Also, if I'm very mad at someone, I don't like seeing a loved one being overly chummy with the object of my wrath. In other words loving me doesn't have to include being enemies with my current enemies, but I also don't want to see you loving them too enthusiastically.

D) You’ve ruined my life and now you are trying to stop me from spending money to take care of myself.

I think in most cases, if someone says someone else has ruined their life, it's an exaggeration.

But sometimes, it might actually be true. If that happens, the ruined-life person should totally take all the money and go on a shopping spree.

E) I took the money because you always put yourself first and don’t seem to care about my needs.

Again. What if that's true?!  Then the so-called emotional blackmailer should totally take the mooney and buy something awesome.

33. Realized I'm being dishonest about C.

If I'm hating on someone, I want Tim hating on them too.

The problem is I quite often change my mind about who's on my shit-list.  It would be very unfair of me to expect anyone to keep up with it.  They COULD maybe try, though....

What if I put a dry erase board in the kitchen?  It could say, Dear Tim. WE are currently angry with the following people. 

Actually, though, what I usually do now is keep the list to myself. That way I'm not sitting there waiting for Tim to come to my side.  He can't join my parade if he doesn't know about it.  And if he doesn't know about it, I can't get angry at him for not joining. If I'm not angry, there's less chance I'm going to do crazy, mean emotional blackmail type stuff.

34. Went back to watching My Mistress.  Finally.

My rambling on and on has really stretched out this movie for me.

I hope nothing in the last ten minutes of the movie gets me going on another tangent.

35. Finished watching My Mistress.

36. Went to to pick my next thing to watch.

It's Strangerland, which I see from Google has gotten bad reviews on both Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic.


Well, maybe I'll be one of those rare people who like the movie.

37. Looked at the cast list for Strangerland,  and saw that Meyne Wyatt, from Neighbours, is one of the stars. That's cool. I look forward to seeing him.