justin stroup

Matthew Gaston —The Sheridan Press | Justin Stroup is the person behind the WYO Film Festival.

My wife is one of the most empathetic and sensitive people I know. For all her psychic connection to every living being and state of matter in the universe, she loves incredibly twisted stories that I just can’t handle. Don’t get me wrong, I love the goriest, most over-the-top horror movies you can find. I can watch those all day long. My darling bride, on the other hand, hates horror movies. She doesn’t see the point.

For me, most classic horror movies act as an escape from reality. Everything is “dialed to 11” and as a result I can just experience the movie like some sort of amusement park ride. Tidal waves of blood gushing out of an old-timey hotel elevator make me giggle.

My saint of a spouse is different. She loves stories where whole worlds have been carefully crafted as a sick reflection of our society and our relationships for our viewing pleasure. Dystopian dramas like Black Mirror or The Handmaid’s Tale fill her with such joy that it frightens me to the core.

To look over at the other side of the couch and see how her eyes shine with sublime happiness as some poor sap on the TV experiences trauma fills me with dread. It’s scary how much she loves this stuff.

She sleeps easier at night after watching these shows. I lie in the dark next to her, emotionally overcome by the wickedness of humanity while she dreams of fluffy cartoon lambs dancing in a field full of butterflies and sunbeams.

We’ll finish an episode of one of her shows where society is breaking down in ways that seem all too likely to happen in real life and she’ll immediately say in the sweetest voice, “Let’s watch another one!” She’ll look over at my face, still a twisted mask of shock and horror, and I’ll quickly try to smile and say, “Sure, honey!”

I can’t bring myself to say “no.” I mean, these shows are incredible. The writing is top notch. Production value is very high. This is quality stuff…and she is so happy.

I look at the clock, hoping that the end of the next episode will coincide with a time that means we have to go to bed since we both have work in the morning. It doesn’t matter. When there’s extreme emotional trauma on the screen, there is no reasonable hour for bedtime.

I find myself faux yawning and saying something like, “Gee whiz, hun, it sure got late in a hurry!” She frowns at me and asks dryly if I’m a dad from a 1950s sitcom. I laugh nervously and settle in for another episode where a guy’s consciousness is stuck in an online afterlife simulation for eternity.

My soul is battered and cracked as I head up to bed. My beloved skips past me while singing a song to our dog. Maybe she’ll let me watch something light tomorrow. You know, like a show about an axe murderer or something. I just can’t take the scary stuff she watches.

Justin Stroup is executive director of the WYO Film Festival.

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