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That’s a fairly well-suited metaphor for the state of my mind right now. Right through the long weekends, public holidays and off-days, I have done little else except read and learn. Once, upon a far-more-ignorant time, I thought that the phrase ‘reading for a Masters” degree was some antiquated turn of the Olde English. Not so. It appears that you actually have to read. A great deal.

So I have been a busy little lunchbox, packing myself with the prescribed diet of media studies (how the media shape and are shaped by society), semiotics (basically, the meanings of words and how we manufacture them), discourse analysis, marxism, postmodernism and a great deal more besides. Added to this, because I have a fairly clear idea of the dissertation topic I want to do, has been a bundle more reading about genocide – how it happens, how it is reported, the kinds of arguments we have about it and whose interests those arguments serve.

And so, like a scratch in an otherwise perfect view, I can’t stop seeing this history in action films now.

I’ve discovered at least three effects of this recent surge of academic reading. Firstly, that it can lead to some bizarre dreams if you go to sleep right after reading a journal article. Secondly, that it tends to distract noticeably from my blogging productivity – you need only check the date of my last post to confirm this.

And thirdly, that the theoretical readings – taken in total and chewed on a little – can really interfere with simply relaxing and enjoying the superficial mind-candies in the world. A case in point are action movies.

I used to love watching them as a sort of intellectual palate-cleanser in between more taxing thinking. There was something zen about turning my brain off and watching well-choreographed ass kicking. I suspect it’s a similar kick to a Mills & Boon novel, just with villians, superweapons and bigger biceps.

Hmm. Perhaps not the biceps. But you get the point.

It took preciselyone journal article to kill the experience for me. Ever notice how action flicks peaked in their frequency and masculinity sometime in the late eighties and early nineties? In part, that’s a reaction to feminism making inroads. A means of retaliating to a new idea with a stronger version of an old one. Where the feminist movement was hard at work breaking down a male-dominated system of power in society, society responded with a slew of movies basically centered on the idea of epic male power triumphing over all sorts of evil. And winning the respect of a suitably ditzy (yet hot) female lead along the way. Don’t believe me? Go and watch any of the Bond films from Timothy Dalton through to Pierce Brosnan. Or any Die Hard, Lethal Weapon or Schwarzenegger franchise.

And so, like a scratch in an otherwise perfect view, I can’t stop seeing the spectre of this reasoning in action films. Thank you Media Studies. Now I need to find movies with ass-kicking and a properly intelligent, non-patriarchal theme. How do you ask for that at the video store?