The Unloved, Part 120: The Claim

When I got to Boston in the winter of 2008 for schooling, I knew almost no one. I had family that I roomed with for a semester and took it as my burden that by living an hour’s train ride away, it wouldn’t be feasible or realistic to try and do much in the city, and that included making friends to see outside of class. Not that I didn’t try, but my awkwardness made that difficult. So I watched movies. I watched at least two movies a day and read criticism. The next semester, I moved into my own apartment, and the loneliness grew worse. I listened to The Smiths’ “The Queen is Dead” and The Chameleons’ “Strange Times” every second I was between my apartment and classrooms. I watched three movies a day. 

Except on the days I watched “Alien³.” I bought it used from a record store in Harvard Square that isn’t there anymore, and I watched it sometimes once a day for a week. I was obsessed. Just what had happened to this movie and its young director? What secret things were hiding in the margins of this arcane work of secret artistry in an era of soulless studio products? I was still lonely, but I was preoccupied. I was fascinated. The apartment had bugs, it was a scam, and I was later kicked out by a landlord I’d never met who was very conspicuously not the man to whom I was paying rent. It was cold, it almost burned down, and no one else in the building shared my language … but I had a movie, which became a place in which I was happy to get lost. I didn’t feel so lonely or cold then. 

I was working my night shift at Siren Records when Matt Zoller Seitz called me to discuss a video I’d just sent him for review. Seems I wasn’t the only one fascinated by “Alien³.” No, it turns out that many people had been looking for permission to take their affection for objects just like it and make it a more prominent, proud piece of their personality. Seems people were tired of being told that this is empirically bad. Seems that cultural boilerplate had a way of seeming unfair and boring and had a way of making all of us who spurned it feel a little lonelier. He then asked me if I would consider continuing to do this, and I felt something I’d never quite felt before: acceptance by the universe. I hope everyone gets to feel it at least once. I went back to work and didn’t focus once all night. I had a calling, and I knew at least one other person in the world cared, too. 

I was driving to New York when John Semley told me that Patton Oswalt had gone on Tom Scharpling’s podcast to talk about my series. It was the first time I understood, really understood, that making it known that you’re not alone, that you’re not the first person to have a crazy idea about something they love, can be a gift. I have never taken for granted anyone telling me that they have enjoyed the series because they are doing for me what I’d hoped for in that grotesque Lechmere apartment watching “Alien³.” All I wanted was to feel less alone in the world with my obsessions and my movies. And I do. Every person who’s taken a chance on my off-kilter theories listened to my voice for even a minute of the roughly 24 hours of video essays I’ve produced for, reached out if only to say, “I like that movie too.” We’re all a little closer in those moments. 

Umberto Eco once said that the first function of memory is to preserve, the second is to select, and what a tragedy it would be if we could not discard what was too complicated to remember. I’m cursed with a memory that will never ever purge the cold floors of that apartment and the weeks I’d go without a friendlier interaction than answering a question in classes, wondering if I’d ever find my people. But more keen are the memories that followed, of every time someone has reached out to remind me why I make the Unloved in the first place. I found my people, and if you’re reading this, that includes you. 

Here’s to ten years of The Unloved, every moment of it thanks to the people who watched, who recommended it to their friends, who thought they’d never meet another soul who was passionate about the discarded. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. And here, as ever, is something extremely personal. The 120th Unloved. 

To watch the rest of Scout Tafoya’s Unloved video essays, click here.

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