1.16.19: The Once And Future Donnie Darko


Just in case you are new to this site: This is a site about things that interest me: pop-culture, esotericism, and, yes, me.


It seems, given that the Spider-Man: Far From Home trailer has dropped, that the time has come for me to do an analysis/overview of Jake Gyllenhaal’s movies. And yet while I know my Donnie Darko backwards and forwards, I am embarrassed to admit I have not seen key Jake movies yet like Nightcrawler, Enemy, and Zodiac.

Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio in “Spider-Man: Far From Home”

Now: I have seen Source Code, which, if you are Darko fan, is a must-view. Many themes from Darko, such as time/reality-fucking, are part-and-parcel of Source Code.

“Source Code”

But what is far more interesting about the movie—at least to me—is how the archetypal, iconic character Jake (notice how I keep saying “Jake” because “Gyllenhaal” is too hard to spell) plays in Darko is “re-interpreted” about a decade later.

Donnie Darko is a young man: a loner, he questions authority. He starts to vandalize symbols of this questioned authority, as a way to make people “think.” He tries to manage mental illness but the point of the movie is to question whether society itself has a sort of “illness” as well. While his hallucinated pooka Frank is somewhat sinister, the film sort of “justifies” Donnie’s view of the world: maybe he wasn’t so “crazy” after all, it is trying to say.


But the “Donnie Darko” of Source Code is not played by Jake. Rather, that character is now the villain—a young man with mental illness named Derek Frost who has set a bomb on a train as an anti-establishment act. Do you see how that particular archetype has been flipped on its head within a decade?

How do we explain this?

Well, we partially explain this by 9/11. And that’s a separate blog series called “Messenger Shiva” that I want to start up again; it’s jotted down on my pad.

And we also partially explain it by the current ideological/societal/political situation we now all find ourselves in—insights into which I also have posts to expound on (jotted down on my pad).


Nowadays, it’s the vogue in amateur (well, if you’re getting YouTube/Patreon revenue is it *really* amateur?) film-crit circles to shit all over Donnie Darko—that’s it was overrated, that it makes no real sense, etc.

And part of that is an overall push-back on these pre-9/11 movies made right before Y2K like The Matrix, Donnie Darko, Fight Club, etc. (which will also be covered in “Messenger Shiva”).

Who is right, and who is wrong?



The other side of the Donnie Darko coin here is that sometimes—sometimes—you need to have mental help. That’s it’s not this “all or nothing” situation where if you get the help, you’ve given into the Matrix. And yet I find exactly this point of view in “fringe” circles ALL THE TIME.


I have Complex PTSD. That means I have been through a cascading series of traumatic events—you know, just like those poor Baudelaire children!

One of the features of Complex PTSD is that the person who experiences it keeps finding themselves in situations that mirror the previous trauma, leading to even more traumas. The coping skills to either avoid the trauma outright, or remove oneself from the present potential danger, aren’t there. Further: because another trauma has just taken place, the sufferer’s paranoia and sense of dread that “another disaster is just around the corner” is seemingly justified. Causing this loop:

“Stop being so paranoid.”

“But here are 25 verified examples of what has happened to me. I’m going to be paranoid and untrusting and never try again for my entire life.”

I have tried every goddamn “alternative” methodology to deal with this, for two decades.

But at some point: you know, you gotta have quality of life.

Living with that level of continual “hardwired” anxiety was like walking around with your head just under the guillotine blade. It’s going into an elevator with someone and mentally figuring out all the ways you’d be able to fight back just in case you were attacked—as if you were goddamn Jason Bourne. It’s being in a subway train, and the train slowing down in a tunnel, and then you figure out in your head all the ways to get out of the train just in case it’s “another 9/11.”

And flying in an airplane? Holy shit, fucking forget ALL THAT NOISE.

Now, the other way it works is that one can so assiduously avoid ANYTHING that might trigger off a “disaster” that one finds themselves in a GODDAMN FUCKING DISASTER!!!

And so if you are in an abusive, fucked-up situation at work, for example—you may put up with that shit for FAR LONGER than a normal person would…because you don’t want the “disaster.” Meanwhile, you have put out “victim vibes” all this time, “attracting” the very types of people and situations you sought to avoid. Because you seem vulnerable.

It’s a self-fulfilling “prophecy.” And then you develop such a high level of fear-response, adrenalin rush, panic and paranoia that it just NEVER SHUTS OFF. It’s like when you stretch a rubber-band too much and then it just hangs limp after a while; it’s “broken.”

Or: you stretch the rubber-band too much and it snaps and it nicks your hand.

I have had more consistent clarity and “peace” now on a very simple low-dosage of medication than I have had in over twenty years. It doesn’t mean I don’t still have anxiety and depression. It doesn’t mean I don’t feel shitty sometimes. I’m open to the fact that it may or may not continue to be effective over time, and that I may have to try something else (or not).

I don’t want this to be some manic “EVERYTHING IS FIIIIIINE” thing because it’s not—it’s just, at the moment, better. (It’s also not a knock at alternative healing modalities; I just think it needs to be a blend of mainstream & alternative, not either/or.)

But when the curtain is rolled back from all the anxiety and depression and trauma…and you actually have this sustained opportunity to look at things without that grey, murky filter…it’s a real WHAT THE FUCK?! moment. (that’s a WHOLE separate post, holy shit)

And I still love esotericism; I just don’t want to be a martyr to it if I really don’t have to. And that might sound lame. That’s OK. I’m almost 45; I’m OK with being “lame.” I’m taking the Roger Murtaugh view on my mental suffering.


Anyway, my view on the Spider-Man trailer…it’s “OK.” Not a lot about Jakey’s character to really form an opinion on. It basically seems like a superhero movie for teenagers…GASP! How unthinkable! How dare they make comic book movies for peeps under 35! Cue the protests!

(The best part, actually, is how it’s like “well, we don’t have Iron Man in this one…but we *do* have the guy who directed Iron Man as your funny uncle! So that’s *pretty* good, right?”)



Have a good Wednesday.

And remember:


2 thoughts on “1.16.19: The Once And Future Donnie Darko

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