Ratboy Wants It All To Crumble
By Chris Churchill
I’ve been in therapy for a while. My therapist said, on video, in my documentary Tell Me About My Mother, that when I first saw her, I was “The most disturbed patient she’d ever worked with.” That’s a point of pride with me. It tells me how far I have come and how hard I worked to become a happy, healthy, productive member of society. And I really have come a long way.
It’s too bad society, itself, is in such need of therapy. There’s a lot about society that needs to be straightened out. Society’s priorities are cockeyed or, maybe they never were quite right.
I’m not cured but I’m working on it. I think cured is kind of irresponsible, when it comes to mental illness, anyway. You just own your dark monster and try to keep it tamed, working for you, satisfied. I don’t know what cured would look like, anyway. I think cured for most people would be a lie that would eventually lead to relapse. How about just be honest about your problems; no shame.
I love some of my problems. As circuitous and dangerous a route as it is, sometimes your problems help you and, for some artists, they even help others. The fact that, at the height of my crisis, I wrote some incredible stuff, some of which I’ve shared successfully with audiences and some that simply needed to be solidified on paper and internalized thereafter. I’ll be honest, both my best plays (one got a “Highly Recommended” in the Reader in 2007 and another just sold out four Saturday nights at the DeMaat Stage at Second City this summer) and my worst play were completed in the same month — one that was very soon before my biggest breakdown.
There are parts of me that once existed silently, subconsciously, on the inside. I denied they were there. When those parts were touched, I would suddenly and viciously react. And because they were hidden, they had a lot more control of who I was then than they do now. Though they don’t control me as much anymore, I still respect these parts of me as my protector when I’m at my sickest, my weakest.
One of the aspects of my sicker self that I love, hate, respect, pity, and appreciate is a guy that I named “Ratboy.”
After a cursory search online for images, I find, I am in possession of one of many Ratboys. One’s a singer, apparently. Well, fuck that guy and his iPad-controlled concert performances (or whatever it is he does). But, if you need clarification, Ratboy Chris, OK?
Ratboy is the part of my personality that does whatever it takes, no pride involved, to survive. If I’m hungry, I’ll find food or — somebody will feed me. I need $50 to get by this week, I’m gonna find it… don’t you worry about how. Some project, assignment, work of art or whatever that needs to get done by a certain time? Just shut up. It’ll get done.
Ratboy likes playing the game of survival. He likes a certain type of hustle. He also likes to get dirty. He likes to come out of high school art class with pastel chalk dust on his nose and forehead. He likes to leave the gas station stinking and stained. He likes falling asleep on park benches in broad daylight. Ratboy doesn’t like you to watch what he’s doing.
Ratboy doesn’t like the idea of corporate life or the corporations themselves. That type of acquisition of riches and, in fact, those types of riches that can be acquired depresses Ratboy. Makes Ratboy question the very meaning of the pursuit of riches or happiness. Ratboy is happy but it’s the very pursuit of anything at all that makes Ratboy happy. The chase, the hustle, the danger, the adventure; that is the source of Ratboy’s joy.
Ratboy doesn’t like civilization. Civilization seems suspiciously artificial to Ratboy.
Here’s the thing: my entire Chris Churchill package is generally a pretty good guy. But Ratboy — Ratboy doesn’t really care about you at all. Ratboy wants you all to unravel, collapse, and fail and he begs the moon for civilization to crumble completely. Ratboy would never and could never cause this to happen but, if it did happen, he would look on, chewing some garbage he found, not smiling, but also not concerned if the bombs fell, the stock markets crashed, the zombie apocalypse hit — Ratboy would just take care of Ratboy.
Ratboy was created by infant and early childhood neglect. I never learned to truly value modern society because there was nothing there that I truly understood or that I could truly count on to take care of me in return. Also, I was too busy becoming addicted to the game of living; that struggle. Ratboy’s game of living isn’t one where the winner gets or has the most money or stuff at the end. Ratboy is playing the game where the thing that defines whether or not you win is if something awesome happens.
That’s why Ratboy doesn’t want to see anymore new restaurants, theater, movies or any new comedy or music. Ratboy doesn’t want to hear about your new startup. Ratboy doesn’t care about being around anyone else. Ratboy doesn’t like the guilt that accompanies attachment to another human and the responsibility of keeping up his side of the relationship.
Ratboy doesn’t like me a lot of the time, either. Ratboy wonders why Chris is nice to people. Why does Chris have a family or any relationships? “They’re holding you back!” He shouts.
Ratboy wants it all to crumble and burn so he can be free to just be Ratboy in a dystopian world and live out his creed: “Figure it out. Make it work.”
So when I’m smiling, nodding, shaking your hand, know that somewhere, deep inside, Ratboy is looking out through my eyes, shaking his head. He shakes his head a lot. That’s because he knows he can’t and won’t ever actually do anything about all his dark wishes.
But he’s waiting for it all to fall apart. Ratboy wants it all to crumble.
But, in case anyone reading this is worried, Ratboy’s not in charge anymore. I just like to keep him around for consultations and special occasions.