One really interesting angle to understand Brandon Taylor’s Real Life is through a Social-Emotional Learning lens. Mark Bracket describes the difference between an “emotional scientist” and a “emotional judge” in his work. A “emotional scientist” recognizes, examines, learns from emotions and accordingly regulates their response. An “emotional judge” decides if feelings are “right” or “wrong” without much reflection or examination. Real Life’s protagonist, Wallace, is an emotional judge. He feels as though he doesn’t have the right to mourn his father. He thinks there is a correct and incorrect way to mourn. Because his complex emotions regarding the death of his father do not perfectly fit his expectations, he denies his ability to feel them entirely. When his friend shows genuine emotional vulnerability in response to the news, Wallace is immediately sent into an inner dialogue over whether her level of empathy for him is valid or performative.
Within Real Life, Brandon Taylor highlights a very unique experience of a gay, black man who struggles to navigate his own emotions and connections with others. Wallace struggles with this and often turns to his work because it is his comfort zone; He retreats to his work both physically and in conversation when he does not know what else to do. During Wallace’s struggles, there are others like Vincent who make offhanded remarks which cause great Turmoil for Wallace but appear insignificant to Vincent. Taylor uses this scene to emphasize the importance of emotional intelligence both while reflecting upon yourself as well as in interactions with others. It is imperative to pick up on cues that others give off and read the situation well.
By: Cassie, Will, and Kate