We’re very much in the children’s movie phase of our lives, so we end up watching nearly everything that scores higher than “total crap” on the Rotten Tomato meter. If a movie looks like weird and plotless garble, we may not watch it until we get it free on our T-Mobile Tuesday or as part of our Netflix subscription, but we will end up watching it.

That’s where Trolls comes in. Every preview looked like a psychedelic mess trying to one-up Alice in Wonderland in terms of trippy colors mixed with as many songs as the format could hold without becoming one long music video. Add to that a few immature jokes, and you’ve got yourself a movie.

Fortunately, the film ended up having a plot with some substance: a race called the Bergens discover they are only happy when they eat Trolls. Since this is a kids movie, I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to tell you that in the end the Trolls help the Bergens realize that they can find happiness from love and singing and dancing. The end.

It wasn’t until the next day that I realized the movie was anti-antidepressant propaganda.

Maybe that wasn’t the creators’ plan. But when you have a group of constantly depressed people who are only happy when they consume a substance being told that they can find happiness without external aid, I’m not sure what else you would call that.

We’re All Searching For Happiness

While I was thinking about this terrible message dressed up as a happy-go-lucky children’s film, I started thinking about how lucky we are to be able to be concerned with happiness. We’re not fighting for survival. We’re not one wrong word away from execution at the hands of a terrible tyrant. More people around the world are getting more of their daily needs met than any previous time in human history. Especially in the developed world, we have more opportunity, privileges, and freedoms than were available to most people for most of human history.

With all of these wonderful things handed to us, we’re able to sit down and ponder questions like, “Am I Happy?” That’s so amazing.

Unfortunately, the answer that comes up again and again is. . .no. No, we’re not happy.

And that’s sad.

For some people, it is due to a chemical imbalance in their brain. My wife is very open about taking antidepressants, and my grandpa was on Prozac since the time it came on the market. The medicines aren’t some magic panacea that will make smiley faces and rainbows appear in every corner. They just take the depressive edge off to allow the afflicted to move from, “I might as well die,” to a state more like the rest of us pondering questions like those posted above.

Trolls isn’t alone in trying to throw a simple answer to complex problem. Find love. Sing and dance. I’m not saying these aren’t good things, and people can find a lot of joy in each one of them (especially if we’re talking about actual love, instead of the fading infatuation that we’re typically sold). But we’re going to need more than that for the 99% of the time that we can jump around and sing and dance.

The Problem With Fulfillment

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have the answer here. And I’m not completely sure how I got so far off the rails from talking about a silly children’s movie that was forgotten about five minutes after it came out in the theaters. I blame Frank Turner.

Frank Turner is a British musician hitting middle age whose music has evolved from “I’m doing what I love and it’s so wonderful,” to, “wow, life is still really, really hard.”

How many of us were told as children that we need to find what we really love and do it? I’m guessing for the Americans in my generation, that answer is somewhere near 100%.

I never totally believed that crap. I wanted a job that would support a family. If I made something cool along the way (I really wanted to be an Electrical Engineer), all the better. My dream of making something cool was eventually killed by an inundating load of physics and calculus. Now I’m an accountant, also known as the backup plan for failed dreams.

But let’s get back to Frank Turner. Imagine listening to verses like this while you’re somewhere near hour fifty of reviewing tax returns that week.

All your friends and peers and family solemnly tell you you will
Have to grow up be an adult yeah be bored and unfulfilled
Oh when no one’s yet explained to me exactly what’s so great
About slaving 50 years away on something that you hate,
about meekly shuffling down the path of mediocrity
Well if that’s your road then take it but it’s not the road for me

This was some of his earlier stuff. My point from that isn’t that I hate accounting. It’s that we’ve all been told we need to find our true purpose in life and follow it, and that’s where we’re going to find happiness. Yet the world runs on people who do the mundane. For every one person who can successfully make a living doing their true passion, there’s another 50 (or more) who are doing the work because it pays and it has to be done.

And that’s fine. Admirable, even. And I’m mostly not just saying that because it’s my life.

Maybe I’m just fantasizing about the past, but it seems like people used to be okay with lives of duty in the office, able to find what they loved after they hung up their penny loafers and work flats.

But at the same time, I think many of them had much less time to sit down and debate whether or not they were happy.

What’s My Point In All of This

Considering that this started out as frustration at Trolls–and Hollywood in general–criticizing antidepressants, I was never going to have something really cohesive going. My main point (if I really have one) is that maybe we need to step back and realize that even if we think things are bad, even if we have a boring job or the guy we don’t like gets elected or we’re just plain dissatisfied with life, we really do have a lot around us that is truly wonderful.

Maybe if we can appreciate those things more and focus less on not finding perfect fulfillment at work or home or our really expensive trip to Vail (that’s a whole different story), we’ll be that much better off.

And shut up about antidepressants. If you don’t have to take them, then just consider yourself lucky and move on instead of criticizing those who do.