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Keaton DeRocher Processes His Feelings Through Art Therapy (GIF Art Therapy...)

Because you can’t just bury the grief. . .

People grieve in different ways. For example, when Xander Bogaerts left, a bunch of writers on this site wrote some elegant words to say goodbye. While I, on the other hand, chose to make a bunch of gifs of things I found amusing and post them in our company Slack. Then Dan made me put them into an article for everyone to see. Then, in an effort to solidify our status as the intellectual fan’s Red Sox site — as the destination for high-brow discussion that mixes art, science, and social commentary with on-field analysis — he hired a well-known cultural critic to analyze my work.

I don’t know if he did this because he enjoyed my GIFs, or as punishment to embarrass me. But either way here they are, my GIFs, along with critiques from Cameron Berenton-Milloy, who graduated from NYU with a degree in Prestige TV Podcasting, and has made GIFs for some of the most influential sites on the internet, including FuzzKill, BranchPop, PinkGarbage, and the Wall Street Journal.

Cameron Berenton-Milloy: The best GIFs subvert our expectations of what the genre can and should be. They surprise us and make us reconsider our preconceived notions of the world. They make us look deeper. Here, DeRocher starts with a simple premise: Xander Bogaerts has come into a newfound fortune. But look closer: the fortune consists of a stack of bills shaped like a bed. Bogaerts has made his bed, and now must lie in it. What seemed to be a happy scene (note the smile) reveals itself as something darker, as Bogaerts’ bed is, by virtue of being made of money, the product of late-stage capitalism and the exploitations inherent therein. A masterpiece.

CBM: Where is the train going? We don’t know, and that mystery lends this GIF a certain power. Oh, what’s that? It’s going to San Diego? Like to the beach or something? Or the zoo? Sorry, I don’t follow football.

CBM: This appears to be a commentary on relative merits of skull shapes. Is this about phrenology? I don’t think I like this. I’m not touching this.

CBM: This, on the other hand, is clearly a work of significant value. Take in the scene: we are at what appears to be a yard sale. A pushy neighbor attempts to complete a sale. But what is he selling? A family photograph. He is, in effect, attempting to sell his memories, his own sense of self. Like all of us, he attempting to break free from the past.

CBM: Another skull shape one. Not doing this. I’ve made it too far to be canceled now.

CBM: This one appears to be in conversation with the yard sale piece above, for what else are we doing when we break free of the past but leaving?

CBM: Ah, now we see that this is actually a connected series (a GIF triptych, or will there be more?) In the previous piece, the subject left his past behind. In this one, we are forced to confront the people and lives that remain. They grieve, but have no choice but to continue the small, mundane task of living.

CBM: And what is living but an exercise in overcoming shame?

CBM: It is far more than that, of course. It is also anger, anxiety, an attempt to exert power over another. We see it all so clearly in the above.

CBM: And the only thing that struggle for power does is leave us all unhappy.

CBM: How do we overcome that elemental unhappiness? By moving on? By letting go? By hanging out by the pool? This GIF brings us to our conclusion, but leaves us with more questions than answers, as all great GIFs do.