I usually have a strict policy of not blogging while upset, at least not while I am still in the midst of a fight, but I am going to try and keep it clean.
Or perhaps just incredibly oblique.
One of the particular dysfunctions of being a writer, at least for me, is looking at my personal crisis as if they were plot points. What would this scene look like? Would it fit into any of my current projects? Would it suit any of my characters? How would character X/Y/Z react to this?
And, though I don’t really use my personal life as a jumping point for writing, my feelings inevitably become a part of what I write. I only know my own experience, and what it feels like to be me, with other people reacting to me.
I have to wonder if some of the general sexism in our culture doesn’t come from this. I’m a heterosexual woman, so many of my experiences with men are in a romantic or relationship context, and, inevitably, I find myself the crazy girl in the situation saying things like “you should know why I’m upset.” Because, really, he (and sadly, this applies to lots of guys besides my boyfriend) should know why I’m upset. It’s obvious. And his actions were so clearly out of line.
And through memory and transposition this gets exaggerated, and men in fiction become emotionless, utterly terrified and unable to comprehend the feelings of women. So we get the husband who apologizes even though he has no idea what he did wrong. And, on the other side, there’s a generation of male writers, unable to understand the women in their lives–because, really, who ever understands another person?- and female characters because crazy, demanding, neurotic bitches. They really are upset for no reason, falling apart at the slightest provocation.
Or maybe not. Maybe wish fulfillment gets in the way, especially in romances, and we get male characters who are exceptionally sensitive. Men who really do understand and really do care and never say stupid things like “why don’t you just tell me why you’re upset,” because they know, because, really, it is obvious. And we get docile, supportive female characters who do not have much in the way of feelings or demands.
Because, in either case (though it’s much more severe in the case of female characters), these fictional characters exist to serve the protagonist. And, so, we all long for partners who are never demanding, or angry, or oblique. We long for easy communication, no need to explain why we are bothered or guess what is wrong. And we see movies created by the immature (sorry, Zack Braff), and we start to think it is normal for our partners to serve us. After all, we are the center of our own universe, and Zack Braff’s character in Garden State was certainly the center of the movie’s universe, and Natalie Portman’s character certainly existed for the sole purpose of brightening his life.
And we all get mixed up ideas of how people and relationships should work. And those of us who write, bring those messed up ideas back to the page. So we get even more messed up ideas of how relationships should work.
I do not absolve myself of responsibility. I have written my fair share of male love interests who are much nicer or sweeter or more caring than the protagonist deserved. Hell, I once wrote a straight up manic pixie dream GIRL. (In my defense, I was only 18 or 19 at the time and it was only my third script).
If my point is anything, it’s this:
We aren’t doing ourselves any favors by basing movies off life already based on movies.
We have to unlearn our Hollywood training before we can really be happy as individuals. We have to learn that we are the supporting character. Prince Charming is not coming for us. We are not the chosen ones. There is not a quirky, gorgeous girl in a ModCloth dress coming to save us from the doldrums of our lives. We are not sensitive artists. We are not special.
We do not get a happy ending in 120 minutes. We don’t get any kind of ending.