MPDG

MPDG

“I can’t believe that’s your favorite movie,” Alison took a sip of her ale with astonishment. We’d met in a group for young screenwriters. After a night of drunken passion at a workshop, it seemed right, a couple of days later, that we’d get dinner. So we picked this little Mexican restaurant across the street from the library where our group met for sessions. It never looked too busy, but tonight had a different feeling. There was a vibrant quality in the air. I couldn’t place it.

“Come on, Garden State is a classic,” I was almost defensive. Was she teasing me? I couldn’t tell.

“It’s so trope-riddled,” she began, “Fucked up guy meets fucked up girl and finds fucked up normalcy. Zach Braff ruined a generation with false ideals of love and relationships. Garden State created the asshole hipster. And Natalie Portman…”

“Oh no,” the words escaped my mouth. Alison paused, her lips curled, forming an almost sadistic smile before she continued.

“Natalie Portman was the patient zero for the laundry list of Manic Pixie Dream Girls that infested Indie films and small-budget romantic comedies throughout the first ten years of the millennium. You don’t like Natalie Portman. You like the idea of her. Insert any other actress in there and that feeling Natalie Portman gave you, as “New Slang” plays and the screen starts to soften, will still be there. It’s called wanting to put your dick in something.”

She wasn’t teasing me. I took a quick glance around the bar and a sip from my ipa in order to plan my rebuttal. Did she have me? What the fuck can I say about Natalie Portman to this woman? I became increasingly aware of everyone in the restaurant. Conversations grew louder. Were people staring at me? The heat from the skillet in front of me raised the temperature of our booth with every passing second. Laughter from the bar had to be directed at the plight brought by this debate. She was staring at me with eyes begging a response and a grin doubtful of receiving one. I had to say something. Anything. Just. Fucking. Talk.

“She was sincere,” the words, once again, seemed to escape from within me.

“That’s it?” Alison’s body seemed to sink, she wanted a longer rebuttal.

“That’s not enough?” Where am I going with this?

“No” she was curt.

“Well, I guess I identified with the movie.”

“How so?”

“Maybe I am a fucked up guy. And maybe I want some fucked up girl. Fucked up normalcy is better than nothing. Day after day after day of monotonous nothing. And, on her character, maybe I rationalized the hell out of this but I saw her as the stronger character. She didn’t have a narrative progression of faults to overcome, but her life wasn’t perfect before she was with him or as the movie ended. It may not have been real to everyone, but it was real to me.”

Alison was about to speak but she caught herself and grew silent. She ignored her instinct to attack the simplicity of my response. For a moment she lingered, looking as if she was lost in the complexity of her thoughts. After what seemed like a verse from a Leonard Cohen song, she smiled and took a bite from her Carne Asada tacos.

“Ok,” I was hanging on her syllables as she started. “But aren’t they all? Wasn’t Kirsten Dunst in Elizabethtown? Zooey Deschanel in 500 Days of Summer? Kate Hudson in Almost Famous? Isn’t that the point of all of these sympathetic, sincere – quote unquote – women characters? Their sole purpose is to be that comforting “I will complete you” thought for the male protagonist. It’s bad writing.”

Our waitress came over to the table carrying the bill.

“You guys ready?”

Yes.

 

***

 

“I can’t believe that’s your favorite movie,” Aghast, I pulled in a quick taste of my Sam Adams. Fucking Garden State. I couldn’t believe Luke. How the hell can he like Garden State? There are so many other great scripts – great films – out there to put at the top of your list. Give me Tarantino. Scorsese. Hitchcock. Not Braff. Luke’s not even that guy. He doesn’t come off as the type.

“Come on, Garden State is a classic,” he was defensive. Sorta. Is he joking?

“It’s so trope-riddled,” I started, “Fucked up guy meets fucked up girl and finds fucked up normalcy. Zach Braff ruined a generation with false ideals of love and relationships. Garden State created the asshole hipster. And Natalie Portman…”

“Oh no,” the words leapt from him, causing me to pause. Maybe he is the type. Let’s see.

“Natalie Portman was the patient zero for the laundry list of Manic Pixie Dream Girls that infested Indie films and small-budget romantic comedies throughout the first ten years of the millennium. You don’t like Natalie Portman. You like the idea of her. Insert any other actress in there and that feeling Natalie Portman gave you, as “New Slang” plays and the screen starts to soften, will still be there. It’s called wanting to put your dick in something.” I hope he doesn’t cry. I’m just being honest.

The smell of my combo plate caught my nose and I took a bite while he searched for a defense. He didn’t have one. His eyes moved around the room as if they were two minute flies trapped in marbles. It was almost endearing. It was endearing, I think. Maybe I’m getting softer. So he likes a bad movie, we all have one. I’ve fallen asleep to Dude Where’s my Car on countless occasions. Who am I to judge? At least mine are funny though.

“She was sincere,” he finally uttered, catching my eye.

“That’s it?” I was a little disappointed, he was never one for brevity in group.

“That’s not enough?” He volleyed.

“No” she was curt.

“Well, I guess I identified with the movie.”

“How so?”

“Maybe I am a fucked up guy. And maybe I want some fucked up girl. Fucked up normalcy is better than nothing. Day after day after day of monotonous nothing. And, on her character, maybe I rationalized the hell out of this but I saw her as the stronger character. She didn’t have a narrative progression of faults to overcome, but her life wasn’t perfect before she was with him or as the movie ended. It may not have been real to everyone, but it was real to me.”

Is he fucking with me? I wanted to rail against him immediately. Of course it is not enough. Just because a character is sincere doesn’t mean they aren’t an instrument of change or fulfillment for another character. He has to know that. He knows that. Fuck it, let’s see what happens.

“Ok,” he was hooked on every word that came out of my mouth, “But aren’t they all? Wasn’t Kirsten Dunst in Elizabethtown? Zooey Deschanel in 500 Days of Summer? Kate Hudson in Almost Famous? Isn’t that the point of all of these sympathetic, sincere – quote unquote – women characters? Their sole purpose in all of those films is to be that comforting “I will complete you” thought for the male protagonist. It’s bad writing.”

His eyes glazed and he didn’t say anything. Our waitress came over to the table carrying the bill.

“You guys ready?”

Maybe.

 

***

 

Luke stopped reading. His arms fell to his side with the manuscript clutched in the moist palm of his right hand. The air in the library was musty and there was a definitive awkwardness to it. The tension became palpable to him. He could feel it in his stomach. The bodies in the circle of chairs were silent, trying not to look in either direction. The lights from the tavern across the street peaked in through the blinds. Victoria, the moderator, coughed.

“Any notes for Luke?” Victoria asked out into the group.

Alison’s hand raised.

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Welcome to the empty recesses of my mind! I'm a recent college graduate realizing a Creative Writing degree was a bad idea. Give me a pity like. Or you could check out the about sections (on the front page and about this author page) on my blog to learn a little more about me. Whatever. https://thebohemianrockstarpresents.wordpress.com/

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