I walked over to table 7 with the bottle of Pinot Grigio that I had had to card the customers to make sure they were of legal age to imbibe. The female, attractive (I say it like that because that’s the way to say it with her – a side-note of attractive), was born in 1986. The same year I was born. My first attempt at opening the wine bottle ended in scraps of foil falling to the floor, my hands ut up from the sharp end of the bottle opener and a very polite, though demeaning, offer from the attractive female to help me with my job. I finally was able to pour them two glasses – then I asked the two if they were local. The female, attractive, responded that she had been a part of my small community since sophomore year of high school. To which I responded: “Did we go to school together?” to which she responded: “Yes. I think so.”
You think so? We went to a school with a class of less than 200 students – we all knew each other, and though I have forgotten her face/name/person, she sure as fuck didn’t forget me. Stop playing coy, bitch. She knew me. I felt like shit for not knowing her.
She explained away my inability to recognize her due to the fact that she was the “new kid.” I then described myself as the “weird kid.” Not a great description of me, nor a funny one, but I thought it was a throw away self-deprecating remark that we could then snicker about and move beyond my high-school-Alzheimer’s. Instead, she and her boyfriend just felt bad for me, and told me that it was: “okay.”
This was a horrible interaction. The rest of the night I thought of things I could have said that would have made me come off as clever, psuedo-aloof (therefore providing meta-commentary on the situation), or interesting like: “Now I feel guilty for not remembering you, but realize I don’t remember what I had for dinner.” or “I was so self-obsessed in high-school that I don’t even remember my best friend. That wasn’t you was it?” But I didn’t say any of those things.
I think this is a normal reaction to an awkward situation. We all think of wittier things to say when the time is wrong. I don’t think I’m special for my ability to come up with these witticisms. Yet we applaud writers across Hollywood with their ability to write characters who don’t think like real people, and instead act in this Wittopian world of clever anecdotal responses.
This leads me to this:
My rant against clever people in entertainment.
There is an assumption that I need you all to make with me. Art has two goals that it should attempt to accomplish. is it should provide some sort of commentary on some social or political statement and it should be entertaining.
There is a wave of art that has been sweeping our fair nation that feigns accomplishing these goals really well. Yet, they accomplish neither for me. I will start by giving examples of shows and movies that fall into this category: Juno, Weeds, The United States of Tara, Gilmore Girls, and Desperate Housewives. Every one of these shows has two things in common. The first is what makes me hate them all. The second makes me sad for society. 1st: Obnoxiously open characters using absurdly witty dialogue. 2nd: Female protagonists.
The reason that this witty dialogue is opposed to good art is that it conflicts with conflict. That is to say that when people are completely open about their feelings, and creepily clever about dispensing that information, then it becomes impossible to delve deeper into any of these issues that art is supposed to provide commentary on. It’s not just that it’s unrealistic – I don’t mind a lack of realism – it’s that they blow a golden opportunity to discuss topics of social and political importance by making every character completely defined by their honesty and hilariousness. The societies that exist in these shows/movies are Utopian societies where no one has any conflict because they all act the way people should act. Sure, I wish everybody approached every issue by sharing all their feelings, and I wish everybody was able to have a sense of humor about it, but people don’t do that. All of these uber-witty bundles of openness are not only unrealistic, but also dangerous as they don’t allow us to get to the bottom of any issues of import because they are laughed off with a smirk and .
The second problem is that all of these shows have female protagonists. And they are the voice of the female “comedic” protagonist. This is a problem. Let’s look at the male comedians who have been thought of as the funniest men in modern entertainment: Larry David, Chris Farley, Will Ferrell, Seth Rogan. One thing all of these people have in common is that none of them are smart, good at life, or funny. Sure they are hilarious, but the people in their world don’t think that they are funny. Some are somewhat likeable, but none are completely redeemable.
This is not to say that women can’t be funny in this way. Elaine Benis, Lindsey/Momma Bluth, Maggie from Extras, and Sweet Dee from Always Sunny in Philadelphia are all great examples, but lately those characters have been done away with in favor of quirky weed dealers who deal with a smirk, pregnant teens who make witticisms beyond the ability of the Oscar Wilde, and Psycitsophrecis whose personalities all have one thing in common: unbearable cleverness.
Let’s stop being sexist and start writing some dumb, obnoxious, ugly women into comedy. Then maybe my inability to recognize others and awkward self-deprecation would just seem like life imitating art. Mostly because I’m asking art to imitate life.