Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Burn the Theater Down

I went with Sara to see Inglourious Basterds last Sunday.

I remember going through a Holocaustophile phase in high school and early college -- I read Elie Wiesel's Night, A Hiding Place, the YA novel Number the Stars, A Separate Peace, Slaughterhouse Five, watched Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan (and cried during both), and consumed both of the Maus comic books, etc. etc. And I still want to read both The Diary of Anne Frank and Mein Kampf before I die.

But I worry that my once-and-maybe-future obsession with the Holocaust really just belied my eagerness for a sort of emotional shorthand for brutality, inhumanity, the banality of evil, etc. and also! don't forget! a cultural high card for the awesomeness of those guys who bombed Dresden and used nuclear weapons on those imperialistic Japanese terrorists and then went on to drag the world into a battle of good and evil based on whether the government owned Starbucks or not, a war served "cold" because we never fired a shot -- except in Korea and Vietnam and Cuba and Afghanistan and errm.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Anatomy of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl

So Sara and I went to see (500) Days of Summer last Thursday. This was not technically her desire, because she could see that it was a wet, sappy, soppy, sorry hipster mess just from the soundtrack of its trailer. It was my desire, because I read how it subverted some cliches of the romantic comedy -- and because I secretly love romantic comedies, as long as they weren't so predictable.

Days of Summer (apparently you can remove the 500 without damaging the title) recycles the classic notion of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, a cliche whose recent history I'd like to trace here. It all begins with that beautiful wish-fulfillment fantasy of guy-meets-girl, guy-is-brooding, girl-teaches-guy-how-not-to-brood, a fixer-upper relationship, thanks, you can drive him off the lot now. It works because the guy is vulnerable and scared of rejection and smart and deep and hard-working but has trouble with the opposite sex and hey guys that's just like me! And so we sit down in the theatre and we empathize -- and then the guy gets the girl finally, or the girl dies and the guy becomes a doctor or an architect and then visits her grave. (either way, you win?)