Confessions of a closet romantic

I hate romantic comedies. Like, really can’t stand them. “Blasphemy!” many of you will say. Cool. Awesome. I really don’t care. Go somewhere else if you want.

This subject kind of came up in a conversation last night, and I started thinking about why I hate them so much. There are a few reasons I don’t like romantic comedies. First off, every single one is just a variation of the same storyline. It’s always about Ryan Reynolds and anywhere between 1-3 women figuring out they’re in love. Generalization? Maybe. Fairly accurate? Yeah, I’d say so. (Seriously, Ryan Reynolds has been in a LOT of rom-coms.) But every romantic comedy has the same storyline, which I absolutely can’t stand. I like original stories. Plus all of the “comedy” in rom-coms is generally just taking advantage of obscenely awkward situations. I can’t sit through an episode of the Office without reverting to the fetal position due to the awkwardness. I don’t like it. Can’t do it. Uh-uh.

So that’s the first reason. Here’s the second reason I don’t like romantic comedies: The way things work out in those movies is absolute crap. I hate movies that are set in the “real world,” where everything works out absolutely perfect and after the guy’s car breaks down, his bicycle spontaneously combusts, and he accidentally starts World War 3, he still manages to get to the airport just before the woman he’s realized he loves gets on the plane to go pursue her dream of becoming a doctor in a third-world country. Then he says three magic words: “I love you.” Which, following the train of logic to its obvious conclusion, leads to the two of them getting married, having kids, and living happily ever after without ever having a single fight ever for the rest of their lives.

I get it, it’s for the sake of romance, and all of this guy’s efforts are to prove to the audience watching how much he cares. But here’s an interesting thought: What if the romance in these rom-coms — and romance movies, for that matter — is actually complete BS to begin with?

As I’ve kind of mentioned before, I am the physical incarnation of Charlie Brown. Like Charlie Brown became flesh and it’s me. I’m quite cynical, I’ll be perfectly honest. I’m very blunt and to the point, and my BS tolerance sits at a hot zero. Needless to say, I don’t get invited to parties much; I’m just wayyyy too much fun. But I feel like romance, as we seem to picture it today, is absolute garbage. It’s like social media: You see all of the best parts of it, with none of the bad. Everything you witness is absolutely perfect, even though shortly after the wedding at the end of the movie the newlyweds have a fight about who’s going to cut the roast chicken for dinner and never realized how difficult having to do life with another person like this was going to be. The relationships I have with my friends are more difficult than the relationships in romantic comedies. And I don’t have any sort of romantic pursuits with any of these people, which is where things start getting super difficult as you try to figure out how you operate together.

Romance has become this grand, incredibly emotional thing that only happens in movies. Young people say “I want a guy/girl like x,” and throw #relationshipgoals on couples that don’t exist in reality. These couples are more often than not just shells of human beings, with all of the good parts and none of the real ones.

Now, oddly enough, here’s where I have a confession to make: Deep down, I’m honestly a total romantic. I’m a complete sap, quite frankly. But I’m so opposed to what everyone considers romantic nowadays that it seems like I’m absolutely opposed to it completely. That’s really not the case at all. But the most romantic things that I’ve seen haven’t been in movies. In fact, they haven’t even been from newlyweds or people who are just dating.

More often than not, the most romantic things that I’ve ever seen are from people who are already married. And have been for a long time. For me, romance is the soldier overseas who surprises his wife on a trip home. Romance is the creative ways that a woman tells her husband she’s pregnant. Romance is the old couple holding hands sitting across from each other in the corner of a diner. Romance is the cup of coffee that a woman wakes up early to make for her husband every morning before he goes to work so he has one less thing to do in the morning. Romance is the husband who takes his kids out for breakfast early in the morning on a weekend so his wife can sleep in. And, from time to time, it’s the unique proposal after a dating relationship that’s been tried and true.

Am I some sort of expert on romance? Absolutely not, there’s tons of evidence to go against that. I’m clearly not one of the trolls from Frozen. I’ve never even been in a relationship before, what do I know?

Here’s what I know: Every now and then stories like this show up in my newsfeed on Facebook. Stories about real people. And I read or watch every. Single. One. These are the kinds of stories that nourish my soul, that give me hope for humanity and make me realize the lengths people are willing to go to for this crazy thing called love. These are small testimonies of people who have gone through the ringer — together — and are still willing to go the extra mile to prove to their partner that they care about them. When I see these, I smile, shed a man-tear or two, and then I go about my day a little better, a little more hopeful. Just because I’ve seen a glimpse of real, authentic love between two people.

So back to the whole #relationshipgoals thing that I mentioned earlier. Every now and then, very rarely, I feel like there are couples in fiction that really capture authentic human interaction and romance. Honestly, I have my own little Hollywood couple that I look up to as well, but I’m assuming that people wouldn’t even consider them in most cases. My #relationshipgoals couple is Rob and Laura Petrie from the Dick Van Dyke Show.

dick_van_dyke_petrie_family_1963

If you haven’t watched the Dick Van Dyke Show (you should), Rob and Laura Petrie, along with their son Ritchie, have a lot of interesting experiences. The show follows them through all seasons of life, some good days, some bad days. More bad days than good days, honestly. But Rob and Laura, in spite of everything, always make sure that they resolve whatever conflict they’re facing. There are multiple episodes where they fight with each other, but they always work together to make sure they’re on the same page again. There aren’t many fictional Hollywood couples that do that (or “real” Hollywood couples for that matter). They do all of this because they love each other. They couldn’t imagine life without the other after all these years. That kind of love, the kind that refuses to fall asleep without making sure that they’re okay first, is what I consider romantic.

So yeah, I hate romantic comedies. Why? Because I want to see real, genuine human interaction. I want to see the reality of what happens when two people are in love, not the social media-ready counterfeit. I want to see what happens when two people get kicked in the gut by life and decide to walk it out together. If there’s a rom-com out there that captures that sort of essence of humanity and the reality of human relationships, feel free to let me know. But it’ll probably still be horrifically awkward, so I probably still won’t watch it, just being real.

Write Something Good: A plea for quality art

In the past month or so, I’ve had two separate and drastically different movie-going experiences. The first, I went to see Suicide Squad the second week it was out. The second, I went and saw Kubo and the Two Strings with some friends of mine.

Now, let me make one thing abundantly clear. I am a DC fanboy through and through. I grew up watching Batman and Superman and I’ve read DC comics for as long as I can remember. I can go on and on about how much I love Batman, and the reasons why Nightwing is my favorite superhero, and why I have a polarizing love/hate relationship with Superman. I love the DC universe and everything about it, and I’m super stoked that DC Rebirth has been doing so well.

But the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) is a trash fire. I won’t go into everything, because I could literally talk for hours about the travesty that Zack Snyder has created (I’m very opinionated if you haven’t noticed), but let’s just say that I’ve been burned by two DC movies this year: Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad. The two movies suffer from different problems (BvS has too many to count), but one of the biggest things Suicide Squad suffered from was poor writing.

This poor writing manifested itself in a few ways. Namely confusing or non-existent character motivation and development, sloppy, awkward dialogue, and mischaracterization of characters who have very rich backgrounds that have been developed over 30+ years. The movie also suffers from producers getting too involved in the director’s vision, but that’s a different issue. I think that the actors (Margot Robbie in particular) did a pretty good job considering what they were given. But the plot was really convoluted and ultimately really didn’t make sense. I did enjoy the movie at certain points, but it was ultimately really disappointing due to garbage writing.

Kubo, however, was a different story. Kubo was made by the same studio that made Coraline, ParaNorman, and The Boxtrolls. Kubo is one of the best movies I’ve seen in theaters in the past few years. Kubo is beautifully animated, and has one of the most archetypal “hero’s journey” stories that I have ever seen. It follows the hero’s journey beat-for-beat, while creating compelling examples of the meaning of family, the importance of storytelling, and the pain of loss. The story, while fairly predictable, is beautifully written, the characters are authentic and well-developed within the short run time of the film, and I was still pondering the movie’s thought-provoking themes hours after I’d left the theater.

Now. Here are some numbers for you.

Suicide Squad released on August 6 in the US, and was made with a budget of $175 million. As of today, it’s made $640 million in the box office. It has a 27% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 67% user rating.

Kubo and the Two Strings released on August 19 in the US, and was made with a budget of $60 million. As of today, it’s made $30.5 million in the box office. It has a 97% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an 88% user rating.

There are definitely some things that factor into this. Kubo appeals primarily to families with children, while Suicide Squad appeals to a significantly wider audience, especially millennials, who are currently the largest living generation in the US.* Suicide Squad is also the third movie within the DCEU, and was preceded by Man of Steel and BvS, so the anticipation was high (and much of the advertising for this movie was driven by the Joker, who ended up being in the movie for about 10 minutes). Many people thought this could be DC’s chance to get back in the game for movies after Marvel’s success…And they suuuuuper blew it.

All this to say, I have problems with this reality. And questions.

Why do bad movies make so much money?

Why do good movies, even if they’re children’s movies, sometimes hardly make any money?

Why do people keep pumping money into movies that are bad? And do the people making these movies seriously not know the movie’s bad before they release it?

Why do people spend so much time and energy perpetuating bad storytelling, while good storytelling gets left by the wayside?

As always, I’m not an expert in this area. I don’t claim to be. I might end up making claims and saying things that don’t make sense in the “real world.” And this is kind of a rant that I’m just word vomiting onto a page and then posting. I’m completely open to comments and discussion. But this is incredibly frustrating.

Much of this is based around advertising. Suicide Squad had a pretty good advertising campaign, and many early trailers got me excited for the movie. Our culture is also really into the interconnected movie universe thing right now. Which, as much as I love the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they’ve created something unique that has cursed much of the rest of modern cinema. Everyone tries to create movies that connect to something else, and it all ends up being ridiculously complicated. Oftentimes they don’t even tell a full story within a single movie, as the movie is basically being used to set up a sequel. When people are focused on the property they’re setting up, the writing of the current story suffers. People also are really focused on trying to write these intricate, complex stories with some sort of twist ending, and then they end up not recognizing the numerous gaping plotholes and faulty character motivations they’ve created. So many movies are created to make money, rather than to create art that can be appreciated for its intrinsic value. Nowadays many movies don’t have much intrinsic value. Superhero movies, as much as I love them, are starting to become a disease.

And here’s my point here.

Write. Something. Good.

Please.

So much of modern cinema is about pandering to the culture in order to make the money that they put into the movie back and set up the next movie they have planned. But I would venture to say that many of these movies that have come out in recent years will be completely forgotten in around twenty years. The most well-remembered, culturally relevant and impactful movies that end up having a lasting impact are often the most well-written. They have authentic, realistic characters and an interesting story that doesn’t obviously contradict itself. And, and this is one of the most important elements to me, they say something. And they say something compelling. That’s why I love Kubo so much. It’s a beautiful movie with interesting characters, a simple, easy-to-follow story, and it conveyed several important, compelling messages.

Let me make something else clear: I’m not opposed to complex stories. One of my favorite stories I’ve ever encountered is the Zero Escape series of video games, which (in my opinion) is one of the most convoluted, confusing stories ever written. Over the course of three games, it takes the time to explain to you all of the different confusing aspects and how they all interconnect to make one story. But what I love about it is that it also has interesting, well-developed characters, and has a fascinating commentary on the importance of decision making, questions reality, plays off probability and chance, and asks questions about the Many-Worlds Theory. I’ve spent hours playing these games, and many more hours thinking about all of the different questions and arguments it poses.

Please stop making art that panders to the culture and then fails to say anything at all. Or just stop writing garbage. There’s something to be said for a simple hero’s journey that doesn’t confuse your audience and has a clear message. Not everything has to be a big spectacle. In this culture we live in, it’s unfortunately possible that your art may not be successful if it’s not a big spectacle. But if it’s inherently bad, it definitely won’t be. Please, just write something good.

 

*http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/04/25/millennials-overtake-baby-boomers/

Grow Up

I don’t try to eavesdrop. Really, I don’t. But on a college campus, people decide to walk right behind you and talk obnoxiously loud. And most of the conversations I hear are so incredibly painful to listen to. I’ll make this clear now, this is more of a rant than anything else. I’ll get to a clear point eventually, but at the moment I’m going to complain about some stuff. There are so many things about the conversations people have on campus that drive me crazy.

First off, why are you having this conversation in public? Seriously, no one really needs to hear about how much you drank this weekend, all the terrible decisions you made, how stupid this guy is being and how he’s not talking to you any more, or any of the other myriad of random crap that people tend to blurt out in public. As just another person walking by, I don’t want to hear all the gory details of your sex life and the party this last weekend. I really couldn’t careless, and you’re pretty much forcing me to listen to it. It’s difficult to not listen to it when you’re screaming in my ear right behind me. Which leads me to my next point.

Why are you so loud? If you were having this conversation in public at a volume that would require someone to actually eavesdrop in order to hear it, that would be one thing. That’s not an issue at all. That’s something normal human beings do. But you’re not doing that. You’re shouting about everything and all the details about all the stuff that no one cares about. There are inside voices and outside voices, but there are some conversations that require an inside voice even when we’re outside. You just need to turn it down a couple notches and chill out. If you could whisper, that would be great, if you could just not talk at all that would be incredible, but if you could just talk at a normal speaking volume for a human being, that alone would be amazing. Seriously, no one wants to listen to the pointless stuff you’re whining about. Which, finally, leads to a legitimate point I’m trying to make.

The things I hear in these conversations that people are subjecting me to usually have a running theme: My life sucks because x, y, z, and it’s all this person’s fault, I’m not to blame. In this equation, we’ll have x equal “I keep drinking every weekend and bad things happen,” we’ll have y equal “my friend is being a terrible person and making my life miserable,” and we’ll have z equal “guys keep breaking my heart.” I’m not trying to be judgmental here, really. I’m taking things directly from conversations I’ve heard. From what I can usually gather, it doesn’t sound like the people complaining about these problems I’ve mentioned are really doing anything about it. It sounds like the people who hate all the things that happen when they drink and party are planning on doing the same thing this coming weekend, the people who have terrible friends either aren’t trying to mend the relationship or are continuing to subject themselves to the treatment they’re receiving, and the people who have had their heart broken numerous times are looking for the next guy after swearing off guys forever and whispering how hot the guy that just passed them was in the same breath. And then, to top all of it off, none of this is their fault. It’s always the fault of the people around them. What seems wrong about this scenario?

Albert Einstein defined insanity as “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Going off of this definition, all of these people I overhear walking across campus are insane. They just keep doing the same thing over and over, thinking to themselves, “This time it’ll be different. This time things won’t turn out the way they always have.” There’s another word I like to use to define this behavior: immaturity. Seriously, people, GROW UP. One of the ways children learn right from wrong is by experiencing consequences for their actions. Eventually they make the connection that said consequences come about when they do certain things, so, logically, they stop doing them to avoid said consequences. People in their teen years to mid-twenties apparently don’t have the logical reasoning of a toddler. Instead of seeing the consequences of their actions and avoiding the problem, they continue to do stupid things.

So here’s my point: If you’re going to complain about the things that happen to you that you’ve been bringing upon yourself, do something about it. If you’re not going to do something about it, shut up, stop complaining, and suck it up. If I become morbidly obese, whining and crying about it is going to make it better, right? I’ll start slimming down, lose weight, and be totally healthy again. Apparently that’s the logic people follow. There’s a lot of healing and recovery that needs to happen in order for things to improve. And the first step is getting away from the choices and lifestyle that are causing the bad things to happen.

If you hate how things turn out every time you drink, here’s a simple solution: STOP DRINKING. If you’re an alcoholic, that’s a different issue that I’m not going to touch. But if you’re one of these people that decides to get completely wasted every weekend, the easiest solution is…Well, to not. It’s not that difficult. Make a conscious decision to not get totally hammered, and you won’t end up with the consequences of getting totally hammered. Logic. If you have really crappy relationships with your “friends” or whatever, one of two things needs to happen: Either you need to put some effort into mending the relationship, because expecting the other person to do all the work is incredibly stupid (and not the definition of a friendship by any means of the imagination) or it may be time to drop the relationship altogether for the time being. It may be a fact that you don’t get along very well and your personalities don’t blend in a way conducive to a friendly relationship. Maybe both of you just have some maturing and growing up to do. And maybe the time comes when you decide you can be friends again. But if not, odds are you’re both better off not inadvertently ruining each others’ lives. And lastly, if you keep getting your heart broken by guys or the other way around, here’s a simple solution: Take a break. Stop searching for the next relationship expecting it to be different. If it’s something that has happened multiple times, there’s a possibility you might be the problem. I probably offended some people just now, but it’s the truth. You probably have some maturing to do before you’re actually ready for a committed relationship. Taking some time off to work on and develop yourself is better than having that same feeling of betrayal and heartbreak over and over again. Plus you’ll be a lot less wounded and broken in the long run.

So here’s my basic conclusion: Talk quieter, stop complaining about stuff that doesn’t matter, and if you’re going to complain, you better be ready to do something about it. Because whining and crying about something you don’t have any intention of changing is incredibly pointless and just leaves people like me that have to listen to you frustrated and annoyed.