This isn’t my first rodeo.
In fact, I started blogging way before it was cool. Back when it was called an “online journal.” When facebook didn’t exist and the only other way I could vent my frustrations was though a website where I could express philosophies, dramas, and dealings that today make me shudder with discomfiture.
This “journal” isn’t going to be like that.
Actually, I’m sure it will end up like that because older me has never looked fondly at younger me. Sometimes I wonder if everyone is like that. When I think about 16 year old me I have thoughts like, “what a moron,” etc. There has to be a term for this, maybe a psychological condition. Whatever that may be, I have it.
Back to the point; this blog is going to focus more on my everyday life and how it correlates to my professional life in writing, directing, etc. No stories about what I ate for lunch or a silly thing my friend did during a night out on the town. Not unless it directly relates to my career.
For my first entry I’m going to regress to an old talking point of mine, something I like to refer to as the “mythology of love,” specifically in the world of cinema.
Simply put, the movies have ruined love. The divorce rate, depression, unwanted intercourse, and I’m sure thousands of cases of angina are directly related to the fabled ideals of love that mainstream media has shoved down society’s throat for about four generations now. At some point, media went from an escape from reality for a few hours a day, to a bible that western civilization utilizes to model their own lives after.
In this media, conflicts need to resolve in ninety minutes, the girl chooses the right guy, and they all live happily-ever-after after the first kiss. That is unless they break up, in which case the sex is easily forgotten and an even cuter guy or hotter girl arrives to make everything pleasant again.
For almost a century now, human beings have been born into this media, and gradually over time these fabrications of life have become the expectation for boys and girls at a young age. “Someday my prince will come.” “Someday I’ll stop being a loser and the cheerleader will ask me to the dance.” And my favorite, “when I make loads of money as a businessman I’ll find true happiness when I meet a nice girl that owns a quirky small business, preferably a small cupcake shop on the lower east side that stays in business thanks to the welcome support of the community.”
But in real life the prince’s kingdom in his parents life insurance plan, the loser watches as the cheerleader dances with some guy named Chase, and the quirky girl only likes the rich businessman because he’ll pay the rent for her cupcake shop that some stupid banker with an associates degree from an online college approved the loan for. Yet our expectations that this is what’s supposed to happen dement our perceptions of reality, and prevent us from making the relationships in our lives great. We want them to start great and always be great, and anything less is frustrating to the point of argument. I’m guilty of this, perhaps you are too.
This misrepresentation of love begins at a young age with fairy tales, but getting into why those ruin our sensitivity to relationships would be unfair. There’s nothing wrong with a girl wanting to be treated like a princess, or a boy willing to give up anything in defense of a lady’s love, or waiting for the right prince or princess to come along. In fact, if we pursued these life lessons as we aged, we’d all be fine.
The problem with the perception of love in media truly begins in our tween and teenage years. In my generation we watched the tumultuous relationships of a group of upper-middle-class-white-kids from Massachusetts on Dawson’s Creek. Our hero, Dawson, was madly in love with the girl next door, Joey, but they broke up so Joey lost her virginity to Pacey, and Dawson lost his to Joey’s best friend Jen. They then all broke up, had meaningless but extremely romantic relationships with other characters, and come full circle at the end, only to have Pacey and Joey end up together. Happily ever after I’m sure, at least until awkward run-ins at the super market or high school reunions.
Yet I watched the show, expecting my life to be just like theirs, and I was certain my high school years would emulate those of my televised friends in Capeside, Mass.
Needless to say I spent my high school years reading about Alexander Hamilton and Napoleon (in my own spare time), listening to 80’s music, writing short stories, and working on my band, The Koala Stampede and our song “Sexy Pizza.” I wasn’t Dawson, there was no Joey, no Jen, nothing. High School simply wasn’t as cool as Dawson’s Creek told me it would be.
But alas, College! American Pie taught me that in college no one is a virgin, and having sex there is pretty easy. Animal House taught me that all girls were looking for easy intercourse. And Revenge of the Nerds taught me that in college some of the intercourse is involuntary, but then you fall in love afterward, so it’s all fine and totally legal.
Did my life imitate any of that? Not in the least bit, and I’m not just saying that to avoid lawsuits. I managed to have somewhat lengthy relationships, but there were no toga parties, no older women, none of that.
But American Pie, Animal House, Revenge of the Nerds, those are guys movies. Girls movies are better than that, right? Chick flicks express the ideals of meaningful relationships built not on sand, but concrete, right?
I thought so too, until I saw House Bunny, Legally Blonde, and Sidney White. “Strong,” “smart,” protagonists in the form of college girls who fall in love with the first semi-cute guy that gives them attention. Yep, that’s what we ought to be teaching young girls in the 21st century.
But that’s cinema. Most of our media time is spent in front of our televisions, anyway.
This weekend, for some Descartes-ian related reason I turned on MTV and watched 16 and Pregnant, as well as The Jersey Shore. Don’t get me wrong, both shows were engaging, and we can tell ourselves that we watch them because they’re funny, but let’s not kid. I have friends who want to “bang” J-Wow, and I know girls who would be “dtf” The Situation. The story’s are compelling, and many in society want their lives to be like those of The Jersey Shore cast members, just as I wanted to be on Dawson’s Creek.
And somewhere out there, there’s a girl in high school wondering whether or not Frankie, the cool kid with the spiked hair, a rosary necklace, and a developing anger problem will ask her to the prom, while Kenny, the future accountant with no anger problem has no shot to go with her. Eventually Frankie and the girl will end up 16 and pregnant (or 17, 18…), though abortions can take care of that unwanted circumstance, all because the girls perception of cool was based off of a network whose programming was always supposed to be lighthearted and in the form of parody. But Beavis and Butthead taught up over a decade ago that young people don’t really “get” parody, or sarcasm, or satire. They simply do as they see.
Anyway, after college, media teaches us that we’re supposed to do either one of two things. We can marry our college sweetheart and get boring, yet lovable like my favorite television character of all time, Tim “The Tool-Man” Taylor, or we could become swinging bachelors enjoying the single life in the city like our buddies on Friends and How I Met Your Mother.
And today I sit here puzzled how on Earth Ted and Ross get so many decent looking chicks, because I swear I’m just like them and get absolutely no chicks. But this guy I saw at the bar I was at the other night for Thanksgiving Eve looked just like a Jersey Shore castoff, was with a pretty cute girl, and now I’m sure she’s ruined. Psychologically, physically, emotionally, sexually, spiritually, ruined. If she only knew me, I’m sure I would have made a better partner.
At least that’s what I’ll tell myself.
But behold a solution that I found long before this past Wednesday: I’m a writer. Conveniently of movies! I can change these stereotypes, while still deceiving the audience into thinking they’re watching what they’re programmed to comprehend.
I’ll admit there was little depth to my first student short film romantic comedy, Karaoke Night. I just thought it would be funny to have shirtless men dancing in Indian head-dresses while a guy wins back his ex-girlfriend. But then on my next short film I addressed my psyche by having my protagonist have a seemingly ideal relationship ripped apart by the standards set by outside media. Ridiculously Emo was born out of this concept of art dictating life.
In the film, Jeff, the guitarist in an emo band, falls in love with a nice girl next door, Brenda. Nothing wrong with that, except that in the eyes of Jeff’s band mates, Jeff’s relationship status is a danger to his “emo-ness,” in that how could Jeff be in an emo band if his heart isn’t broken?
Though I’m still to this day very proud of Ridiculously Emo, and while it’s taken me several places, I never found the resolution I was looking for, so the film ends with Jeff eventually letting his band mates dictate his lifestyle, with his relationship fitting somewhere into those confines.
But a year later I made Wet Cigarettes. With Wet Cigarettes I finally figured out the ending to Ridiculously Emo that I was looking for and I wasn’t afraid to tell it to my peers.
I created Norman, a hard partying college student who had a girlfriend named Jenny, who was less worldly in her interests. Like in Ridiculously Emo, Norman’s friends told him his relationship was stupid, though this time not because of style, but because of a lack of intercourse. Norman lets this seep into his brain until he’s rendered incapable of having intercourse with his girlfriend, even when she wants to. Eventually, Norman becomes so psyched out by his surroundings that he becomes jealous, paranoid, and inept at viewing reality for what it is. As a result, Norman breaks up with Jenny.
That’s where Ridiculously Emo ran out of brain power, but Wet Cigarettes keeps going (in the eyes of most for about ten minutes too long:-P). The resolution of Wet Cigarettes is that Norman realizes that in life there is something bigger than sex, the people we hang out with, the things we do, and the places we go. There’s this bond that human beings need. We’re a species that needs companionship, and somewhere out there everyone has a companion. Norman explains this to Jenny, and boom! He gets a boner.
I was so close. I understood the pressures of sex that loomed over a young relationship, but how was I supposed to address them without sounding lame or preachy to mass audiences?
Then came The Newest Pledge. There I was, 23 years old, writing my first feature screenplay that I knew was going to get produced. It was a college movie, a genre I could’ve taught a course on at that point. Parties, beer, sex, boobs, and cool music.
Then I realized something. I don’t have to do that.
I made sure that this time with my protagonist relationship there would be no sex. No boobs. No drunken hook up. They’d kiss only when they had a connection and knew it was right. He would take her out on a date, be nervous about it, but it would go well. They would be there to support each other. He would succeed because of that support. It wasn’t perfect, but it was real.
I didn’t need erectile dysfunction to figure out what love was, all I really needed to do was read the wedding vows that husbands and wives have been reciting for what I presume to be centuries:
“I, Jason, take you, such and such to be my lawfully wedded wife. To have and to hold, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, from this day forward, until death do us part.”
There was no “to have sex,” no “to always find you attractive,” and no “to do whatever you say.” Just commitment and support forever, because you care about the person and want to spend your life with them. When someone is sick you often may not find them too attractive, and you likely wouldn’t want to have sex with them, and even if you did, there’s no guaranteeing they will return those feelings. I’ve never tried it, but I’m sure intercourse with a stomach virus is no fun at all.
Upon this revelation I knew that I had to make a movie where my relationship between two college freshmen, in a movie aimed at teens and twenty something’s, held true to those vows. I recognized it wouldn’t be cool. I knew that some people would just want to see boobs. But I thought to myself that if I could influence just a handful of viewers to rethink what society has been telling them about college relationships, then I’d be doing something great. Something worth it.
I’m no angel. I’d love to say that I’m still a virgin. I’d love to say that this portrayal of a college relationship is reflective of my own life at that point in time, but it’s not. I knew it wasn’t then and I definitely know it wasn’t now. Maybe that’s hypocritical of me, but here I am today at 25 admitting that I was mistaken. That I was wrong. And thanks in large part to this experiment that began in 2007 about figuring out what romantic portrayal in cinematic comedy should be, here I am in late 2011 figuring out my own life and I’m incorporating these practices into how I want to live.
Guys, you should treat girls like princesses, and not because you want to see them naked, but because you want to be happy. Sex doesn’t last long, relatively speaking. Your relationship’s strength in sickness stems from the happiness in health. You can’t achieve this sort of happiness if you’re concerned about whether or not she’s “d.t.f.” And if you start to just worry about “casual f-ing” then your perception of the real thing will become distorted, so you won’t enjoy the real thing as much.
And girls, be careful. The intentions of a large quantity of young men truly are poor. Realize what you want in life, promise it to yourself, and eventually you will have it. And the amount of cleavage that you show won’t help you get it any sooner.
Make sure the person is compatible. Watch the season’s change. Don’t force something that isn’t there.
And here I am now, 25, working on my follow up to The Newest Pledge, building on the themes that I’ve been crafting for five years now. I have no clue how to be “in love”, but I know when I’m not, and sometimes when you know the wrong answer, it makes finding the right answer a little easier.
Jason Michael Brescia
November 28, 2011 3:12 A.M. Eastern Standard Time