In this issue of ‘Banter M’:
Adventures in Self-Slut-Shaming: Jamie Frevele recounts the time she gave her number to a cute guy, only for his not-too-pleased wife to call her back.
Origin Stories Need To Die Hard: Chez Pazienza laments Hollywood’s latest greedy attempt to reboot a classic movie.
Annoying Status Updates: Ben Cohen discusses his social media experiment that consisted of annoying his friends with narcissistic facebook updates- all for a good cause though.
Adventures in Self-Slut-Shaming
by Jamie Frevele
As a hip, hot, single lady in New York City-slash-desperate, shriveling spinster, I try to keep my eye out for eligible gents who might want a piece of this action. I do that by either a) accident or b) misfiring and then hoping for the best. A few weeks ago, I was on the set of a food competition show and a nice-looking camera guy was working right next to me. He was really cute and sweet and started telling me I should be on camera because I had the most beautiful eyes in the room. I was like, “Oh, stop! No, I don’t want to be That Extra.” But at the end of the day, he said, “I managed to get you in the shot a bunch of times.” I took that as a good sign that he was interested in the aforementioned “piece of this action,” so I boldly gave him my number on a slip of paper as I headed out the door.
I heard from him a few days later when he texted me that the set was “less beautiful” without me on it. And then he said he didn’t want to lead me on, but he was “with someone.” And hey, that’s fine! Whatever. Moving on.
And I did, until his wife called me. And she was pissed. And she wanted to know what was going on, because she’s been “been through this before” and she was “sitting there with their one-year-old daughter on her lap,” and what was I thinking giving my number to a married guy? And why was a married guy talking to a whore like me?
Fortunately, nothing happened between me and this guy, so I was able to tell her that much. But unsurprisingly, she was not convinced. “Was he acting like a pig?” “What were you doing?” “What did he tell you?” “Why did he keep your number?” “Who the fuck are you and how could you do this to me?” “Why did he do this to me?”
I couldn’t blame her, not a bit! I was cheated on a few years ago, and it hurts. It hurts bad. It even hurts when it’s a guy you don’t even like that much whom you’ve only dated for a couple of months. It’s a total invalidation of you as a person worthy of affection or love. For one thing, the person who does the cheating is actively rejecting you while passively leaving you because if they were actively leaving you, they’d fucking say something. But no, they can’t even be bothered with the confrontation. They do the shitty thing, thinking you won’t even find out about it, and then they ghost. Or you find out on social media, like I did, so all your mutual friends can see that you’re so terrible as a person that you were swiftly replaced without a word. And then you feel like your heart’s been torn out and your blood has been turned into burning acid, especially when your great-grandmother dies the day after you find out his relationship status — which you totally had a conversation with him about — was changed to “Divorced.” And he’s dating your friend. Or maybe that’s just me.
So I could kinda see where she was coming from, and considering this was a man to whom she had really committed herself and with whom she had a child, she probably felt all of that on a more amplified level. So, that sucks.
That sucks, and I was responsible for making her feel like that. I didn’t hook up with this guy; in fact, I never saw him again or heard from him again after he texted me. And it’s not as if we’d shared a deep connection at the shoot and sparks flew and all that romantic shit. No. I thought he was cute and funny and he had nice tattoos and had a really great, deep voice. And he told me I was pretty, and I can’t resist that. (Seriously, tell me I’m pretty and I’m all over you. Tell me I’m funny and you’re already inside me, especially if I feel the same way about you.) I took a shot and it didn’t work out, and that was fine. But I still hated the way I made this woman feel.
While there was no affair or cheating (at least not with me), I still felt responsible for causing this woman a great deal of stabbing, infuriating pain. I wasn’t a homewrecking whore, but I sure felt like one. When I was cheated on, I wished the worst on my replacement. Disease, unwanted pregnancy, her own eviscerated heart. And I felt like she deserved it. And now, I was that girl, and I deserved all that hatred for making another woman feel that way.
And here I was, at the crossroads of sisterly, feminist solidarity and slut-shaming. I could say, “Jamie, you didn’t do anything wrong and you did a good thing by setting this woman’s mind at ease because that’s the kind of treatment you would have wanted instead of the psychotic shitshow you got.” Or I could say, “Jamie, you completely misread that guy and thought you were hot shit enough to slip him your number. That’ll teach you to flirt, you wretched harlot! Go hide in a cave somewhere and never come out, and close your legs, you disgusting monster!”
I took the latter route that night. And I drank. And I drank. And I drank. And I drunk-tweeted, because honestly, this was all kind of funny, even while I wallowed. But I beat the shit out of myself. I didn’t get as low as I’ve ever been, but I sure as hell didn’t feel like I deserved love of any kind. I was the girl I hated in this situation, for getting it wrong. I hate it when I’m wrong, and I really hate it when it affects other people.
Eventually, I got over it. And the entire time, I knew I still hadn’t done anything wrong, and if this wife was having this kind of reaction over these kinds of issues, they probably didn’t begin with me. And that’s what I keep telling myself with every glass of booze that I pour myself, because no one else is around to pour it for me because I am alone in this cruel, sad world.
But seriously, it’s not wrong to be bold. And it’s not wrong to doubt yourself. But sometimes, things go awry and it’s no one’s fault, and it just has to be okay. No villains, no heroes, just people trying to connect. One time, it’ll actually work!
Origin Stories Need To Die Hard
by Chez Pazienza
Die Hard is a damn-near flawless movie. The breathtaking beauty of the 1988 action classic was summed up perfectly in a piece written a couple of years ago by film critic Daniel Carlson. He called Die Hard “a masterclass in the economics of storytelling” and singled out even the first scene as an excellent example of how the the film conveys a lot of information and generates a lot of emotion and tension through just a little appropriate dialog matched with a couple of simple visuals. By the time the opening scene in Die Hard is over, we know who John McLane is, why he’s in Los Angeles and, more importantly, that he’s a cocky but vulnerable lead character. As Carlson writes, just a few minutes tell us — without a lot of clumsy exposition — that McLane is “confident, flawed, resilient, humorous, and human.” That’s a hell of a feat for the very first scene of a film, a scene in which seemingly nothing important really happens.
When Die Hard made $88 million in the summer of ’88, which is the equivalent of $168 million today for a film that was made for much less than what today’s blockbusters cost, it was a sure thing that a sequel would follow it. Not only did Die Hard make great money, the audience and critical response was so positive that the movie created an instant template for the action movies that followed it. Speed was pitched as “Die Hard on a bus.” Under Siege was “Die Hard on a ship.” Even now, both White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen could be called “Die Hard in the White House.” The point was a simply to put one lonely, reluctant hero inside an enclosed space with a seemingly endless succession of enemies to fight. Die Hardstarted all of that, so of course it was clear from the beginning that there would be aDie Hard 2: Die Harder, Die Hard with a Vengeance and so on.
To its credit, the initial, Renny Harlin-directed sequel wasn’t bad in terms of being an action movie. It suffered only from having a despicable villain rather than an entertaining one. (William Sadler’s Colonel Stuart was all steely-eyed sadism while Alan Rickman’s iconic Hans Gruber practically stole the show out from under Die Hard star Bruce Willis.) Die Hard with a Vengeance was pretty ridiculous, despite the always-awesome injection of Samuel L. Jackson, but 19 years after the original filmLive Free or Die Hard was surprisingly effective. The problem is that Die Hard was always a formula you could only push so far — seriously, how many times can John McLane wind up battling terrorists? — and so, other than being gorgeously shot, A Good Day To Die Hard was a disaster from start to finish. Willis phoned it in and, much more importantly, his John McLane character had finally transformed entirely into the antithesis of the very thing that made him so refreshing back in 1988. He was now an unflinching bad-ass who through the sheer force of his smirk could bring down entire armies. With that, Die Hard was at last dead.
But of course it isn’t. It never is when there’s still money to be made milking a once beloved character until the law of diminishing returns finally renders him or her worthless. On Wednesday it was announced that Len Wiseman, who directed Live Free or Die Hard, would be helming a Die Hard 6. And as if that already wasn’t a terrible idea, Wiseman and crew are taking it a step further and making the film a — wait for it — prequel. According to the report, the new Die Hard will be bookended by the present-tense John McLane, no doubt telling his life story to his grandkids on his death bed, but the meat of the story will take place in 1979 in “gritty” New York City and will show us how McClane came to be “a die hard kind of guy.” That’s an actual quote. “A die hard kind of guy.” The problem with this, right off the bat, is that John McLane was never a “die hard kind of guy” until, you know, Die Hard. As Scott Mendelson says over at Forbes, Die Hard was McLane’s origin story. There’s no need for another other than to make more money for the studio. Creatively, there’s zero reason for a Die Hard origin story to exist. Remember what Dan Carlson said: That very first scene in the first film tells you everything you need to know about John McLane perfectly, economically — and nothing more is necessary.
That’s the thing, though: When there’s no way left to go forward — when all your routes and rotes have already been exhausted — the only choice is to go backward. Doing an origin story not only creates another episode in a popular franchise, it also has the benefit of completely rebooting the series from the beginning. If your origin story is a big draw, you’ve just built a brand new ATM in the middle of the studio parking lot that spits out nonstop free money. And that, as we know, is the primary goal of any movie studio.
But origin stories usually suck. And the fundamentally cynical philosophy that drives their creation always sucks. For every Batman Begins or Star Trek reboot, creative films conceived and helmed by some of the most skillful filmmakers in Hollywood, there are dozens of Maleficents: cash-grabs that reach into the past to completely destroy the vision of the original storyteller by removing all the myth and mystery from characters that have become iconic precisely for their myth and mystery. Not every character or film calls out to have its backstory filled in but these days almost any character or film today can be ripe for an unnecessary backstory. And much like what’s going to happen to John McClane in the upcoming Die Hard prequel, we’ll be filled in on details that may effectively kill everything that made that character and the story surrounding him or her so damn entertaining in the first place. John McLane stopped being the John McLane from the original Die Hard years ago, right about the time he faced off against the third or fourth round of terrorists. McClane was originally a scared but resourceful everyman, which is precisely what made him so relatable to the audience. When you turn him into a bulletproof human weapon — or when you show us in a prequel that he went up against an earlier threat worthy of making a two-hour movie about — you do damage to him as an iconic character.
It used to be that when you brought up the name John McClane, it carried with it a certain status within our pop culture. Now the very studio that helped create that character has removed the very thing that made him so important for so long. Fox can never kill the greatness of the original Die Hard, but it can destroy the legacy of the McClane character by watering it down and wearing it out. That’s actually my personal complaint about the upcoming Ghostbusters reboot, which will apparently be the first salvo in an expanded universe. The original Ghostbusters characters are iconic and to put anyone else in those roles, or Ghostbuster roles like them — female or male — decreases their status. No matter their popularity, there’s no changing the fact that Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, Egon Spengler and Winston Zeddmore will now become “Ghostbusters” rather than “THE Ghostbusters.” They’ll be the first in a series — and that decreases their value.
When Heath Ledger died before the release of The Dark Knight, as ghoulish as this sounds, he inadvertently stuck it to Warner Bros in the best possible way. Ledger’s Joker was so instantly legendary that there’s little doubt, had Ledger lived, that to this day we’d still be seeing Joker spin-offs starring the Oscar-winning actor. With Ledger out of the picture and unable to reprise the character he brilliantly created, that creation gets to always be lightning in a bottle — a rare case of a character, to crib a line from the film, “dying a hero” rather than living long enough to see himself become the villain (in this case in terms of the quality of the Joker). Think for a moment about how badly Hollywood watered down Anthony Hopkins’s terrifying Hannibal Lecter. Sure, it took a TV show to finally redeem him, returning Lecter to a hallowed place in the critical consciousness, but until that happened Hopkins had been a party to destroying his own creation — because the studio wouldn’t let him walk away from it. When you have something like a Hannibal Lecter or a Darth Vader, the more information you provide — the more you remove the frightening unknown — the less powerful that character becomes. Again, an origin story just isn’t always necessary and many times it’s straight-up damaging to the property.
Patton Oswalt does this great bit where he talks about how he wants to travel back to around 1993 and kill George Lucas with a shovel to stop him from making the Star Wars prequels. During the bit, he draws a really great analogy to what an unnecessary origin story is like. He imagines Lucas telling him that in the prequels he’s going to find out more about Darth Vader and when Patton responds with the appropriate nerdgasm, Lucas says, “Yeah, in the first movie you get to see him as a little kid… He’s like this little kid and he gets taken away from him mom and he’s very sad.” Patton just stands there silently, confused and angry, then at the end of the story he compares it to this: “Hey, do you like Angelina Jolie? Well here’s Jon Voight’s ball-sack!” The overall point, which he screams to the audience is, “I don’t give a shit where the stuff I love comes from. I just love the stuff I love.”
And that about sums it up. Nobody cares whether Wolverine was once in love with a woman who was taken away from him — they just want to see him kick ass as one of the X-Men. Nobody, least of all Ridley Scott, should have looked at a masterpiece likeAlien and thought to himself, “This makes me curious where life on earth came from.” Nobody will ever give a shit whether Colonel Kurtz was once a loving but vaguely unstable family man — they just love seeing what he became in Apocalypse Now. And nobody should want to see how John McLane became “a die hard kind of guy.” But not only is that coming, it’ll probably be the name of the fucking movie. And it’ll open right after the upcoming Shining origin story The Overlook Hotel.
Annoying Status Updates
by Ben Cohen
For the past few weeks, I have been running an experiment on facebook by spamming my friends with what I like to call #annoyingstatusupdates.
Much to their irritation, I have been posting motivational quotes, updates on how successful I am, how great my diet is, and how much better my Yoga poses are than everyone else’s. Some of my friends have been completely flummoxed by my overnight transformation into one of the worst social media stereotypes, but others joined in the fun and have begun posting their own humblebrags in the form of ludicrous hashtags. They include: #makemoney #imakemoney #veganlifestyle #iworkhard #blessed #humble #yoga #spiritual #inspiringtheworld #coffeeaddict and so on.
One of my #annoyingstatusupdates
The inspiration for my little prank came from several people I am friends with on facebook who un-ironically use the social media network to relentlessly promote themselves and give the best impression that their lives really are filled with glamorous parties, celebrity friends, profound spiritual realization and seamless career success. Over time, I have become more aware of just how damaging this self aggrandizing narcissism can be – in part because I too have used social media to highlight how wonderful I want everyone to think my life is.
The truth is, my life is pretty good – but that has nothing to do with career success, hanging out with famous people or eating kale salads. My life is good because I have great friends, great family and a very supportive partner. I am prone to bad days just like anyone else, have suffered crippling doubts about my career and ability to support myself financially, and often wonder what it all means in moments of existential crisis. I just don’t publish it all on Facebook, meaning the perception of what is going on my life is very badly skewed if you were to judge me by my social media updates.
The danger of Facebook/Twitter/Instagram and so on is that it presents a highly distorted and badly misleading representation of human life. People pose for photos, choose the ones that make them look flawless, then splatter them over social media with captions designed to give a specific impression. Those with artistic talent inevitably do better at creating a refined visualization of their make believe life, creating a ripple effect across social media networks that lead to a wildly distorted perception of what modern life really is like.
Kim Kardashian has 49 million followers on instagram. She posts relentless selfies of herself living an unfathomably luxurious and glamorous lifestyle, and with every picture gains more followers who no doubt aspire to emulate her.
Kim Kardashian: not helping the internet
Kim Kardashian spawns create their own ripple effects across social media too, leading to more knock offs of a lifestyle that in reality is only available to 0.000000001 % of the population. The enormous psychological toll on young women around the world is immeasurable, but one doesn’t have to try to hard to understand what it must feel like to be overwhelmed by a sense of inferiority in response to relentless images of beauty, success and wealth.
This isn’t to pick on Kim Kardashian – who is perhaps the most visible victim of mass status anxiety – but to highlight a grotesque phenomenon that now consumes up to 27 hours a week of people’s waking lives.
The truth is, social media users who insist their lives really are that great wouldn’t be on social media if their lives were that great – which of course is no shame given no one’s life is all it’s cracked up to be. At least based off of facebook that is.
So what can we do to put a dent in this toxic culture plaguing the internet?
I have some suggestions. Firstly, we need to individually rethink the way we use social media. I can’t count the number of times I’ve spoken with people in person who insist they “hate facebook” and “can’t be bothered with it anymore,” only for them to comment on an article I’ve posted or like a status update hours or days later. Social media is what you make it – it isn’t inherently good or bad. You can follow narcissistic idiots who post selfies of themselves #livingmylife, or people like Neil deGrasse Tyson who post updates on twitter about amazing breakthroughs in science or the wonders of the universe we live in.
Definitely follow Neil deGrasse Tyson
You can use facebook to tell everyone how great your life is, or you could contribute to interesting discussions, post articles you think people might find interesting or challenging and use it to record happy moments with friends and family.
Personally, I decided to be subversive and mock those using facebook to create unnecessary anxiety in a world already filled with unnecessary anxiety. In a small way, I hope I have made it easier to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. I shall soon be moving on to posting more thoughtful posts I hope will engage people a little in less stressful topics of conversation (although by popular demand, the hashtags will continue…).
The internet genuinely is humanity’s greatest invention and a tool we can use for enormous good. Social networks have started political revolutions, created new channels of communications between cultures, and provided much needed connection between people living in an increasingly isolated world. The fact is, our lives are becoming more and more virtual – which is not necessarily a bad thing given our toxic impact on the material world. But if living in a vacuum of self induced anxiety where hating on a celebrity’s new haircut is deemed the pinnacle of human existence, we really are screwed.
So fix your facebook feed, post interesting shit, and really start #livingyourlife the way you want to.