Just a couple of writers on a road trip through life. Hop in, hold on, and don’t forget your rain boots.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Sex and the City and the embarrassing truth

Fancy-pants shoes
 Am I allowed to criticize something that I never liked? I’m going to anyway. 

 I was sick this week and laid in bed one day for a two hour stretch during my son’s nap. I usually write during that time but I felt like Ramen noodles. In that I was all weak and mushy and my brain was liquid like broth. Anyway, Sex and the City (SATC) the movie was on. I missed maybe the first fifteen minutes, and I kept switching back and forth between that and anything else that didn’t make me want to gouge my eyes out, but I kept going back because I was curious to see just how bad it could get. Man, curiosity is death.

 I would have preferred to watch an entire two hours of tampon and Monistat commercials uninterrupted by the horror that was that movie. I didn’t think I could care any less about fictional characters than I did when they were on the show, but watching the movie made me realize how desperately I wanted to run them over in a riding lawn mower. Their problems are so ridiculous. Frivolous. Oh wait, I should say spoiler alert, as if anything could spoil that crapfest. I think the one old oversexed bag lady one had some kind of problem that buying a bunch of Gucci crap couldn’t solve, but I never did sort out exactly what her deal was. The one over-perfect rich chick had everything she wanted and her big problem was she was worried that it would all eventually begin to suck. Ooh. Sad. The main chick can’t get the dude to marry her no matter what shoes she wears. And the mean red-headed one got cheated on by her husband, which I’ll give her that one because that’s a legit gripe. But she forgives him and they kiss and it’s all kittens and rainbows and butterflies and whatnot after that. So all good in the hood. 

Ooh, look how happy they are...
 I guess what I don’t get is how people could watch a movie that has no heart and soul to it whatsoever—no heart, no soul, no guts, no glory, no despair, no ninjas, no zombies, no Battlestars—and get anything out of it. Even entertainment value. Nothing they did made me care about the characters in the slightest. I kind of wanted to puke when the main chick goes back to her fancy pants penthouse apartment and runs into the guy she was supposed to marry because they both went back for a pair of fancy-pants expensive shoes and they are reunited somehow, probably by their mutual love of fancy things. Barf. If I met anyone who spent over five hundred dollars on one pair of shoes I would kick them in their special places. Scratch that. If I met anyone who spent over five hundred dollars on their entire collection of shoes I would probably kick them in their special places. 

 I would be a giant jerk myself if I didn’t admit that I watch plenty of stuff for entertainment purposes that has no redeeming value whatsoever. Pretty sure both the Hangover movies fall into that category, as well as most episodes of Family Guy and The Office. So I’m a big hypocritical judger myself. And also about four years late in seeing that movie, which is just sad because I’m pretty sure they’ve even come out with a sequel to that awful mess since the first one was made. I don’t say this as a disclaimer, just as an acknowledgement that I am being hypocritical.

 I’m coming to a point now, I swear it. Two points, actually. And one involving a very dumb thing I did. Deep breath. I really hate admitting it but I committed to sharing gut-wrenching, embarrassing things and things that make me a writer and things that make me a better writer, and that’s what this next part is about. I’m cringing and cringing. Okay, here goes. When I was in college*, I wrote a sex column for the college newspaper. It was during the height of SATC popularity, and I was the only one willing to write it. It was a big risk. I think it is more than necessary—it’s vital—to take risks as a writer. Write from a different point of view. Write as a character who is your own personal polar opposite. Write mean when you’re nice. Write sad when you’re happy. Challenge yourself. I remember when Stephanie was telling me about her manuscript, and how it was written from the point of view of a character very different from her usual characters. But she did it. So it can pay off if you do something outside the box. I really do believe that. But I also know that things can follow you around, and you don’t want to get known for something you did long ago. I regret that column not because it wasn’t a risk, but because it wasn’t me. I wasn’t being my true authentic self. Because the true me doesn’t talk about that stuff with people other than close friends. The true me really believes in love, and it’s not just about sex. I did write a column about women’s issues, rape, and one about STD’s. Those columns didn’t run because the editor didn’t think they were lighthearted enough. But those were the ones that are the real me—if I’m going to write about sex, I want to raise awareness, and maybe help people. I don’t just want to talk about how to get a guy in bed in three easy steps (pretty sure it only takes one anyway—ask). 

The second thing is write what is real. Maybe SATC is very realistic. Maybe people really are that shallow and self- centered and decadent and over-the-top when it comes to their style and clothes and stuff. But to me the whole thing sounded artificial. Even if you’re writing a story that stretches your imagination, it has to be real or it’s going to be awful. Maybe not a SATC level of awful but still pretty bad. I guess it depends on what you’re writing—if you write television commercials I suppose this doesn’t apply—but I think anything should come from a place inside the writer that is genuine, authentic. It doesn’t mean you write only about stuff that you’ve experienced firsthand. Just that you can put yourself in your story, in the character, into the little town you invented or on the spaceship you’re flying. If you can’t, your reader can’t.

 If I have any one overarching goal as a writer, it’s to write stuff that makes people feel something, and also to write something good that doesn’t make people want to puke Ramen noodles all over the shop. If you’re a writer and you’re reading this, I implore you. Write something good. Write real people. Write from your heart. And in the name of all you hold dear and all the ninjas in the world, do not write SATC fan fiction or a second sequel that would make it a Sex and the City Trilogy of Horror. I mean it. I will curse you with halitosis and warts and foot fungus and make you drink the water in the alligator pond at the zoo. Which will give you the trots because it’s full of bacteria and stuff. Go forth and write. 

*College: Yes, I did go but I never got that fancy piece of paper with letters on it at the end. I messed around and I have enough junior college credits to rule all the junior colleges forever as the supreme Queen of Junior College, but the four-year thing and the actual getting my act together and graduating thing didn’t happen. Just so everybody knows I’m not claiming to be a college graduate. Someday, though, I’ll get that special piece of paper. And I’ll hang it on the wall next to my Man Booker Prize

Julie Simmons-Wixom is a writer, yoga enthusiast, and someday dreams of flying around on Battlestar Galactica. Email her here if you need more information on anything. She knows it all. 

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