Monday, July 22, 2013

Shopping Safari

That window-shopping trip on Friday turned into a shopping spree. I haven't really done a round of mall shopping in three years, so I guess I was overdue, but when I'd bought three dresses and a blouse after going into two stores, I figured I'd better get out of there. However, they were all very practical and versatile items. It felt so good to wear a new dress to church on Sunday. My favorite find came in the Banana Republic outlet store. I used to love Banana Republic back when it was "travel and safari clothing." They sold stuff like photographers vests and safari jackets. When I was in college and escaping my roommate on a Saturday by taking the bus to the mall and spending the day just wandering, I spent a lot of time in Banana Republic. I was planning to be a globe-trotting journalist, and I guess in my head a globe-trotting journalist dressed like Indiana Jones. Since then, they quit having a jeep in the middle of the store display and switched to selling yuppie clothes. But when I walked into this store, the first thing I saw was a "safari" style dress -- khaki with lots of pockets. It was the kind of thing they used to sell. And they had my size. And it actually fit me. Even better, it rang up for less than $24 (the tag was quite a bit higher, but I might still have paid that price). Now I have this urge to go report something from some far-flung corner of the globe (though I think there's also a steampunk vibe to it, so I'll get there via airship).

After last week's discussion of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope, I stumbled on a movie on HBO that seemed to be a satire of the trope, Ruby Sparks. Our Hero is a young man who as a teenager apparently wrote The Great American Novel, which was a big enough bestseller that he lives a pretty wealthy life in LA in spite of having written nothing since then. But he's got a bad case of writer's block and now barely interacts with anyone other than his brother, his therapist, his publisher and his agent. But then he starts having vivid dreams about a young woman, and he starts writing about her. Soon, he knows everything about her and feels like she's the most vivid character he's ever written. But then he lets his brother read what he's written, and his brother says it won't work -- it's a romantic story, so the main audience is women, and what he's written isn't a real woman but rather a Manic Pixie Dream Girl (though he doesn't use those exact words), and that kind of character pisses women off. Things get weird when he finds his character in his kitchen, acting like she's his girlfriend. At first, he thinks he's hallucinating her, but then she interacts with other people, and then he discovers that whatever he writes about her comes true. He puts the manuscript aside to enjoy having his perfect girlfriend, but things get complicated the more she develops into a real person with a life of her own.

To be honest, I don't think the movie lived up to its potential, and I'm not entirely sure what it was saying about the Manic Pixie Dream Girl idea. I was waiting for him to learn that this kind of person would be incredibly annoying to be around, but he was only bothered by her when she developed a life of her own that didn't revolve entirely around him. I guess maybe that was the statement the film was making, that the "dream girl" for a lot of men isn't a real person. Or maybe it was just that this character had to learn to deal with reality and stop being so self-centered. I think it was meant to be a comedy, but the only actually funny parts came when he freaked out about her having a life of her own and tried to write her to bring her back to him, only to have that backfire. The actress playing the dream girl seemed to have fun with instantly shifting to become the latest thing he'd written.

I guess I'd have found it a lot more satisfying if instead of it being about him needing to learn to let real people into his life, it had been more about him finding out that the Manic Pixie Dream Girl would really be a nightmare and he started trying to do away with her when he met a far more interesting real woman.

I won't even get into yet another Hollywood version of what a novelist's life is like. I won't quibble about the LA-based agent because I've had one. I do wonder about the publisher (or editor) who lives in LA and constantly throws swanky literary parties. My main form of amusement from the portrayal of a novelist was a trope I've noticed in other things, where the main character has a reading event of the new novel, and apparently he either reads the entire book at the reading (talk about a marathon!) or he reads the end because the part of the reading they show is him reading what's obviously the conclusion, complete with Valuable Lesson that also applies to his real life, then closing the book as the audience sighs and wipes away tears. I think I'd be outraged if I went to a book event and the author gave away the end of the book. Or is that the way I'm supposed to be doing it, reading the last chapter instead of the first chapter?

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