DID I JUST GET TAGGED!?
Between the fall of 2016 and the summer of 2017, I read a number of trashy YA novels for stress relief. Kale, My Ex, and Other Things To Toss in a Blender marked a breaking point for me; after reading that mess, I decided to stop altogether.
Before hitting my limit, I picked up a book called Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer at the Seattle Library. Right away I noticed similarities between the book cover and the film Marie Antoinette starring Kirsten Dunst; the publisher had gone to great lengths to mimic Sofia Coppola’s rock-and-roll palette.
Though the title seemed pretty self-explanatory, I scanned the book for more details.
This was the back cover:
This, I thought, looks AWFUL.
I checked it out immediately.
I should mention that I love serial killers. Not, like, in real life. And NOT the twist-ending-it-was-actually-a-demon kind. Serial killer literature – with actual human serial killers – is my ultimate guilty pleasure. The best books make me paranoid and antsy. The worst make me laugh. I almost like the second kind more – nothing like an unintentionally hilarious serial killer mystery to get me through the night!
I expected Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer to lean toward terrible. Sure enough, the book opened with Marie Antoinette’s ghost murdering a young girl!
Are you KIDDING!? I thought. She’s also an IMMORTAL GHOST!? Immortal ghost books form one of my favorite subsets of serial killer lit. I’ve had some hilarious times reading sexy Jack the Ripper novels.
The first few pages of this book had me cheering. I couldn’t wait to keep laughing.
Things did not proceed as I expected.
After the gruesome murder, the book introduced its protagonist, Colette.
Colette had befriended the popular crowd early in her high school career. She tried to maintain the illusion that her family was as rich as theirs.
Ugh. Really? CLASS DRAMA? GET BACK TO THE MURDER.
The book kept returning to Colette’s friendship with Alpha Bitch Hannah. Through reconciling with an old friend and working out her feelings with the popular betas, Colette realized how toxic her friendship with Hannah had become.
That really got to me.
When I picked up this book, I was in the process of ending a friendship. That phrase implies an active choice and a clean break when in reality there were multiple epiphanies and unacknowledged hurts. There wasn’t a clean mutual break. I didn’t write this person a Dear John letter about my need for independence. Through our interactions – and some of her inaction – I realized a person I’d invested a LOT of time and energy in did not care about me. At all.
I kept having moments while reading this book where I would go, “Colette, just dump her! Just dump- Oh…”
Hannah and Colette had a surprising number of positive interactions. Hannah would do something kind only to demean Colette a few pages later. Most of the time, Colette dismissed her own hurt feelings. She told her other friends some version of, “Nobody’s perfect. Everybody has flaws.”
“All people are flawed,” her friends agreed, “but you get to decide what you’ll put up with.”
I’ve forgotten almost every detail of the book but that one line.
The book goes even farther, extending the theme of toxic friendship to Marie Antoinette herself.
(This goes into spoiler territory. Ye be warned.)
The mysterious ghost turned out to be Marie Antoinette’s best friend, the one who led Marie and her family to be executed. In the book’s climax, Colette essentially acts as a corporeal mediator for a centuries-long ghostly dispute.
I wiped tears away as I read. Was I SERIOUSLY CRYING? Over a GHOST SERIAL KILLER NOVEL? WHAT WAS MY PROBLEM?
Colette put the ghosts to rest, ended her friendship with Hannah, and followed her tour group back to the States. I should mention Colette had a cute French love interest who helped her with her ghost quest. I wasn’t all that fond of him; Jules, the French tour guide, seemed like the focus group answer to “What do the teens like?”
I expected Colette and Jules to exchange lofty promises of fidelity over long distance.
Colette bid farewell to Jules, reflecting that their relationship, though temporary, was both valuable and worth remembering.
WHAT KIND OF MATURE NOVEL DID I JUST READ???
I came here
for art, for energy, for community, for people like me, done with
“accidental” pregnancies and tiny weddings and Trump rallies
and surely, maybe
I’d meet more men
in a city of 700,000.
Bursting with creativity
I came here.
Now I’m stuck
in this ugly gray
where walking down the sidewalk in a straight line
is an Olympic sport
knows how to drive,
beating back screaming homeless
and rude Chinese ladies
and I didn’t ask for this.
I didn’t fucking ask for this.
of mixers, classes,
waiting on men
who remain passive
and I’m twenty-two again
Meanwhile, my church
pays lip service to loving singles,
all around me married people
making plans, making visits,
in small talk-
“What do you do?
Did you just move?
How long have you
been coming here?”-
pick up the phone
suggest a spot
make the first move
the first move
and they say
in the gulf
“Can I come over?”
“Come on in.”
the life changes
that would make me
so far away
When I’m a model
member of my life
every Bible study
is welcomed, paraded,
“We’re so glad you made it!”
I’ve been here
“But you have God!”
feels more and more
like I haven’t trusted
like I haven’t tried
like I haven’t been praying,
like I can’t hear the truth
in what they’re saying:
I have God
no one else
All I want is a pint of Chubby Hubby and a soothing movie…
…and for my neighbor to stop blasting Canadian news into the corridor. I KNOW WHO YOU ARE, YOU RAP-BLASTING DOUCHE.
Happy New Year, I suppose.
A friend and I have been discussing “serious” vs. “fun” writing. Even for something like fanfiction, which is “fun,” I want to create a perfect jewel of character development and canon agreement that wins people over to my one true ship. Essentially, I suck the “fun” out of fanfiction before I even start.
I have a pile of “serious” blog posts in various states of completion and a backlog of poetry that I’m not sure is good, but what I want is to write a dumb one-off post about movies for no reason at all.
…okay, partly to distract from the Canadian onslaught.
Like with my favorite books, others wouldn’t find these movies soothing; many qualify as tragic with plots that should stress me out, but I love them all.
After waking up to Canadian news, surviving a bad work day, coming home to Canadian news, etc., I turn to these films.
- The Last Five Years
I shouldn’t like this movie as much as I do (or so someone has informed me), seeing as I hate both Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan. Also, the movie deals with the dissolution of their marriage, which isn’t calming movie fare.
But I dig it. I love how Cathy and Jamie’s storylines play in reverse. It’s like “Memento: The Musical,” which I would totally see. The music reminds me of “Fun Home” and “Dear Evan Hansen,” two other musicals I love; the straightforward monologues convey heartbreak and frustration well. (“Still Hurting” is on my breakup playlist.)
It would be easy to say I watch this when I need a good cry (which I do), but it’s incredibly cathartic to watch someone else’s marriage implode through song. It makes me feel a lot better about the JERK IN APARTMENT 516.
- Center Stage
Many of these movies I associate with college. My roommate Hannah introduced me to “Center Stage” during one of many movie nights in our dorm room. We might even have been watching this the night I fought with my boyfriend and he never called me back. My roommate bought me junk food and turned on “Center Stage” to cheer me up. That was a great night!
This…is not a good movie. It’s an edgy teen dance drama from 2000 featuring Mandela from “10 Things I Hate About You” and dancers as actors. Pinocchio from “Once Upon a Time” plays Mandela’s love interest!! Zoe Saldana is in it! SO IS THE SANDY COHEN FROM “THE O.C.!”Everything about it is campy and wrong and ridiculous, but enough compelling moments sneak in to make me cry. And it’s worth it to ride out the hilarious 10-minute dance finale with the most impossible costume change in movie history. Pro tip: Watch this movie with a parent. My mom not only cried throughout, but screamed, “HER CAREER IS OVER!” after seeing the lead perform ballet in her underwear in the finale.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
My best friend from grade school acted out this entire movie for me during a sleepover. We became obsessed with this movie for YEARS.I quote every line. I giggle when I see Orlando Bloom. The piratey soundtrack speaks to my soul.I conveniently forget about the rest of Johnny Depp’s career for 2 hours and it. Is. GLORIOUS.
- Sense and Sensibility
I’m not sure when I first saw this; I only know I told myself this movie understood my teenage heartbreak. My friend Kristine and I would cry about wanting Colonel Brandon to carry us five miles through the rain.
It’s a really good movie, though. It might have sparked my desire to adapt Austen’s works, even though EMMA THOMPSON DID IT PERFECTLY.
- She’s the Man
During my sophomore year of college, I would go to my friend Sydnie’s apartment once a week and watch movies for hours. This was one of our favorites.
Something about this absurd, clumsy reworking of Twelfth Night cheers me up like nothing else. You couldn’t make this movie today (even though some still think joking about gender identity is hilarious), but I appreciate its (limited) take on gender roles. Yay, girls can be pretty and strong!Also, Vinnie Jones is in it? All of the actors’ terror when he’s on screen is real.
- Legally Blonde
This was another Sydnie pick. I didn’t like it my first time watching it, but a professor of mine defended it during speech class, so I gave it another shot. It’s weirdly feminist and uplifting and is one of very few movies from the 2000s I enjoy.
- He’s Just Not That Into You
Ginnifer Goodwin does a really bad job in this movie, Jennifer Connelly is weird, all the guys are gross, everyone is WEIRDLY okay with infidelity… I still watch it. All the time. As cliched as it is, this movie doesn’t shy away from the crappy parts of being single. The parts where the characters overanalyze speak to me. DOES HE LIKE ME OR NOT? ARE JUSTIN LONG AND THE GUY FROM ENTOURAGE MY ONLY OPTIONS? Also, “Wait a minute, why am I alone? Why am I unhappy? Why have I gained twenty pounds?”
- Begin Again
Tonally I think this movie is perfect. If we checked off things that I love in movies, a. it’s set in New York, b. it’s a musical(ish), c. it has a bittersweet yet hopeful ending. The cast is great, the soundtrack is awesome, I LOVED when (spoilers) Keira Knightley left Adam Levine for messing with her song.
I’m almost positive CeeLo Green calls himself “a chocolate gummy bear” in the film, but that might be too many SNL skits talking.
- La La Land
Among my friends, it’s best not to talk about this movie unless you’re going to trash it, for completely valid reasons.
I still love it.The first musical number makes me cry WITHOUT FAIL. It exactly embodies how I used to feel around other musicians; there’s a particular energy when everyone’s jamming and excited and I MISS THAT.
Also, Emma Stone’s monologues kills me. I don’t make a living off my art, but creating hurts. It doesn’t HAVE to, but it can. I’m still getting rid of the inner critic that speaks in the voice of my former writing partner. I get how much it sucks to work hard and hope for success and think that nothing will come of these creative desires.
The ending is sad and all, but I would leave Ryan Gosling behind to follow my dreams. Sebastian deserves it.
- About Time
Stupid Domhnall Gleeson and his perfect face.The main character’s mom has this perfect line late in the movie when asked how she’s feeling: “I am fucking furious. I am so uninterested in a life without your father.” Which pretty well sums up grief and life in general for me.This movie makes the mundane seem miraculous. Epic love is replaced with quiet intimacy between a well-matched couple and I’m so fine with it.
Is it weird that I want Domhnall Gleeson as my baby daddy? Is it?
In the foreword to her daughter’s dating advice book, Christian author Karen Kingsbury relates a story from her honeymoon: on August 1, 1988, on a beach in Mexico, she and her husband decided to pray for their future family, including their future kids and those kids’ spouses. They prayed, and that very day, their son-in-law, Kyle Kupecky, was born.
This story alludes to a strong belief in some Christian circles in the power of praying for one’s future spouse, i.e., praying for the needs and spiritual growth of the person you will one day marry. This concept was really popular when I was growing up in the 2000s: young girls were encouraged to write letters to their future husbands filled with uplifting verses from their women’s Bibles; Rebecca St. James wrote a song about virginity directed at her someday spouse; an Amazon search brings up at least 10 books on the subject, some of them recently published. The goal, from what I gather, is for God to work in your spouse, shape you into the perfect partner, and fill you both with love for each other before you’ve even met.
It should surprise none of you that I’m not a fan.
I’ve gone from willingly participating in letter-writing and guided prayer to sick with anger at the mention of “hearts being knit together.” This practice that was supposed to benefit me spiritually has, I’ve found, harmed my faith, and I have more than one reason for no longer continuing. Continue reading
I’m a big fan of stories. I’m always consuming some kind of story, whether book or TV show, magical realism or Grimms-inspired sci-fi, anything I can react to, analyze, or write about.
Come watch me write about stories, even if you should be writing yourself. Especially if you should be writing yourself. Reading about writing isn’t writing, and reading other peoples’ writing isn’t writing, but it’s a lot of fun.