Let's Just Say The Man Is Well-Equipped

I received a rejection from Ploughshares after six months only I didn’t quite receive it. I was messing around online and logged in to their submission manager only to find my status had indeed, changed! No essay publication for me. Alas. I

was a bit bummed because the submission had been out so long Duotrope lulled me into that delusional place where I thought, “Maybe I have a chance.” I do not have a chance. There is absolutely no chance for me.

Upcoming appearances: February 29th-March 3, AWP (Literary Death Match on Friday at 8pm, Happy Hour Reading, Friday at 5 pm at Beauty Bar, Panel, Thursday at 9 am about flash fiction, Panel Friday at 9 am about Magazines and the Internet, Panel Friday at 10:30 am (yes, it’s okay, I’m a substitution), about African American women writing contemporary literary fiction. Then I will be reading on March 14th, John Carroll University, March 23, Butler University, March 30, Indiana University, and April 30 at CSU Boulder and of course, May 19-23 or so I will be reading at places in NYC. It’s surprising and humbling and awesome to be invited to all these places to read and talk about my work so, yeah, that’s that.

My story Lucy Lives in a World of Infinite Possibility is up at Two Serious Ladies. It originally appeared in Avery Anthology 7.

I wrote a letter to the young women who feel like letting Chris Brown beat on them would be a fair exchange to be with him. That attitude saddens me but I understand where it comes from.

Sara Habein interviewed me about my blog and movie rules for Persephone Magazine. It was a riot because hey, any chance to talk about movies.

Speaking of, let’s just get right to business.

I saw The Vow, loved The Vow, laughed pretty much all the way through The Vow. The movie, by the way, was completely sold out and the estrogen levels were very, very high. I left the theatre feeling very fertile which is saying something. The movie was also very terrible and stupid but in an utterly hypnotic way. I couldn’t get enough. I practically mainlined that movie and walked out thinking, “I won’t be single forever, I really won’t!”

If you’ve seen the trailer, you have totally seen the movie but if you feel like stretching the trailer out for a couple hours, this is a good way to do it.

I need this kind of mindless joy in my life, I do. I carry around a lot of darkness (for lack of a better word) and bullshit baggage and movies and books and writing, they keep that stuff contained. I understand what these kinds of romantic dramas and their cousins, romantic comedies, are all about. They make love seem easy. When there are obstacles, they are overcome. Everyone is beautiful. Money is not a problem. This is not real life. I have the critical faculties to distinguish between the fantasy ten feet high and the world as we know it. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the fantasy. I am fairly unapologetic on this point. When I put my critic hat on, I can certainly talk about the damaging messages some of these movies send about gender, love, and sex, but movies are the one thing I love where I don’t really approach them as a critic. Movies are my downtime and happy place.

The Vow is terrible in almost every way–crazy plot (though vaguely based on a real life couple), crazy subplots that are barely developed, crazy contrivances, crazy face acting, and inexplicably, a beautiful, very talented actress like Rachel McAdams, gamely doing an amazing job in her role. I was impressed. She committed and was charming and vulnerable and acting like, yes, this is the role I have always wanted. I respect that kind of commitment. I wonder what kind of motivation she had to give herself to bring it like that.

The movie opens with one of the most annoying, lazy, weak script maneuvers around–the voice over to create atmosphere and context and imbue the movie, in its early going, with pathos. We hear Channing’s muscular voice. Hark! His voice really is muscular, isn’t it? Like, his neck is so thick with musculature that his voice comes out sounding…. muscular and meaty. He did try to bring some nuance and voice acting to the movie, though. As he spoke, there was an implied significance to his words. He rhapsodized about moments and I thought, “All praise, St. Nicholas Sparks,” because his legacy is all over this movie. Oddly, though, he did not write the “screenplay.” That masterpiece required the work of three writers.

Channing and Rachel are walking out of a theatre. They are in Chicago which, by the by, has never looked better. The Chicago cinematography, or at least what I will call White Chicago, was on point. For such a diverse city it was curious that I don’t recall seeing much in the way of people of color. Anyway, they walk out of the theatre. While they were inside it snowed and they make some comment about the beauty of unblemished snow. They are young and fit and beautiful and in love. Oh, how the world is perfect.

They get into a crappy car and drive and at an intersection, empty, they stop, just… stop, and have stupid couple conversation, and Rachel says, “You know, they say it helps to get pregnant if you do it in the car,” or something like that. I was pretty pissed because it was going to be hard to see a lot of naked Channing if he had to do it in the car. (Un)fortunately, as she climbs onto his lap, they are rear-ended by a municipal truck and she flies through the windshield while Channing slumps forward in the way one does when impacted by something moving at a high velocity. Physics is at work. We’re supposed to be deeply affected but we’ve only known this couple for like three minutes. Still. Sad. The voice over returns, of COURSE, and Channing says something like, “you never know which moments are going to happen until they happen.” I am paraphrasing, but whatever he said was that blandly trite. That actually summarizes most of this movie–blandly trite.

Next, they’re in the hospital with a bewildering montage of hospital-y scenes meant to convey confusion and tension as we wait to learn the fates of our beloved heros. Who we have only known, now, for five minutes.

There’s a flashback, and there will be a few throughout the movie, to offer us some backstory of how they met (getting parking permits), how they married (in a museum without a permit, surrounded by their quirkily dressed hipster friends that didn’t match them at all), and how they lived (happily, in love, oh so happily). We see Chicago landmarks like the Bean that they run under after their guerilla wedding (she, in the lovely pink dress).

And then we’re back in the hospital and guess who the doctor is? My girl Wendy Crewson who is amazing, and unapologetic with her Canadian accent, and is also beautiful. Now, Wendy and I go way back. She is one of the staples of Lifetime Movie programming—she plays a lot of wives and real estate agents and such. There’s always some kind of crisis in her Lifetime movies and she generally has a rough go of it. What makes this casting particularly brilliant though is that Wendy starred in The Stranger I Married about a woman whose husband is involved in a car accident, gets amnesia, and comes back to her as a completely different person who has problems with rage. She basically starred in the same movie seven years ago, only she had Channing’s role then. I clapped gleefully as I realized that I was witnessing the Circle of Movie Life unfolding, right before my eyes.

Rachel is in bed and Channing is staring at her from the foot of the bed beefily. He is distressed. His woman is hurt! He really puts on some spectacular face acting movies to convey his sadness and worry. I was fucking moved as hell. Suddenly Rachel wakes up (of course), and looks around. She is discombobulated but the doctor soothingly assures Rachel it’s all going to be okay. Then Rachel looks at Channing and asks him a question like he too is her doctor. KNIFE THROUGH THE HEART. At this point, I swear to God, I started to hear sniffles in the audience and such a display of emotion made me uncomfortable, so I tried to hold my giggle in. Out of respect.

We quickly realize Rachel has no memory of her marriage. As far as she can tell, she’s still engaged to some other guy, enrolled in law school, and close with her parents. Channing is distraught. His wife doesn’t know him and the perfect life they live or the perfect love they share. What is he to do? This part of the movie is fairly incoherent and shoddily edited but everything looks good so I guess there’s that.

One day, Channing comes to the hospital, can’t find his wife, and learns she is in the VIP wing. He runs up there and her parents, Sam Neill and Jessica Lange, are hovering over her. We learn he has never met her parents (introduction of yet another conflict), who are rich and controlling because, movie rule, rich people always suck. Mumsy and Daddsy want to take their precious little girl home with them, and it all seems very nefarious like something rotten is lurking. Channing is NOT. HAViNG. IT. Wendy Crewson totally has his back and encourages Rachel to go home with her husband so that maybe, by immersing herself in her real life, her memory will begin to return. Rachel isn’t really feeling her hot beefcake husband, her wardrobe, or her hair but she reluctantly follows him home, making it crystal clear she basically hates his face.

Their apartment looks like Restoration Hardware vomited all over the place, repeatedly. That is to say, the apartment was perfect and horrible all at the same time–lots of distressed infrastructure and distressed objets artfully displayed throughout the home. The décor is meant to show us that these are people who enjoy artifacts that can be purchased at chain purveyors of artifacts. Feel the real!

Over the next while, the couple awkwardly tries to grapple with their new reality. Rachel acts fairly imperious and bitchy but we’re supposed to understand because of her amnesia, while Channing acts the way we want him to act–like the most patient, understanding, charming, lovelorn, masochistic man alive. Seriously, let’s just start the canonization process for Leo (his name in the movie). We’ll call the movie about his sainthood, The Beatification of Channing’s Body. At times we get brief, unsatisfying gratuitous glimpses of his carved slab of man meat body. There’s a “funny” scene where he walks to the bathroom naked and Rachel is mildly scandalized to see a man, with a penis whilst she is in her underwear. Quelle horreur.

In her right mind, she is a sculptor but in her new mind, she thinks she’s daddy’s little girl and a would be lawyer so one day Channing takes her to her studio which, like the apartment, is amazing and full of art and these gorgeous sculptures and Rachel has a tantrum because Channing turns on some music, loud, that New Rachel doesn’t even like but that Old Rachel loved and she snaps at him and breaks his heart and he says what we’ve all been thinking and which can be summed up as GIRL IT AIN’T ALL ABOUT YOU.

It’s not hard to see that Old Rachel is the worst. She decides to move back home with her parents to help her sister prepare for her pending nuptials. “It’s just temporary,” she assures her mostly estranged husband. She also streaks her hair blonde and I’m sorry, but it was not a good look. Her old wardrobe was not great too, mostly pieces from Talbot’s. Channing is on a mission now. Aren’t all movies about a quest? He is going to make his wife fall in love with him again. He actually says this line. Now, at this point, you must understand that nearly every woman in the theatre (about 92% of the audience), had been openly crying, if not sobbing, for the past fifty or so minutes. At this point, though, their hormones really began to burn, and collectively, vaginas started to explode, their pink bits happily floating toward the screen and the visage of Channing, as Leo, the perfectest hunk of man to ever walk the earth.

One evening he picks her up at her parents and takes her on a date where they visit all the important places from their history. They have some banter as they get in the car about spending the night. It’s charming and romantic and this is when I could visibly see the audience’s hearts throbbing against ribcages, threatening to breach the bone. What I’m saying is that the audience was feeling this movie, HARD, and I WAS RIGHT THERE WITH THEM. We all flushed with desire when at the end of the date, they went to the lake, stripped down, and ran into the lake. When Channing came out, dripping wetly in the moonlight, you could see the enticing silhouette of his manhood in his boxer briefs and pretty much everyone leaned forward and in all seriousness, many women gasped, licked their lips, and otherwise vocalized their desire to be Channing’s special friend. Let’s just say the man is well-equipped.

Channing was blatantly objectified in this movie.

Blatantly.

At the engagement party he charms the sister by covering for her d-bag fiancee. Later, they go to a night club New Rachel would never go to but that Old Rachel loved and she basically ditches him for her high society besties and while sad music plays, Channing stands in the middle of the slick night club, alone. I would have comforted the hell out of him that night.

At the wedding, he basically is abandoned again, and Rachel’s ex-fiancé gets into it with Channing and Channing lays the guy out and I know that every woman in the theatre wanted to jump up and kiss his bruised knuckes, and rightly so. Before that, Old Rachel’s asshole father tried to buy Channing off and basically told him to divorce his wife because they don’t have health insurance even though they have a huge, gorgeous apartment in the city and he owns a recording studio and she has her own separate studio space. In all that spending, health insurance simply wasn’t a priority. Because they are young! And beautiful! And in love!

That night, Channing realizes Old Rachel is sticking around and she doesn’t love him and she kind of sucks. She just likes him and wants to make out with him and that’s not enough for a marriage. It’s a heartbreaking scene and the sobbing at this point was loud and wet and visceral. The audience was just as devastated as Channing. He lets her go and it’s poignant in a highly constructed and artificial way and then we see another shoddily edited montage about the dissolution of their marriage and how each of them are moving on. Channing packs up her studio and leaves her clay pile outside and to show us how much time has passed, various weather events occur in the exact vicinity of this clay pile (see also: the time passing montage from Notting Hill).

One day, Old Rachel who is kind of like a New Rachel now, it’s all very confusing, is in a market when a woman from her past runs up to her. She

awkwardly apologizes for nailing Old Rachel’s father. OMG! Scandal! Family secrets! An explanation for the previous rift between New Rachel (who is back to being Old Rachel), and her family. Rachel runs home and confronts her mother who explains, “Your father did a lot of things right and one thing wrong, so I stayed with him.” Then Rachel runs back to Channing, who is walking up to his apartment with a manic pixie dream girl who wisely excuses herself because the former spouses have “things to talk about.” Rachel glares at the girl with an expression that basically says STEP BEFORE I TAKE OFF MY EARRINGS AND GREASE MY CHEEKS WITH VASELINE. She asks if he knew about her father’s affair and why he didn’t tell her and he says all the right things because his perfection cannot be marred in any way. She then runs back to her stupid life, leaves law school, moves into the city (what? Is history repeating itself?).

One night she makes her way to the café where she and Channing had their first date but it’s closed for a snow day and lo and behold, there is Channing, strolling toward the café, reading a newspaper, looking meat gorgeous. She coyly admits she lives in Chicago and Channing coyly admits he’s single and they beam at each other and walk into the distance and their happily ever after (and I think the voice over returns, like a rash) and then because this is a TRU LUV STORY we see the picture of the real couple who, of course, look nothing like Channing and Rachel, but are happy nice looking people who made a rough situation work. She never gets her memory back which is really quite sad, to lose so much of your life.

This movie was one long face act for Channing. I could not get enough of him trying to emote

through the excessive use of his facial muscles. Also, his hair cut was one of those amazing, ridiculous $400 haircuts where every single hair was cut in a way to best frame his beautiful meaty features. Also, that neck. I say that neck the way some might say that ass. His neck is an epic thing of man beauty. I have surrendered completely to my love of Channing. I give in. And respect, Hollywood for really trying to make Channing happen this year. He has five movies coming out in 2012 and the press is doing their darndest to overlook his extraordinarily limited acting range to prop his fine ass up.

Real talk, the highlight was Channing, after realizing Old New Whatever Rachel didn’t love him and that their marriage was over, at his recording studio, playing an ACOUSTIC guitar and singing some crappy song to himself in the saddest vignette ever. I shit you not, there was a moment when he allowed a single tear to slide down his face and at this point, women started stripping, flinging their clothes in the air wildly as they rushed to the screen, arms wide open, ready to pull Channing to their bared breasts.

12 comments on “Let's Just Say The Man Is Well-Equipped

  1. I know we disagree on the romantic fantasy thing, and I’ve struggled (and failed) to adequately articulate my views. Certainly there are women who can watch something like The Vow and enjoy it knowing full well it’s complete fantasy, just as there are people who can enjoy Star Wars knowing there’s no such thing as Jedi Knights (oops…should’ve said spoiler alert). Yet given the pervasiveness of female romantic ideals in pop culture, I have a hard time believing most women see it as just harmless fantasy. Just about every heterosexual woman I know has been in a relationship with a man where they put up with far more bad behavior (some of it REALLY bad) from their partner for far longer than they should have, and my gut feeling is that they do this in part because they — we — have been encouraged to believe that life without romantic love isn’t worth living. We can say in our rational minds that we know the difference between fantasy and reality, but our rational minds have very little to do with the fear of being alone and unloved. I’m not going to grossly oversimplify matters by suggesting that female romantic fantasy leads to the kind of behavior you wrote about in that terrific essay on Chris Brown — and yet, might there not be just a little bit of a connection there?

    1. Hmmm… well, I was just speaking generally, but I do think you’re not giving women enough credit. I think people recognize the fantasy and love it despite themselves. I’m also comfortable saying I want the fantasy, I do. Of course, I don’t expect it and I also think tht the fantasy is not about the perfect guy or gal but rather the perfect person who is perfect in terms of who they are, compatibility, flaws that can get along, and the like. I think that we’re so embittered these days that we forget that fantasy isn’t always a bad thing. I don’t see a connection between having a fantasy and tolerating a bad relationship. I think women tolerate bad relationships for the reasons you note–a fear of being alone and unloved but that’s not the same as wanting a fantasy. If anything, enduring a bad relationship is a painful reminder of how far you are from the fantasy.

  2. I agree that fantasy is important. I’m a fiction writer; life without fantasy, imagination, play and pretending, really isn’t worth living. But fantasy that I create myself and fantasy mass-produced by a hegemonic society are two different things, and unfortunately the latter tends to invade the former for a great many women. I would love to give women credit for being able to get past this, but why do you think we still have Go Daddy ads several decades after the dawn of Women’s Lib? In part because women allow it. We permit our own objectification, still, in a lot of ways. I see Go Daddy ads as being just the other side of the same coin as The Vow. The vast majority of books and movies and TV shows aimed at women still tend to relate heavily to women’s relationships to men. The same is not true of books and movies and TV shows aimed at men. We are still, still, STILL being made to feel like social approval, especially male social approval, is more important than our own self-esteem.

    The reason I feel so strongly about this stuff is that I feel like nobody wants to acknowledge its truth. We can point out the gross sexism of a Go Daddy ad, but when it comes to movies like The Vow, we shrug and claim it has no lasting effect on us. The hardest thing about fighting a hegemony is that nobody realizes that they are being subjugated. That’s how I feel talking about this stuff.

  3. I think your argument breaks down when you write of “women,” implying all (American?) women. I don’t think you allow for enough agency in individuals, who will be effected in varying degrees and different manners. Too many “we’s”; not enough “I’s.”

    1. Obviously I don’t mean all women. Women are all different. Yet I also can’t help but notice that NO women in America have been president, and almost no women are CEOs of top companies or hold positions of power. That is an identifiable trend: lack of women in positions of power. I believe I’ve identified another: tendency of many American women to accept the kind of female fantasy created by mass media as harmlessly entertaining. And here’s another: tendency of people who assume that I say these things out of personal experience rather than objective analysis.

  4. I’ve been sitting in my spare bedroom/office for days, working, but with a thread running through the back of my mind: “Ploughshares hated my short story so much they couldn’t even pretend to appreciate the opportunity to consider my work? My story sucked so badly that an automated rejection got stuck in their throats?” As you can see, I have a somewhat pessimistic nature. So thank you for sharing your submissions journey to give sad folks like me some perspective.

    Also, I was very glad to find your blog. I had to give up one of the sites where you write. (A music post by another author that found the term “vagina juice” requisite to a negative album review pushed me over the edge.) And I really enjoy your work. It brightens my day whenever I find it!

  5. Wow, this was really fun to read. Such a thrilling and energetic post that it makes me want to go and start a blog . . . lol. I know when I’ve really liked something when I suddenly feel compelled to imitate it.

  6. Reading this makes me sad I don’t find Channing cute at all. Wait, what’s his first name? *google* Oh, that is his first name! *google images* Yeah, he’s just way too thick for me. You were right about that neck. That man has a neck, and I hate it, but it’s cool that you like it (as well as 100,000,000 other women) because who gives a crap.

    I don’t like chick flicks, but it’s fun to read your take.

  7. holy smokes, you actually make appearances? you mean, someone actually comes to see you babble IN PERSON? LOL! Wow…

    Oh and what is your obsession with “parkour”/the office on this site? I just read at least three diff mentions, and have no idea what your deal w/ that is. But uhhh…ok.

    I know you are supposedly “used to rejection” but apparently, not enough. You actually built a site around your opinions (which i bet less than %0.15 of the populace would ever share) and then overstate the hell out of them over and over again. Reiterate much? LMAO

    hey…i had a thought…Try NOT being obnoxious in your reviews of your kitchen devices (yeah, we TOTALLY care apparently about that stuff..lol…like your fuckin’ juicers matter to anyone lol) and your pathetically desperate attempts to sound witty in your reviews of actually decent films, tv shows, actors, and, yes, even board games! You are just kinda annoyingly self-approving (like that Juno chick you like writing about) and you kinda need a break in my humble opinion. Like….a forever kinda break. Just take the site down, actually. Or you can just delete these non-endorsing comments and continue…whichever is fine with me.

    1. Well, this is my personal website so I don’t really care if anyone agrees with my opinions. The great thing about websites is that if you don’t like them, you don’t have to read them so instead of reading a bunch my blog posts you don’t like, perhaps you’d enjoy http://www.gofuckyourself.com. Thanks for commenting!

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