“I’m bored,” Penny complained. She’d been reading The Bell Jar, after admitting the other night during our monthly back-to-back screening of Fight Club and American Beauty that while she understood the reference Edward Norton’s character makes (“In the Tibetan philosophy, Sylvia Plath sense of the word, we’re all dying.”), she had never actually read her work.
I suggested that that might just be the most horrible thing I’ve ever heard. More horrible than hearing that LCD Soundsystem broke up, more horrible than hearing that someone green-lighted a second Fantastic Four movie, even more horrible than when I heard that Akiva Goldsman might be writing the adaption of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower for the screen.
“Oh no!” Penny exclaimed in an exaggerated deadpan. “Surely not that horrible, Helena! And could you be any more esoteric?”
“I mean, sure,” I replied, ignoring her, “he wrote A Beautiful Mind, but he also wrote The DaVinci Code, Lost in Space, and both Batman Forever and Batman and Robin, which is arguably the worst movie ever made, never mind the worst Batman movie ever made. So, yeah, that was some pretty horrible news — but this — (and yes, I know I’m taking a long time to come back to it) this is more horrible yet!”
And so Penny is reading The Bell Jar, and while she may be bored, I am just glad that she is not clinically depressed. Now next month when we have our screening of American Beauty and Fight Club, she will have a richer understanding. (What can I say? Some people go to church. Penny and I have our own rituals, and this is one of them. There is so much to glean from those movies, both separately and together, but back to back, you can really see how they complement each other perfectly, Fight Club the dark Yin to American Beauty‘s Yang.)
“Speaking of Batman,” Penny said, reeling the conversation in to a manageable size, “Doesn’t that whole Batman Year Zero thing start this week?”
“Only one way to find out,” I said.
“Well, no, actually,” Penny said, spoiling my cliché. “We could just go on the Internet, and…”
“Only. One. Way. To. Find. Out.” I reiterated in all italics, punctuated by grammatically incorrect periods between each word. Grammatically incorrect or not, Penny managed to take my meaning, and we were off to the comic book store.
As always, we were greeted by the disembodied voice of Dave as we walked in the door, but we had also walked in on a discussion — an actual heated discussion on whether Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy was actually Star Wars canon or not — something to do with the clone processing planet from Episode II throwing a big monkey wrench in the cloning technology suggested by Zahn’s books. Suddenly and ill-advisedly, my favourite clerk James, well meaning but clearly clueless when it came to the etiquette of never bringing a woman into an argument between two geeks about Star Wars, turned to me and said “Helena, back me up — tell this guy that none of the books are canon — Lucas said so, right?”
“Lucas can’t even keep his own continuity straight,” I remarked, off-handledly, “But leave me out of this — I don’t even like those movies.”
“What do you mean you don’t like Star Wars?” The bespectacled Star Wars geek asked — the one who had been insisting that the Zahn trilogy was canon.
“Did I stutter?” I asked, channelling my inner Emilio Estevez.
Flustered, Star Wars Geek (or SWG for short — Star Wars geeks love their short forms — ie. SW ANH, or SW ESB or SW ROTJ) laughed, and said, “Oh, you don’t like the prequels. I get it — Jar Jar Binks, Trade Federation — yeah, kinda hokey — but Revenge of the Sith kind of rocked, no?”
“Nope,” I said plainly. “I can’t stand the whole franchise. It’s the most sexist universe in the history of cinema. Frankly, I don’t even know how the galaxy is populated, with only one woman under the age of sixty, and hundreds of planets populated seemingly only by men.
SWG snickered at my use of the word ‘tits’, and I could tell he wasn’t taking me seriously.
“Laugh it up, fuzzball,” I said, hoping to get his attention by quoting the one movie in the trilogy that had actual redemptive qualities, except… “Except that even in Empire, Leia’s not much more than a foil for Han Solo — and her entire character is just there to be alternately abused or ignored by a loveable scoundrel (oh, that’s original), and yet — and yet, when he’s being lowered into the Carbonite, she declares her love for him, to which he replies?”
“I know,” both SWG and James quoted in unison. I knew I could count on them.
“Right,” I said. “Leia the doormat, Leia the sexist plaything — and I’m not even going to get into the gold lame bikini Leia of Return of the Jedi. I mean, all three movies, she’s scowling the whole time, and yet she’s got both the charming, loveable rogue and her annoying, whiney brother sniffing around her like a couple of dogs after a good bone. Yeah, that sounds about right. What do you think, Penny?”
The Countess Penelope of Arcadia took my inclusion of her as an invitation to bring out the Dickensian street urchin.
“Thass right, milords ‘n ladyship. Iss loik, she don’t really ‘ave any real personality of ‘er own, loik. Well, iss loik she’s just one’a those, whatchecallits, archy-types, ennit? Just loik in that there Twi-loit book. Why, she’s no different than that Bella Swan bird!”
The SWG actually recoiled — physically recoiled in horror at that statement.
“You know, Countess, I think you may be on to something there,” I said, goading her on. “Please, do continue. If Leia is Bella, then, pray tell — which one is Edward and which is Jacob?”
“Out!” James said firmly. “Both of you, get out of the store right now! For your own good! Run! Run while you can!”
And run we did, darlings, as a crowd of grown men in T-shirts chased us out of the store with lightsabers raised (the Jedi version of torches and pitchforks) in righteous (I was going to say anger, but isn’t anger the path to the Dark Side?) irritation.
I was going to buy the last couple of issues I’d missed of The Unwritten, by Mike Carey and Peter Gross (another great read, darlings, and I highly recommend it) but I guess I’ll wait for the trade — I’m still welcome on Amazon.