Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)
YOU MIGHT BE A KING OR A LITTLE STREET SWEEPER, BUT SOONER OR LATER YOU DANCE WITH THE REAPER
by Michelle Said
I assume that you are familiar with Bill S. Preston, Esquire and Ted Theodore Logan, they of metalheaded duncehood and the time-travelling phone booth. And I will assume that you may be in your 20s or 30s and you may have seen this movie and its predecessor as a child. I will assume it may have been several years since you saw this film and that it is most likely sitting on a shelf in your parents house or maybe your younger brother stole it for his own collection, you’re not really sure what happened to it but you did own it at one point. Maybe you bought a copy for $4 from the bargain bin at Target a decade ago and rewatched it over and over again. Maybe whenever you and your friends played 20 Questions growing up, you always started out with a tank as a warm-up.
I will assume, because I already went back in time and made all of this true for you so that even if you started out this essay without these concrete statements as fact for your own life, they are now true for you as they are true for me and we can all begin this piece on the same groundwork of utmost reverence and dedication to all adventures and journeys, whether they be excellent or bogus.
And if I were to tell you that this movie, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, this movie that is as light and frothy and fizzy as a root beer float, somehow was partially responsible for dissolving my paralyzing fear of death, would you believe me?
Let me explain.
I was an anxious child. Many things scared me — new people, old people, meeting new people, trying new things. I was very content to eat and drink the same thing over and over again because that’s what I knew and what I knew was fine. Beyond that, I was of the opinion that the world was terrifying and out to destroy me. My parents kept moving me around the country as a small child due to new jobs and new homes and I was constantly having to adjust to a new and unfamiliar way of life. I did not like it. It scared me.
Then my grandmother died when I was seven years old. One day she was out in the world, this sweet, lovely lady with a Southern accent who doted on me when we visited her at her home in Little Rock. The next, my mother informed me that we would be saying goodbye to her. Forever.
I wasn’t taken to the funeral but instead stayed back at my grandmother’s house with a family friend. Not realizing what was going on around me, I examined all of her possessions, unable to process how somebody could be gone but their things could still exist. Her television set was there, and there was her rocking chair, there was her cigarette ashtray and her refrigerator full of popsicles she kept for me whenever we visited. But she wasn’t there. She wasn’t anywhere.
It didn’t really sink in until we had returned home to California. And, anxious little me, I sat in the dark with my hands up to my chin clutching my blanket, and realized that my mother’s mother had died. And so that would mean that my mother would one day die. And my father would die. And everybody I knew and loved on this planet would die.
This did not ease my childhood anxiety one bit.
I started crying. A lot. All the time. Eventually I began to cope with this realization and the crying subsided, but I still lived my days out with a cloud hanging over my head, the Charlie Brown of Agoura Hills, California. I wasn’t very fun during those days. My personal motto was: Everything is doomed, nothing is good, and we’re all going to die some day.
I was a big hit at parties.
But then I confronted death. Well, actually, Bill and Ted confronted Death. They played Battleship with him. And Clue. And Twister. And NFL Super Bowl Electric Football.
And suddenly, Death seemed like he was pretty okay.
He could play the stand-up bass and rap.
A little needy, maybe.
But overall he seemed like an okay dude. And if Bill and Ted could face him, then I could too.
I realize this is oversimplifying a very complex subject, but that’s the way children relate to the afterlife. It’s a terrible, terrifying concept. We tell children there is something beyond this mortal coil to cushion the blow, but none of us know the truth. I recently watched an episode of Happy Endings where one of the characters explains the great hereafter to her babysitting wards. “Everything in heaven is magical and perfect and amazing.” “Cool!” they say. “Let’s go die! How do you want to die?”
Putting a silly, happy face on something as petrifying as death was much-needed for me at that time. Humor has always been humanity’s way to deal with concepts that are beyond our comprehension. What happens to us after we die? There’s no way to tell. Is there a heaven or a hell? How do some people teeter on the verge of death and survive? If you can’t understand something, you might as well laugh at it. Remove it of its power. Look it in the face and laugh.
I credit William Sadler’s portrayal of the Grim Reaper with much of this turnaround. The version of death as seen in the movie was inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, which is pretty awesome source material for what is essentially a preteen movie. He enters the film much as he did in Bergman’s classic but quickly his dour and stern facade dissipates and he becomes an entity that is alternately a poor loser and a clinger-on, loyal and jealous, and always amusing.
So there I was as a kid, laughing in the face of death. All thanks to Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.
Michelle Said usually gets sound psychotherapy from ’90s science fiction comedies. She tumbls here.
by Keith Krepcho
“I thought my ideas were so clear. I wanted to make an honest film. No lies whatsoever. I thought I had something so simple to say. Something useful to everybody. A film that could help bury forever all those dead things we carry within ourselves. Instead, I’m the one without the courage to bury anything at all. When did I go wrong? I really have nothing to say, but I want to say it all the same.” – Guido, Fellini’s 8½
After reading The Picture of Dorian Gray, I decided to take a vow of silence. The reason was simple: I wanted to be an artist. Out of all of Oscar Wilde’s characters it was Basil who most captured my imagination. He became a representation of a true artist, one who is not only capable of perceiving beauty, but also able to understand it to such a degree that he can translate it into his art. Lord Henry, on the other hand, was a picture of a frustrated artist. Perhaps, when he was younger, he may have loved beauty and been an artist himself, but his inability to fundamentally understand beauty in the ways in which Basil did, poisoned him. Much like Salieri in Amadeus, Lord Henry turned and set himself as a predator, actively seeking to destroy and corrupt things of beauty. It was his admiration for Basil’s painting of Dorian Gray that ultimately spurred him to corrupt and then destroy Dorian.
I took away from the story a deep desire to be a true artist like Basil, and determined that in order to do so I would have to cultivate a rich inner life—or be cursed like Lord Henry, able only to talk endlessly, but never having anything much to say. I decided a forced period of silence could work wonders for my spiritual physique and curtail my Lord Henry predilections. However, a week and a half later my vow was broken, and I was none the wiser.
I like to think that Paul (Jeremy Davies) has tried similar gimmicks in his attempt to find and cultivate his artistic voice, and, by the time we pick up his story in Roman Coppola’s CQ, he has finally reached the end of his rope and is ready for more drastic measures in order to achieve the enlightenment he so desperately seeks. Paul is an American living in Paris, circa 1969, working as an editor on an Italian produced sci-fi B-movie entitled Dragonfly. He justifies his time spent on Dragonfly by co-opting some of the equipment so he can work on a personal film documenting his life.
CQ opens with shots of Paul filming his morning routine: his coffee, his live-in girlfriend, Marlene (Elodie Bouchez) sleeping naked in bed, and other random, assorted shots of their loft. Paul has a fundamental belief in the power of cinema, the ability of the camera to capture and reveal an ultimate truth. He believes that by putting his own life under such a microscope, he will force the truth—which has been obscuring itself for all his years— into a corner, where it will finally have no choice but to reveal itself to him.
He is a man searching for an access point into his own life.
Outside of this self-absorption, the world continues to spin. Dragonfly is beginning to experience an identity crisis of its own once the director, Andrejez (Gerard Depardieu) is run off the picture. after declaring to the Roger Corman-esque producer, Enzo (Giancarlo Giannini), that he would like to end the film “not with a bang, but with a whimper”. In the end, Enzo promotes Paul to the director’s chair and tasks him with finding an ending for the film. It is a bit like backing a three-legged horse to bring you home in a race, but Paul sees Dragonfly, a picture in crisis, as a simulacrum of his own situation and decides to accept the job.
Jonathan Richman’s “That Summer Feeling” is playing in the background as I write this, and it reminds me of the tendency people have to romanticize their youth. It also helps bring another aspect of Paul’s crisis into focus: he is still living out his younger days. There is no distance from which he can reflect on it because he is still right there in the midst of it. He is alienated in the adult world. The only safety he can ever seem to find is behind the camera, or within his own imagination.
He begins to have hallucinations of visiting Dragonfly in her lair, or on her ship, where he knows exactly who he is. It is the only place where he is able to experience complete control, and he reaches a level of honesty he can’t even begin to imagine with Marlene. Soon, the lines between Paul’s reality and fantasy worlds begins to blur—but Enzo’s constant haranguing for an ending helps to keep Paul from sliding entirely off the rails.
In a perfect, deceptively simple scene, Paul meets his father (Dean Stockwell) in an airport during a short layover. The scene acts as both a personal and artistic catalyst for Paul, and addresses the relationship and interplay between reality, inspiration, and art. And, after that meeting with his father, Paul’s life begins to pick up momentum: a seed for the ending has been planted in his head, but still needs time to grow. Meanwhile, Marlene is growing more despondent, seeing that Paul is falling out of love with her. It slowly begins to dawn on her that, despite all her love for him, he is lost to her for good.
Soon Paul is called away to Rome to discuss the ending of the film with Enzo. After a brief unhelpful meeting, Paul is whisked off to a New Year Eve’s party where he is eventually left to wander the streets of Rome, in Fellini-esque fashion. It is another one of CQ’s perfectly executed scenes, culminating in Paul witnessing an event that helps him develop and mature his idea for the ending overnight.
Upon returning home from this triumph, Paul finds that Marlene has left. He sets up his camera for an “honest” and “truthful” interview but is only capable of capturing himself as he takes out his loss on the bathroom towels. CQ then cuts to a series of impressionistic images from his documentary: Marlene dancing, Paul crying, a plant, Marlene naked on the bed, etc. It is the first real sense we have that Paul might have inadvertently captured some moments of actual meaning and truth.
In the end Paul realizes that the value of life is in the living of it, that he does not need to force more meaning on the relationships in his life than they naturally carry on their own. The success of Paul’s documentar (69/70) doesn’t prove that truth is found in the mundane details of our lives, but instead demonstrates that it is all these details that give our life its context. A bar of soap is meaningless without its association to a smell and, ultimately, to a person. The same is true of Paul’s shots of the fern in his apartment or his morning routine: the images are lent meaning by their associations. As artists, CQ says that we must be willing and ready to receive our stories whenever they come, and that they are coming at us every day. They are happening each morning around our coffee, when we are distracted, when we are trying to write. The truest stories are staring us in the face, if we simply take the time to notice them for what they are.
THE HONESTY MAN.
by Isaac Skibinski
At first, it’s easy for me to think I know what’s going on in a movie. I think I’ve picked it apart. I think it’s predictable. Thankfully, this analytic over-exuberance is an exhausting habit and, eventually, a scene doesn’t quite fit. At which point, I really start to watch, and I stop keeping watch. I can’t say whether unwittingly taking “watching a movie” to mean “keeping an eye on a movie” is a productive or pointless error. Depending on how you define engagement, being confounded and giving up on understanding can either be its beginning or its end.
Moneyball is not exactly the movie I assumed it was. It dramatizes becoming, and not becoming, the person someone assumes you are. More than just assumes, which costs nothing. Bets. It’s a story about picking people, and the “hard” nobility of caring only that they carry out the purpose for which they were picked. It’s about pesky aesthetics that obtrude function, which is pure. It’s about a man, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), whose senses deceive him, and who wants to get to the real thing.
Unfortunately for him, the thing gets in the way of the thing. He can’t obviate the senses entirely. The thing might not behave. Worst of all, he might still be one of those pretty things appreciated by the senses. The pouty lower lip of his youth persists. His job is to pick people, but once, someone picked him.
All of this is cause for violent anxiety. He drives donuts, aggresses at various machines in the gym, chews, and whenever his carefully picked collection of people play their odds, he flicks the radio on and off. The closest he can get to the real thing are numbers on a screen. The trouble with these numbers is not their potential infidelity to the players they represent, but the players’ potential infidelity to the number.
In short, Moneyball is about getting angry at numbers.
I was surprised, then, that the principles outlined above did not operate when he takes his daughter to pick out a guitar to buy. “That one’s pretty,” she says, “I like the red.” He only smiles. He does not tell her, in his pared-down dialect, so direct it’s an affectation, that she ought to buy the guitar that has been proven to sound the best. He does not send her to consumer reports. He does not seem angry at or even miffed by the guitar’s closeness, its immediacy to his eyes and ears. He is not indignant that his daughter chooses the guitar for the “shallow” criterion of its red color. I, however, was unhappy that this scene failed to fall into the expectations I had invested in. Instead, it ended up highlighting the absurdity of what I had expected.
Perhaps, though he does not show it, he is unhappy that she has been given enough money to buy the guitar. (After all, he’s not just fighting to pick unpretty players, but also fighting against teams that have enough money to pick pretty players.) His daughter’s money comes from her mother and stepfather—people he, Billy Beane, finds utterly lacking in substance. They have money, and therefore they’re distanced from the real thing. Their weak, bourgeois souls are prone to empty temptations of the senses. The stepfather’s voice is high and nasally, and his talk is full of what Billy calls “fluff.” The stepfather’s right angle-obsessed house has enormous windows that look out onto the ocean. “Things are peaceful around here,” he says, as the camera stares out a huge window filled with a horizon that’s a soft gradient from grey to blue.
Billy—or as I will now call him, the will—is uncomfortable that he was once willed into being. As you might expect, the will finds a friend in the nerd (Jonah Hill). Himself an unimpressive visage that contains impressive knowledge, the nerd believes in the truth of numbers. (Although Hill’s face is impressive—the awkward twitches, the blank, frightened stares.) The will was once recruited because he was an attractive package—”a good face”—and lives in histrionic fear of the possibility that the package that is him may, in fact, contain nothing.
Their bond is therefore strong—one of those male friendships in which a major and a minor masculinity are bound together on the horizon of adventure. Such an adventure is always pedagogical. The will gives the nerd little lessons in being less minor, more major. The will demands that the nerd take more personal responsibility for the interpersonal fallout of his number-crunching: The nerd is supposed to inform players that they’ve been cut. “Try it out on me first,” says the will. They go through it. The nerd is awkward, conciliatory, and polite. “No,” the will corrects, “no fluff. Just be direct. To the point.”
It’s not just extraneous padding that upsets the will, but the performative nature of being nice. The will does not do things for others. He’s bored and rude in his ex’s immaculate, “peaceful” house because his ex’s current husband is so nice to him. The movie makes a point of showing, with the stepfather’s approval-seeking glance at his wife as she settles onto the couch next to him, that his niceness is a show for her benefit.
The will has a fantasy of removing fantasy from the business of baseball, because he was hurt by the fantasy of himself that the scouts once invested in him. When the scouts came to his family’s house once upon a time, they gave him a speech about confidence. They were confident that he would become someone with confidence. Over the course of a melancholy montage of his subsequent years as a player, this confidence sours. They told him he has the skills to do everything; it turns out he can’t do all that much of anything. The montage has the recruitment speech layered over it. “Once he’s got confidence, that’s when you really have something,” they say of a theoretical baseball player, as the will’s failures play out on screen. It’s this discord of feeling that he wants to eliminate. He wants to close the fissure of uncertainty between ideal and reality, appearance and being, promised future and present.
The sting of being an object of confidence has made him anxious. He wants not just to reverse the direction of the relationship from objectified to objectifier, but to transform confidence into honesty. The model is a man-to-man he has with the highest-paid player on the team. “You’re 37. How about you and I be honest about what each of us wants out of this. I want to milk the last ounce of baseball you got in you. You want to stay in the show. Let’s do that.” The aging player agrees to be lightly deflated now rather than heavily deflated later. The will considers romance a thing to evade: “it’s hard not to be romantic about baseball” (he aspires to be hard). Evading romance is exactly what he romanticizes. Proposing this new “honest” deal is dreaming romantically of restoring truth to relationships, of collapsing mediation.
“It’s hard not to be romantic about baseball” is the other side of my “it’s easy for me to think I know what’s going on in a movie.” What we respectively consider easy is opposed, but the point is to do the difficult thing. In fact, both things that are to be resisted (sentimentality, over-analysis) themselves begin by resisting each other. I idealize movies resisting my foregone conclusions, and yet am as helpless to that same inconclusiveness as I am to writing them off. He says he doesn’t care about anything but ends. When the team has an unprecedented winning streak it’s not enough for him. Anything but winning the World Series “doesn’t mean anything.” I’m worried that what I write will mean something, that uncertainty will be foreclosed.
However, essays have to end, and unfortunately, there is a glaring explanation for the aforementioned scene that surprised me, when Billy takes his daughter to buy a guitar. He’s tolerant, even warm towards his daughter’s aestheticism because he deems her sex the proper place for what he elsewhere treats as pollution. He subscribes to the notion that a girl’s girlhood is to be protected, and wouldn’t dream of exorcizing her fantasies, whatever cruel schisms they might later bring about. He doesn’t try restore her to an honest relation to herself, because as far as he’s concerned, she is fruitful error itself.
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The Office (US; 2004-2013)
I BRAVEHEART: Why The Office is a scary place.
by Erika Schmidt
“Fear is sort of an odd thing.” —Jack Shepard, Lost, ”Pilot”
Settling for less: fear makes us masters at it. I had a first draft of this essay. It was fine. It talked in circles, about Kurt Vonnegut, my personal experience working in an office, Tim and Dawn, Pam and Jim, and back to Kurt Vonnegut. But in the end it wasn’t right. Reading it felt like shopping in Marshall’s on an empty stomach after having gotten some powder foundation on your contacts: vague and kind of burdensome and ultimately not yielding much.
It took a candid conversation with a close writerly friend of mine for me to work out what was going on: I was afraid to make myself clear. Because I’m not a television writer, because I’m not in the writers’ room of The Office, and perhaps because I’m just a wee bit afraid of stepping back into the arena after some writing setbacks of my own, I held back on that first draft. I pulled my punches. I tried to avoid being wrong. And I made an essay that was fine, but not really mine.
Luckily, this all turns out to be perfectly relevant to what’s happening on The Office. I was afraid to write my Office essay. Pam is afraid to leave Dunder-Mifflin. And the writers of The Office are afraid—have indeed been afraid for years—to break out of their wildly successful world and see what happens if Jim and Pam leave Scranton. And now those of us still watching regularly are worrying that The Office might actually end without addressing the question of fulfillment and courage and demanding more. We’re afraid that The Office might leave us with nothing more profound than a good-old Halpert reunion.
Everyone’s afraid! How meta.
“Bad jobs” are defined not by location, but by how they make you feel. Plenty of people work in offices and feel, to varying degrees, some combination of engagement, purpose, vitality, inspiration, passion. True, they might like to have more fresh air and exercise, or maybe a less traditional work week, but these concerns are nothing compared to the satisfaction they get from their work. These people have “good jobs.” Michael Scott (Steve Carell), Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson), and, to a more realistic degree, Karen Filippelli (Rashida Jones), are examples of people with “good jobs.”
People with “bad jobs” can’t even describe their work without, like The Office (BBC)’s Tim Canterbury (Martin Freeman), boring themselves. They find it menial, mindless, or just not their cup of tea. These people spend forty hours a week doing a job that doesn’t do it for them. This is the category to which Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) and Pam Beesly (Jenna Fischer) have always belonged, and these are the people I’m wondering about.
I’ve had three bad office jobs. The first was for a summer, at a dentist’s office in my hometown. We played Lite FM all day. The second was another summer job, full time. I was hired to complete a specific project, and I realized pretty early on that I was not going to need the whole summer to finish it. I was apparently expected to pretend I required hours that I didn’t actually need. The idea that this time filling might be a requirement for every job, that it might be part of the reality of my future, made me want to cry, kick off my shoes, and marry a millionaire.
The third bad office job was a “real” job, after I graduated college. I took it because I just wanted to have a schedule and a paycheck and not question it. I hoped I could accomplish more outside of work that way. I had my doubts, though. I worried about things like: not being available for auditions; losing my motivation; getting fat; becoming depressed. I had friends from college who were already making money as actors, friends who were doing things that sounded a lot more glamorous than what I was doing, which was putting in my application at a temp agency (terrifyingly named “Solas Staffing”) and accepting the first position I was offered. But I would be paid twelve dollars an hour and I figured I could quit whenever I wanted to. So I took it.
The details of my duties aren’t relevant here. What matters is that I wasn’t interested in them. There were elements of the job that appealed to my flair for organization and problem solving, but that’s as far as I could inflate it, even on my best days. I just didn’t care about it on any level.
Every day I sat next to the same guy. Forty hours a week. Several times a day, he would pump too much lotion into his hands. It made squishing, splatting, wet sounds as he rubbed, rubbed, rubbed it in. He wanted to be friends with me, but I didn’t want to be friends with him. I just didn’t.
There were others on my team that I liked: people who shared my sense of humor and dissatisfaction. Our work day was, as Stanley Hudson (Leslie David Baker) puts it, “a run-out-the-clock situation.” We didn’t behave like adults. We made fun of the know-it-all guy with the obviously fake long-distance girlfriend. We guilted the art school graduate into slowing her productivity so the rest of us wouldn’t be expected to perform at higher standards. If you get x amount done today, they’ll expect us all to get x amount done tomorrow. One person devoted all of her attention to controlling the seating arrangement so she wouldn’t have to sit next to the know-it-all. We all saw what she was doing. I felt a little embarrassed for her, but I couldn’t judge her. When the lotion guy quit, I’d been openly gleeful. We weren’t our best selves.
We had little ways of having fun: every day at three, one woman would email us all a jigsaw puzzle and we would race to finish it. Someone once made a giant platter of bacon and brought it in, and we all ate it together. Once Batman Begins filmed across the street and we watched the stunt men zip lining over the streets to the roof of the old post office that had been transformed into Gotham National Bank. These were happy moments, friendly moments. We bonded over the drabness of our jobs. We all understood we’d each rather be somewhere else, doing something better. We all hoped our association as a group wouldn’t last much longer. I can see how, if two people in that situation felt a romantic chemistry, the oppressive sameness of the office environment and the momentary escapes from it could bring them closer together.
I often wondered during the two years I spent in that job what each of us might be capable of accomplishing if we weren’t wiling away the hours in that office together. What kept us there? Was it only about money? What was it in us that kept us from asking for more?
“The people you work with are people you were just thrown together with. I mean, you don’t know them, it wasn’t your choice, and yet you spend more time with them than you do your friends or your family. But probably all you’ve got in common is the fact that you walk around on the same bit of carpet for eight hours a day. And so, obviously, when someone comes in who you, you have a connection with—yeah—and Dawn was a ray of sunshine in my life, and it meant a lot. But if I’m really being honest I never really thought it would have a happy ending. I don’t know what a happy ending is. Life isn’t about endings, is it? It’s a series of moments. It’s like, you know, if you turn the camera off, it’s not ending, is it? I’m still here, my life’s not over. Come back here in ten years, see how I’m doing then. ‘Cause I could be married with kids. You don’t know. Life just goes on.”
—Tim Canterbury, The Office (BBC), “Christmas Special”
Remember why Dawn Tinsley (Lucy Davis) finally left Lee (Joel Beckett), turned that cab around, went back to Wernham Hogg and kissed Tim? It was because of Tim’s Secret Santa gift to her: an oil painting kit wrapped with a sketch she’d done of him. On the sketch, Tim had written, “NEVER GIVE UP.” Knowing he had a chance to say one last thing to her, he chose to tell her, in all caps, to never give up. Not, “I love you Dawn pick me choose me love me remember how great I am have fun in Florida you are the best I want you.” But “NEVER GIVE UP.” Never give up your dreams. Become an illustrator. It’s not too late. Become what you want to be.
It’s a desperate action, this plea: never never never give up. What more spectacular, more selfless display of love could there be, really?
This element of desperation is admittedly more present in the BBC version of The Office than the American. That show could better afford to lean into the meanness of office life and the devastating implications of accepting the status quo. British humor leaves more room for darkness, after all. Furthermore, the BBC show was contained to two six-episode series and a Christmas special. There was, presumably, no pressure to keep the show going beyond its natural end. And so it left on the ecstatic note of Tim and Dawn together, hopefully free from sarcasm and their jobs at Wernham Hogg, on their way to a stimulating life of love and meaningful work. We were spared the experience of watching the writers devising ways of keeping Tim and Dawn in the office for the simple necessity of keeping consistent the stars and the premise of the hit show.
Within that liberated context, the BBC show is relentless in making clear precisely what the stakes are for its young people. Those stakes are not limited to will-they-or-won’t-they. The most resonant moments in that show are the ones in which Tim or Dawn looks on in horror as the other makes concessions for the sake of being safe: Dawn hearing that Tim took the promotion at Wernham Hogg instead of leaving to go to graduate school; the million times Tim watches Dawn allowing Lee to discourage her. It’s never just about Tim wanting to be with Dawn or Dawn wanting to be with Tim. It’s also about each of them wanting the other to push through and get out and demand what they deserve. It’s about personal fulfillment. It’s about the heartbreak of seeing someone you love settle for less.
“Dreams are just that: they’re dreams. They help get you through the day. Like the thing about the terrace, it’s nice but, um, I don’t know, it was just something I read in this book when I was twelve. The girl in the book has a terrace outside of her bedroom and she planted flowers on it and I just loved that. It just always kinda stuck with me….It’s impractical. I’m not gonna try to get a house like that. Um, they don’t even make houses like that in Scranton. So I’m never gonna…”
—Pam Beesly, The Office (NBC), “Boys and Girls”
Of all the reasons to settle for a bad job, many have to do with money. Some people have prohibitive students loans. Chronic illness requires others to maintain good health coverage at all costs. Far be it from me to make assumptions about anyone’s motivations or priorities.
But some of the reasons have to do with fear. And fear is something that I feel absolutely qualified to talk about. That’s that thing that keeps you up at night hating yourself, that pushes you to make up reasons not to try things, to justify holding back with lots of reasons why trying is a bad idea: I’m not qualified; I won’t like it; it won’t be what I hoped it will be; I will fail. I’ve talked myself into and out of jobs and projects and commitments and sabotaged myself and second guessed myself and decided not to act many, many times. And I’m only thirty. And I still lose sleep sometimes thinking about all the things I’m doing wrong, and all the things I’m afraid to do. And all the while, there are things I love, that I’d desperately like to spend my days pursuing.
So I get Pam. Who knows how talented an artist she is? She’s good enough to be accepted to Pratt, and that animated Dunder Mifflin logo she made that one time was pretty cool, right? Her talent is not really the point. The point is, she knows what she loves. She has always been able to say: I love to draw and I’d love to one day do something with art or graphic design. And that—that clarity—is a gift. But she refuses to step into the arena.
Watching Pam hedge her bets and work so hard to convince herself that she is satisfied with her life has always been, because we recognize ourselves in her, both sympathetic and infuriating. When she breaks down talking about the terrace she’s always dreamed of, we know she isn’t just talking about a terrace. She’s also talking about Jim. But more importantly, she’s talking about a more fulfilling life, one where he would be only one of many people around her who gets what she’s about. Her public declaration to Jim in “Beach Games” is electrifying because she finally stops qualifying and hedging and backing away. She just speaks her deepest truth, and it enflames her. It took her “three years to summon the courage” to acknowledge her feelings for Jim. It is taking her much longer to take a chance on herself.
The Office hits Pam and Jim’s coming together out of the park. In a lovely reversal of the Tim-and-Dawn conclusion, this time it’s Pam who sends along a note to Jim, and it’s Jim who changes course, comes back to Scranton, and interrupts her confessional to ask her to dinner. And suddenly all the rationalizations and claims of contentedness fall away. The way is clear.
Part of the desperation we felt in wanting Jim and Pam to end up together was the fact that we wanted them to find understanding outside themselves. And from understanding, confidence. And from confidence, a way out of the office. We wanted them to push each other: if someone stands in front of you and tells you you are worth more, it becomes harder for you to deny it yourself. So it started to feel like their only chances were in each other. Declare your love or remain stuck behind that computer until you get diabetes and retire home to watch your mysteries.
So, as with Dawn and Tim, when Pam and Jim dispense with the bullshit and get together already, we assume they are not long for Dunder Mifflin’s world. It is only logical that the bravery they display in choosing each other will extend into the rest of their lives.
But here we are, six seasons later, and they. Are still. At Dunder. Mifflin.
The Office still has to be about something. It’s not about Jim and Pam getting together anymore: that’s already happened. We’re past the anticipation, the frustration, and the celebration of their mating dance. Years past it. The writers haven’t had it easy. They didn’t get to leave us on a high note and let our imaginations fill in the rest. By the time they brought Jim and Pam together, they had a hit show on their hands, and powerful forces expecting them to keep it going for as long as possible.
When I talked to my writer-type friend about this essay, she pointed out something interesting about television writers that I hadn’t considered: they work in an office. They exist in an environment of long hours, unchanging surroundings, and—that’s right—fear. The danger of stagnation is very real. The pressure to maintain the status quo in the ratings can very easily turn into a compulsion to maintain the status quo in the world of the show. So, before you know it, instead of having a show like Mad Men—where Matt Weiner lets the established world come crashing down at least once a season, hurtling the audience toward previously unfathomable changes with abandon—or even Parks and Rec—where the writers trust the strength of the relationships and aspirations of the characters enough to allow the location and focus of the show to shift freely—you have a show like The Office, where any episode that takes place away from the office feels a little gimmicky, and the prospect of breaking the two lead characters out of it is damn near unthinkable.
The characters’ fears only makes sense up to a point; finally, we have to wonder if it’s the fear of the writers that’s holding the Halperts back. What would happen if Pam and Jim had left Dunder Mifflin years ago? If he had taken the job at corporate and asked her to move to New York with him? If Pam had stayed in art school and Jim had followed her there? If she had told him she didn’t want to live in his parents’ house but instead wanted to skip town with him?
What if seeing Michael leave so joyfully had prompted Pam and Jim to throw caution to the wind and leave too?
The sheer sweetness of Michael Scott’s exit from the show took the one character who did love the office and gave him a romantic relationship strong enough to overwhelm his fear and sweep him across the country without a second thought. But meanwhile, the two people who most emphatically never belonged there in the first place saw him tearfully off without wondering where they were going themselves.
It’s almost as if the writers of The Office never knew that we didn’t just want Pam and Jim to end up together; we also wanted them to get the hell out of that office.
“I’m ready! I’m ready to make a point!” —Michael Scott, The Office, “Safety Training”
At times over the past few years, it’s seemed like The Office is just going to end without ever tackling the questions we want it to. Do people fall in love and get married only to support each other through decades of these meaningless, colorless jobs? Or is it possible that the affirmation they find in each other could drive them further, push them harder, make them feel safe enough inside to take a risk outside? What does it take to catapult people toward their potential?
When Jim went behind Pam’s back to start his company in Philadelphia, I was exhilarated. This is it, I thought. After years of spinning their wheels, Pam and Jim are going to be forced to test their relationship and themselves and take a risk. Jim’s after-hours phone call is one of those increasingly rare moments of desperation in The Office that hints that the romance of Jim and Pam seem like just the spoonful of sugar helping something more complicated go down. Something about people wasting their lives on irrelevant jobs they never cared about, just disintegrating day by day for no good reason, and about that disintegration being impossible to contain within the walls of the office.
To follow these last episodes of The Office has been to be in a state of suspense, waiting for the writers to reveal their true end game. They have a chance now, to make the conversation about that “something more complicated”. But will they take that chance? Or will they retreat into the settled territory of Pam-and-Jim will-they-or-won’t-they? Will they or won’t they be broken up by a random hot-boom-mic character we’ve never seen before? Will they or won’t they stop being honest with each other? Will they or won’t they begin living emotionally separate lives?
Where things stand now, Jim is behaving in a decidedly un-Jim-like way, either willfully or ignorantly missing warning signs from Pam and plowing through full steam ahead with the life he is trying to build in Philadelphia. He seems to be hoping he can set this thing up and iron out the kinks in his relationship later. For which, after years of watching him languish at Dunder Mifflin, I can’t really blame him.
Pam is offering up a classic Beesly justification for retreat: “I like our life in Scranton.” She has most recently even gone so far as to suggest that Jim’s new interest in his work marks some dark change for the worse in him. It’s unclear whether the writers agree with her or not—whether the story they want to tell is about a couple growing apart or a woman putting off growing up.
We don’t have evidence that Pam finds satisfaction in her job. She doesn’t seem particularly passionate about her occasional Scranton-level successes with mural painting, beyond the achievement she feels in their being assigned to her. She is a loving mother but hasn’t expressed the position that she values her job as a way to better contribute to her family. By her own definition, she has failed as an art student and as a salesperson. Now it seems she will do anything to avoid failing again, including nothing at all.
Who will tell Pam to NEVER GIVE UP? Will Jim do it? Will Michael Scott come back and do it? Will Harry Crane (Mad Men’s Rich Sommer) come back and do it? Or will she just goddam do it for herself? Every episode The Office airs that doesn’t address this question is, at this point, wasted.
We have been raised on American television. We understand the sitcom. We know that Pam and Jim aren’t going to end up apart. They will get their happy ending, probably in Philadelphia. But how will Pam’s deep insecurity and her reluctance to follow her dreams factor in to all of this? How far is The Office willing to go to explore this paralyzing fear of failure—of finding out we are not good enough—with which so many of today’s Americans can identify? I’ve seen plenty of heart-catching romantic endings, two of them courtesy of The Office (who knew that scoundrel Ricky Gervais could spin such a swoon-worthy ending?). I don’t need to see another one. What I need to see is an ending about people confronting their emotional limitations and taking a leap, joyfully and without hesitation. I don’t need sweet, familiar resolution. I need action.
Am I alone here?
Erika Schmidt urges everyone to read “Deer In the Works” in Kurt Vonnegut’s The Monkey House, which says everything she feels, but more beautifully. She’s working on building a new web site; until then you can see her modest blogging history here. She dedicates this essay to Lauren, Carl, and Beyonce.
Reflections on the Passing of Roger Ebert
Upon hearing the awful, sad news of Roger Ebert’s death yesterday, I sent out a note to all our Bright Wall/Dark Room staff writers, asking them to send along any thoughts or reflections on Mr. Ebert and what he meant to them, which I’ve collected throughout this post. Obviously, being the age most of us are, and doing what it is we do here at BWDR, he was a big influence on a whole lot of us, a formative one in most instances, a guy we grew up with since childhood, a man who taught us a lot, not only about how to watch movies, but about why movies were so important, so central to our modern human existence. And now, with him gone, there’s a huge hole in the critical landscape, as well as in a lot of our hearts. How can movies exist without Roger Ebert? In my own lifetime, before today, they never had to.
“It probably wasn’t his intention, but for me, Roger Ebert took the snobbery out of films. He taught me there was something nearly sacredly important about the role of movies, and that movies ought to do their best to live up to that power. But there was no need for me — at 12 or 21 or 36 — to feign adoration for the critics’ latest darling. There was no universal litmus test; the point was to find the movies that axed the proverbial frozen sea inside you, and let them keep moving you.
“Many readers have informed me that it is a tragic and dreary business to go into death without faith. I don’t feel that way. “Faith” is neutral. All depends on what is believed in. I have no desire to live forever. The concept frightens me. I am 69, have had cancer, will die sooner than most of those reading this. That is in the nature of things. In my plans for life after death, I say, again with Whitman:
I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.”
- Roger Ebert
“I was lucky enough to meet Roger Ebert in 2005, while I was participating in the student symposium at the Telluride Film Festival. This was before his jaw cancer, and he was introducing the film Three Times by the Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien. Ebert was waiting at the front of the theater, and upon sighting him, I pushed my way out of the already-filled row and dizzily approached the man.
I introduced myself and explained that I was studying English and not Film (like the other students in the program), and that I had always loved his writing. We remarked together on the strange human attraction to negative criticism, and he lamented that even he found it more fun to rage against a film than to write review of one of his favorite films. The small-talk ran its course, I again thanked him, and then excused myself. Ebert soon introduced Three Times as a film he absolutely loved, and yet, I ended up being terribly bored by most of it.
There’s no moral in this, just a difference in taste. I later went back and read Ebert’s review of the film, and to this day it has become one of my favorite pieces of his. The genius of Ebert was that he made it so it didn’t matter if we agreed or disagreed with his opinions—we simply wanted to hear them, all of them. And regardless of his difficulty when it came to writing positive reviews, he still found the words for the things he loved the most. He was the bridge to new levels of appreciation in film, to a clear sense of awe about the power of the movies, and his love of them shined through everything he wrote.
In his review for Three Times, Ebert says, “There isn’t any deep message in this film. Love never has any deep message,” and he’s right. But it is something that is felt, respected, and admired—it is a force that moves all of us. Ebert’s reviews will forever be the touchstone against which I compare my own words and opinions. And while I will greatly miss those reviews and opinions, what I will miss more is the voice of a man who was able to step past the narcissistic searching for meaning in his own passion, and simply shared it with the world.”
In my mind there has always been this conceptual time travel, in which the universe has been in existence for untold aeons, and then a speck appeared that was Earth, and on that speck evolved life, and among those specks of life were you and me. In the span of the universe, we inhabit an unimaginably small space and time, and yet we think we are so important. It is restful sometimes to pull back and change the scale, to be grateful that we have minds that can begin to understand who we are, and where are in the vastness.
Many films diminish us. They cheapen us, masturbate our senses, hammer us with shabby thrills, diminish the value of life. Some few films evoke the wonderment of life’s experience, and those I consider a form of prayer. Not prayer “to” anyone or anything, but prayer “about” everyone and everything. I believe prayer that makes requests is pointless. What will be, will be. But I value the kind of prayer when you stand at the edge of the sea, or beneath a tree, or smell a flower, or love someone, or do a good thing. Those prayers validate existence and snatch it away from meaningless routine.”
- Roger Ebert, The Tree of Life
“Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls is one of my favorite movies of all time. It was directed by Russ Meyer. It was, as they specified in their trailer and campaigns, NOT a sequel to The Valley Of The Dolls. No, instead it was; “unlike anything you’ve ever seen.” It really was. It’s a film about an all-girl band who encounter sex, drugs, amazing costumes, a character based on Phil Spector, featuring The Strawberry Alarm Clock. And it was co-written by Roger Ebert.
Ebert never apologized for his camp film. Nay, more than camp: this was the campiest camp that ever camped. And it was brilliant. I could quote the dialog every day of my life. Some samples:
“This is my happening and it freaks me out!” — Z-Man, the Phil Spector-esque record producer.
“He killed her! And there’s someone else inside…but I don’t know who it is. The head is missing!”
Ebert once wrote about the film in 1980, giving us a peek into this sheer WTF-ery. He freely admits that,
“The character of teenage rock tycoon Ronnie ‘Z-Man’ Barzell, for example, was supposed to be ‘inspired’ by Phil Spector — but neither Meyer nor I had ever met Spector.
The movie’s story was made up as we went along, which makes subsequent analysis a little tricky.
And the movie as a whole? I think of it as an essay on our generic expectations. It’s an anthology of stock situations, characters, dialogue, clichés and stereotypes, set to music and manipulated to work as exposition and satire at the same time; it’s cause and effect, a wind-up machine to generate emotions, pure movie without message.”
Rest in peace, Roger Ebert. I hope it was all your happening and that it freaked you out.”
“I came to Roger Ebert’s work indirectly – through parody, in fact. From The Simpsons in which Homer gleefully declares that he loves it when “the bald guy” argues with “the fat tub of lard,” to the terrible 1998 remake of Godzilla in which a grey-haired, bespectacled “Mayor Ebert” gave thumbs down to the giant lizard attacking New York, Roger Ebert was an icon, one I was always aware of, even before I became familiar with his work. My favourite caricature of Roger Ebert came from the 1996 animated series The Critic in which Jon Lovitz voiced Jay Sherman, a woefully unlikeable film reviewer. In one episode, Siskel and Ebert end their partnership, and each critic courts Jay to be the other’s replacement. Despite the absurd tone of the show, Ebert’s persona came across as that of an intelligent, articulate, and passionate thinker; someone who was effortlessly good at their job and didn’t need to take themselves seriously. I remember thinking “what a good sport.” When I earnestly sought out At The Movies I discovered that the send-up was fairly accurate. Ebert knew exactly what he was talking about, and he spoke with wit, grace, and humour. He brought me the movies and he taught me to think about them as a thing that matters. Thanks for that.”
“What I expect to happen is that my body will fail, my mind will cease to function and that will be that. My genes will not live on, because I have had no children. I am comforted by Richard Dawkins’ theory of memes. Those are mental units: thoughts, ideas, gestures, notions, songs, beliefs, rhymes, ideals, teachings, sayings, phrases, clichés that move from mind to mind as genes move from body to body. After a lifetime of writing, teaching, broadcasting and telling too many jokes, I will leave behind more memes than many. They will all also eventually die, but so it goes.”
- Roger Ebert, “I Do Not Fear Death”
“Although I didn’t always agree with Ebert (particularly not on his horror reviews), I’ve found myself turning to his reviews whenever I want a humane, intelligent, but unpretentious take on a film. Ebert’s mix of filmic knowledge and accessible language, as well as his ability to deliver a clever zinger (See this great Jezebel article about his 20 best reviews: http://jezebel.com/5993693/roger-eberts-twenty-best-reviews) made him not only a good critic, but also a joy to read. Unlike many reviewers, Ebert seemed like he really liked movies, even movies that were not aiming for lofty goals of awards. His reviews were always sincere and fair, and rarely did he ever trash a film outright without trying to understand the film’s intent. It’s hard to imagine the landscape of film criticism without him, and he will be dearly missed.”
“When I first started writing film reviews for my local paper, the first voice I would go to for help and guidance to hone my tone and personal voice was Ebert. His books and column for the Chicago Sun Times helped a young man from a small town just outside London develop the confidence to discuss film on the page. As I developed my voice and found other writers whose words I preferred to devour regarding cinema, I never forgot or lost site of the presence or value of Ebert, a true warrior, and what’s more, I always felt that is what he wanted - more writers developing their own voices and networks of cultural support.”
“My relationship with Roger Ebert expanded over the last few years. Before, to me, he was just part of this thing that had always existed: TwothumbsupSiskelandEbert. He was the only famous person I ever saw in my hometown, getting ice cream at Oink’s one night after Redamak’s in New Buffalo, MI. I can’t remember ever not knowing who he was.
I didn’t watch the show. I didn’t read movie reviews growing up. But movies: they’ve been a top priority in my life, always. Muppets Take Manhattan. The Wizard of Oz, which turned into everything Judy Garland ever did, which turned into Vincent Minnelli and Gene Kelly and Gone With the Wind and holy shit Vivien Leigh and David Selznick (the “O” was cosmetic) and Rebecca and Alfred Hitchcock and on and on and on, world without end. Splash, which led to Tom Hanks, which in turn led to my mom driving me through a snowstorm to see Philadelphia in 1993 (I was eleven), which became part of the fabric of my understanding of humanity.
I grew up watching and rewatching and talking about and reading about movies, never quite knowing where I would put all the knowledge and feeling I was accumulating.
And then Roger Ebert got sick, and he started blogging and posting stuff on Facebook. And I started reading his writing. And his writing was so beautiful, so unafraid, so unpretentious, so smart and so deeply felt. He loved movies like a little kid and he wrote about them like a poet. He elevated the forms of film and writing and he also posted obscure pictures of old Hollywood stars and challenged his followers to identify them. I concluded: this guy is my hero.
I love movies so much that writing about them feels like just the absolute most self-indulgent thing I could ever get to do. What I’ve learned from Roger Ebert is that that’s a pretty damn good place from which to start.
Two of the most exciting words in the English language: motion picture. Roger Ebert’s writing gave me permission to also embrace them as two of the most important.
Jurassic Park is being rereleased this weekend. I will see it at the IMAX on Navy Pier in Chicago, and it will be truly awesome.”
“Before yesterday, I never knew that reaching for the fat, heavy compendiums of Roger Ebert’s reviews, stacked just above the shelves that held my father’s hundred or so laserdiscs, would change my life at the age of twelve. I never knew that watching the few films Ebert gifted with four full stars would educate me more than any classes in film I ever took in college. I never knew that obsessively scouring my Cinemania CD-ROM for Ebert reviews would teach me how to write. I never knew that writing, despite its agonizing, hair-pulling moments of frustration, could be fun. I never knew how deeply I would be affected by another person’s grace and humanity in the face of grave physical pain. I never knew that debating the merits of movies—or of any art form—is a sign that we can, and do sometimes, live in a peaceful, rational, wonderful world. I never knew all that until yesterday, when Roger Ebert passed away, and I realized I had lost a great teacher.”
“There are no guarantees. But there is also nothing to fear. We come from oblivion when we are born. We return to oblivion when we die. The astonishing thing is this period of in-between.”
- Roger Ebert
Rest in peace, Roger.
The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001)
I JUST CUT THE HAIR.
by Letitia Trent
His name is Ed, though it doesn’t much matter and you’ll forget it as the film goes on, thinking that maybe it’s Ned or even Fred, but then remembering that, oh yes, it’s Ed; that essential element of a whole, almost-memorable name without the hard consonant up front to seal it in.
Ed is a barber, the kind of man who is so steady that you don’t mind letting him near your child with a razor in his hand. He married into the job (his wife’s family owns the shop) and his entire stylistic repertoire consists of exactly two haircuts—the buzz and the flat-top—which he shapes efficiently and without joy upon the heads of the boys in a small town in California.
He smokes elegantly and when he sits, he sits completely, his body seeming to collapse, legs open, into the shape of the chair. Every line and ditch of his face is absolutely clear in every frame of the film, which would perhaps be revealing and vulnerable if his face ever revealed anything more than the passage of time. You only see his responses, really, in his eyes, or in the angle of smoke from his cigarette, or in the way his hands subtly move.
He lives in black and white, the colors of film noir. But while most noir films use shadows to obscure, the black-and-white of Ed’s world is absolutely crisp and clean, with every wrinkle and fold of his barber’s smock and swirl of hair precisely delineated. It is a world in which Ed doesn’t have to try and hide—he simply goes unnoticed, his face revealing nothing.
We are to understand that he is unhappy, or in a state somewhere beyond unhappy, a kind of catatonic waking where he moves in all the proper and expected lines and directions, going through the motions that will provide him the food and cigarettes he requires. But that is all.
He has a mild curiosity at the passions of others, though it’s an almost intellectual curiosity, strange for a man who is not at all an intellectual. His wife is vibrant and laughs loudly at Big Dave, her boss, when he and his own silent, stiff wife visit for dinner. Ed thinks she’s sleeping with Big Dave and doesn’t begrudge her the happiness—it’s a free country, after all, he tells us.
Ed is a cipher, a main character who narrates the film while giving very little away. And because he does not react—with fear or shame or approval—people want to tell him things. Big Dave confides that he is being blackmailed. That’s terrible, Ed says, his smoke trail trembling as his face remains still. We’ve seen flying saucers, Dave’s widow says later, and explains how Big Dave was taken up into a saucer, and he never touched me again. Ed takes it in as he does with each new confidence, with the same open eyes and quiet, still gaze.
One day, he meets Creighton Tolliver while cutting the tufts of hair that circle his bald spot. Creighton is talkative, the kind of man that Ed usually doesn’t like much, but he’s persuasive and insists that the dry-cleaning business is the wave of the future. Ed decides, this time, to take a chance.
He sees some kind of out in Tolliver’s words - but what kind of out, and to where? Ed doesn’t seem interested in money, but it’s the money that appears to make him move forward with the plan. Or maybe it’s a sudden need to be part of something successful, something not dropped into his lap by marriage or circumstance. Creighton promises Ed that he need only put up enough money to get the business started, and will then find himself set for life—a silent partner with nothing to do but watch all the cash collect in his bank account.
Ed makes for a rather strange protagonist: he wants something, but what he wants exactly is never made entirely clear, to him or to us. In most film noir—like Double Indemnity, for example—the hero is an anti-hero, equal parts selfish and good, driven by lust, money, or power (and sometimes all three) but quite aware of his own weakness and often sickened by it. The only time Ed shows any real emotion, though, is when he hears that Tolliver has skipped town without leaving Ed any way to find him. It was all a scam—there was no plan for a dry-cleaning business. How stupid could I be? Ed says, bitterness seeming to enter his voice for the first time.
It’s not the money that he seems to miss, but rather the opportunity to be part of something that actually works. And his simple desire for some measure of success eventually leads to the whole complicated chain of events that follow, the blackmails and the murders and the deaths and the rooms full of cleanly cut light and shadow and silence.
But still, what does Ed want?
After the smoke clears and Ed escapes, seemingly unscathed, he stumbles directly into even more dangerous territory. He befriends the neighbor’s daughter, Birdy, who plays the piano. She hits all the notes when she plays and so he believes her to be a prodigy, not quite knowing what a prodigy is or how to identify one.
He wants her to be famous, to succeed; he wants something to go right, for somebody to have their happiness and distinction. But the viewer worries about Ed when he enters Birdy’s room, telling her that she’s talented, that she should get a chance, and that he’ll be her manager. She purrs her thank-you’s. It can’t end well.
By the end of the film, Ed moves toward the story’s conclusion as he approaches most everything else: steadily and without affect. When everything has fallen apart, when Ed is desperate and his lawyer argues that he’s a man of little success, a man not made for the modern world who wanted only a small piece of security and happiness in a wash of mediocrity, it’s too late. Ed listens to his lawyer’s speech. It got me going, he admits, at least for a little while. But eventually, he goes where he is told to, and without resisting.
Because what would be the point of resisting, of speaking the whole truth fully and trying to avoid the fate set down before him?
Nobody would listen anyway.
Letitia Trent is a writer and poet living in Colorado. She tumbls here.