I don’t know why this bothered me, but it did. I can feel the crankiness bubbling up just thinking about it. It’s not good to keep the crankiness inside, where “Mr. Silly Valve” lives, so I’m letting it out.
Venting for health.
Okay. Here we go.
Dr. M and I and another couple go to the movies together. We see Being John Malkovich, written by Charlie Kaufman. I feel the same way about all Charlie Kaufman movies. (Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Synecdoche, New York) The first two thirds of the movie is amazing, and the third third is stupid. Either disappointing, or it doesn’t make sense. It’s as if Kaufman’s unwilling to surrender to traditional, story-resolving formulas, but what he’s chosen to replace them with is worse.
I’m all in favor of blazing new creative trails. But Kaufman’s new trails invariably lead to quicksand.
Okay, so after the movie, we go back to the other couple’s house for coffee, and we post mortem Being John Malkovich. Dr. M and I are in general agreement. (We usually are.) The film started great, but at a certain point, it went haywire.
The other couple disagrees. They found Malkovich excitingly imaginative, psychologically illuminating and enormous good fun. Not just the first two thirds of the movie, the whole thing.
So, fine. We have opposing opinions. So what? It’s not like there’s a “right answer.” It’s two different views.
The discussion has been lively and articulate. No agreement, but we’re having a good time.
As the discussion of the movie starts to wind down, the male member of the other couple proclaims this:
“Of course, Earl, I’m not a professional writer. You would certainly know better about these things that I would.”
I sit there in stunned silence. But in my head, there’s a very large explosion. (And a “flashback explosion” at this very moment. Which is not good, since I have a doctor’s appointment in twenty minutes.)
My mind tried to process what had just occurred. By bringing up that I was a professional writer, the guy was suggesting that I was an expert. That’s a compliment. And should be taken as one.
The reason it wasn’t taken as a compliment – by me – was because it didn’t feel like a compliment. It felt like a punch to the gut. Or suspiciously lower.
I’m not getting into the guy’s head. I won’t try to explain why he felt the need to “zing” me. I’ll stick to my own reaction. And my own reaction was this:
Do I know more about writing than that guy? Of course. I’ve been doing it for decades. (I’m doing it right now.) I know how to put stuff together, how to structure a story, how to build to a resolution. I don’t always succeed. Nobody does. But am I an expert in that department?
Yer darn tootin’!
But I also know that when you’re talking about your response to a movie, we’re all experts. My training as a writer, beyond the technical nuts and bolts, doesn’t lift me to some loftier plateau. When it comes to respond, everyone’s equal. You see what they see, and you feel what you feel.
Maybe this guy sensed an unspoken criticism from me, some unconscious message of “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” The guy heard me say, “It’s interesting how people can respond so differently to the same movie” (I actually said that), but he interpreted that as meaning, “You’re an idiot!” So he shot back, saying, in effect, that my opinion didn't count, because it was tainted with expertise.
I don't know, I guess I hurt the guy’s feelings.
But he duzzn’t has to call me “a professional writer.”
That’s really low.
Health Update: It turns out that instead of a heart valve replacement, I get to keep my own valve and just get it repaired. So no pig valve for me. Also, no urgency. That means I’ll be here at least for the next couple of weeks. Pass it on.