Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Cult of Personality

Just finished putting the first coat of paint on the ceiling & walls of the stairway. Things are gettin' done fast! The new stairs come this weekend...hopefully with no unexpected snags. While I've been painting in solitude, I've been thinking about Roz, wondering all the things that new parents must wonder: who she'll look like, who she'll act like...

That uncertainty about her personality made me start to think about my OWN sense of self, of being, of "who I am" and who I identify with. And really, I'm not talking about the genetic sense of things. I like to make lists: that's my dad. I like to shout at bad drivers (practically everyone, then): that's my mom. No, I mean the personality traits I've picked up by choice, by identifying with a certain character in a movie or book. When I look back on these characters, the ones with whom I identify the most, I notice a trend: they're all outsiders. More specifically, they're all outsiders who either 1) don't MIND being "freaks," or 2) they're freaks who find a way to stay that way but to remain charming and eccentrically accepted. In almost every case, they end up with the "good girl." Let's take a look, shall we?

Charles Cummings, from No Small Affair. Jon Cryer is one of those guys who is so similar to someone else (in this case, Matthew Broderick) that you don't really need them both. (Think Laura Dern and Helen Hunt...don't NEED 'em both!) Sadly, I think Jon Cryer got the short end of the "fame" stick in this case, because this early film is pretty brilliant. Charles is a total weirdo who is obsessed with taking photos (getting caught at school shooting...flies?) who finds himself in this totally hot relationship with Demi Moore. After she convinces him that he's "got it goin' on" and pops his cherry, he finally figures out that hottie classmate Mona (played to perfection by Jennifer Tilly) has been pining for him all along. That's WAY too short of a synopsis, but that's not my point here; rather, I just like the way Charles (who GOES by Charles, never "Chuck" or "Charlie") is completely unimpressed with the world around him, and so goes about his day in the manner he sees fit, with nary a though of what others might think. Good way to live, eh?

Randy from Valley Girl. This was the first thing I remember seeing Nic Cage in, and I loved his punk-ass outsider stance. When I was in high school, THIS is who I wanted to be, and (hairdo notwithstanding) I really tried to imitate him. He's the classic outsider, who seems unafraid to exist outside the "norm," but still wants the insider girl. This pretty much sums me up: I've always cultivated this quasi-metal head, freakazoid exterior, all while chasing after the totally smart, pretty girls who represented high-class ideals. When I took my girlfriend - the valedictorian! - to prom, I really felt like I'd made it.

Prince from both Purple Rain and Under the Cherry Moon. Ahhh, the mid-80s, when Prince was both establishement pop and a bad boy, all rolled up into one. I watched Purple Rain incessantly when it was on HBO, and I loved that even the casual Prince seemed to always dress in these coolly outrageous clothes. (See An Evening With Kevin Smith for the truth about Prince's dressing habits!) I loved the way Prince seduced his women; when I got to college, I "decorated" my dorm room with these little crystals that I hung from the ceiling, and lots of candles, and I had a bunch of CDs consisting of what can only be described as my "fuck music." I always remembered when Apollonia first went into Prince's bedroom, and I thought THAT was what turned women on! (Hoo-boy!) Years after the fact, I wonder how the women who were lured into my sex-den remember our encounters. (*shiver!*) I even bought into Prince's roughness, the way he slapped his bitches around...I thought I needed to be that kind of a "tough guy." When I discovered by prom-date girlfriend hanging out with her ex, I threw a Coke bottle at her (back in the days when they were nothing BUT glass!). It missed (intentionally, I think) but exploded on the brick fireplace behind her. Yikes! I've since learned that cool guys don't smack their wimmen around. Luckily.

Derek from Back to School. Okay, obviously I wasn't watching a lot of high-class movies back in the day.'s yet ANOTHER example of the total whack-mobile living completely unconcerned with what anyone else thinks of him. Robert Downey Jr. is the supporting roommate to main character Jason Melon, but Downey steals every scene he's in. He's one of those guys who completely seems to live his characters, so much so that even many years and films later I still find myself trying to be more like his characters. Not so much the real guy.

Bert from If You Could See What I Hear. Gettin' a little more obscure here, but this was another HBO fave that I couldn't stop watching. Sadly, it's now relegated to the "way too expensive" bin on eBay, having only seen one release back when VHS was new. The main character is Tom Sullivan, a blind singer played by...well, Marc Singer. a-HEH. I like his character too, but really it's his supporting roommate (again!) Bert, played by (thank you IMDb!) Harvey Atkin who I remember imitating. His cool demeanor and complete irreverence for being pulled over while drunk ("G-Man! Be casual!") thrilled the early-teenage me.

Anything with John Cusack. Remember playing that game? Y'know, "If a movie was made of your life, who would play you?" John Cusack would play me. Not because we look alike, but because his movie characters embody everything that I tried to be in my formative teenage years...and, frankly, beyond. From his great stolen scenes as nerd-o-rama in Sixteen Candles to the out-of-luck Lane Meyer in Better Off Dead ("I want my two dollars!") to the trenchcoat-clad romantic Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything...yes, even to midlife-crisis misfit Craig Schwartz in Being John Malkovich, John Cusack rocks my world. His characters always seem to embody a certain aloof outsiderness, while remaining edgy and hip besides. High Fidelity? Fuhgeddaboutit! That's totally me: not in the specific, understand, but his obsession with reorganizing his LPs and visiting all his ex-girlfriends to see why they broke up...yeah. Me. (*sigh*)

So, that's just a sample of who I looked up to, and who I tried to emulate as a teenager searching out his own identity. While I've never been as edgy or outsider-y as these characters were, still, I worked hard on that image. I can only hope that Paris Hilton is FINALLY out of flavor when Roz starts looking around for HER character idols!


Blogger Gknee said...

Hmm...crazy but all your idols were mine too. But for other reasons ;)

4:18 PM  
Blogger Tess said...

I know this has been discussed before, but if the "sex-den" had existed in ANY shape or form what-so-ever when we started dating, I would have been outta there before you could say "Lloyd Dobler". I gave you the benefit of the doubt as it was with the poster of the couple in ripped 80s jeans making out on the floor. Yikes!

5:31 PM  
Blogger Steph said...

I'm sorry. Let me make sure I read this correctly. The poster of the couple in ripped 80s jeans making out on the floor????

Do you own a copy of Flashdance, by any chance? Just curious.

10:59 AM  
Blogger L*I*S*A said...

OMG...what about John Cusack in Grosse Point Blank??? Only my fave John Cusack flick EVER!!

7:06 PM  

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