"Reality Bites" revisited (aka My apology to Ben Stiller)

Thanks to the $3 movie section at Big Lots (you have to check it out - it's an amazing collection of stuff I like - YMMV) and to my ongoing unexpected sabbatical, I bought and watched this (pictured) 10th Anniversary Edition of "Reality Bites". Since this movie was released 15 years ago, I am guessing there is a 15th anniversary edition now and these "old ones" are getting cleaned out.

OK - enough explanation. Here is why I owe Ben Stiller an apology. On March 25, 1994, I turned in an movie review of "Reality Bites" for an essay in English 300. (And, yes, I saved most of the stuff I wrote since I was under the false assumption that I would actually end up being a real writer and not a technical writer, like Ambrose Monk, when I grew up.)

Today, after watching the movie, I read the essay again. I had not seen the movie since before I wrote the review. With 15 years of experience behind me, I realize now that I didn't "get it".

I get it now. In 1994, due to ego, arrogance, stupidity, inexperience, or a combo of all of the above, I thought that most of the choices these characters made were absolute cop-outs.

Note the following quotes from my essay:
  • "In the end, when the girl ends up with 'unemployed no-life butthead', you think to yourself "Reality?"
  • "Troy is such a one-dimensional character that it doesn't help when (Ethan) Hawke plays him as Holden Caulfied-intensified."
  • "If "Reality Bites" is indeed reality, then all twenty-somethings are poor people with no future who give up on everything at the slightest problem. Lelaina succumbs to her problems and runs up a $400 phone bill to Dial-A-Psychic. And, Troy just up and leaves town. This is not reality and hopefully no one will buy into it."
What have I learned?
  • I was full of crap when I was 20 and I tried to write in a manner where it appeared that I knew exactly what I was talking about (like knowing what being out of college was like when I was still there - reality was quite a shock).
  • I need to work everyday to not be full of crap at 35. Some days, I need to make not being full of crap a top priority.
  • Everything in my essay was a soap-box speech with the hidden theme "I am better than these people but I will be just like them, yet I will deny it."
  • The girl ended up with the unemployed guy - but the guy she actually loved. OK - that doesn't always happen but I happen to also be unemployed currently** and I now realize that I must have been an arrogant idiot at 20. Bravo to her following her feelings and not ending up in a cookie cutter relationship that she was going to resent five years down the road***.
  • Troy is still an "over the top" character. His sarcasm is too polished. He always says the things we wish we could say in those situations. When I occasionally get in the same type of sarcastic zinger, I am just as bad as he is. I have no excuse for that behavior and, in the end, I am no better than he is.
  • I wish the craziest and stupidest things I had ever done when the poo hit the fan was run up a $400 phone bill or just leave town. I had no idea what adulthood would bring since I was under the false impression that I knew it all.
So, I owe Ben Stiller and everyone involved in the movie a huge apology. Head down to Big Lots and plunk down $3. You'll be amazed. It's not a perfect movie, but it does capture life (which is not perfect either). When you notice little things like Ben Stiller standing in a phone booth but talking on a cell phone (and wondering why), you'll think the writer of the movie (Helen Childress) had some odd ability to see what the future was going to be like. And, you'll realize that they got it mostly right. And, if you're me, you'll realize what a complete knob you were in college and you'll be glad to be 15 years older and wiser.

** - Being unemployed is odd and scary. Luckily, we were somewhat prepared for it since the writing was on the wall for several months. Still, I never expected the outcome to be so swift and sudden. It's a lousy and scary place to be. On the bright side, I feel more creative and productive than I have been in years. I have so many different things I want to write about now. I am reading books like crazy. I've been so bogged down with the projects and the conference calls and the etceteras that I had really lost myself in the process. I have learned several things about myself during this time of unexpected free time:
  • My priorities were quite messed up.
  • The reasons I was so crazy and frustrated at work were more "Me-caused" than the job-caused.
  • If I continue to take time to read and write and just "have a life" aside from work, I'll be a better and more productive employee and a happier person.
  • Being happier, I seem to eat less fast food. This is a good thing.
*** - Somehow, I managed to not get into a cookie cutter relationship. I am coming up on 13 years of marriage. The downs have been downs - some in the first 6 or 7 years were like Death Valley downs. I could teach a relationship class based on two things I learned (1. As noted above, I was full of crap for a long time and need to work daily to not be full of crap. 2. Know when to SHUT UP.) But, the ups are way up. It's a lot of work, but it is worth it (and I keep repeating that to myself when I am vacuuming and folding clothes and cleaning up vomit and mowing the yard and walking the dog at 3AM, etc. etc. etc.)