Feel Good Story of the Year
As God as my witness they're not going to lick me. I'm going to live through this and when it's all over I'll never be hungry again, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill, as God as my witness I'll never be hungry again.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about Scarlett O’Hara. So many memorable lines punctuate her journey that you never have to wonder where or who she is. "Fiddle dee dee,” if I remember right, are her first on-screen words. “War, war, war. This war talk is spoiling the fun at every party this spring. I'm so bored I could scream.”
Just in case we’re wondering whether she’s undergone a life change by intermission, there’s that little monologue in the carrot patch. As any Film School Loser can tell you, the midpoint is where our heroine must seize control of her destiny. She then has the rest of the second act to come within a hair’s breath of making good on that vow, only to lose it all in an unforeseen series of events known as “The Big Gloom.” In Gone With The Wind, little Bonnie Blue’s fatal pony accident marks the beginning of the end for Rhett and Scarlett. By the time the credits roll, he no longer gives a damn; she'll always have Tara.
Even if you’re structuring an epic, you do want to be careful not to lay things on too thick at your lowpoint. For example, you wouldn't want the horse to trample Rhett to death when he’s holding his kid’s limp, lifeless body. Scarlett can't pick up a shotgun to take aim at the errant beast only to accidentally take out Mammy. There’s a certain suffering-to-payoff ratio you have to negotiate or you’ll end up writing an early Jamie Lee Curtis slasher movie as interpreted by Quentin Tarantino.
Structurally speaking, this fall has been my personal big gloom. I lost my teaching job, missed out on a studio writing assignment, learned I may be plagued with lifelong heart problems and got stuck indefinitely doing the most humiliating temp job imaginable. As if I weren’t already in overkill, this weekend my landlord served me with an eviction notice at my little Hollywood bungalow, the one stroke of luck I’ve had since I got here. After nine years, he’s trying to worm his way through a legal loophole to break rent control. While my Type A Lawyer Sister says he hasn’t got a prayer, either way I’m facing a long, drawn out lawsuit. My estranged brother “Weirdman” subsequently hunted me down to make very certain I understand that I’ve wasted my life—comparing my talent for storytelling to his knack at lighting his own farts.
A film school professor once told me that the characters give you the story, rather than vice versa—that the whole Civil War happened merely to serve Scarlett. Though I didn’t exactly know what he meant at the time, I came to understand that without having helped amputate that screaming soldier’s leg, she'd have been forever stuck back at the Wilkes barbecue bitching about that indifferent loser Ashley.
No suffering, no heroism, no story to tell, no me to tell it. This is a comedy for chrissake, so the most important thing here is that after a good, thought-provoking cry everybody goes home feeling personally uplifted. Maybe tomorrow I’ll stand up in the lunchroom waving a carrot in the air, swearing to survive all this if it kills me. If only I were the sort of girl who looks hot while gesturing with vegetables wearing dirt on her face. Oh, fiddle dee dee.