I recently re-watched a movie that is noteworthy for being quite good and for featuring a female lead who is, in my always-nuanced opinion, totally grating and charmless. The film is Four Weddings and A Funeral, and it is generally charming enough that one forgets that Hugh Grant received sexual favours from a prostitute in his car and can overlook the fact that the climax of the film involves Grant's character jilting a fish-faced, but well-meaning, woman during what's supposed to be their wedding ceremony.

It is even charming enough that, if one concentrates enough on the cheerful buoyancy of Grant's hair and the quippiness of Grant's quips, one can overlook the presence of Andie MacDowell.

She has to be one of the least charismatic, least believable, least likable female characters in any romantic comedy EVER. Grant trips about being hapless and delightful and pining over a woman so unredeemed by anything appealing that ones questions whether he's really a man worth pining over himself, seeing as how he's gone mad. Plus, Kristin Scott Thomas is in love with him, and any man who chooses a drawling automaton over Kristin Scott Thomas is depraved or mentally defective.

Usually when I really and truly loathe one of the leads in a romantic comedy, I find myself really and truly loathing the movie overall. But I have come across the MacDowell effect before; in fact, to honour my first experience of it, it should really be 
named after Ione Skye. Any woman of my generation and my general cultural background who does not hold Say Anything's Lloyd Dobler up as the standard of boyfriendness to which all other men should be compared is either lying or as crazy as a man who'd pursue Andie MacDowell while himself being pursued by Kristin Scott Thomas. 

Lloyd Dobler yearns and babbles, and then yearns and babbles and kick-boxes, and then proves the depth and selflessness of his love with a ghetto-blaster. The problem is that his deep and selfless love is directed toward a girl so irritating and so whiny that you keep expecting her to announce that she has to go into Tosche Station to pick up some power converters. Ione Skye's Diane Court does well at school and looks clean, but that's about all that can be said for her.

The male leads in these movies helped me realize that I like handsome Englishmen who banter and that I like handsome American men who banter. They also helped me realize that even if I did run across such a man and he wasn't busy (a) getting a blow-job in the front seat of a car, or (b) appearing in Con Air, he probably wouldn't like me anyway because (a) I'm not unusually successful or good-looking, and (b) he'd be too busy losing sleep over an attractive head of lettuce.

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A pleasant corner of my subconscious circa 1985.
Last week's post got me thinking about how few positive female role models there were in the '80s for talkative young ladies.

I'm not going to include perky, unrelentingly upbeat, not-particularly-bright women, either. Women like Meg Ryan or Melanie Griffith, who bubble up and sparkle and giggle and probably wouldn't be resourceful and cold-blooded during a physical fight. I've decided they don't count for the purposes of this particular (one-sided) discussion.

I spent much of last week thinking about this, taking breaks only to watch The PBS News Hour and The Choice (Joe Jonas should have obviously have chosen Gwen Ifill). I was only able to come up with TWO positive fast-talking female role models, and one of them is the one I mentioned just last week.

1) Jordan, Real Genius
Real Genius is one of the greatest movies ever made, and features a Val Kilmer who was still devastatingly attractive and not yet distressingly bloated. It was one of the first movies I ever saw that suggested that smart young people could have friends and kiss each other and both create and destroy space weapons. This photo captures Jordan (love interest of the other main character, Mitch) in a rare moment of not talking. She is a super-genius and doesn't sleep and spends her time while not sleeping thinking of serious scientific things and knitting sweaters. She really only talks so much because her brain is so full of smarts. 

2. Amanda King, Scarecrow and Mrs. King

I'm not even sure this character would still strike me the same way, because the last time I saw her get up to no good, I was eleven. It's possible she was actually perky and empty-headed, but I prefer to remember her as ballsy and irrepressible.  There was one episode of this show (which featured Kate Jackson as a housewife who ends up becoming a spy, and Bruce Boxleitner as a handsome spy who ends up having to mentor and reluctantly fall desperately in love with her) that really affected me when I saw it at some point between the ages of seven and eleven. And I (inevitably) found a fan site on the internet that (thrillingly) somehow managed to scare up the print ad for the very episode that I'm about to talk about:
I can't remember whether the ruthless hit woman who looked exactly like Kate Jackson was supposed to be some kind of scientific-experiment-produced clone, or whether the fact that they looked exactly alike was supposed to be a kooky coincidence. Doesn't matter - either way, it was both dramatic and plausible. At the end of the episode, both Kate Jackson and ruthless-hit-woman Kate Jackson are hanging from the side of a building, having somehow managed to fall off the side of it simultaneously. 

Bruce Boxleitner, whose courage and handsomeness cause him to appear in the nick of time, is forced to figure out which woman who looks exactly like Kate Jackson he should save. One Kate Jackson says something noble and reasonable and convincing. The other babbles indignantly about something and then babbles indignantly some more. Bruce Boxleitner, proving he sees with the penetrating eyes of a super-spy and the discriminating eyes of a lover, immediately pulls the babbler to safety. 

It was a great comfort to me then to think that one day my compulsive chattiness might save my life. It was also a great comfort to me to think that if a suave, smooth-talking, sophisticated version of me ever showed up, she would turn out to be a no-good criminal and then promptly fall off a building.

POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough.


I am frequently grateful for the fact that Facebook did not appear until I was well and truly aged. Not because of the fact that I would probably have been made fun of a lot by vicious grade-eight classmates who would then go on to become successful grown-ups with children and pets. Or because Facebook clearly states the number of friends you have and allows for the convenient and unfair comparing of such numbers. No - I am glad it didn't exist because I would have regularly, insistently, and publicly made an ass of myself.

1) I would have posted song lyrics.
When I was in grade eight, I had an assignment that involved public speaking. We were supposed to recite a poem or some song lyrics. "Aha!" I apparently thought. "This is my chance to show my WHOLE ENTIRE CLASS that I am sensitive, introspective and FULL OF UN-IRONIC AND HUMOURLESS PAIN." So after one guy performed "Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday" and another guy did a really quite moving and dramatic interpretation of "Parents Just Don't Understand," I proceeded to stand up and, with total sincerity, recite the words to Simon and Garfunkel's "I am a Rock." That's right. If you don't remember the lyrics off the top of your head, here are some gems: "I've built walls, / A fortress deep and mighty, / That none may penetrate. / I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain. / It's laughter and it's loving I disdain. / I am a rock, I am an island." Oh, and then there's: "I have my books / And my poetry to protect me; / I am shielded in my armour, / Hiding in my room, safe within my womb. / I touch no one and no one touches me. / I am a rock, I am an island." I concluded with a ringing, "And a rock feels no pain; / And an island never cries," and looked up, fully expecting to see that the eyes of my classmates were now wide with understanding and compassion...It went down pretty much like anyone with any sense and a passing acquaintance with fourteen year olds would expect. They laughed at me. I can't really blame them. The person I DO blame is my grade-eight teacher, WHO ALSO LAUGHED AT ME. Of course, he also brushed his eyebrows before class, so he wasn't totally credible.

If Facebook had existed when I was in grade eight, and in this alternate world I was as deluded and earnest and self-pitying as I was in the real one at that age, every other status update would have been that kind of song. 

2) I would have worn clothes.
The other week, I mentioned the fact that I purchased a Ramones t-shirt in grade seven. And I did. I totally did, and I loved it, and I still have it. Unfortunately, I also had and wore other shirts at that age. I recently found a photo of myself from grade seven in which I was wearing a shirt I'm pretty sure I was pretty proud of at the time. It had some bars of Handel's Messiah on it, and it said...wait for it... "Handel With Care." I did not like this shirt in some kind of ironic, hipster way. I was probably on some level convinced that all I needed to do to win over my contemporaries was provide proof that a) I liked classical music, and b) I liked puns. 

Unfortunately, fate and a stylish camera bag conspired to block the t-shirt's full message. Did I, by the way, feel the need to choose between the hilarious shirt and the floppy hat? I MOST CERTAINLY DID NOT.
Facebook would have been the perfect vehicle for proving to an even larger number of people how much I appreciated classical music and puns.

3) I would have chosen totally embarrassing and misleading profile pictures.
I am chatty. I am really quite chatty. I also used to be one of those unfortunate chatty people who do not accept and embrace their own chattiness and instead spend much of their time wishing they could be silent and French and look mysteriously out windows. I would, therefore, probably have filled Facebook with really embarrassing photos of myself looking in a wistful and longing and continental fashion out widows. (And then really disappointed people when I opened my mouth and sounded like a less charming version of the girl from Real Genius.)

If Facebook had existed when I was fourteen, this is what you would have seen:

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Let me begin by saying that I think it's wonderful that other people have babies. I think babies are great. I would willingly, if not delightedly, die for my nieces, who are the best young people who have ever existed. I like my friends' babies. I just don't ever, ever want to have any myself, while I spend much of almost every day dreaming of the cat I will soon get and watching internet videos of strange cats I do not know posted by strange people I do not know. Here's why I will always come down on the side of cats in the great cat vs. baby war:

1) I don't like most people, but I like almost every single cat I meet. Babies can be adorable. They can be tiny and sweet and make tiny, sweet noises and they have such little, chewable feet. And then their noises get louder and their feet get bigger and they become people, and you might find out that that teeny, tiny, adorable baby has turned out to be kind of an asshole. Kittens are also tiny and adorable, and then they grow into older cats, who are still pretty small and pretty adorable. If some of the cats I've known had been people, I might not have liked them one bit. But they weren't people; they were cats. And so the reasons I wouldn't have liked them if they were human are expressed in totally cat-ly ways  that I find fetching or perverse or a bit quirky, but always completely enchanting.
2) Your cat, unless someone leaves the door open accidentally, can't just up and leave you. Your cat will never go off for a year in Paris after high-school, discover an irritating love for France, stay there forever, marry a French person and make a new life for herself far, far away. You cat will never say to you, "I know you're old and lonely, and that most of your friends have died, but I can only see you once a year at Christmas because my French job is so demanding and I have my own family now, you know." And if your cat were to do all that, give that cat a medal.  That would be one awesome cat. I dare you to stay mad at a cat like that.

3) You're allowed to keep your cat shut up in the house all the time to keep him from harm. It's not that I don't love children. One of the reasons I don't want children is that I would love them in such a neurotic, smothering, terrified/terrifying way that as soon as they could, they would move to Paris. If I had a child, I would worry constantly and unhelpfully about food additives, and cars, and diseases, and chlamydia, and disappointments, and the things they put in plastics that make fish all messed up. If I tried to keep my child inside, if I told my child, "Nope. Sorry. There are too many hazards out there - get friendly with this house because it's where you will be spending THE REST OF YOUR LIFE," some interfering friend, relative, or neighbour, would undoubtedly interfere. 

If you tell your cat that the one-bedroom apartment you have will be his only kingdom until death, your cat will a) not understand you, because he can't understand a huge number of words, and b) without realizing it owe you a debt, because you're making sure he won't be hit by a car or get stuck in a tree or get some kind of horrible raccoon-borne plague. Your friends, relatives, and neighbours will not care one bit that your cat can't go outside, or that you worry so much about your cat going outside, and the only thing you run the risk of is that they'll talk behind your back about how the reason you love your cat so much is that you never had any children.

POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough.