Swept Away

So my Thursday nights are Scandal nights. For those of you living under a rock, Scandal is a drama starring Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope, a “fixer,” whose job (along with her associates) is to solve the problems of high profile people who need to keep their problems low profile. The show is fast paced, and smart, and scandalous. Anyway, the show is based in Washington DC and the most intriguing subplot by far is Olivia’s love affair with the President of the United States, Fitzgerald Grant. The two met when she worked on his campaign and it was love at first sight (not surprising for a TV couple). Also not surprising is the fact that the President is married, with children, and well… the President. So their love is fierce, and all-consuming, and totally impossible.

Now, as hard as the two of them try to resist one another, they often end up in contact. And that’s when things tend to get sticky. Because when they share the same space, they are instantly affected by one another- there’s no way to hide the way they feel. This is a great kudos to Kerry Washington and Tony Goldwyn (the actor who plays Fitzgerald “Fitz” Grant) by the way- you can definitely feel the chemistry. But back to the point…

Watching Olivia and Fitz made me think about being swept away, swept off my feet. I know that in my last post about cheating I made the point that TV couples are often “swept away” and this seems to make their cheating justified on some level- and Olivia and Fitz are a really perfect example of that. You know there’s no possible future for their love, and every kiss they share is wrong because he’s married, but you still root for them- you still hope that one day, their love will conquer their moral, professional, and political obligations. At least, I do. The idea that they are just totally swept away by one another gives their entire story a romantic edge- even though the reality is pretty unromantic.

Now, I also said in my last post that I have no idea if being “swept away” happens in real life- but I think I’m at a crossroads because there is a small part of me that wants to believe that it does. I know that a romance like theirs would be messy, and inconvenient, and probably even wrong from some moral standpoint, but wouldn’t it be worth it to have your breath taken away like that? To look into someone eyes and know that they are absolutely your other half? Would that be worth the pain? And if it was wrong to be with them, would that justify the wrong?

I’ve talked a bit about my romantic nature- how I was so free with it, got hurt using it, tried to kill it, and am subsequently trying to resurrect it. Anyway, that part of me has always been the dominant part of my personality (until recently). I’ve always fallen fast and fallen hard. I never had reservations- I took the plunge, every time. It’s just my way. When it comes to love, either I’m all in- or I’m not in. I was never afraid of letting it consume me- as a matter of fact, that was what I always wanted. TV couple love, Harlequin romance love, I wanted to look into someone’s eyes and get swept away. I never stopped to think about what would happen if I got swept away by someone that I technically couldn’t have.

Because I normally fall so hard, I won’t even sit on my moral high horse and act like I would stop myself. I mean, I would try to resist. But it might ring a little false… kinda like Olivia. I would tell him to stop calling- but I don’t think I would mean it. I can’t honestly say that I would care if he belonged to someone else. Not if I believed that he was meant for me. I know it sounds selfish… hell, I know it sounds like I don’t have any morals. And I know it doesn’t make any sense- because if he was meant for me, he wouldn’t be someone else’s. But I’m just trying to be honest. I think about the last man I loved, and how much I did to be with him. I think about that- and then I think that if I can do all of those things for an asshole who wasn’t even worth it, what would I do for the man who actually loved me back? Would I do anything? Would I risk anything? If I knew he felt what I felt, what would I take? How long would I wait? That’s why the “swept away” concept is scary as hell. Sometimes lust can take to places you never thought you’d be. That means love, real love, has the potential to make you do a thousand times more. At least that’s how I always saw it.

Then I wondered if it was all about hormones. Is it just the need for physical contact kicked into overdrive? It is loneliness multiplying? Is it lust amped up? The thrill of the forbidden? I wonder if it’s just me. Maybe years of reading and writing about women getting swept away makes me more susceptible to being consumed, fuzzes the line between right and wrong for me. Maybe I have the immature notion that love really does conquer all- even when the other person has a “situation.” Recently, I found myself taking a liking to a guy with other obligations. I berated myself constantly for putting myself in the position of getting caught up- but I’ll keep it real- he’s a good kisser, and I cared more about that. None of it is his fault- I told him that I was a big girl, who could handle myself- and I am- but I wondered why I walked down that road. Why I wanted it that bad. Hormones? Or something else?-

Either way, I would never want to be in Olivia Pope’s shoes. In tonight’s episode, Olivia’s friend the judge said, “You two even breathe in sync.” To look into the eyes of my other half and know he feels the same way would be my greatest pleasure- knowing he could never be mine would be my greatest pain. But the million dollar question- would it be enough pain to make me give him up? Because walking away would be more pain, right?

I’ve stayed up entirely too late thinking about this. I’m off to bed- more TV tomorrow…

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Bank of Infidelity

Watching TV is helping me get back to my roots a little bit. By that I mean that I’ve been thinking more and more about love- my practical head and mended heart are starting to make room for my romantic nature- again. I’m a little scared, but I think it’s good. Honestly though, as much as TV has been a help in this process, the dramatic times of TV couples has also contributed to my fear. Case in point…

I’ve been wondering a lot about infidelity. My TV couples make it so dramatic; the real life ones make it so casual. I wonder which ones are right. I want to start out by saying that I think cheating is wrong, for many reasons (and yes, I have done it- helped other people do it- and had it done to me). When you cheat, you lie- and when you lie to people, you limit their choices. You leave them on the outside of their own relationship- and you hurt them. But there seem to be different situations where people feel like cheating is acceptable. Let’s have an example….

TV couples are all about the romance, for the most part. So a lot of the time, cheating is portrayed as something the characters do because the way they feel for the other person is so strong that nothing else matters- not husbands, not wives, nothing. They are seen as people who simply get swept away. I have no idea if this happens in real life; it sounds scary to be honest. To be in a committed relationship, and have responsibilities and meet someone that makes you stop caring about everything you’ve built- that’s some really strong emotion. TV couples seem to handle it well though. Most of the time they get busted- but then they just switch partners- and they are portrayed as people who got carried away by love- and then somehow it’s not so bad. The person they cheated with becomes their REAL love- and the person they had built this entire life with is just the comfortable person that they settled for. If only it were that simple. In real life, this comfortable person that you settled for usually doesn’t know that that’s what they are to you. So swept away or not, cheating still seems like a pretty shitty thing to do. Moving on…

Real life couples give cheating a much more modern feel (and yes, I do know actual couples where one or both of them cheat). The underlying theme for a lot of real life couples who cheat is that it’s okay as long as they take care of their responsibilities at home. Apparently, as long as you do your part to keep the illusion of your happy household, it’s okay to get it (it being sex, emotional guidance, peace of mind, etc.) from someone else. I know people who have used this calmly and seriously, as a practical argument. It’s okay to distance yourself (physically, mentally, emotionally or any combo of the three) from someone that you’ve built a life with- as long as you pay the bills on time, or cook dinner every night, or give head on Thursdays, or whatever you do to keep your house running smooth. This is one of the most illogical arguments in the world to me. My home is my sanctuary- whomever I share it with, should share in my peace. The moment that’s not the case, I’ve got a major life decision to make. So we’ll continue…

Another theory for acceptable cheating that seems to be shared by TV and real life couples alike is that cheating is okay when your relationship is unhappy. When you can’t stand your partner but you’re staying for the kids, or because your parents will be disappointed if you divorce, or because you don’t want to go through the trouble of untangling your finances. Whatever reasons you give yourself, you stay- and you feel like this martyr move that you’ve pulled entitles you to some breaks from your “miserable” life- so you mess around with other people. I never could grasp the concept that cheating is a prize you’ve won, that somehow it’s owed to you. Maybe because that concept is stupid. And pretty childish…

Now I’m sure there are other reasons. In fact, I know there are. When I cheated, it was because I was immature. I was feeling ignored, and I wanted him to feel ignored. I was hoping he’d wake up, be jealous, pay attention to me. Of course I realize now that I should have been far more concerned about why I had to work so hard to get his attention in the first place. But I digress. I know there are other reasons. Cheaters are multifaceted. You’re with the wrong person and you cheat because you’re too much of a coward to change that, or you have other issues and you’re too cowardly to confront them- so cheating medicates you, eases your pain. Maybe you’re just greedy- or entitled. Maybe you just feel like you should have everyone you want. No matter what, most of the time it seems to be about something other than the other person. I don’t want to seem harsh, because I know sometimes it’s just about temptation as well. Sometimes you see something that you think is better than what you have- and you want it. I get that. But after you’ve reached a certain level of maturity, that’s all about impulse control, isn’t it? I mean, when you’re trying to lose weight and you walk past a Krispy Kreme, impulse control is what keeps you from going in, right? Maybe you’ll even take a side street so you don’t have to see that Krispy Kreme- remove yourself from the situation entirely. I know donuts aren’t people, and I know I’ve been guilty of not resisting either one… but at some point, you have to try- right?

Either way, having done what I’ve done, I’m certainly in no position to judge other people. And I don’t try to. I just would like us all to think about what we do, and how those things affect each other’s lives. And I’d like to stop being scared that my bad decisions are going to come back and haunt me… but I guess we’re all scared of that…

Back to the TV…

TV Remixed

Okay so I watched the remake of Steel Magnolias… and I had so many thoughts it was impossible for me to social network my way through my opinion of the movie. So I decided to do it here, where I can add appropriate detail without running into a character limit or an otherwise unnecessarily long status update.

Let me start by saying that I have to be the original movie’s biggest fan. I know every word, every scene change, I’ve watched it so many times, I can replay the entire movie in my head without help. So when I heard there was going to be remake, I was only slightly curious- and mostly skeptical. When you remake on a classic, it’s always a sticky business. Sometimes you get it right (think Ocean’s Eleven, and The Karate Kid). And sometimes you are just looking for an excuse to take something perfect and turn into a disaster (think Arthur and Footloose). It’s also just a sad fact of life that when you remake a popular movie within the same generation as the original, you are opening yourself up to comparison, no matter how much you say you’re not competing with the original- it sucks, but it’s true. Add that to the fact that it was being remade with an all-black cast, and it was safe to say that I was skeptical. Aside from the fact that I don’t really know why we needed a remake of one of the greatest chick flicks of all time, an all-black cast gave me a little bit of pause. I don’t have a problem with the idea, per se; I just wondered why it was necessary. But all of that aside, I decided to watch and vowed that I would try and keep an open mind.

Now, I have to say that after watching, I’m at about 50/50 on this remake- meaning that there were just as many things I liked as things I hated about the movie. First, I hated the fact that this remake was a made-for-TV Lifetime movie. The original was a full-length, feature film, released in the theater. If you dared to try and remake this, and for TV no less, the least you could do was spend some more money and buy out the advertising so you could show it on the premiere night with limited or no commercial interruption. That, I believe was their first mistake. But it certainly wasn’t their last.

Casting was both a triumph and a failure, in my opinion. Shelby Eatenton is a central character- one might even argue that she’s the main character. So she should be strong, sassy, completely fearless. Condola Rashad wasn’t any of those things in this movie. She seemed unsure most of the time, hesitant in her role. She’s a young actress and previous to this had only done theater and minor TV roles- so I guess it’s to be expected. But I wanted her to be stronger- I wanted her role to break out more. She seemed so minor to me in this movie- and Shelby’s role was anything but minor. Another casting mistake was Annelle. Annelle Dupuy was played by another young actress, Adepero Oduye. Now, in the original movie Annelle didn’t have as pivotal a role as Shelby, but Annelle had so much personality you remembered her- even during the scenes she wasn’t in. She added her own comedic value to the movie, and you root for her and Sammy. This Annelle was dry and unmemorable. She was uninteresting and she wasn’t funny at all. Now I don’t if it was their intention to revamp Annelle’s character, but something tells me it wasn’t. Either way, she was poorly portrayed as well. Yet another casting mistake was Drum Eatenton. In the remake he was played by Afemo Omilami. Now, it wasn’t that his role wasn’t acted well- as a matter of fact, I think he was just fine on that front. The reason he was a mistake as Drum was because his wife M’Lynn was portrayed by Queen Latifah- and the obvious age difference was a little weird. He wasn’t a bad actor; he was just too old for the wife he was portrayed as having. Not only is Queen Latifah 20 years his junior, but she’s a Cover Girl; her job is to look younger. This brings me to Queen Latifah. I bring her up here because she was so-so in her role, which makes her a nice segue from the roles I hated to the ones I loved. She was… okay, for lack of a better word. I mean, she started off slow- really slow- but she kind of made me a believer at the end. At first, I was worried about her portraying the matriarch of the family; the mother of a bride, and then subsequently a grandmother- but she just eked out the role; she just pulled it off. I ended up liking her- which I wasn’t expecting. Another character that made me smile was Phylicia Rashad. She played Clairee Belcher, the widow of the former mayor. Now, you may feel like Phylicia Rashad didn’t have much of a significant impact on the movie, but in perspective, she is a talented actress who played the role she was given very well- and the original Clairee didn’t have too much impact on the movie either. So she was perfect in her portrayal of Clairee and I was glad they casted her. She had some comedic moments and her delivery was  perfect. Jill Scott was also great in this movie. She played Truvy Jones, owner of the beauty shop where the women gathered to share their lives. Jill Scott was very, very good in this role. She was fun, and sweet and lively- everything Dolly Parton was in the original. She also gave the role a little bit more, but I’ll get to that later. By far, the best casting decision was Alfre Woodard as Louisa “Ms. Weezer” Boudreaux. Alfre Woodard was perfect in this role; it’s like it was made for her. She was grumpy,  stubborn and totally hilarious. She made the other actresses better in this movie, and she and Phylicia Rashad were perfect best friends; yin and yang.

The plot lines were another triumph and failure. Now, I’ll start this one off positive and talk about the subtle differences I liked. The remake gave a little more focus on Truvy and Spud as a couple; I liked this because it gave us the opportunity to really see how much they struggled as a couple because he was unemployed. The first movie kind of skimmed over that; I’m glad that the remake looked at it more closely. I’m also glad that they showed M’Lynn and Drum as slightly more affectionate; they weren’t in the original movie and I have to say that always bothered me. I loved that the wedding reception scene was an accurate portrayal of a black reception, complete with the Wobble and a Soul Train line. Now, as far as what I didn’t like, there were a few things there as well. I didn’t like that they cut out almost all reference to the small subplot that Annelle and Sammy had; and even the small scenes where Clairee had a bit of her own subplot. I suspect they did this for time (it was a TV movie with commercials, after all)- but the movie is about the lives of all six of these women; there was only scene referencing Annelle and Sammy (the scene where they met) and no scenes exclusively about Clairee at all, or any scenes referencing her relationship with Ms. Weezer, both of which (although they were small scenes) were in the original movie. I didn’t like that they moved the dramatic M’Lynn breakdown scene to Truvy’s beauty shop; it didn’t seem quite as authentic, coming later like that. Shelby’s insulin shock scene was too short and mediocre at best- but I think that had a little to do with the actress and a little to do with the scene itself.

I am positive that there are more things to both hate and love (feel free to comment on your best and worst for the movie). But all in all, like I said, it was a 50/50 for me. I didn’t hate it, but I certainly didn’t love it. Mostly it seems that my first instinct was correct; the remake was a nice idea, but it seemed unnecessary. Oh, well. I have the original on DVD; I’ll just watch it again…