For some reason I've been drawn to media pertaining to post-undergraduate angst, for reasons unclear to myself. I'm 31 years old, actually work full time in the field I got my bachelors in (though I'm going back to grad school to change fields), and have done quite a lot of amazing shit in the ten years since I graduated. Lest you think I'm bragging, I'll admit that I've also had the requisite shit jobs, the existential angst, and ill-advised relationships. So I'm not quite sure what inspired me to re-watch Reality Bites other than this article on Jezebel:
It was remarked recently that you know when you're a grown up when you no longer find Ethan Hawke's scruffy, smart-ass character in Reality Bites charming, but see him as the dirty hipster he is.
I'm officially a grown up, I guess. Though, to be fair, I didn't find him attractive the first time I saw the movie, when I was 14. I was too busy crushing on clean shaven, manorexic goth dudes I guess.
I see the value of this movie, but much like the Catcher in the Rye, the first time I saw it I was too young to understand it, and the second time I was too old to relate to it. I mean, what the hell was so wrong about Ben Stiller's character, anyway? Maybe he had a corporate job (though it really could have been a lot worse) and a cell phone (omg, early adopter!) but unlike Ethan, he actually treated Winona like he cared about her instead like some manic pixie dream boy. I didn't buy the happily ever after shit at the end, either.
Besides marking the death of Winona Ryder's acting career, this film kind of makes me think that despite all the Gen X vs. Gen Y kerfuffle, post-undergraduate angst is one of those things that is always kind of the same. It's part of the reason the Graduate is still enjoyable 45 YEARS (WHAT??!!!) after it was released in 1967.
Case in point: Tiny Furniture.
I watched this indie (NOT MUMBLECORE!) film Friday night after going home sick from work. There is no specific reason I watched this as a follow-up to reality bites, but it's eerily similar in many regards. Young female filmmaker Aura graduates college, hangs around with friends, gets involved with bad men, can't find job, alienates family. This film is kind of Lena Dunham's vanity project- she wrote the screenplay, directed, and starred in it (one assumes it's loosely based on her own life, as her IRL mom and sister play her mom and sister). She could collaborate with Vincent Gallo and create the most narcissistic film known to humanity. This movie is full of sadness and fail, eliciting a mixture of disgust and pity as Aura wears mini sundresses with bike shorts (at least Reality Bites had the excuse of actually being set in the 90s), begs to sleep in her mom's bed, constantly looks like she needs to wash her hair (but not in the salon-styled faux dirty hair sense), and has bareback sex in a junk yard with a creepy weasel who can't even show up to mooch drugs off of her. Yes, this movie is realistic rather vulnerable, but it also kind of made me want to throw up. I guess I like seeing movies about real people who actually look like real, but movies about real people being pathetic and cringeworthy makes my soul bleed. The whole time I kept thinking of this goth chick I knew in college who left the room during an early Todd Solondz film because she "didn't find ugly people to be entertaining." That seems like a horrible assessment of this film, but I swear it's not directed so much at Aura as just the entire film being as kind of uncomfortably stale and sweaty as Aura's sheets.
The final item in this trifecta of angst is this song from Kanye West's "The College Dropout" which I downloaded last weekend:
(Yes, I realize that this was his first album, but Graduation was actually my first Kanye album. I'm kind of disappointed that the last one wasn't called "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Post-Doc." But I digress.)
Working at the Gap was a major theme in Reality Bites, too. But this song captures the sheer misery of working retail with astounding accuracy, in the context of an album with themes about how college is probably overrated.
But yeah, where the hell is that spaceship, anyway?