I am a creation and by-product of pop culture. However, not in the sense that you might think. I do not collect lunch boxes from the fifties or collect old commercial jingles. Mine is a much different configuration. My world is born of movies and books. Sounds simplistic doesn’t it? But when you think about it is in reality, a much broader world than probably first popped into your mind. It is this world that has over the years shaped my entire outlook. It infuses and molds how I view the entire world.
The cute man that smiles at me in the Laundromat isn’t just a cute guy, he is a Legolas look-alike come to brighten my day. Mt boss going off on tangents isn’t just a rambling old man; he is a relative of Lazarus Long telling a great yarn that it will probably take him five hours to tell. The lonely white boy that walks the halls talking to no one isn’t just another pathetic guy that no one will remember; he is what Val Kilmer’s character in “Real Genius” was in his early years. Everything in my life is in the context of these two things.
It is perhaps no coincidence that my best friend is someone who can have whole conversations with me only using movie quotes. He too uses the same lingo to describe his world as I do. There is a movie quote and a character from a novel for every situation. Such references have been made before, but for people like me and my best friend, it is a way of life. If you’ve had the worst day of your life it’s the line from “Real Genius” about people ruing the day that they did this to you. If it’s trying to cheer up your best friend after their heart has been broken, it’s reminding them that they are “so money” a la “Swingers”. It’s the late night drinking and bonding bouts where you dream of a life where there are definite lines between good and evil because your life seems to have no meaning. In these moments it is the characters like Aragorn and Rand that stir your soul and make you have faith.
As much as I love teaching, perhaps the best job that I ever had was working in a video store when I lived in Atlanta. Minimum wage, bizarre people but the job was heaven. Every day I went to a place where I knew all the characters. Ever title on every shelf was memorized. I could identify movies by a person describing the cover art or by their vague description of, “You know, that Giovanni Ribissi movie with the band” (“The Other Sister” if you care.) I was faster than the computer on finding titles and movies for people. I didn’t set out to memorize these things; I didn’t read Leonard Malton’s movie review books from cover to cover. Rather, these things came to me so easily because they were part of the foundation that my life was based on.
The same held true for books. Since as long as I can remember I have inhaled them. I buried myself in the stories of Margaret Mitchell, Tolkien, Jordan, Heinlein, and King. I disappeared into their world and was always reluctant to make the return trip. These are still my favorites, but I read pretty much anything I can get my hands on. When I was younger I would select a shelf at random from the public library and start and one end and just read until I was finished with everything on it. Zane Grey novels stick out in my mind from that period, a whole summer spent in the West. Full of people and places I had never seen but came alive for me.
Books are still my favorite refuge. I always have one on me. I read everywhere- trains, buses, lines, in between classes, at dinner. I can easily read a book a day and have recently started to look at books over a thousand pages with more interest only because with paperbacks now being eight dollars a pop, and with the speed I read, it only seems financially sound. I still will pick up anything though. Whether it’s an author I like or just because the cover looked cool, I read like most people breathe.
Most people I know either know movies or books. I have honestly never met anyone who relates to both as I do. Even my dear best friend reads much too slow for my tastes. His bookshelves are full of books I’ve sent him that he absolutely HAD TO READ. I think over the past six years he’s read maybe two that I’ve sent him. Oh well, I guess your best friend can’t be perfect. I love him anyway. My mom and dad read a lot, and we’ve been known to buy three copies of a book so that we can all read it at the same time.
I’ve had friends and boyfriends that completely didn’t understand how I put everything in reference to movies and books. They actually went so far as to call me a little crazy. Maybe they're right. I still live very much in my imagination. I still openly admit to the fact that unicorns and dragons existed; we just haven’t found the fossils yet. I believe that life might be better if men wore swords and still had great quests. I am still overjoyed to lose myself in a darkened theatre for two hours. You can scream in my ear as I read and I won’t hear you, because I am in another world.
I think that this view has led to an interesting mixture. I am an adult, with a job who pays their bills and has a life. In truth, I am known for being bitter and sarcastic. But I also never lost my imagination and my wonder. I still have my ability to dream and that I think that is the difference. I have managed to exist in the real world, but to live in another. In my world, there is magic. Vampires and ghouls run amok in the night. There in honor and missions and a sense of peace. True love overcomes impossible odds and the end is never the end of the tale, it is simply where we stop reading or watching. Anything is possible. There is a naiveté to all of this. A childlike sense of wonder and promise to it all.
In a world where I see a ten year old giving gang signs to his friend as he gets on the bus, homeless drunks passed out in twenty degree weather and my students come in sad because of the drive bys in their neighborhood last night, being thought weird and a little off is okay by me.
The way I figure it, as long as all those things exist in print or on the silver screen, there is some hope that it could become reality. Then again, maybe that’s the child in me talking. There is always hope though, I hope.