3 Things I’m Glad Didn’t Exist 20 Years Ago

I just turned 39, which I wasn’t all that pleased about for a number of reasons, some of which are none of your beeswax. But one reason is that it’s a joke age, a place where the oldometer stops for a lot of people, a numerical cultural signifier for “actually, a lot older than 39″. So it’s like turning 40, but worse, because I don’t actually get to own that I’m 40, instead looking like some kind of liar. I admit I’ve overthought this, but it’s my party.

So my husband was watching dross on Netflix, the way he does, and hit upon Tiny Furniture - if you like this you’ll like that, etc. I didn’t even get an individual assessment out of him so much as him reading out the wiki page about mumblecore film-making in absolute horror. Unscripted digital video with a focus on naturalistic dialogue! He shouted. Bah. I haven’t seen any of the mumblecore titles listed, but ignorance hasn’t stopped me from making fun of something before, and I’m not going to stop now. Whenever I see Ed Burns talk about his “low-budg” aesthetic - even the term makes my gonads shrink – I want to die a little. Oh, another lazy, hideously filmed family drama about a lovable asshole being half-redeemed by the love of a someone or something whatever monologue about how it totally sucks when you burn your fingers getting Hot Pockets out the microwave!

It’s not the digital video: I’ve made my peace with that. Digital video can be used brilliantly, like in 28 Days Later, where the shaky, hand held quality and the sub-cinema quality worked with the subject like nobody’s business. The end of the world is seriously fucking nigh indeed. It’s not even low budget film, because I love all kinds of low budget movies, from Evil Dead to Primer. Maybe it’s just that digital video, with it’s lower barrier to entry – you don’t have to know anything about film, in a technical sense, which might mean you don’t know anything about film, in the more metaphorical sense. It’s like the old joke about the film student wondering about why no one goes to the bathroom in movies, and then makes a film comprised of exclusively that. No one goes to the bathroom in movies because that’s stupid and no way to tell a story.

Which brings me back to my shaky point (which isn’t that I’m mad that I’m getting old, completely): I’ve said for a while now, maybe two full years, that I’m so happy that I didn’t have fucking facebook when I was a kid. Good god. Adolescence was bad enough without an indelible record of my idiocy and assholery out there in the world, and that’s not even getting into the idiocy and assholery of my peers. (And I even cringe about stuff I wrote on the Internet 5 years ago, when I was supposedly an adult.) It doesn’t surprise me at all that many of my younger friends and family have deleted their facebook accounts, or inactivate them for long periods of time.

I’m also happy that there wasn’t self-publishing, because, speaking of indelible, I could see my younger self self-publishing the crap out of some seriously painful sophomoric poetry, and that my seriously painful sophomoric poetry is only available in unavailable high school and college journals makes me a happy cat indeed. It was sweet that my shit juvenile writing was set to the page and all, but that it’s ephemeral is part of its charm. We should be able to bury our pasts, which certainly happens in the constant crushing content-production of the Internet; the good news is, people are rarely listening anyway. But someone can still do the hard google though, and that is ouch.

So the third thing I’m glad didn’t exist when I was young enough to take liberties is mumblecore filmmaking. Not that I ever had any interest in film, except as an audience, but I could totally see younger me thinking, hey, why not? when a friend decided to stage some self-indulgent mumble drama, and there I’d be, for all time, doing some walk-on as a barista or girl at the party fudging my lines and generally sucking. (I wouldn’t mind dying in a horror film, though, whatever that says about me.) I recently stumbled over some clueless young man’s personal manifesto, which he wrote in Socratic dialogue as something approximating a novel. The last pages, which I read, have an author-proxy totally burning a television reporter after she asks a bunch of softballs. Cold dis, imaginary reporter! I laughed myself sick and then praised the baby Jesus that self-publishing didn’t exist when I was 20.

So I guess what I’m saying is that on some level I’m glad I’m old, because I can’t imagine younger me navigating this brave new world with any kind of aplomb, given that older me doesn’t have a ton of restraint. I’m getting better at backing away from the keyboard. Even then, I can imagine a 59 year old Ceridwen reading these words and shaking her head. You poor, dumb slob.

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