Sunday, April 10, 2011

More Heroes

Yesterday, between the napping and the snotting and the kissing, Vincent and I watched a couple of movies and another episode of The Human Body; the one about pregnancy, which was equal parts thrilling and disgusting. Robert Winston is a sick, sick man, but also a wonderful one, and I'm not put off growing my own parasite although I wouldn't be averse to the fast development of one of those external wombs either. Apparently scientists got a calf more than halfway through gestation before it died (I can't remember where I read that though and hope I didn't make it up; maybe something for my environmental ethics paper? I can't quite believe I did it either, but I seem to be interested in and kind of good at that kind of thing. A bit like old Robert maybe? Probably not).

Anyway, one of the movies we watched was True Grit (The Coens' version), which was fantastic. I was immediately enamoured with the main character, Mattie, and remembered a list I was making at work a couple of weeks ago headed "Fictional Heroes".

1. Benjamin Braddock. I love The Graduate; watching it for the first time was a bit like when I saw Ghost World and realised some people don't expect you to have answers when everyone else thinks you're supposed to. Benjamin is one of my heroes because he throws himself into how he feels, or doesn't feel. When he doesn't know what to do, he does nothing. When he's angry, he makes a total fool out of himself, and when he's sorry, he's consumed. He puts himself in situations where he is totally out of his depth. And when he finds something real, he is a madman in its pursuit. He fucks up colossally, but he does it in such a genuine way I can only feel for him, and when the movie ends, in spite of feeling nervous about what's around the corner, every time I want to jump up and cheer. And Elaine Robinson is a bit of a hero too... (but I can't separate her character from Katharine Ross's voice and beautiful face, so she has a bit of an advantage).

2. Lily. Every time I watch Eagle vs Shark, I go away thinking I want to be more like Lily. I feel like everything I am - the good things - is so inflated; I don't necessarily always mean for them to be that way, but mine is not a quiet character. Lily, on the other hand, goes about her life largely unnoticed by the people around her; she's completely overlooked by the love of her life, she's rejected at work and initially underestimated by everybody, but she just carries on, being true to herself, and changing people and winning them over just by being her. I think if I had a poster of Lily on my door I would be a much nicer person.

3. Holden Caulfield. The first time I read The Catcher In The Rye, I thought I was Holden Caulfield (along with just about everyone else who read it in their teens, I know). But he was so frustrated and had such a strong sense of right and wrong and valuable and, well, phony, that I felt like he was reading my mind... and then expressing it in a more articulate and funny way. I admire Holden Caulfield because he's so genuine. There's no compromise about him; if something disgusts him, he wants to be sick, and if something delights him, he wants to preserve it if it kills him. It's nearly ten years since I first read it and I still identify so strongly with his character - I have picked out passages to be read out at my funeral - but I'm still a long way off being as consistent in myself as Holden. He's even less equipped to survive in this world than I am, but with the world as insincere as it is, it's a brave and beautiful way to be.

4. Mattie Ross. More self-possession at fourteen than I have at twenty-seven; sharp as a tack, funny, brave, determined, and tough as hell. She sleeps in a room with dead criminals, for christ's sake! She sells a pair of ponies back to the vendor and then buys one back for $10, tears shreds from a vain Texas ranger, rides the aforementioned pony across a neck-deep creek, and sleeps under the stars in the freezing cold in the company of the ranger (who has already expressed a desire to kiss her and later given her an old-fashioned spanking) and a drunken marshal. Mattie bucks up when she's scared, sharpens her tongue when she's angry, cheers for the others when they shoot well, and doesn't shy away from what she thinks is right.

5. Lorelai Victoria Gilmore. How do I love thee? There really isn't time to count the ways. Suffice to say, when I have been watching Gilmore Girls, I am happier, brighter, even funnier. Lorelai is unfailingly positive, interesting, loving, and hilarious; this might sound ridiculous, but she truly is an inspiration. If I there was one fictional character I could be like that would make the most positive difference to the people around me (without superpowers), it would be Lorelai. And who knows but that I might be an even bigger fan after I've kicked. (Sorry Elizabeth.)

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