Monday, July 12, 2010
The Death of Lloyd Dobler
In April of 1989 I was a skinny four-eyed teenager who loved reruns of Charles in Charge, Steven Seagal action movies and Twizzlers cherry licorice laces. If someone asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I would have answered "talk to a girl." Almost twenty years ago, I was an innocent, slightly socially awkward fourteen year-old without a dream.
And then one day I watched the preview for the film, Say Anything. And for some reason, I felt compelled to see it. With no girl to ask out and no guy willing to see such a ‘girlie’ movie, I decided to do something I'd never done before and rarely done since. I went to the movie theater alone.
One hour and forty-two minutes later, I was still innocent. I was still slightly socially awkward. I was still fourteen. But I was no longer without a dream. That was the first day I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to write characters like Lloyd Dobbler who said things like “I want to get hurt!” (Which became my all-time favorite movie line in my all-time favorite movie.)
Hell, I wanted to be Lloyd Dobbler.
As I grew up and moved to Los Angeles to pursue writing, Cameron Crowe's story of love found, lost and found again was never too far from my mind. When I went out on dates with girls (yes, I did finally talk to them) and later had actual girlfriends, I was always trying to live up to the heart of Lloyd’s character. And for a while, that was a good thing.
But then something changed. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment or even if there was an exact moment, but all of a sudden everything I knew became everything I thought I knew. And everything I thought I knew amounted to a whole lot of nothing. And knowing a whole lot of nothing is a pretty darn good recipe for disappointment.
So what exactly happened? And who or what was to blame?
For a while I wasn’t sure. But then one night it hit me. It was MTV. More specifically, MTV’s “reality” show, The Hills.
As one of the few heterosexual fans of the show, I’ll admit to being entertained by the hollow, vain and narcissistic cast of conceited, swollen-headed and self-important douchebags and sorority girls. I’ll admit to getting sucked into the highfalutin, grandiose and farcical ‘drama” these characters became famous for. But while I was being entertained by the constant backstabbing, infighting, crossbreeding and maltreatment, I didn’t realize the true influence they were having.
Until I started dating.
While girls had once swooned for the sentimental, romantic and sweet gestures of a Lloyd Dobbler, they now were smitten by the dry, dispassionate and obnoxious gestures of a Justin Bobby. While girls had once held their breath anxiously hoping he would ask them out again that night and then call the next day or, even better, bright and early the next morning or, even better, five minutes after he kissed you goodnight and got in his car because he couldn’t wait any longer and he even had to pull over to the side of the road because he couldn’t concentrate on driving… they’re now turned off unless he disappears for a week and then calls late one night asking if they want him to stop by and when they say yes he doesn’t stop by but texts three days later saying he got caught up and maybe he’ll call again in a week or maybe he won’t but the whole time they are eating it up because he is mysterious, rebellious and exciting. And did I mention he drives a motorcycle?
Now before you get angry and upset because you are a girl who would be horrified and completely turned off by the behavior of the latter and instead have been desperately searching for someone like the former, let me be clear. You have now become the exception.
Somehow the ugly, vile egotism, shameless self-loving and contemptible behavior that permeates the spirit of a brainless show on MTV had managed to influence an entire population of girls, many of whom had probably never seen a single episode. It didn’t matter.
One of my close female friends recently met a guy she fell for. After attempting to text him about seeing him again and getting relatively blown off, she decided to call. His roommate answered and not only wouldn’t let her talk to him but actually PRETENDED TO BE HIM. It was as if she had fallen back into a world of infantile and immature high-school games. A world kind of like we see every week on The Hills.
My friend was smart. She immediately hung up and texted him back “Lose my number, you immature douchebag. I don’t have time for little boys and their games.” She then deleted his number.
But this got me thinking. What if this guy was just acting exactly as he is expected to act? What if he is not the advertised douchebag but instead a good person inside who only knew a world of disrespectful and childish game playing? What if he thought this is what she wanted? So I thought about these questions for a moment.
And then I got depressed.
So what is a guy like me to do when faced with this new reality? I could change. I could forget about Lloyd Dobbler. I could forget about that skinny four-eyed teenager walking out of the movie theater with a big smile on my face.
It wouldn’t be difficult or take much effort. I could suddenly become the contemptible, ill-mannered and coldhearted Justin Bobby many girls now crave. I could do that today and maybe everything would be easier.
Yes, I could do all those things. And yes, maybe everything would be easier. But I’m not going to.
I think I’m waiting for the girl who is the exception.