Monday, September 14, 2009

The M&M in the Spaghetti

Twitter Sonnet #60

The Nordic werewolf missed his appointment.
Beware the mountains with tiled textures.
Vary the grains in your each allotment.
Wicker men reward productive mixtures.
Nothing's so deep fried you can't add cream cheese.
Guess these are cranberries in this muffin.
To love's kingdom, civil junk food's the keys.
I'm clumsy to-night as a deaf dolphin.
Connected nuclear can phones with string;
Furious hikikomori power.
Know a caged Galatea will not sing.
Even in Lakitu's mushroom shower.
Never blindly trust a free piƱata.
Mata Hari makes the good ciabatta.

I finally watched "The Body" last night, the fifth season Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode where Buffy's mother dies. I don't think it's a bad episode, and there are several aspects of it that are well above average for the series. I think having something to focus on that he was passionate about actually forced Whedon to cut a lot of the bullshit that had accumulated on the show, like the cutesy talk, and the over the top stupidity of the characters. It was the first time since season three Willow didn't sound like an irritating moron--her obsessing over finding a specific sweater rang true as a small, psychological detail. I've been there--some hugely critical thing's happening, and having certain details just the way you want them can actually be a big source of comfort.

This was the first time Willow and Tara felt like real characters in a real relationship to me, though, at the same time, it was hard to understand Willow and Xander getting quite so worked up over Joyce's death, though this may be because I'm an emotionally stunted human being. When a friend's parent dies, yeah, I feel bad for them, but it doesn't wreck me the way it seemed to be doing to them. Though I guess the point of the Christmas flashback was that the Scooby gang was actually closer to Joyce than was ever much displayed. The fact that she was never really developed, that she remained a sort of stock sitcom mom for the whole series, doesn't help on that score, either--a line from the first season, where she said she only had nightmares "about bills" has always pretty much summed her up for me. She had some vague job at a museum or gallery, but she mostly just seemed to be a foil.

The reason we feel for her death at all was mainly in how it was shot, and there were a couple moments I really liked, like all the POV shots for Buffy--a close-up on the phone buttons, the compulsive fantasy about an alternate reality where Buffy saved her mother. And Buffy going to school to tell Dawn about what happened was strongly reminiscent of the pilot episode of Twin Peaks, and I reflected on how masterful that first episode was--people going through the regular beginning of a day and these strange, small clues start to appear before the fact of Laura's death is explicitly told. The thing about Lynch isn't that he's stranger than most people, it's that he's good at putting what's actually strange about everyone on screen. Only jerk-offs really think Lynch is out of touch with the human mind.

But back to Whedon and "The Body"--the tragedy of the episode isn't that it's bad, but that it does things that the show ought to have been doing all along, if it wanted to be more than an action sitcom--focusing on small, sensual details, developing character reactions by avoiding stilted, cheap dialogue and set-ups. That Whedon waits for Buffy's mother to die to get serious about death inevitably implies he thinks all the death and mayhem that came before doesn't quite "count". I mean, yes, it oughta mean more to Buffy, and therefore to us if we're to take the show as being from her POV, but when telling a story about mortal peril, if you want it to feel threatening, including details that create a "real" feeling world are essential. Every decent horror movie does this--it's why Alien needed Nostromo crewmen who broke each others' balls without necessarily being polished funny, why The Shining needed Danny's toys and stupid sweaters. Shit like that's good for verisimilitude, but Buffy plays as more of an ironic commentary most of the time.

So what I'm saying is basically that "The Body"'s not bad, but it kind of belongs on another show. I mean, even aside from the tone, the subject matter feels like too much of an abrupt detour. Which I wouldn't mind if it were for something I cared about--maybe people actually going through the experience of having a close family member die appreciate the story sympathetic to their experience. Which I think is cool.

I looked at Joss Whedon's Wikipedia entry and saw that his mother is, in fact, dead, so maybe he really needed the platform to vent. I also read, "The dialogue in Joss Whedon's shows and movies usually involves . . . the turning of nouns into adjectives by adding a 'y' at the end of the word ('listy'). According to one of the Buffy writers, 'It's just the way that Joss actually talks.'" Which made me wonder how people restrain themselves from punching him in the face all the time.

Maybe that's why I'm not a wildly successful screenwriter. Maybe I need to come up with some cloying speaking pattern--how about if I randomly put "ingie" at the end of words?

So, the otheringie day, I wentingie to the store-ingie and bought some bread . . .

I need more. How about random pickles?

So, Pickle, the otheringie pickle day, I wentingie to the pickle store-ingie and bought some pickle bread . . .

Say, not bad. I gotta work on this.

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