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21 Years Later: Reality BitesThursday, February 26, 2015
As tribute to my favorite aged coming-of-age film of the '90s, Reality Bites (that turned 21 this year), I dedicated 100 minutes of my life (again) last week to reacquaint myself with the pains of realizing that I was not somebody (or anybody, for that matter) by the age of 23 or riding my own melt or wishing, at some point, that I was lesbian or [insert more existentialist rants here].
I am not a member of Generation X, which made the Winona Forever-starred film the defining movie of their time, but I loved the film nonetheless. I never really saw the movie until I was almost reaching my 20s and to be honest, I never understood some of the references but boy, did it resonate with me. I guess, at one point in our lives, we all kind of see ourselves in one of the characters. I would still watch it every once in a while, it's my go-to film whenever I want to watch something but I can't find anything that fits. And I would find myself dancing along to My Sharona each and every time. Sometimes, it would make feel like an old lady on the couch on a Saturday night, sometimes still thinking, "Oh. That's me." (This is also how I sort of feel like when I watched the first episode of Girls. Hannah Horvath = new generation Lelaina Pierce, am I right?)
I am now 28 years old, way past the dooms of the quarter life crisis (but still experiencing some crises along the way), not the directionless and confused character that Josh Radnor always seem to play on his films, and may, for the first time, have seen Reality Bites in a different light.
1. Vickie has the best head on her shoulders in this film. (Lelaina, not so much.)
Of course, we all want to make a difference in our lives, be the best at what we do, choose a better path and look back and be proud of ourselves, very much like Lelaina. But there's absolutely nothing wrong with taking a job at Gap and decently climbing up the corporate ladder while you haven't found your big break. And how could anyone turn down a BMW from their parents? I know Lelaina's got principles but that rejecting a car as a gift was just crazy, IMO. I know you're anti-consumerism, Lelaina but what's so wrong with being practical?
2. We are not so prehistoric at 23.
Five years ago, I'm sure I would've caught myself saying, "I feel so old." But at 23, it's okay to not have figured everything out yet. It's okay to stumble and trip and make some bad decisions. Anybody that has figured out their lives, please raise your hand. Uhm. Yep. I don't see anybody. It's a life-long journey, it's always been a work in progress. Don't pressure yourself too much. You have a whole life ahead of you. YOU ARE 23. YOU ARE NOT OLD.
3. Troy Dyer is one cliche heap of shit.
The first time I've watched the film, I swooned over the greasy-haired, philosophical groupie-loving Troy because he was just so good with words. I even listed him on Facebook as one of my inspirational people, I kid you not. But I realized that in a nutshell, he's a jobless womanizer, a too-cool-to-care poet that it's in a band (that I would assume never went anywhere) that's the biggest chicken shit when it comes to the real thing. I've had my fair share of experiences with guys with pieces of Troy Dyer in them. But the truth of the matter is an asshole will always be an asshole. And when I saw the film this time, I could not fathom how being a jerk to the person you have feelings for is the proper way of conveying your true intentions. Mind fuck much? There are individuals who are actually great writers, great members of bands, great friends and then there's the Troy Dyers of the universe: a great friend with whom you have an undeniable sexual tension, projecting that mysterious, wounded persona that gets him the girls (oddly enough, it works), gets him laid but don't get too attached because you're just another notch in his belt. (Okay. he's going through a rough patch since his dad's got the C. But it's not a life-long pass to be a jerk, ya know.)
4. Michael Grates is the good guy and the better choice.
And we all know nobody likes the good guy. That's why Lelaina didn't pick him. I know I would have done the same if I'm met with the choice of choosing between my own version of Michael and Troy. But in the grand scheme of things, he was the one with promise. He's definitely smoother on the edges unlike Troy but he has direction. And he's sweet and supportive and forgiving and the kind that makes you think of your health. Hahaha. I believe he deserved a chance even though he blew it with Lainie's documentary. That's such a measly thing compared to Troy's never ending negativity to her. But the next thing you know, she sleeps with Troy. Ugh. But just so you know, the men of the world don't fall in these two categories only, much like you're neither just a Lelaina or a Vickie.
5. Michael's "Have I stepped over some line in the sands of coolness with you? Because excuse me if somebody doesn't know the secret handshake with you." line.
He could not have said it more perfectly. Like during the entire film, I've been thinking of a perfect intellectual line to tell Troy if I encounter him IRL myself. And all I could think of is, "What the hell is your problem with everyone, Troy?" which, as we all know, he would have a perfect comeback to. Because he's so intelligent, he's bursting with fruit flavor. But then again, no matter how perfect this line is, Troy's "There’s no secret handshake. There’s an IQ prerequisite, but there’s no secret handshake." will always be better.
I think it's quite clear that Lelaina and Troy were the main protagonists of the film but I wish a bit more of Sammy -- because he had a real struggle in this film. He's the closeted gay friend who's trying to come out to his parents. Towards the latter end of the film, he actually did come out to his mom and he's stuck outside their house, with this intense longing just to be 'let back in' the house again. This and tackling another socially relevant issue like AIDS.
7. As much as we don't want to "sell out," we will.
As Michael said, "And I wish I could be perfect, OK? I wish I could be like Troy... riding on his melted cheese sandwich and everything. I wish I could live off of creeds and mottoes and all that shit, all right? But I'm in the real world here, OK?" We all wish we could have our documentaries that we painstakingly worked hard for be picked up by some giant television station and not be stripped off of everything we want it to be, we all wish we could get by straight out of college just by being in a grunge band and our poetic words as currency, while riding off to the sunset with a once-asshole-but-I-changed-him for a boyfriend. But the reality of Reality Bites is that this isn't how it happens. Our documentaries will be cut into bits and pieces to appeal to the masses, our passion for something creative would be have to be put on the sideline because we need to take 9-5 jobs from some big company, and jerks will always be jerks because momentary epiphanies will never change them -- nobody could change them. And they most certainly will never afford rent for a house just with their lousy band and attitude.
8. I will always love this movie.
No matter how my views have changed about this film, it will always be a favorite. I would never rock a pixie hair cut or vintage dresses and party on rooftops but it doesn't change that Reality Bites will always be in my classics. I still see myself putting it on the TV when I have nothing else to watch. I love how it portrays the true friendship between Vickie and Lelaina. It will still be a staple when I'm on a '90's movies marathon or favorite Ethan Hawke films marathon. I still see myself quoting Troy (and hating him at the same time) and making references to the movie in the future (and because he defined irony without even blinking). The "You and me and five bucks." and U2 scene will always make my heart flutter with sadness. I will always love that look on Ethan Hawke's face when he was at Lelaina's lawn (but not the 'huge planet of regret sitting on my shoulders' part.) I still love it because it's nostalgic, because it's like that relationship I had back then, I was in love then I hated it, but overall, I learned something from it -- and that's how I knew that I've grown up.
(All images found in Google.)