Monday, September 30, 18:03 CDT

...or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?

Yeah, I know - the As You Like It : High Fidelity thing doesn't hang together. The connection I was going to make, between why I dig romantic comedies and all those thousands of songs Cusack's character was talking about, well, it never really shows up. Not because it's a bad idea, but because it's a rant I needed to spend more than an hour banging out. Especially after I got sidetracked thinking about Shrew and 10 Things.

Somehow, I really don't feel like revisiting it. There are more important things to think about, to write about, to act upon. Whatever. So there it sits, an artefact fashioned of an hour's muddy thought and left half-formed to dry in the late September sun. You can already see the cracks forming. Ere long, it'll be no more than a pile of dust.

Mon Sep 30 10:58:27 CDT 2001

As You Like It

As You Like It is probably my favorite of the things we've read for class so far. Outside of Hamlet, I think it's my favorite of the Shakespeare I've read, period. And if I were hard pressed I might admit that's only because Hamlet's way more fun to sit around misquoting after too much beer.

AYLI doesn't remind me much of Taming of the Shrew, really, but it does remind me of Ten Things I Hate About You, which is my second-favorite High School Movie (the first being Ferris Bueller's Day Off), probably the best thing The Taming of the Shrew has ever inspired, and a great romantic comedy.

I'm a sucker for the romantic comedy. I make no apologies, and we'll just skip over the part where I make some desperate token attempt to defend my masculinity. It's standard boilerplate for statements like these and I'm sick of it and the whole fucked up set of gender identity issues it implies.

'course, it's still fair to ask *why* I like them, the good ones anyway, so much. They can hardly fail to remind me that my own life is practically monastic and seems likely to remain that way; which is not necessarily the kind of thing you want to be beat over the head with, is it?

What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?

— Rob Gordon, High Fidelity

There's a thematic connection here, honest.

High Fidelity isn't just a great flick because it caters to my tastes in music ("I'm going to sell four copies of The Three EPs by the Beta Band."), or because it did huge things to shape them (see earlier parenthetical quotation), or because it's about obsessive, geeky individuals whose lives are composed of equal parts intense fascination and desperate longing. It's a great flick because it spends almost as much time messing with the conventions of romance and romantic comedy as it does making fun of record store geeks.

Actually, that's not quite right. It does all of these things, but there's a further and more important element. It does them with understanding. It knows that record store geeks and their obsessions are ridiculous, and so are human relationships, but it also knows the humanity of these people and the way (messed up or not) that they interact with one another. It's not vicious, it's just honest. It's like Galaxy Quest in this respect (just to confuse things further and bring in a third film): Yeah, people who obsess over ancient SF TV series with cheesy dialog, cheesy plots, and even cheesier special effects work are funny. Ridiculous, really. But they're still human and still worth understanding.

I'm not about to suggest that As You Like It is that entirely sympathetic to its characters, or that it's realistic in any sense, but the High Fidelity thing is definitely going on here. It spends most of its time messing with the conventions of romantic storytelling in one way or another. It could practically be the archetype for all modern romantic comedy, but it's not lazy about it.

Orlando runs around inscribing terrible, overwrought love poetry on trees. This has got to be the 16th century equivalent of making someone a mix tape full of sappy, obvious love songs. Rosalind spends most of the play in drag, deliberately messing with Orlando's mind. Maybe she's trying to find out if what he loves is her or the idea of being in love with her. Maybe she and Celia are a little closer than cousins and she's trying to figure out how to resolve that. Maybe she just likes being a man and playing with Orlando's head. I think she's probably trying to figure out how much she wants to grow up get married, which is something she can hardly avoid, and how to go about doing it on her own terms. Which she actually succeeds in doing.

Furthermore, and I think this is key, if you were going to cast Jack Black in AYLI, there'd be no other choice but Touchstone.