Yesterday I read a really great film script that I hated but I read it anyway. It was called "Everybody Wants Everything" and it was a comedy, and a drama, and a story about a married, middle-aged guy who has an almost-sorta-kinda affair (ok, yes—it was an actual affair; stop trying to let yourself off the hook here, dirt-bag middle-aged guy).
About a third of the way through I almost stopped reading and then again at about two thirds of the way through, because Affair-dude and his Affair-ee kept spouting this modern-day BS about "what if people weren't made to commit to other people and what about my feelings, and shouldn't I be able to screw around if I really, really want to?"
I have a visceral response when people try to use evolutionary biology or self-actualization hippie-yoga nonsense to justify burning down the house, just so Mommy can't tell you not to play in the back yard with the local, I don't know, crack dealer.
But I read it anyway.
It was rather well-written and funny (it should be—it made last year's Black List), and I guess I had to admit to myself that it was honest. It got inside Affair-dude's head in a way that let me actually understand what he was thinking, and I could feel my way emotionally into an understanding of his decisions, even as my brain-stem screamed "NO, DUDE! TURN THE EFF AROUND!"
Because who hasn't made decisions they knew they shouldn't, even as they did?
Not only that, but the script didn't let this Affair-dude's choices go un-challenged. He challenged them all the way through, and so did the people in his life. It was messy and ugly and at some point the admission was made: you've been selfish, and now lives are gonna be damaged, here.
In the end, the Affair-dude had a choice to make. In my head I was demanding he make one choice, and I know that in their heads, readers of the free-willy crowd would be demanding he make the opposite choice.
After I'd read the whole thing, I concluded that it was a great film script.
Because as much as I wanted it to say one thing Very Super Clearly, and as much as people who disagree with me would want it to say the opposite thing Very Super Clearly—it didn't. Instead, it just said "people are like this," and left you to sit and think and argue about what could/should be done, after the damage has been inflicted.
I like to think the writer sides with me—that the title "Everybody Wants Everything" is a clue, a sort of narrative eye-roll at the fact that we want what no one relationship and no one person can ever give us (everything). We want this impossibility, so we don't take quite enough time or listen quite closely enough to what the other person is really saying. And then we miss it. Our moment. The thing we actually can have.
Me, I think modern relationships are ravaged by expectation.
I think men come into relationships conditioned by for example the false expectations created by visual pornography and the porn-saturated-culture-at-large. And women also come into relationships carrying backpacks and pushing wheelbarrows full of the false expectations of a different kind of pornography—a rom-com, romance-novel pornography where a man is all the things a man could ever hope to be, all at once.
We don't marry real people, we marry expectations.
And we don't just want everything—we expect it.
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