Between sips of wine and the bars of Dire Straits “Romeo & Juliet” it can get hard, living in that mind-space that dwells on what went wrong and maybe I could have done something and wondering if I even should have done anything. It becomes deafening as the thoughts loop in and out of each other, all vying for room in this place that just feels sort of…empty. And it doesn’t matter, since there is no one there on the other end to have this conversation with. That’s probably the worst part. Realizing that I am now alone with my thoughts.
Sorry, that started off on a downbeat.
“The Breakup Files” (which you are now reading the beginning of) is going to be a series where I…well, try to talk through my recent breakup. I dated her for about 4 years (give or take a short-term separation in the middle), making this new found bachelor-hood unexpected and leaving me in an unfamiliar situation with which to get back on that proverbial horse. But it isn’t time for the horse yet. Now is time to reflect or lament or grow or something... I don’t know, but I’m figuring it out along the way. That process of figuring it out, though, will have to take place in the same medium that I have always found comfort in: film. Movies all hold an inherent emotional element, but that also grows out further, into the crowd who takes the film and mentally shape it to fit their own life. So I’m not here to talk about the movies, I’m here to talk about my movies. What they mean to me. Especially now.
So that brings me to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
My girlfriend breaking up with me also meant that I would be moving out. To an entirely different town, in fact, closer to where I work instead of the hour long drive I've been making. A new start, in a new city. Even if I didn’t ask for this newness, it is now being thrust upon me. Part of this newness is the old theater within walking distance of my new house. It often plays independent films on its one screen, one film per week, and once or twice a month a classic movie to draw in the crowd that Olivier Assayas does not. Within a week of me moving to this new town they happen to be playing Temple of Doom, and what better way to celebrate my new bachelorhood than with two monsters-of-cinema who made a film together while going through sloppy divorces? (Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, if you aren’t ‘in the know’) I could now make all the “Kali-Ma!” jokes that I want about my own heart being pulled out, although I would have to make those jokes to myself. I don’t really have any friends in this new town, either.
I got dressed up (well, nicer jeans and t-shirt than I usually wear) and made my way to the theater on foot. Walking by empty parks and lit-up houses, I have to admit, is probably the most lonely I have felt in the weeks since the break-up. I at least have my dog with me in the new house to keep me company and I don’t really mind going to a movie by myself (I actually prefer it because I can get uppity about theater faux-pas). The loneliness I'm starting to feel comes from anticipating the other people at the theater finding it strange that someone is going to a movie by themselves. I imagine this probably would be doubly-so for a movie that was not only 30 years old, but an action movie for kids and nostalgic’s of most any age at this point. But it is different this time, as I know that I not only look like a lonely guy going to a movie by himself, I actually am that lonely guy going to a movie by myself.
I walk down the aisle of the crowded theater, doing my best to keep my head raised at least a little bit, as I slip into the middle of the front row and bury myself in my phone to try and ignore the constant worry that other people are ogling, in wonder, this guy going stag to an Indiana Jones movie. I normally wouldn’t have worried about this. Before this point in my life I had an assurance of sorts, a person waiting at home to confirm that I’m not strange. Or that, even if I am strange, that it’s alright, and she accepts it. Once again, I’m alone with my thoughts now. No one to assuage my fears of cultural ineptitude and social isolation. It’s just me, my phone, and (soon) this 30 year old film that I’ve seen more times than I can recount.
A lot of people talk about how the darkness of Temple of Doom stems from the filmmakers recently failed marriages. But watching it this time, I saw something much different. Not the blood, child torture, and still-beating heart, but a cartoon. A cartoon of shish-kabob spears, monkey brain desserts, and playful elephants. Mostly I saw a movie about a boy and his cool best friend. The complaint heard most about Temple of Doom usually has to do with the irritating nature of Kate Capshaw’s role as “Willie”. The strange part about it is that Willie acts as less of a romantic interest that really has much of any role in the plot, but more as a punch line for Short Round and Indie. Willie doesn’t exist as much as a character as she does an indictment of why women are just the worst, amirite guys? Using a more modern idiom, Temple of Doom is the epitome of a ‘Bro’s Over Ho’s’ film (and all the misogyny that comes along with that). Indie and Short Round function as two adventurers, or at least an adventurer and his young protégé. This leaves Willie in the romantic interest role of the film, but even that is largely overshadowed by the closeness of the two adventurers. One of the few times that Indiana shows any interest or care for Willie is when he’s looking to score a fuck-buddy. Even the romantic catharsis at the end of the film is ruined by Short Round and an elephant, leaving the film on laughter and not the requisite romantic closure.
When talking bad about Willie it is usually mentioned that she is a badly written female character. And she is. She is written so badly that it becomes a caricature of women as fragile, self-involved, relentlessly screeching, and incapable of helping themselves, much less others. This really gives the film, which already feels like an adolescent fantasy, an even further reduction of life as cherished interactions between two friends, leaving the female to only get in the way and eventually try to seduce one of the friends away. For two guys that just got divorced, this is the indulgent fantasy of returning back to the bachelor life. The freedom to rid themselves of the ugly talons of women and the heart and soul that they try and steal away from your life, like an adventure succubus.
The truth is even sadder than the adventure of the film, though. Much like the adventure catharsis that the two men on screen are trying to work their way through, despite the seductions of this awful woman, Steven Spielberg fell in love with Willie in real life and married her (Capshaw, not the character, naturally). Leaving George Lucas as Short Round, futilely spraying Spielberg and Capshaw with water, trying to take their attention away from each other, and knowing that even though it worked for now, that they will soon leave Short Round after the credits have rolled and the audience has left the theater. Because the truth of it all is that adventures are temporary and few. In the end most of us are just looking for an intimacy that we can be comfortable with. Someone that you don’t have to hide from and someone who is simply impressed by our unimpressive selves. Even when we aren’t going on adventures. Even when the adventures dry up. Even when the adventures look like they may just be over. And none of us want to be Short Round, pushing our way into others’ lives until the elephant runs out of water…(that metaphor went off the rails a little)
The film is over. A smile on my face before I get up and turn my way back into the crowd. Trying to get lost. Trying not to be that lonely guy leaving the theater, that now everyone can get a good look at. Even now the truth hits that no one cares, and maybe even worse, no one really ever noticed. Walking back home was easier than the walk to the theater. It was dark and I had a certain amount of glow left in me from Temple of Doom. I walk into my apartment, to the excited greetings of my dog, make some food, and get to bed. It hits me again. That lonely emptiness. That realization that this experience now only lives with me. There’s no one to tell it to in the dark apartment, no one that might care to listen to my wayward thoughts. Then again, even if she was around, what would I have said? -‘How was the movie?’ ‘Good…’-And maybe that really was the root of it all. Maybe I have a problem sharing myself and maybe that’s why I’m back here, below square-one, trying to navigate a world that I thought I had figured out (more or less). I guess I’ll just share myself here, then. Maybe no one cares, but the experience is real, and it at least deserves a fighting chance. And I suppose I do too.