Quit While You’re Behind
by James Killough
I keep telling Baker and Tuttle that we’re moving away from this whole Marcus “Marcia” Bachmann gay thing, but then something pops up to keep it current, like my buddy Shawn Riegsecker sending me this wonderful YouTube vid yesterday:
If you are too lazy to watch the video (just click on the image above; I didn’t embed the video), it shows a bunch of gay neo-barbarians “glittering” Marcia’s ex-gay clinic in Minnesota. For those who aren’t up to date on this, Marcia uses government money to try to brainwash Gheys via scalding enemas of self-hatred and magical thinking (a.k.a. religion) into denying who they really are. What she is doing is so beyond outrageously offensive and borderline criminal that it needs to be hosed down with serious humor and satire, the only effective antidotes to the poison of evil intentions.
I wholly endorse this glittering barbarian approach. It’s akin to what Dan Savage did by Google bombing Rick Santorum’s political career nearly out of existence a few years ago. (Savage has a new video out threatening to do more damage if Santorum tries to get uppity with the anti-gay thing again in this presidential bid.)
Surely this is the moment in the epic struggle for Middle-Earth America when Savage and other High Elven Lords, wielding their newly forged wedding rings of power, lead armies of fairies to crush the diabolical Bible-shielded orcs.
When people bring up Marcia fathering five children as proof she isn’t gay, my response has been that the only reason she hasn’t fathered more is because she and Michele must have broken the turkey baster. However, despite waging siege warfare against Marcia’s ex-gay practices, I get a lurking uneasiness that I’m behaving a bit like a PT Barnum, enjoining people to step right up to a freak show featuring one of my own tribe, albeit a tribal who is so much less well adjusted and content with herself than I am that it has gradually deranged her over the years.
In an email yesterday, Baker agreed, saying that he almost feels sorry Marcia. This isn’t just a normal closet she lives in. It’s a frickin’ bank vault buried deep in the Swiss Alps.
My Lord Of The Rings imagery of the elven Dan Savage leading the fairy hordes against the gnashing Bible orcs is actually hopeful and somewhat serious; what I am sensing is that this ex-gay/Marcia Bachmann scandal is the first issue since the AIDS crisis that has the potential to unify and galvanize us Gheys as a whole, but it’s so much more fun because Marcia is literally such a soft, easy target, and, well, the height of the AIDS crisis, which gave birth to gay activist groups like Act Up, was the opposite of fun. It was a an endless night of horror that kept me celibate for a total of six years during my twenties. Sex just wasn’t worth the outcome I was witnessing.
Broader civil rights implications of equality under the law aside, ultimately the repeal of DODT and DOMA is directly relevant only to niches within our niche of society: to military Gheys; to life-partnered Gheys; to civil rights crusaders. But the attempt make us ex-who-we-are, to try to modify us as if we were interns in some Maoist re-education program, and using government money to do it, is a form of socio-cultural terrorism that affects us all.
If we are barbarians, and I personally totally own that description with Viking horn-blowing pride, then we should remember a time a thousand six hundred years ago when the hordes of northern Europe banded together to turn the tables on centuries of oppression, and marched on Rome and sacked the bitch. (Yeah, so they also plunged us into the Dark Ages, but that was entirely Christianity’s fault.)
So, despite wanting to roll around in fluff and review movies and generally tickle readers with saucy anecdotes, I guess I’m not quitting the March On Marcia any time soon.
Indeed, quitting in general has been on my mind lately since I heard a semi-ridiculous, but thought-provoking segment on NPR, “The Upside of Quitting.” In a nutshell, it was about the benefits of knowing when to quit any endeavor, plan or habit that is making you miserable or isn’t working, and to quit it fast.
This is a tricky one for filmmakers, both indie and studio alike. To quote a line from Postcards From the Edge, one of the truest, most insightful films about the movie industry, “Everyone is always getting out of the business, but they never do.”
After listening to the NPR quit-fast piece, I suddenly felt epiphanized and clear-headed. I was going to put an end to this dysfunctional relationship between me and film, finally. I mean, come on, look at what’s up there now: the two hundred million-dollar apparent flop Cowboys & Aliens was in development for fourteen years despite having Spielberg and half of Olympian Hollywood attached behind and in front of the camera. But forget the big kids, in our corner of the playground it’s worse. If closing an indie film deal was tough pre-recession, now it’s an achievement akin to parting the Red Sea.
So, following my retirement from film (yet again) on my way home from Trader Joes while listening to NPR, I resolved just to focus on this blog and expand it, to make commercials and create other content for the Web. No more of this self-inflicted development hell with film; masochism is an insidious mental illness best left in France and to those porn videos I can never really watch no matter how hard I try.
Just to make sure I was cleansed of all unproductive illusions, I threw my Sisyphean romantic aspirations into the quitting bonfire as well. As the saying goes, you’re born alone and you die alone, so why expect or want anything else? Burn them all. Be happy alone.
Except. Wait. Truth is, I’ve never really understood that saying. I wasn’t born alone. My mother was definitely there, beyond exhaustion after thirty-eight hours of labor, and when I finally surmounted my justified ambivalence about coming into this world, I plopped out of her womb into the hands of another person, her obstetrician, an old Jewish crone at Beth Israel Hospital in Manhattan (“best circumcisions in town,” as I like to say whenever it’s most inappropriate). No doubt nurses were present, too, at this proverbially lonesome birth.
As for dying alone, my half-Indian nieces, who are being raised with a strict sense of Asian familial duty, will hopefully be by my side when I breathe my last, which I always imagine will take place in a cozy colonial bungalow in Goa, after which they will toss Crazy Uncle James onto an open sandalwood pyre. The eldest niece, Savannah, will mutter prayers as she circles the flames and sprinkles water from a brass urn, despite her sister Uma reminding her I was an orthodox atheist. I have been training them for my final days since they were old enough to change the diapers on their dolls: “You’ll be changing mine one day, girls, so practice, practice, practice!”
I do agree that you should quit fast if you are miserable, no matter what the consequences, especially a job you hate. Much as it would seem reasonable for me to quit filmmaking—the amount of money I have spent developing projects could have bought me quite a bit of prime real estate by now—the fact is I am happiest when I’m on set, or when I write the sequence of a script that is such a blast it has me banging away at the keyboard with the maniacal glee of a bald Liberace on Ecstasy.
Sadly for development execs everywhere, my epiphany about quitting was crushed a few days after hearing the NPR piece. I had cheerfully informed Lisa Katselas, the lead producer on my play Hatter, that I was giving up on it ever being produced, fully expecting her to go, “Yeah, well, maybe you’re right.”
Since we made the move two years ago to adapt the screenplay for Hatter for the stage, and attached Sean Mathias as director, we have been trying to cast a suitable male lead. But it appears the script is still so far out there and edgy, the title role so morally dubious that even the baddest of the bad boys of stage and screen have shied away from it. The main character, Matt Hatter, is an unapologetic Machiavellian narcissist, a monster Dr. Frankenstein might have stitched together using parts of John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Tom Ford and Keith Richards, while following Nietzsche’s Superman as a blueprint. Lisa thinks the Hollywood he-men are shy because Hatter has to be in a jockstrap for a combined thirty minutes on stage, including the twenty-minute bondage sex scene, but that just sounds to me like you’re being paid to have fun so I can’t imagine why it’s a problem.
But I was wrong about Lisa’s reaction to my NPR-inspired intentions. “Well, you go ahead and give up,” she shot back. “I’m not.”
Lisa owns the option on Hatter. She’s the boss of me now. By the end of our phone call, the flames of my quitting revelation were doused. It certainly helps you to carry on when it isn’t all just up to you any more. You’re forced to kick your sniveling inner pessimist to its feet and keep plodding along until you either get there or die trying.
“Find a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life,” Confucius said. When you have a Confucian Job, or a vocation, giving up isn’t really an option, anyway; in truth, Lisa was just affirming what I wanted to hear from someone other than my sniveling inner pessimist.
Back in the mid-90s, I made a sincere attempt to quit film, after it had wiped me clean for the first time. I got a Real Job in the corporate sector, and stuck to it for five years. However, in spite of my aspirations to abandon my vocation, I still found myself waking up at 5 a.m. to chisel away at some screenplay or other that was keeping me up at night, kicking in the womb of my mind, pushing to be born. That hour and a half of scribbling at dawn, when I was able to spend quality time listening to the chatter of my beloved characters, recording their unexpected actions before they inevitably changed their minds and wandered off to do something else, kept me sane during those miserable years in the salt mines of conformity.
I get called “crazy (but in a good way)” regularly. I shrug it off as meaningless because I don’t believe it about myself. Eccentric, yes, crazy, no. To me, true madness is conformity, marching to the beat of someone else’s drum, and allowing that drum beat to grow so loud that, like Marcia Bachmann, you become deaf to who you were actually born to be.
So, yeah, quitting is for smoking and other addictions, for Real Jobs and bad situations. When you are both lucky and damned enough to have a vocation, when you are in love with anyone/anything to a degree that makes that relationship as inexorable as it is torturous, you can never turn your back and walk away. If you can, it wasn’t really serious to begin with, so count yourself lucky to be unburdened of one more illusion.