Saturday, October 23, 2010

I've been after my BFF, Matthew, to watch The Shield for months.  I love it so much that I want to share it with him.  I want to talk to him about it and the way it's written and try to deconstruct it down to the bones, the technique, the raw writing itself.  I want to know how these characters are so dispicable and yet loveable.  I want to know how to take the chances they did and how to get away with just about everything.

He finally sat down at started season one.  And he called me up after a few episodes and said, very gently, "I understand why you like Shane Vendrell so much."

"Because he's got great eyes and a hot ass?" I deflected.

"I wouldn't go that far," Matthew countered.  "You are Shane Vendrell.  You're Shane and I'm Vic."

I thought about that for a moment, wondering if I should take that as a compliment or an insult.  I know what happens to Shane.  I know all the awful, unspeakable things he does throughout the course of seven seasons.  But before I slammed down the phone, I realized what Matthew was really saying.

My God, I thought.  I am Shane Vendrell!

It's not just the tight jeans and the great ass and the pretty eyes and that I'm originally from Oklahoma City.  It's that I don't always think through what I'm doing.  I'm a kick-down-the-door, shoot first, apologize later kind of gal.  And Matthew plans carefully, thinks things through, ponders the options and the exits before he makes his move.

I wasn't always this way.  Much of my childhood was spent behind told to settle down, lower your voice, watch your language, you are not going out of the house dressed like that.  My first boyfriend squelshed all of my freedoms and passive-agressively dictated what I wore, what I said, who I hung out with, what I ate.  When we broke up, my loud mouth became a defense mechanism.  I had been silent for so long, and now I was going to say what I meant regardless of who it offended.  I vowed to use my powers for power, not just to be an anonymous troll on the internet.  I had opinions, and I was going to voice them without fear. 

And people got offended.  At graduate school, when I spoke out against the rape-as-cosmic-punishment violently prevelant in Liz Hand's vulgar reading from Generation Lost, I was told by some twenty-sided dicer who I wasn't even talking to, "oh, we've heard this before," as though I was speaking out of turn because I don't like it when writers use rape to punish their female characters for so-called transgressions.  How dare I speak out against this published writer?  How dare I, as a woman, have opinons that vary from the norm?

This doesn't just go for me shooting off my big mouth.  I've packed up and moved to places all but overnight, with no job lined up and take the first apartment I can find.  I gave my ex-boyfriend of seven years his ring back and jumped ship for an art student I'd known for a few months.  (We're still together).  I send out submissions when most of the writers I know cower at the thought of rejection.  I make up new recipes.  I wear what I feel like wearing.  I run away to Denver, Chicago, Florida, Indiana, NYC when I feel like it.  I keep moving, keep testing my boundries.  I've touched the electric fence a few times, but it never stops me.  I'm improv, I'm a firecracker, I'm fearless.  I have to be.      

By contrast, Matthew is an Art Of War kind of guy.  He plays a long game, he looks to see what can net him the most of what he wants.  He speaks carefully, arranges the chess pieces, aimes carefully and fires. I prefer to just light a match and walk away from the slow-motion explosion.  I try to think ahead, but I usually get only one or two moves before I act.  He's got his reasons, just like I've got mine.  And, like Vic and Shane, we compliment each other, we piss each other off, but ultimately, we're partners.  Sometimes we do things his way, sometimes we do things my way.  Sometimes his way works, sometimes mine does. 

At one point, when Vic is lying in a hospital bed, he says to Shane, his voice thick with morphine.  "When we retire, we're going to play golf everyday."

"I'd like that," Shane replies, his voice thick with tears. (no man can cry quite like Walton Goggins.  He makes it look manly)

Through it all, Matthew and I are partners.  We're family.  We're a team. Vic needs Shane to spring him to action the same way Shane needs Vic to help him plan ahead.  So maybe being Shane isn't such a bad thing.  Especially if it means I get to wear tight jeans.


  1. Hi Libby,

    Nice blog! I too like the screw-ups.

    Just for the record, I'm not a fan of rape as punishment etc. in fiction (or anyplace else). Generation Loss isn't wish fulfillment, but it did come out of personal experience — I was abducted and raped at 21, but I never felt it was some sort of cosmic payback for anything; just a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and walking in the path of a predator.

    And I personally would never take it amiss that you (or anyone else) would beg to differ as far as opinions of writing or writers go — the literary world would be a very dull place if I did!

    So have you graduated from Stonecoast? If you're around this summer, I'd love to meet for coffee or something & hear how your noir fiction is going.

    Best from a cold gray place,

    Liz Hand

  2. Liz,

    You are awesome. Thanks for setting the record straight, and thanks for humbling me. And thank you, most of all, for not perpetuating the stereotype that writers are all oversensitive babies. I owe you a high-five.