Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I saw this movie for the second time this week.

I've only read the book once, and that was earlier this year. I really identified with it. People interpret parts of it as pretentious, maybe because it tries to take every terrible thing that could happen to a person in high school and pack it into one book, and maybe because it's become such a cult classic among alternative sad high schoolers. But, again, since I identified with it so much, I can see that critique, and choose to reject it. Basically, I love it.

The book has been banned for several reasons, principally for referencing drug use, sexual abuse, teenage sex, depression, suicide, and for having an openly gay character. Of course, all of these are reasons why the book shouldn't be banned--because people experiencing any of these things need something to connect to, and for kids like me, that was always literature. Having characters I could identify with proved the world was not an entirely lonely, dead place.

Not everything about viewing this movie was positive. I'm not referring to the movie itself, but rather to the audience. For instance, Ezra Miller, on the left of the poster over there, plays a gay character named Patrick, a quirky, sassy kid with a closeted football-playing boyfriend. Near the end of the film, the boyfriend's dad catches them together and starts beating his son, who subsequently breaks up with Patrick and, mainly out of a legitimate fear for his life and out of an imposed desire to maintain social/cultural/familial norms, stays in the closet. Patrick is devastated and starts going on long drives with Charlie, the solidly straight protagonist, who he ends up kissing during a moment of bleak, utter loneliness. It turns into a really sweet, friendship-affirming moment, and simultaneously tragic moment, since all of us, including Charlie, just want Patrick to be happy.

Up until this point, the audience had been laughing at Patrick's hijinks, lulled into accepting his "alternative lifestyle" by his humor and personality. But now, they had solid evidence of his overt homosexuality--and I'm sure you can guess that the typical high school girl reaction in our Provo theater was a resounding, "Eeeeeeeeewww!!!"

Needless to say, it was disheartening, and reminder that our society is willing to accept homosexuals in their entertainment as long as they're couched in comedy--Modern Family is, of course, the prime example of this. It was also a reminder that people will allow themselves to experience movies that try to challenge their social norms--things that assert that gay people should (go figure) be allowed to have relationships/experience emotions/be anything besides funny side characters without depth or feeing--but will contain it themselves by refusing to accept the character's depth and regulating him to the gross gay guy. Decidedly not cool.

Still, if you can catch it at a time when the theater isn't crammed with teenage girls wanting to watch a quirky indie film to prove their hipster-ness, giggling at the gayness of a really great character, the film is worth seeing. And the book is worth reading, with the added bonus of no idiotic audience enforcing social norms! They're both lovely, and a great reminder that there are people out there having your same problems, feeling alone and sad and worthless, and being reminded that there are people out there who care about them, just like there are people who care about you (and me).

As a side note, Emma Watson is ridiculously gorgeous in this movie. She'll knock your socks off. Good grief. And also, Ezra Miller is generally a fabulous human being. Here's something he said in an interview that will hopefully cheer you up after the super depressing story I just told:

“I think at this point in our world, we’ve got a really confused idea of the way gender and sexuality works. I think we’ve created this really superfluous sort of like binary in the way we think about gender. And I guess I identify as queer because I don’t identify with that. I think that makes us less whole as people. I don’t need to be assigned to what it is I can do or who I can love. And it seems like we keep drawing these battle lines which are completely unnecessary. So that’s what I basically mean. When I say I’m queer, I’m saying that I think human beings are amazing. And love is an honor and an opportunity. And a fragile thing. A fragile process in which there’s no room for doubt, or shame, or hatred.”

Did I mention that I thought he was a fabulous human being?

I will conclude, as usual, with the poem of the week. This isn't the most elegant poem I've ever read, but it is one of my favorites, and applies so wonderfully to so much of the shit going on here where I live. Have a good week, everyone, and don't let the haters get you down! 

What Lot's Wife Would Have Said (If She Wasn't a Pillar Of Salt)
Kathy Finneyfrock

Do you remember when we met
in Gomorrah? When you were still beardless,
and I would oil my hair in the lamp light before seeing
you, when we were young, and blushed with youth
like bruised fruit. Did we care then
what our neighbors did
in the dark?

When our first daughter was born
on the River Jordan, when our second
cracked her pink head from my body
like a promise, did we worry
what our friends might be
doing with their tongues?

What new crevices they found
to lick love into or strange flesh
to push pleasure from, when we
called them Sodomites then,
all we meant by it
was neighbor.

When the angels told us to run
from the city, I went with you,
but even the angels knew
that women always look back.
Let me describe for you, Lot,
what your city looked like burning
since you never turned around to see it.

Sulfur ran its sticky fingers over the skin
of our countrymen. It smelled like burning hair
and rancid eggs. I watched as our friends pulled
chunks of brimstone from their faces. Is any form
of loving this indecent?

Cover your eyes tight,
husband, until you see stars, convince
yourself you are looking at Heaven.

Because any man weak enough to hide his eyes while his neighbors
are punished for the way they love deserves a vengeful god.

I would say these things to you now, Lot,
but an ocean has dried itself on my tongue.
So instead I will stand here, while my body blows itself
grain by grain back over the Land of Canaan.
I will stand here
and I will watch you
Love always,


  1. I just went and saw this on Friday and I can't wait to see it again. I adored it. And I don't know what the audience was doing when they kissed because me and my friend were too busy fist bumping at the awesome-ness [and complete sadness] of that moment.

  2. Well, it is on the list. The book, too. Thanks for your thoughtful response. You're wonderful.

  3. I went and saw it tonight based on your review and loved it!

  4. I never thought about how our society only accepts gay characters as long as they are cushioned in comedy... Probably the most enlightening part of this post. Though everything about it screams "Watch this film!"

  5. Oh, I'm so glad you liked it! Love to you all : )