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July 31, 2014 4:40 AM   Subscribe

Why Everybody Hates 'Garden State' in 2014. "When they burst forth in 2004, simply being non-masculine was a bit of a political gesture. It imagined itself as a refusal to play the game of (party) politics. But now it literally looks like guys standing around thinking. Watching any of those films, we’re right to ask ourselves: Why was this supposed to mean anything to us? The culture has shifted since 2004." See also, "In Defense of Garden State."
posted by Sticherbeast (190 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
Related: The Dissolve (and commenters) on The Braff-lash.
posted by effbot at 4:46 AM on July 31


So, let me just say: Garden State was pleasant. Garden State was a sleepy little movie with a good Shins song that shouldn’t really have inspired passionate embrace or rejection; just as nobody gives a shit about The Station Agent.

But The Station Agent is lovely.

(I have never seen Garden State, so I'm not sure I understand this article.)
posted by dng at 4:48 AM on July 31 [24 favorites]


I'm not sure how you could get so mad at such a slight movie.
posted by octothorpe at 4:50 AM on July 31 [4 favorites]


I always thought Garden State was just Zach Braff's fantasy of a movie that let him make out with Natalie Portman, that somehow inexplicably got made.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 4:52 AM on July 31 [50 favorites]


Wait, we liked 'Garden State' in 2004?

I enjoy this kind of article, so thanks for posting - I'm just amused by how contemporary history figures the "we" of only a few years ago.

(Just like this month's New Inquiry is horribly, horribly focuses for reasons that escape me on Lana del Rey and how she's like all deep and transgressive, and there's no mention of her getting repeatedly and publicly called out for racism only a couple of years ago in places as mainstream as, like, the Village Voice. Or the discussion around her stage name and its vague nostalgic fake-ethnicity. Right down the memory hole....Lana del Rey has always been transgressive and deep, yes.)
posted by Frowner at 4:53 AM on July 31 [12 favorites]


I never liked Garden State: it's self-indulgent, pretentious, and shallow (yet thinks it's, like, really profound and insightful). Garden State is the cinematic equivalent of the kind of dude on OKCupid who lists about fifty indie bands in his "music" section and mentions philosophers in the "you should contact me if" part, and then your first date is listening to him talk for three hours at a bar and he turns out to be a horrible drooly kisser.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:00 AM on July 31 [49 favorites]


I hated Garden State before it was cool to hate Garden State -- THUS MAKING ME WORSE THAN GARDEN STATE OH GOD
posted by Drexen at 5:01 AM on July 31 [16 favorites]


Are there any movies with manic pixie dream boys?
Besides Lord of the Rings?
posted by oceanjesse at 5:02 AM on July 31 [13 favorites]


So to clear this up once and for all - was this or was it not an adaptation of Rick Moody's novel?

(I never saw it because I am MANLY, far too manly, to see what the article assures is a terribly girly-man movie).
posted by thelonius at 5:03 AM on July 31


just as nobody gives a shit about The Station Agent.

Hey, The Station Agent is one of my favorite movies! Leave The Station Agent out of this!
posted by maggiemaggie at 5:04 AM on July 31 [37 favorites]


That rise of the solipisistic (a polite way of saying self-obsessed) nerd is documented in the entire entourage of non-political films from 2004: Eternal Sunshine, with Jim Carrey, traditionally a bro-comedian, suddenly making his appearance as a sensitive male hipster; and, of course, Spider-Man’s Peter Parker. But because these films were rooted in solipsistic surrender and delusional self-affirmation, today they read as an embrace of inaction at best and an endorsement of selfishness at worst.

Is Jim Carrey really a hipster in Eternal Sunshine (he seems to be some sort of depressed office worker). And I'm not sure how Spider-Man can be read as an endorsement of inaction.

Garden State is, or was, a non-traditional-masculinity film, which has since been squeezed into hundreds of molds and now stands for something embarrassingly trite, white and privileged now that nerds run the world instead of horse-riding, straight-talking Texans.

Then again I'm not really sure that non-traditional masculinity (by which this seems to mean nerdishness) was particularly groundbreaking or transgressive in 2004, and I'm also not particularly convinced that non-traditional masculinity (ie nerdishness) is somehow now the norm.
posted by dng at 5:04 AM on July 31 [8 favorites]


Are there any movies with manic pixie dream boys?

I can think of one, but the first rule is, you don't talk about it.
posted by officer_fred at 5:05 AM on July 31 [83 favorites]


I enjoy this kind of article

I dunno, Frowner, I'm less enthused than you about someone who tosses out phrases like "the entire post-9/11 wimpy-male aesthetic" as if they describe actual things, and whose thesis - "This idea of walking around in a deadened haze, and having no language to articulate why we felt this way or any hope of changing it, probably contributed to a much stronger over-identification with Zach Braff than an otherwise ignorable indie movie probably deserved" - is a simple projection of what he himself was feeling at the time to the larger culture, with no supporting evidence beyond a few casual observations about what movies were playing at the time.

just as nobody gives a shit about The Station Agent

And yeah, that just confirms the lack of perspective. What a weird hateful sideswipe at a beautiful little movie.
posted by mediareport at 5:06 AM on July 31 [10 favorites]


Are there any movies with manic pixie dream boys?

Mathieu Kassovitz's character in Amelie is definitely a manic pixie dream boy, in that he exists purely as an object for Amelie to have and to hold (you don't even get to see his face when she's in bed with him).

Lovely Mathieu Kassovitz
posted by dng at 5:08 AM on July 31 [19 favorites]


This seems an idiosyncratic and oblique criticism of what appears to be a fairly inconsequential movie. It's a bit puzzling, kind of fanciful, and, in the way some people affect a loathing for mimes or cilantro, somewhat arbitrary. But there is real venom in the characterization of a certain strain of white male geek identity as solipsistic and self-absorbed, or as the article puts it: "Garden State ... survives as a kind of master signifier for everything terrible about NPR-listening, Ira-Glass-worshiping, Belle-and-Sebastian-vinyl-buying men who see their inner worlds as far more fascinating than the one outside". I'm going outside.
posted by dmh at 5:09 AM on July 31 [5 favorites]


I always forget how depressing Garden State is. I get it into my mind that it's a fun, quirky movie, but it's not fun at all.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 5:11 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


You know what, I loved Garden State. I watched it 3 times in the theater and told everyone I knew to watch it. I listened to the album on repeat a million times. I was 25. It captured my mood and the moment I was living in perfectly.
I haven't thought of the movie in years and if I do it's just a fond memory and a lot of nostalgia. I didn't know I was supposed to be hating it this year but thanks for letting me know.
posted by like_neon at 5:21 AM on July 31 [29 favorites]


I think Garden State captures a specific feeling of mid-20s aimlessness, in the vein of Reality Bites and The Graduate. You're lost professionally, your friends are starting to move on to careers and families, and you're dating people who sort of meet a minimal checklist for "decent partner" but don't really challenge you. And I think it's more depressing now because, for the current generation in their mid-20s, that phase seems a lot less temporary. It's aimlessness where the answer of "just pick something and commit to it for awhile" might not actually solve anything.
posted by almostmanda at 5:24 AM on July 31 [42 favorites]


Pretty sure the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope goes back further than Kirsten Dunst in Elizabethtown.
posted by fancyoats at 5:30 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


It wasn't horrible, but the movie did annoy me with how profound it thought it was. I did, however, really like The Shins at that point, so it that going for it.

There wasn't much to it, was there? There's really nothing to the love story, no particular reason these people should like each other. The whole reason for the main character's depression happened offscreen 15 years beforehand; and I guess that was what I couldn't relate to: a sense of childhood looming over everything.
posted by spaltavian at 5:32 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


milarepa: . But it also came out around the same time I was experiencing those things, or right after. Lost In Translation is a little better movie, but manages to garner all the love, but without Bill Murray, that movie is just as cliche and lazy (ugly old guy and stunning younger woman), yet it captures the loneliness of being abroad alone. I might have to rewatch both, but I remember enjoying both deeply even though they were both really shallow on some level.

While both movies may appear slight, I think the difference is that Lost in Translation is "showing, not telling" whereas Garden State just didn't have that much to say.
posted by spaltavian at 5:36 AM on July 31 [12 favorites]


Pretty sure the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope goes back further than Kirsten Dunst in Elizabethtown.


The term was coined by Nathan Rabin to describe Dunst's character in Elizabethtown, so that's the Trope Namer. The idea of a free-spirited woman whose sole narrative function is to help the hero to love (again) has certainly existed before that - Winona Ryder's character in Autumn in New York (2000) being a representative example.

(That character also, in common with Portman's in Garden State, has a medical condition that may be suddenly and dramatically fatal, but doesn't at any point involve vomiting, loss of bladder control or not looking fabulous even for a moment - another common trait.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:41 AM on July 31 [10 favorites]


My favorite part about Garden State was how it perpetuated the idea that chronically depressed people need to just get off the drugs and lighten up. Good advice.
posted by Legomancer at 5:45 AM on July 31 [49 favorites]


Are there any movies with manic pixie dream boys?

Well, it's not a movie, but have you seen Doctor Who lately?
posted by jacquilynne at 5:46 AM on July 31 [14 favorites]


Are there any movies with manic pixie dream boys?

Most Johnny Depp movies?
posted by Ham Snadwich at 5:49 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


This weird recontextualization of Zach Braff and Garden State also got namechecked on the Cracked podcast's recent (quite listen-worthy) episode, How Depressing Entertainment Became the Norm.

At the time I thought Garden State was just fine; don't now have much strong opinion about it. But can we agree that The Last Kiss was a terrible, terrible follow-up and probably why people should hate him?
posted by psoas at 5:52 AM on July 31 [4 favorites]


I'm impressed that the article author managed two whole sentences before going "lol teenage girls amirite"
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 5:52 AM on July 31 [6 favorites]


(That character also, in common with Portman's in Garden State, has a medical condition that may be suddenly and dramatically fatal, but doesn't at any point involve vomiting, loss of bladder control or not looking fabulous even for a moment - another common trait.)

In old novels, those characters were given consumption -- bloody and slightly coughy, but romantic and nicely pale.

just as nobody gives a shit about The Station Agent.

I liked it, and remember it getting a lot of attention at the time. I don't know if anyone will watch it twenty years from now, but it wasn't at all neglected.

Garden State was kind of ok, but agonizingly naval-gazing, with the kinds of characters that you spend the movie wanting to slap. Or as the article puts it, "NPR-listening, Ira-Glass-worshiping, Belle-and-Sebastian-vinyl-buying men who see their inner worlds as far more fascinating than the one outside," with endless dithering on about those inner worlds.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:52 AM on July 31 [5 favorites]


I wish the article writer would just say which films, media, and music one can like without it being a sign of terrible character. Then again this idea of judging who a person is by what media they like or don't like rather than how they treat others or what they do in the world, it is not a thing I want to engage in. Somehow I feel like you can talk about why people might like a specific movie or what you think it meant to them, if even concerns you have about how that might mean they view the world or problematic elements of a film without being so hateful and demeaning to people who liked it for whatever reason. Like if it's a video of people stamping kittens I understand being angry at people who like it, I just... what? Garden state is a really harmless film even if poor quality or deserving of being dissected to understand the appeal of any problematic elements. The article writer doesn't clearly address anything try ethically problematic with it yet resorts to sneering. Sure the manic pixie dream girl part is problematic. I thought the end was totally unconvincing, like the dudes character did not seem at all convincingly ready or passionate about a relationship. Don't cry! uh ok we can date I guess? yeah! I'm totally down with bean plating the meaning of films and music and even contemplating unsettling things about what it means of consumers, but this strikes me as an attempt for the article writer to feel superior and make others out to be inferior than a serious desire to understand the meaning of something. I distanced myself from the music scene because I was grossed out by the music snobbery tendencies of the people it attracted me to and in myself, putting too much weight into musical taste to see people true character based on more important things. I don't like film snobbery either. I feel like there was something honest about it in that Braff was genuinely putting himself (whatever that felt like at the time or that he and people he knew were processing) and regardless if the result that's the sort if thing Ilike people to try to do in art. Being really mean about even failed art attempts just seems, mean. I don't think there was any malicious intent or signs of terrible qualities that went the film, it just wasn't that impressive but to me the storyline with the guy stuck in grave digging and his mom's issues was the more compelling story. The honest portrayal of that resigned hopelessness and the shins songs and whatever else portrayed feelings a lot people related to at the time.
posted by xarnop at 5:52 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


*opens Spotify, puts on New Slang*
posted by oinopaponton at 5:54 AM on July 31 [16 favorites]


It's a bit puzzling, kind of fanciful, and, in the way some people affect a loathing for mimes or cilantro, somewhat arbitrary.

Mimes murdered my father. How dumb do you feel now?
posted by echocollate at 5:57 AM on July 31 [15 favorites]


Are there any movies with manic pixie dream boys?

Benny and Joon has Johnny Depp as a kind of Manic Pixie Dream Boy (or Lugubrious Pixie Dream Boy, really), romancing a Manic Pixie Dream Girl - who is explicitly identified as mentally ill, but has has the mental illness version of Autumn in New York disease. It's kind of a perfect storm.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:58 AM on July 31 [13 favorites]


CILANTRO TASTES LIKE SOAP.
posted by maxsparber at 6:02 AM on July 31 [13 favorites]


This article will change your life.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:04 AM on July 31 [5 favorites]


The teaser trailer with Frou Frou was phenomenal. The movie itself couldn't live up to it.
posted by whuppy at 6:05 AM on July 31 [4 favorites]


If you shoot a mime, should you use a silencer?
posted by jonmc at 6:09 AM on July 31 [4 favorites]


Re: Manic pixie dream boys

Jack Black in School of Rock, opening up Principal Mullins to life!

Spider: You're hot, you're so hot...
Miss Mullins: What? Are you warm?

posted by Auden at 6:09 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


His extreme disdain for the fascination with inner worlds and monologues says more about his own self-loathing than the actual pillars of oppression to which he attempts to link them. I'm guessing he drank the Eckhart Tolle kool-aid.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:11 AM on July 31


> "Are there any movies with manic pixie dream boys?"

Earth Girls Are Easy
Big
Edward Scissorhands
Elf
50 First Dates
Ghostbusters
Peter Pan
posted by kyrademon at 6:12 AM on July 31 [10 favorites]


I remember watching Garden State and thinking it was ok, but Braff apparently had a lot of issues with his father that he was working through by putting him on screen and then lecturing him while his father said nothing. I don't really know when everyone started hating the film, although I can see why its an easy target when you start looking.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 6:14 AM on July 31


Hesher is sort of a Manic Pixie Dream Boy, except that the female version is quirky and a little self-destructive, and he's actively chaotic, often genuinely tearing apart anything nearby. I take this as a comment of privilege, but perhaps it is because I seem to be the only person to have heard of Hesher, much less adore it as much as I do.
posted by maxsparber at 6:16 AM on July 31 [5 favorites]


I was severely intoxicated when I first saw Garden State. I saw it in the theater, btw.

I don't remember much.

Sarsgaard is great in everything so its not all bad.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:19 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


is a simple projection of what he himself was feeling at the time to the larger culture, with no supporting evidence beyond a few casual observations about what movies were playing at the time.

This is characteristic of, oh about 7/10ths, at least, of what passes for cultural criticism on the internet. And I suppose this is to be expected given that most of it seems to be written by smart young people for whom a decade is the difference between the end of their adolescence and their newly minted adulthood and who, unconstrained by many or any institutional demands on their writing are free to imagine that the world began somewhere around 1993 (when, in fact, it began 30 years earlier, as any fule kno).

(I've never actually gotten around to seeing Garden State, though I thought The Shins were perfectly pleasant.)
posted by octobersurprise at 6:19 AM on July 31 [4 favorites]


> "Well, it's not a movie, but have you seen Doctor Who lately?"

Well, if we're allowed that, I'll throw in Mork & Mindy.
posted by kyrademon at 6:20 AM on July 31 [4 favorites]


As far as Braff's films go, I think I prefer Dr. Acula.
posted by buriednexttoyou at 6:22 AM on July 31 [6 favorites]


Getting upset that you've outgrown stuff you liked ten years ago seems like a pretty terrible way to think about life.
posted by mhoye at 6:23 AM on July 31 [12 favorites]


So to clear this up once and for all - was this or was it not an adaptation of Rick Moody's novel?

Just looked this up and no, according to IMDB, unless Zach Braff who gets the sole writing credit is a huge liar, it was not. Whatever happened to Rick Moody? Did that beef with Michael Chabon turn deadly?

Never saw Garden State though, and now it doesn't seem like I can.
posted by Flashman at 6:24 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


i find it interesting that all the manic pixie dream boys we can think of are still the main characters of the movies/shows - which sort of turns the trope on its head because we're still focused on them primarily, they are not a foil for the main character to learn off of.

i liked garden state - a nice, sleepy little movie with a surprise jim parsons and (as always) a solid performance by peter sarsgaard.
posted by nadawi at 6:28 AM on July 31 [7 favorites]


That character also, in common with Portman's in Garden State, has a medical condition that may be suddenly and dramatically fatal, but doesn't at any point involve vomiting, loss of bladder control or not looking fabulous even for a moment - another common trait.

She has Ali MacGraw disease.
posted by octothorpe at 6:28 AM on July 31 [8 favorites]


Eckhart Tolle kool aid is really just cherry flavored in case anyone was wondering.
posted by MoonOrb at 6:28 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


Just looked this up and no, according to IMDB
Thanks, I should have done that my own self. Now that was a depressing book.

Whatever happened to Rick Moody? Did that beef with Michael Chabon turn deadly?
Chabon could take him, I bet. Moody has probably been assimilated into some Borg cube of writer's workshops.
posted by thelonius at 6:29 AM on July 31 [4 favorites]


Are there any movies with manic pixie dream boys?

Hrundi Bakshi in The Party has a touch of MPDB.
posted by Flashman at 6:29 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Hesher is actually a supporting character in Hesher, but he's there to pixie up the life of a little boy and not Natalie Portman, even though she actually is in the movie. She gets pixied up a little, I guess, but the little boy is definately the main character.
posted by maxsparber at 6:30 AM on July 31


Huh. I was listening to The Shins last night and was trying to remember the name of this movie.

It was an OK movie. I was in my late 20s when it came out, and it made me feel sort of nostalgically depressed for my self of a few years previously.
posted by gaspode at 6:32 AM on July 31


> "i find it interesting that all the manic pixie dream boys we can think of are still the main characters of the movies/shows ..."

This is generally true, and actually disqualifies many of the ones that I and others have mentioned here from true MPDB status; it's about their life / growth / adventures as much as or more than that of their love interests.

However, Earth Girls Are Easy is one very notable exception to that, which is why I tend to consider it the quintessential MPDB movie.
posted by kyrademon at 6:32 AM on July 31 [4 favorites]


Speaking of Station Agent, isn't Bobby Cannavale's character pretty close to being a Manic Pixie Boy for most of the other characters in the movie?
posted by octothorpe at 6:33 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


There was always supposed to be a lot of gender issues tied up in the whole Manic Pixie Dream Girl thing, but yeah, I think there are a lot of male examples, and more than that--okay, maybe it's not actually a healthy thing to have happen to you. But I know a lot of people with chronic mental health problems and even just lives that consistently occupy a low-grade level of suck who fantasize about running into someone who will suddenly be the piece that makes everything click.

It's weird because I had it once, that, to the degree that for a little while I really thought I was going to be happy and conventionally successful and that there'd been some kind of a point to everything that came before, and, well, it felt like that because the other party knew that I wanted it to feel like that, and said things to make it feel like that, and when she left it all fell apart. I have more realistic expectations, now, but also sadder ones, and I still like Garden State because even though I'm very pro-medication, never in my life has medication been enough to make life okay by itself. A girl, a boy, a job offer, an inheritance, a catalyst, what I keep looking for is a catalyst. The unique thing about your mid 20s is that you can still believe in the power of such things. That eventually fades, and I think some people end up more cynical than others.
posted by Sequence at 6:34 AM on July 31 [15 favorites]


if we're allowed that, I'll throw in Mork & Mindy.

That wasn't pixie dust; that was cocaine.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:35 AM on July 31 [18 favorites]


I think many posters here are misunderstanding the "Manic Pixie Dream" character idea. It doesn't just mean a character that's odd or quirky, it's a character that exists solely as a prop to support the growth of the main character without any life or growth of their own.

People seem to be just listing weird male characters, but ones that are clearly either the stars of their film or at least are fully developed and examined on their own apart from other characters' existences.
posted by Sangermaine at 6:35 AM on July 31 [13 favorites]


I think it is true that manic pixie dream boys tend to be the main characters in their stories, or support another male lead. Amelie might be the exception to that, but it's a strange film in that Amelie herself is a manic pixie dream girl.

I mean, Chauncey Garnener is, is some way, the ultimate manic pixie dream boy, and he pixies an entire nation, and still is the main character in Being There. If the genders were reversed, I suspect Shirley Maclean's character would have been the protagonist.
posted by maxsparber at 6:37 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


Which is why Kate Hudson's character in Almost Famous isn't a MPDG, since she actually develops as a character.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:39 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


> "That wasn't pixie dust; that was cocaine."

You say tomato ...
posted by kyrademon at 6:39 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


and I guess that was what I couldn't relate to: a sense of childhood looming over everything.

Go to more therapy - you'll get there.
posted by god hates math at 6:42 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


How about all the men in GONE WITH THE WIND? Scarlett develops: the men don't.
posted by alasdair at 6:48 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


Our local band; The Shins, blew up after this...
posted by judson at 6:51 AM on July 31


How about all the men in GONE WITH THE WIND? Scarlett develops: the men don't.

Most of the men in the novel are actually adult at the beginning, so the novel is more about Scarlett learning to see them for who they are rather than her adolescent fantasy.

It's kind of the anti-MPDM in that respect.
posted by winna at 6:52 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


To be fair, "The Last Kiss" was written by Paul Haggis, who is atrocious, and Tony Goldwyn, who ... is bland, at best. Also I haven't seen it.

Braff is all over Pandora selling the new film, and I always wonder what happens to the self-awareness that he showed in "Scrubs" when he makes these movies...
posted by allthinky at 6:53 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Sarsgaard, man I got such a crush on him right around that time and then jarheads came out and I was dating a guy who had the same kind of tragic life and shitty (but somehow deeply understandable given the circumstances) character that sarsgaard can play so well and I sent him an email on myspace when that first started thinking it wasn't really him and just musing out loud obnoxiously about how well he plays terrible characters and why do I have a crush on him, it must be because I have issues because these guys are terrible that I have crushes on! And then three years later whoever that was wrote me back and it said "feel better" and the profile was totally hidden from existence and I was like OMG what if that was really him?

So.... that's what I was like. And stuff. ...cough...
posted by xarnop at 6:54 AM on July 31 [9 favorites]


OMG I did not mean to hit send on that comment!! MY COMPUTER SABOTAGED ME... IT NEVER HAPPENED!!
posted by xarnop at 6:55 AM on July 31 [4 favorites]


From Noel Murray's piece in The Dissolve, linked above:

"They have a perspective that’s based not on what it actually takes to live in this world, but on what a celebrity sees."

Yes! And to take a slight turn, this is what I've always found irritating about Ron Howard's films. You can wish you lived in that world, or you can be horrified by it, but it's always a bit too rounded, too shiny to be the (my?) real world, however diverse the films otherwise.
posted by allthinky at 7:11 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


oceanjesse:
Are there any movies with manic pixie dream boys?
In all seriousness: Jack in Titanic is the consummate MPDB--A freespirited artist who exists to self actualize our heroine by teaching her to toss out all the rules that confine her.

He then conveniently exits stage right once this transformation is complete.
posted by whittaker at 7:13 AM on July 31 [54 favorites]


Are there any movies with manic pixie dream boys?

I think the prototypical example is Harold of Harold and Maude, though honestly, Maude is a bit of a MPDG herself. I think there is a difference though - The type of character being discussed is not manic, but rather brooding, not a pixie but a puppy, yet still a dream.

In closing, brooding puppy dream boy. BPDB, thank you.



A true MPDB would be John Crighton from Farscape
posted by eclectist at 7:14 AM on July 31 [6 favorites]


For those of who struggled with mental illness, moved away early without purpose, and who return to a bunch of drug-addled friends that didn't grow much, it captured the sense of isolation and displacement well.

I think this is exactly why I had such an immediate, disproportionately pissy reaction when I saw Garden State: I bought into the early hype and went in expecting it to speak to me. I was the type of person Garden State was about and for: early twenties, mentally ill but not really managing it, far from home and expecting to have Made It but floundering, with my high school friends still at home and floundering. (And, to be honest, desperately and wrongheadedly hoping for the ideal quirky partner to come along and provide me with love and adventure and self-esteem.) But it just left me really cold. It got the surface details more or less right, but everything underneath felt wrong.

The scene that absolutely killed it for me, and that had me mumbling obscenities in the theater, was when Zach Braff and Natalie Portman and the other guy, Alexander Skarsgaard?, were standing on that old truck yelling into the rain, letting it all out and learning how to feel and shit. And then Zach turns to make out with Natalie and it's supposed to be this huge moment, but Other Guy is standing right there, and it's just so horribly rude and tacky of them. That's the moment when it became clear that the movie was never about anyone but Zach Braff and maybe whoever gets to make out with Zach Braff, and you just get to stand there and watch and be impressed or moved or something. And I wasn't.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:16 AM on July 31 [12 favorites]


I always forget how depressing Garden State is. I get it into my mind that it's a fun, quirky movie, but it's not fun at all.

There's lots of good discussion here, but this comment particularly encapsulates why I thought this was an interesting article. Garden State is neither great nor awful, nor was it the first to (generally) do what it did. Nonetheless, it remains to be a certain point of reference for a certain kind of storytelling about a certain set of topics in a certain era.

I guess it's sort of like how Friday the 13th has become fairly emblematic of the slasher movie, even though there's little to recommend it as a movie unto itself, and there had been slasher movies before and after it - and most people forget the killer (and the killer's appearance) in the first movie. It's not so much that Friday the 13th is especially good or bad, so much as people latched onto it as being representative of a specific cloud of ideas.

I saw Garden State about five years after it had come out, when the backlash had already settled in. I was struck by how different the movie was from what I had been lead to believe. I thought it was going to be a "quirky" romantic comedy about a hipster snark-wrangler and his "perfect" hipster girlfriend. Instead, it was a mild, rainy, melancholy drama - peppered with a few jokes, but still mostly serious.

It's not even so much that I'd defend it as a movie, but rather that it's weird to me how much hate the movie has engendered.

...

Then again I'm not really sure that non-traditional masculinity (by which this seems to mean nerdishness) was particularly groundbreaking or transgressive in 2004, and I'm also not particularly convinced that non-traditional masculinity (ie nerdishness) is somehow now the norm.

Another good comment. It's unsurprising that there's still a good deal of floating ambivalence with regard to the category of young man Braff portrays. I don't think it's a coincidence that this happened around the same time that the negative figure of the "hipster" really began to pick up steam. I find this especially interesting in light of how Garden State is often associated with "hipsters", and yet I would figure that it would be, if anything, exactly the sort of thing a hipster would feel was beneath them.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:16 AM on July 31 [4 favorites]


John Crichton is indeed dreamy but he's the male lead and had huge amounts of back story and character development so no.

Manic pixie dream boy isn't really a significant trope - what you're looking for is the Bad Boy. He drops into the uptight female character's life, musses up her hair and lipstick, and rides off on his motorcycle, leaving her more confident, relaxed, and open to fun. Charlie Sheen in Ferris Bueller springs to mind.

The Station Agent was the first time I saw Peter Dinklage in something, and I was like shit, that guy can act.
posted by Squeak Attack at 7:17 AM on July 31 [12 favorites]


That's a lot of words for "STOP LIKING WHAT I DON'T LIKE".

Garden State is a good movie. Yes, the MPDG aspects are annoying, but the movie is really about the relationship between Zach Braff's character and Alexander Sarsgaard's character. It has a great soundtrack, some honestly funny moments, and an interesting visual style. No, it's not Citizen Kane, but it's a good movie.

What is this "Bush-era wimp hero" shit?
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 7:17 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


I like Garden State. It came out right before my mom was diagnosed with cancer and I went back to my hometown to help care for her. It opens with the protagonist working a shitty restaurant job in LA where he had to decorate himself in a pretty tasteless and racist way and put up with silly ass marketing shit just so he could take drink orders containing Red Bull. I could relate. I'd lived in LA just a year or two before. It can be just like that.

Then he finds out his mom has died and he goes back "home". That's a daunting prospect no matter how much medication you're on. He meets up with his old friends - one's a cop, one's gotten wealthy from some invention (but the wealth doesn't fix anything for him; it just gives him a great house for parties). Everybody's parents are present and fucked up and human except our protagonist's mom, who is conspicuously dead, possibly by suicide.

He meets a girl, also kind of fucked up. Yes she can be annoyingly optimistic, but it is her response to kind of a shitty hand with a seizure disorder that keeps some of her career aspirations limited. She's weird, but in the way real people are weird; she holds pet funerals. She has probably the most functional family on display in the movie (with the exception of the couple and their little girl who live in the dump) but that's because her awesome-mom is going to mama our protagonist too and help his heal little heart.

I don't know. These defenses and criticisms keep throwing the word "hipster" around but as a twenty-something who was suddenly dealing with some Real Life Shit and figuring out my role in my own adult life, I appreciated this movie that showed someone grappling with loss, with a sudden return to the hometown he'd tried never to return to, to calling his dad out on his own fucked up shit but showing him love in the process.

The stuff about the meds was pretty stupid, I'll grant you. But I like this movie, it looks a lot like my life did at the time and I especially appreciate the way the parents moved in and out of the protagonist's sphere in exactly the same way his friends did, all their flaws exposed, their authority stripped by the simple bare fact that we are all adults now and apparently in this together.
posted by annathea at 7:19 AM on July 31 [9 favorites]


In old novels, those characters were given consumption -- bloody and slightly coughy, but romantic and nicely pale.

People only get consumption if they are wealthy.

If you're poor, it's plain old tuburculosis.
posted by entropone at 7:20 AM on July 31 [4 favorites]


On further reflection, the linked article would just be a lot stronger if it could be framed as "in 2004 I experienced this movie as [things]; this was my response to the state of the world. Now I notice that people thing [things] about this movie, and I reflect on what the movie seems to have come to symbolize in [some] parts of popular culture". I can absolutely believe that the writer felt that Garden State was a sort of protest against the prevailing political climate, and that there are plausible reasons in the film for that reading; I have trouble with all the "we" stuff absent a well-researched article with citations.
posted by Frowner at 7:27 AM on July 31 [6 favorites]


Anyone else fairly mystified at how the writer thought Napoleon Dynamite and Garden State were birds of a feather in 2004, as opposed to, you know, Napoleon Dynamite and Anchorman?
posted by furiousthought at 7:28 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


affect a loathing for mimes or cilantro

I don't "affect" a loathing for cilantro. Cilantro is pure distilled pharmaceutical-grade SOAPY HATE in the form of an herb.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 7:28 AM on July 31 [7 favorites]


On further reflection, the linked article would just be a lot stronger if it could be framed as "in 2004 I experienced this movie as [things]; this was my response to the state of the world. Now I notice that people thing [things] about this movie, and I reflect on what the movie seems to have come to symbolize in [some] parts of popular culture". I can absolutely believe that the writer felt that Garden State was a sort of protest against the prevailing political climate, and that there are plausible reasons in the film for that reading; I have trouble with all the "we" stuff absent a well-researched article with citations.

This is what passes for journalism these days. "This is what I personally think, tarted up as objective reality."

Anyone else fairly mystified at how the writer thought Napoleon Dynamite and Garden State were birds of a feather in 2004, as opposed to, you know, Napoleon Dynamite and Anchorman?

*raises hand* Yeah that was odd. The author seems to think that every move in the mid-2000s without explosions was basically the same thing. (I suppose it says something about me that I like all of the movies that he compared Garden State to.)
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 7:32 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


It's not soapy; you just have some bullshit recessive allele that will be weeded out in the coming purge. Mwahaahaa!

I've said too much.
posted by Mister_A at 7:33 AM on July 31 [6 favorites]


Ben, it's not supposed to be journalism; it's an opinion piece. The writer's worldview is kind of the whole point of the thing.
posted by Mister_A at 7:34 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


i find it interesting that all the manic pixie dream boys we can think of are still the main characters of the movies/shows - which sort of turns the trope on its head because we're still focused on them primarily, they are not a foil for the main character to learn off of.

Sam Rockwell in Box of Moonlight jumped right into my forebrain at this comment.
posted by dglynn at 7:35 AM on July 31


Anyone else fairly mystified at how the writer thought Napoleon Dynamite and Garden State were birds of a feather in 2004, as opposed to, you know, Napoleon Dynamite and Anchorman?

I didn't find it mystifying at all. What do Napoleon Dynamite and Anchorman have in common, aside from the fact that they're both successful comedies from the same time period? Napoleon Dynamite was an indie breakout hit, with no stars, made for less than $500,000. Anchorman was a Hollywood production, with Hollywood budget and promotion. The two movies have very different senses of humor, with very different protagonists. Each movie spawned different sets of followers/cliches/etc. Napoleon Dynamite was about quirky misfits, with retro-ironic set dressing, whereas Anchorman was more like an improv-heavy version of Airplane!. (Anchorman had retro set dressing as well, but it actually takes place in the past.)
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:39 AM on July 31 [4 favorites]


Ben, it's not supposed to be journalism; it's an opinion piece. The writer's worldview is kind of the whole point of the thing.

Then it should be titled "Why I Hate 'Garden State' in 2014."
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 7:39 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


manic pixie dream boys?

Making Mr. Right. The male love interest literally has no inner life.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 7:40 AM on July 31 [6 favorites]


It's ok to like mediocre things. It's ok to like bad things (to a point). You don't have to feel overwhelming shame about it. I have loved some terrible things and read meaning into them that was never there; they just happened to come along at a moment in my life where they spoke to me, or I thought they did.

And I've felt embarrassed later, when people whose opinions I respect diss those things and I suddenly realize, oh my god, I have terrible taste!

Happens to everyone. No one has perfect taste, or if they do, they are joyless snobs.

It's worthwhile to spend some time thinking about why you loved something that you now think is bad, because you will learn something about yourself. (possibly you will learn that whoever thinks your thing is bad doesn't know what they're talking about). But you don't have to try to turn those lessons into Universal Truths.
posted by emjaybee at 7:44 AM on July 31 [4 favorites]


But see, Ben, the author is ironically invoking the same solipsistic self-centered worldview that he rails against for the entire article. It's clever.
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:46 AM on July 31


The author's thesis is pretty clear: People of his generation - men really - are embarrassed that they ever thought there was something interesting or counter-cultural about the style of masculinity modeled by Braff in Garden State.

It's up to you to agree or disagree with it.
posted by Mister_A at 7:51 AM on July 31 [9 favorites]


While I commend all of the people here looking past physical appearance and naming some out-of-the-box MPDGs (Maude from Harold and Maude... Wow!) I think that the archetype is typically employed in a more crapulent way.

Typically, we're supposed to allow a veneer of quirkiness to distract us from the likelihood that a MPDG is physically attractive enough that she probably wouldn't be hanging around some random place, looking to change the life of some needy schlub.

There's a beautiful woman just waiting to fix your entire life for you, dude. Probably everyone overlooked her because she wears a funny ribbon in her hair or wears weird socks.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:54 AM on July 31 [12 favorites]


The author's thesis is pretty clear: People of his generation - men really - are embarrassed that they ever thought there was something interesting or counter-cultural about the style of masculinity modeled by Braff in Garden State.

Yeah, his focus on masculinity struck me as...maybe not weird, but unexpected. I was getting a sociology degree and taking a few gender studies courses when I saw Garden State, so I was especially primed to watch out for such themes. Even though I definitely did like it, it didn't occur to me to read any of the experiences in the movie as exclusively male, or deliberately commenting on masculinity. Did other people see it this way, or is it just the author of this piece that had that interpretation?
posted by almostmanda at 7:59 AM on July 31


It seems like a lot of aging 20 year olds are regretting that whole New Sincerity thing. UGH I had feelings or something, so gross. It's okay, dude. It's a fond memory, like your nautical stars tattoos.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:11 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


It's ok to like mediocre things. It's ok to like bad things (to a point). You don't have to feel overwhelming shame about it.

That's not what the Internet has been telling me.
posted by Sangermaine at 8:16 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


oceanjesse:
Are there any movies with manic pixie dream boys?
In all seriousness: Jack in Titanic is the consummate MPDB--A freespirited artist who exists to self actualize our heroine by teaching her to toss out all the rules that confine her.

He then conveniently exits stage right once this transformation is complete.
posted by whittaker at 7:13 AM on July 31 [10 favorites +] [!]


According to Zîzek in The Pervert's Guide To Ideology, Titanic is a story about how the upper classes get dissolute and affectless, and need a good tumble with the lower classes so that their zest for life can be reignited. The well-dressed, effete dinner parties under chandeliers do not stir the soul, that's the role of the Guinness-swilling hootenanny down below, because the lower classes are actually alive and know how to party.

Manic Pixie Dream Proletariat trope anyone?
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:22 AM on July 31 [18 favorites]


The well-dressed, effete dinner parties under chandeliers do not stir the soul, that's the role of the Guinness-swilling hootenanny down below, because the lower classes are actually alive and know how to party.

Hmmmmmmm
posted by sallybrown at 8:26 AM on July 31 [7 favorites]


But it just left me really cold. It got the surface details more or less right, but everything underneath felt wrong.

That was my experience as well. I was an early 20's depressed indie-rock loving sensitive lonely boy and everything! I never would have described myself with all of those adjectives, but the movie theoretically should have spoken to me and many other people like me. What Garden State did was take a bunch of those adjectives and turn them into signifiers of a shallow lifestyle, fully packaged and ready for you to buy into. It made stark the grossness of a particular kind of readymade fashionable solipsism. We've got the sensitive indie folk songs that will "change your life." The mopey boy who just needs an attractive girl who shows him interest and gets him out of his own head. The self-congratulatory aimlessness of the post-college quarter life crisis. It took a bunch of the problems I was going through and made them grotesque and surface-level cool. It lumped me in with a bunch of white privileged Dudes With Feelings, who are kind of objectively the worst people in a lot of respects. A bunch of those insufferable dudes really latched onto that readymade lifestyle that the movie offered up. The 2000's were the Garden State decade in a lot of ways. That movie's popularity really dovetailed with the mainstreamification of hipsters and indie music and indie fashion and stuff. It was the bellwether for "mass indie." tl;dr but sociologically the movie was massively influential and directly responsible for a bunch of the stuff that is EXTREMELY tired and lame now in 2014. Sure, it's not entirely fair to point to one movie as responsible for a certain white mass indie 20-something privileged Smiths-obsessed mopery, and not entirely fair to suggest that it kinda screwed up the better part of a decade. Still, here we are, and pop culture informs lots of things, and just as Star Wars can be pointed to as an indication of a huge swath of sociopolitical stuff that it dovetailed with, we can say the say the same about this seemingly quaint harmless little film.
posted by naju at 8:29 AM on July 31 [12 favorites]


The response to Garden State seemed like everyone was afraid to criticize it because no one wanted to beat up on the young, well-connected director, no matter how bad his work was. I didn't know anyone who liked it at the time.
posted by fivebells at 8:34 AM on July 31


Even though I definitely did like it, it didn't occur to me to read any of the experiences in the movie as exclusively male, or deliberately commenting on masculinity. Did other people see it this way, or is it just the author of this piece that had that interpretation?

The trailer painting the main character as an ineffectual nebbish is probably why I avoided it at the time.

But yeah, coming from a relatively old-school, east coast upbringing wrt gender roles this absolutely looks like a movie about relationship w traditional masculinity. He stands by the poolside when everyone else jumps in. He's cowed into a corner by his female friend's dogs who aren't even displaying aggression.

Now, there's the lithium haze aspect as well. But that just makes the emasculation chemical.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:35 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


I'd say Gale from The Hunger Games falls into the MPDB mold. Peeta could go either way.

Edit: OK, not so much the manic part, but definitely existing only to further the development of the primary female character.
posted by echocollate at 8:36 AM on July 31


To be fair, "The Last Kiss" was written by Paul Haggis, who is atrocious

Ohhhhhh. Speaking of Ol' Stomach-Sack, does Crash hold the record for darling-to-backlash turnaround?
posted by psoas at 8:37 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


naju, sounds like you and I saw very different movies.

For me, it's about a guy who is approaching the messiness of life for the very first time after his father has kept him literally numb for his entire life in a misguided attempt to protect him from pain.

Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey, the examples you cite, in context, relate to the character's refusal to engage with life, rather than some comment on his masculinity or lack thereof.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 8:40 AM on July 31


The teaser trailer with Frou Frou was phenomenal. The movie itself couldn't live up to it.

I'd forgotten how good that was - just rewatched it. I want to see that movie so bad, and I saw Garden State.
posted by Mchelly at 8:44 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


running order squabble fest: "The idea of a free-spirited woman whose sole narrative function is to help the hero to love (again) has certainly existed before that - Winona Ryder's character in Autumn in New York (2000) being a representative example."

Let's go back further: maybe Katharine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby?
posted by brundlefly at 8:46 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


psoas: "Speaking of Ol' Stomach-Sack, does Crash hold the record for darling-to-backlash turnaround?"

Has there been a backlash? Oh, good.
posted by brundlefly at 8:47 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


naju, sounds like you and I saw very different movies.

For me, it's about a guy who is approaching the messiness of life for the very first time after his father has kept him literally numb for his entire life in a misguided attempt to protect him from pain


I mean, that's what the movie wants to see itself as. Where's the actual messiness though? I never saw any real life in the movie, much as it tried to be a deeply existential rumination on ennui. It was just Hollywoodized mining of sad-cool. It was the 2004 equivalent of Lana Del Rey.
posted by naju at 8:48 AM on July 31 [4 favorites]


The Shins are a decent band, that's the tragedy of all this! Oh, and Eternal Sunshine is way too good to get lumped in with Garden State, but that's just me.
posted by naju at 8:50 AM on July 31 [6 favorites]


...does Crash hold the record for darling-to-backlash turnaround?

No backlash for me - just lash. I hated the shit out of that ridiculous movie. I only watched it til the end for recreational outrage.
posted by Mister_A at 8:51 AM on July 31 [7 favorites]


I was mystified by the enthusiasm displayed over this film (especially by a young woman who swore her given name was "Disney"), but I didn't dislike it. It was pleasant. I watch it every few years. It has a decent soundtrack, etc. It might be guilty of having a better trailer than the movie itself.

You've got this character whose main sin seems to be that he believed it when his guidance counselor said "follow your dreams" (the kind of bullshit advice we've heard since the 80s and which, in a righteous world, ought to earn an immediate kneecapping) and is now trapped in this Sargasso Sea of not being too employable on top of everything else.

Although I was out of the target audience, I got it. You get out of college and there's a sudden, "This is it?" feeling. If you have other problems on top of that, there's some detachment, which is apparently not aided by having been on a rather steady diet of medications dictated by his father, which is just a terrible idea on the face of it. I don't think it is saying, "Wow, wantonly chuck those little amber bottles," but rather that he needs to be unwrapped from the thick cotton swaddling he's been in for a decade.

I don't know, I can watch it tonight, but it just seems to be too middling of a film to be worked up about in any direction.
posted by adipocere at 8:52 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey, the examples you cite, in context, relate to the character's refusal to engage with life, rather than some comment on his masculinity or lack thereof.

The main character's experiences and behavior will still be seen through a gendered lens. Indeed, even just PRZM's comment refers to the main character as seeming like a "nebbish", which is a gendered concept. These issues are there whether or not they are intentionally written as such.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:56 AM on July 31


I mean, that's what the movie wants to see itself as. Where's the actual messiness though? I never saw any real life in the movie, much as it tried to be a deeply existential rumination on ennui. It was just Hollywoodized mining of sad-cool. It was the 2004 equivalent of Lana Del Rey.

Really? I mean, I haven't watched in a few years, but just off the top of my head, here is some messy "real life" that Braff's character has to face for the first time:
  • The fact that he may or may not have caused his mother's paralysis
  • His mother's death
  • His lack of any sort of real relationship with his father
  • The fact that his father has been drugging him since childhood
  • Natalie Portman as someone with a seizure disorder who is nonetheless making the best of things
  • The quirky weirdness of Natalie Portman's whole family, from the dead hamsters to the African adoptee to the alligator ice-skating video
  • The fact that is best friend is not just a loser but a grave-robber, and may have some latent homosexual feelings for him (that's just my theory)
Yes, most of it is small stuff (although, arguably, the first few things are pretty big), but they are contrasted with his previous sanitized, numb "Hollywood" lifestyle. For me, the message of the movie is that, in order to experience any true euphoria (or anything positive, really), you have to be willing to accept and experience negative emotions and the messiness of life. Maybe I'm beanplating it, but I still don't understand the antipathy.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 8:59 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


MetaFilter: I didn't know I was supposed to be hating it this year but thanks for letting me know.
posted by stltony at 9:08 AM on July 31 [4 favorites]


what you're looking for is the Bad Boy

Exactly. The best ones are brooding and mysterious, like Heathcliff, but sparkly in the daylight too.
posted by bonehead at 9:08 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey, the examples you cite, in context, relate to the character's refusal to engage with life, rather than some comment on his masculinity or lack thereof.

I mentioned the old-school, east coast upbringing.

One of the defining characteristics of manliness in that context is courage. Engagement with life. I grew up reading teddy Roosevelt's quote in HUGE LETTERS on the wall of the Museum of Natural History.
Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.
the trailer is all grey twilight.

And grey twilight is unmanly.

I would actually love to see a sequel to GS where ZB's character Teddy Roosevelt's up out of the grey twilight, checkered by failure, but unbowed.

That would be a movie I would watch.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:16 AM on July 31 [4 favorites]


When the movie was coming out, there was also a lot of enthusiasm (and hype) about Zach Braff's... precociousness. As a twenty-something, he wrote, directed, produced, picked the music for, starred in, and even got NATALIE PORTMAN (who was wayyy out of his league, fame-wise) to be in it. I remember that all being a Very Big Deal at the time -- biasing some toward the movie, and some against.

Watching it ten years later, that whole backdrop is either forgotten or irrelevant, and it's easier to judge the film just based on what it is. I think that contributes to why even big fans of the movie in 2004 might find themselves viewing it as more of a "meh" now.
posted by argonauta at 9:17 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


Metroid Baby, I favorited your comment so hard I nearly broke my trackpad.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 9:19 AM on July 31


didn't braff and portman go to the same school or something?
posted by nadawi at 9:20 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


I still don't understand the antipathy.

Oh, I suspect it's largely "OMG, we used to wear what?" It's the embarrassment of reading one's old teenage diaries. I suspect the Metafilter demo largely enjoyed and identified with the film when it came out and now wants to be Very Clear that they were always much cooler and much more profound than that.

Ha, just had a little search and, sure enough, back in 2004, Metafilter loved the film--and loved Zach Braff, too.
posted by yoink at 9:22 AM on July 31 [11 favorites]


didn't braff and portman go to the same school or something?

Yeah, the same theatre camp.
posted by argonauta at 9:23 AM on July 31


Typically, we're supposed to allow a veneer of quirkiness to distract us from the likelihood that a MPDG is physically attractive enough that she probably wouldn't be hanging around some random place, looking to change the life of some needy schlub.

...There is an xkcd for everything.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:27 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


My favorite part about Garden State was how it perpetuated the idea that chronically depressed people need to just get off the drugs and lighten up. Good advice.

I didn't quite get this from the movie. Even after his character stops medicating, I thought that it was pretty clear that he still showed signs of depression.

However, his previous course of treatment was (almost disastrously) ineffective, which was further exacerbated by his family issues.
posted by schmod at 9:33 AM on July 31


I had just graduated from college when Garden State came out. I knew a handful of men around my age who became more or less obsessed with the film, and in retrospect I do think that for them it was about seeing an alternate manhood that felt more real and accessible than whatever they thought was expected of them.

Pretty much every one of them was kinda sad and sensitive and spent a lot of time waiting around for an energetic and quirky girl to save them from themselves. The thing is that I think Braff's character isn't actually that guy, but that guy for some reason or another saw himself in the film. I think that's why Garden State has soured on a lot of people over time — for a certain group of people who identified with it, it promised some easy outs that never came. Many of those lonely 20-something guys are now lonely 30-something guys with a couple of romantic flame-outs under their belts and poor career prospects after 10 years of "working to live."

I think High Fidelity is a much better version of this story for young men*; it too challenges what manhood is supposed to be in adulthood, but actually shows how the main character works through the crisis to define his own masculinity in the end. It's not "get the girl and live happily ever after" so much as it is "learn to live happily with or without the girl," and that involves accepting a bit of responsibility for own's one livelihood and happiness.

*And not quite as oblivious to the young woman's side of the story, either.
posted by annekate at 9:35 AM on July 31 [9 favorites]


Pretty much every one of them was kinda sad and sensitive and spent a lot of time waiting around for an energetic and quirky girl to save them from themselves. The thing is that I think Braff's character isn't actually that guy, but that guy for some reason or another saw himself in the film.

Oh my God, you've just made me finally put my finger on something - the early 90's version of these guys always quoted from Simon and Garfunkel's The Only Living Boy In New York in personal ads. (I knew it was wise to avoid guys like that.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:42 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


I suspect the Metafilter demo largely enjoyed and identified with the film when it came out and now wants to be Very Clear that they were always much cooler and much more profound than that.

Ha, just had a little search and, sure enough, back in 2004, Metafilter loved the film


yoink, it looked like about 4 people loved it?

Your comment comes across a little axe-grindy, like you want to catch people out for saying they liked something a decade ago but are disavowing it now just to be cool.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:43 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


I had just graduated from college when Garden State came out. I knew a handful of men around my age who became more or less obsessed with the film, and in retrospect I do think that for them it was about seeing an alternate manhood that felt more real and accessible than whatever they thought was expected of them.

Counter-anecdata: the only people I knew who admitted to really liking this movie were women.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:45 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Ha, just had a little search and, sure enough, back in 2004, Metafilter loved the film

And then I showed up four years later and set y'all straight.

I'm not sure how you could get so mad at such a slight movie.

Because it pretends to be significant, and so many people seemed to buy into it at the time. Meanwhile horrible things were happening in the real world.

I started HATING Garden State in 2004, about twelve minutes in. Too much quirk, as in vomit-inducing amounts of quirk. Which has always felt to me like the work of somebody who hasn't really known any genuinely interesting people (or situations) in their life, so feels compelled to invent such.

That said, there's a hell of a fascinating movie in the story of Peter Sarsgaard character, the young guy hitting his mid-twenties with his life going absolutely nowhere (he's a grave robber for Christ's sake). Stick him in the middle of things watching all the pixie-bullshit play out ... and then finally DOING something (maybe destructive, maybe creative -- just something). That I'd buy.

I didn't much care for Amelie either.
posted by philip-random at 9:50 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


There's a beautiful woman just waiting to fix your entire life for you, dude.

That's actually one of the great things about Harold and Maude — she's not beautiful (conventionally), and her desire to help him is intrinsically motivated in a very moving way.
posted by nev at 9:51 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Your comment comes across a little axe-grindy, like you want to catch people out for saying they liked something a decade ago but are disavowing it now just to be cool.

But people did like it a decade ago. To claim otherwise is a version of the old Yogi Berra paradox "that restaurant is so crowded, no one goes there any more." The movie received very good reviews and was a big success with art-house audiences. You know, Metafilter-demographic audiences.

And, yeah, about four people in that thread offer specific, positive praise of the movie. But that hardly conveys the tone of the whole discussion. No one criticizes it. No one feels compelled to jump in and denounce it as the WORST THING EVER. Which, of course, a few years ago suddenly became absolutely de rigeur. In 2004 it was entirely fine with Metafiltery-type-people to say "Hey, I just saw Garden State, what a cool move--you should go and see it!" In 2014 that is no longer the case. It's become a movie that immediately invites anxious and vocal denunciation among Metafiltery-type-people. It's important to people to signal their disapproval of the movie. That's an interesting phenomenon.
posted by yoink at 9:53 AM on July 31 [6 favorites]


I guess I missed the memo because I still love this movie. Plus it gave me "Let Go" by Frou Frou
posted by RedShrek at 9:54 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Oh, I suspect it's largely "OMG, we used to wear what?" It's the embarrassment of reading one's old teenage diaries. I suspect the Metafilter demo largely enjoyed and identified with the film when it came out and now wants to be Very Clear that they were always much cooler and much more profound than that.

Hmm... Well, maybe it's on account of the fact that I was 28 when Garden State came out, already married with a kid, and so I wasn't one of the people that the movie was supposed to "speak to". So I didn't have any retroactively embarrassing squee moment of "OMG this movie is about ME and how it's ok to FEEL THINGS". I just enjoyed it as what I thought was a good movie.

Ironically, the movie that I relate to the most in the "OMG it's about ME" way is Definitely, Maybe. While the primary storyline is kind of "meh" and forgettable (if cute), the brilliant thing about the movie is that the lead character begins as an optimistic college grad and gradually becomes disillusioned through his 20s (like many people do), in the context of starting out as a gung-ho Bill Clinton supporter and then learning more and more about his behavior. Man, could I relate to that.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 9:57 AM on July 31


yoink what I think about what is weird about what you are doing is making your argument specific to MetaFilter and it feels like you're working really hard to do it. You offer that thread as evidence that MetaFilter loved the movie, and then you back off and say, okay a few people loved it but no one said it was the worst ever, and then you branch out to what you've decided is "the MetaFilter demographic," and all of this is in service of supporting your argument that what's going on in this thread is some kind of buyer's remorse for Garden State, in which the people participating today obviously are embarrassed to admit they loved the movie a decade ago.

Like, if you would have gone back to that 2004 thread and the same people would be saying totally different things, I'd feel you. But since the same people haven't been participating in that decade old thread as are participating today, I think you're stretching to say, effectively, "well it's not the same people but it might as well be since we're all this homogeneous demographic here who likes the same stuff."
posted by MoonOrb at 9:59 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


Plus it gave me "Let Go" by Frou Frou

Play the album, Burn the film
posted by philip-random at 10:00 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


Plus it gave me "Let Go" by Frou Frou

Play the album, Burn the film


That article lists Flash Gordon as a bad film. Flash Gordon!

I hate rolling stone
posted by dng at 10:02 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


Are there any movies with manic pixie dream boys?

Most Johnny Depp movies?


The entire PotC franchise, really.
posted by elizardbits at 10:02 AM on July 31


"Meanwhile horrible things were happening in the real world."

This is true of every movie anyone has ever watched.
posted by joelhunt at 10:06 AM on July 31 [4 favorites]



"Meanwhile horrible things were happening in the real world."

This is true of every movie anyone has ever watched.


But most of them aren't pretending to offer us something profound as to the nature of life and how to live it. They advertise themselves as escapes. They are escapes.
posted by philip-random at 10:09 AM on July 31 [2 favorites]


For the record, I started re-liking Garden State before it was cool.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:10 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Transformers never felt like an escape. It felt like imprisonment
posted by dng at 10:11 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


Garden State was one of those American things, wasn't it, all navelgazing the American dream? Didn't seem to get much attention, critical or otherwise on this side of the pond.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:19 AM on July 31


I remember enjoying this movie when it came out, but I do also remember being disappointed to learn that the solution to my problems was to go off my improperly-prescribed meds and have a meet-cute with Natalie Portman. I wasn't on any meds, properly-prescribed or not, and Natalie Portman was over a thousand miles away.
posted by ckape at 10:20 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


I think also what's happening is that, 4 years on, we're finally starting to get a sense of the 00's zeitgeist in retrospect. It was a very earnestly Meaningful decade, a lot of grasping for significance. There were a lot of "statement movies" that were deemed culturally important, with self-consciously indie-quirk soundtracks and sensibilities. And in my mind not many of them hold up all that well. Crash, Babel, Juno, Lost In Translation, Brokeback Mountain, Slumdog Millonaire, Fahrenheit 9/11, Requiem For A Dream, all for different reasons but I don't feel compelled to go back and watch any of that stuff. Why is that, exactly? And will we turn around and realize how amazing that decade actually was a decade from now? - the Postal Services and Garden States and Feists and Apple obsessions...? Curious. I think I will always see '01-'08 as a terrible nightmare for obvious global politics reasons. Maybe the post-millenials will find the treasure.
posted by naju at 10:23 AM on July 31 [4 favorites]


I liked Garden State. It came out when I was in my 20s, and it was the right movie at the right time in my life. It told me it was ok for me to be a unsure of myself and that finding your way was now a thing people did at this time of their lives. Now that I'm in my mid-30s, it's not a movie I identify with anymore, but that's ok. Its time has passed.

In a lot of ways, Garden State was similar to another critically acclaimed movie from 2004 - Sideways. But unlike Garden State, Sideways was a movie about the problems of middle-aged adults. I went to see Sideways in theaters because it had so much buzz, but I ended up hating it just because I couldn't identify with any of the characters. Sometimes film appreciation is less about the film and more about who you are at the moment you see it.
posted by fremen at 10:29 AM on July 31 [3 favorites]


I don't understand the lack of understanding for this article. Disagreement, sure. But it seems like there are repeated comments that show that people have never read any personalized critiques of art/media, that people think this is "journalism" as opposed to a blog post, that people have never seen criticisms of hipsters and indie culture, that they haven't read half-nostalgic cultural critiques about a past zeitgeist that paints everything in broad strokes. The puzzlement in this thread at the imagined caricature of this article as an imagined snarling, vitriolic hit against a movie, while the tone of the article is actually fairly subdued and self-aware, mirrors how people misinterpreted the movie as yet another MPDG film, when it was melancholic and not very happy.

This is the most self-referential thing ever. Maybe it was the metafilter all along.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:59 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


People of his generation - men really - are embarrassed that they ever thought there was something interesting or counter-cultural about the style of masculinity modeled by Braff in Garden State.

I really want to see some sort of retrospective piece on 500 Days of Summer, which is basically the archetypal representation of the "indie feminized man meets MPDG", made half a decade after Garden State.

My theory is that Don Jon is like the perfect bookend/companion piece to 500 Days of Summer, and both deals with the same themes about idealization, from opposite angles of masculinity.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:10 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


I think High Fidelity is a much better version of this story for young men

It's funny, I remember that movie fondly for a lot of reasons (smashing an air conditioner on Tim Robbins' face! Sleater-Kinney album cover in the background! "I will now sell five copies of The Beta Band!") but I totally missed the point when I saw it in high school. I remember being so convinced that Rob should've gone out with the journalist woman who liked Stereolab, and I didn't get why he decided he should get back with Laura.

So one reason why I like High Fidelity, I think, is because it reminds me of how dumb I was as a kid and how, hopefully, I'm a little bit smarter now.
posted by chrominance at 11:10 AM on July 31 [4 favorites]


So one reason why I like High Fidelity, I think, is because it reminds me of how dumb I was as a kid and how, hopefully, I'm a little bit smarter now.

The book did this for me. I read it on a flight across the country. Coming home from a visit with "The Wrong Girl". The movie was entertaining, but not really "frame of reference" changing like the book was. Many, many years later, I find out the movie is one of my now wife's (Different Girl) favorites. And one of our many "awwww.... I love you" pop culture quotes to each other is still, "Is that Peter fucking Frampton?"

But, on topic. I liked Garden State. I liked Reality Bites. I didn't expect them to redefine my life, I expected them to tell me a story. I guess I should learn to be a bigger critic.
posted by DigDoug at 11:46 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


I didn't expect them to redefine my life, I expected them to tell me a story.

Feh; I stopped worrying if I matched the critics' opinions about things when I realized I actually kind of liked Ishtar.

It was kind of cute. Deal with it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:51 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Is this the part where we post the "terrible" movies that we actually like? Because I liked "Jennifer's Body", Megan Fox and all. There I finally said it. I've held the shame inside for far too long.
posted by Justinian at 11:53 AM on July 31 [1 favorite]


I think I will always see '01-'08 as a terrible nightmare for obvious global politics reasons

The geopolitical nightmare isn't over, friend.
posted by Apocryphon at 12:00 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]


"NPR-listening, Ira-Glass-worshiping, Belle-and-Sebastian-vinyl-buying men who see their inner worlds as far more fascinating than the one outside,"

Surely the second half of this sentence is the only part worthy of censure, and is neither unique to people described in the first half, nor causally related to any of those things.
posted by straight at 12:01 PM on July 31


Is this the part where we post the "terrible" movies that we actually like? Because I liked "Jennifer's Body", Megan Fox and all. There I finally said it. I've held the shame inside for far too long.

A local film teacher actually held a screening of this movie at the Castro Theatre! After giving it an earnest viewing I think it's better than it got credit for.

The sad thing is that even though it's a relatively new film, all the actual film prints have been destroyed. The only way to watch it is on DVD. Bummer.
posted by annekate at 12:10 PM on July 31


And will we turn around and realize how amazing that decade actually was a decade from now? - the Postal Services and Garden States and Feists and Apple obsessions...? Curious. I think I will always see '01-'08 as a terrible nightmare for obvious global politics reasons. Maybe the post-millenials will find the treasure.

This seems to be true of every decade. Younger people seem to worship the 80s now but those who were adults at the time seem to remember it as a Reagan-Thatcher nuclear nightmare.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:11 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Yeah, and what was I thinking. '08 on was a new fresh nightmare with the economy crashing. I think it'll be a while before I have rose-tinted glasses for this particular era of my youth.
posted by naju at 12:13 PM on July 31


I hated hated hated Garden State and for too long, it put me off the Shins too. I was writing about music at the time and Garden State had two big problems for me:

1) It was contributing to the blandification of indie music, and specifically the move away from indie rock towards indie pop, and a wan and bloodless indie pop at that. Meanwhile, Detroit was having a pretty awesome garage rock revival and there was tons of awesome stuff coming out all over, but it was when bands like Death Cab for Cutie stopped being sort of welcome alternatives within a large, chaotic and weird indie universe to being the templates for a majority of bands. As someone who liked the weird, chaotic and broad indie universe, Garden State and its attendant hype was really part of a shift where "indie" stopped being a reliable marker for "something I might be interested in."

2) It was one of the first movies I can remember where my reaction was, "Oh great, another fucking movie about a mopey straight white dude." In that way, I think I can thank Braff — he made me much more interested in intentionally seeking out narratives from women, queers and people of color. Because Garden State was so fucking boring and self-involved and mirrored back so much of what I thought was boring and self-involved in my Midwest college town milieu, it was finally when I could kind of say, "Fuck this, I see this shit EVERYWHERE, I need to start looking for something else actively."

(I will grant that it's a bit of a cop-out for me to still have such a strong negative reaction to a movie that I barely watched at the time, and haven't seen in ten years, but so many of my friends had hyped it so much that I remember coming out being really surprised and disappointed that they liked it. Oh, and also, I think Natalie Portman is a terrible actress despite being by all accounts a smart and attractive person, and sitting through an hour of her and Braff trying to have all the feels was just like, ugh. I'm assuming that my general lack of memory of the actual movie is because I made a concerted effort to get fucked up while watching it and succeeded.)
posted by klangklangston at 12:19 PM on July 31 [5 favorites]


Younger people seem to worship the 80s now but those who were adults at the time seem to remember it as a Reagan-Thatcher nuclear nightmare.

Some of us who were teenagers at the time remember it that way too.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:19 PM on July 31 [8 favorites]


"And yeah, that just confirms the lack of perspective. What a weird hateful sideswipe at a beautiful little movie."

I read that as more, "Nobody talks about the Station Agent because it's a fine little film that is pretty good for what it is and everyone pretty much agrees on that." Like, no controversy about successful indie film.
posted by klangklangston at 12:20 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]


This movie felt like it was trying to sell me something, like specifically me and my peer group. It sounds ridiculous to think that me and my scumbag friends were even visible to marketing people in such a cynical way, but we were, we were young and we were cheap to target. Pabst was able to get us out of basements and alleycat races and into bars and bikeshops, and Scion was great at pulling us out of lofts and into nightclubs (although they far less successful at actually getting us into car dealerships as PBR was in getting us to shell out $3 for a tallboy instead of a 40) .

But what could this movie be selling us? Zach Braff? The Shins? This movie was just doing what big indies do a few times a devade, selling itself by giving us disenfranchised teens and twentysomethings an idealized-but-depressing prism through which we could view our own lives. And my MySpace friends who seemed to be buying into the height struck my pretentious ass as a bunch of chumps.

I feel bad for Nathan Rabin and all the pains he's going to disavow and apologize for creating the Manic Pixie Dream Girl label and I wish that fewer people had trouble differentiating the male - fantasy MPDG and a fully (or at least fairly) realized quirky/irrational character.

I was good friends with a woman who LOVES movies with manic pixie dream girls, I think she wanted to be one, not the male wish fulfillment, but definitely the flimsy backstory. She presented herself in full color with a lot of iconic signifiers, cupcake tattoos and rockabilly dresses and sunrise bike rides to the beach and a full pharmacy in a Betsy Johnson purse and that's what she wanted you to see, not the depression and abuse and poverty that was part of what led her to being an awesome person.

She wore down my defenses and eventually got me to see Garden State and while it wasn't as objectionably twee as I'd been led to believe, I wasn't keen on it.

**and yeah, as stated by someone above, I'm so beyond over sadsack mopey white dudes in my entertainment. I'm sadsack mopey white dude-enough IRL and I'm tired of my antics too.
posted by elr at 12:36 PM on July 31 [5 favorites]


I would like a Mortal Kombat-style WIMP HEROES game. Power up my Bud Cort and beat the snot out of Michael Cera and Jesse Eisenberg and Kieren Culkin and Woody Allen and Fred Savage! Bang! POW! Oof!
posted by elr at 12:43 PM on July 31 [4 favorites]


Beware of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, since he goes from 500 Days of Summer JGL -> Brick JGL -> Don Jon JGL -> Looper JGL -> Looper Bruce Willis
posted by Apocryphon at 12:53 PM on July 31 [3 favorites]


But what's equally silly is all the people trying to be all old-timey masculine these days with their beards, whisky, workboots, overalls, pomade, etc. when you know at the center of it all they are scared wimps.
posted by ChuckRamone at 1:36 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]


the beard and whisky trend can stay forever as far as i'm concerned. way better than skinny jeans and white belts. i'm unsure about the resurgence of the pantsuit though.
posted by nadawi at 1:37 PM on July 31 [2 favorites]


I don't just mean superficially - I love whisky and boots and whatnot. It's that these people try to affect this masculinity that they don't possess, like they fought in wars and sailed the high seas and shit because they learned how to make a whisky sour and eat charcuterie.
posted by ChuckRamone at 1:46 PM on July 31 [2 favorites]


Well, I'm neither a soldier nor a sailor, yet I have a beard and drink whiskey.

Tell you what, what's an acceptable gender expression for me? Go on.
posted by The Gaffer at 1:57 PM on July 31 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I'm of two minds — I started growing my beard in high school (for a play senior year), and have had it pretty much ever since, so when it first started being trendy it was kind of nice. Now I gotta deal with people making those weird backtrack comments about, "Oh, no, not you."

And it's weird, like, one of the things that I like about being really obviously masculine presenting is to not have to worry about the stress of gender performance. The weird fetishization of atavistic manliness seems really weird to me — an ahistorical fantasy that limits rather than broadens gender roles.
posted by klangklangston at 1:58 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Apocryphon: "Beware of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, since he goes from 500 Days of Summer JGL -> Brick JGL -> Don Jon JGL -> Looper JGL -> Looper Bruce Willis"

You left out Cobra Commander.
posted by brundlefly at 2:10 PM on July 31 [2 favorites]


Somehow in my mind I got Peter Sarsgaard mixed up with Peter Stormare and I was very confused for a while in this thread.

I would like to see that version of Garden State, though.
posted by jason_steakums at 2:50 PM on July 31 [3 favorites]


I'm an old(ish) man. I liked both of these movies. In what way should I kill myself? Something horrible and public or just take a handful of sleeping pills and lie down in the front yard?
posted by damnitkage at 3:11 PM on July 31 [2 favorites]


This is a really good essay. I felt pretty much the same way about 500 Days Of Summer. The protagonist in 500 Days is surrounded by friends who want nothing more than to hear him talk about himself. It made me wonder how many of them were saying in their heads, "when will this guy ever shut up?" However, my girlfriend at the time assured me that women really do live that kind of world, where your friends are perfectly willing to sit around and listen to you talk about your problems for hours on end. To be honest, I'm skeptical. But if I were to accept her assertion, that would support the whole 2000s "non-traditional masculinity" theory; it would make the protagonist a guy who has the kind of friendships that a woman (stereotypically) has.
posted by evil otto at 6:13 PM on July 31


Before I went to see Garden State somebody mentioned its similarity to The Graduate, in retrospect obviously because the male leads do a lot of soul searching. But I thought they were referring to the relationship with the large age gap. So when Natalie Portman showed up acting extremely excited about life I assumed she was supposed to be way younger, i.e. in high school, and that the awkwardness of their different ages in the relationship would be a major plot point. It wasn't, of course, so then the movie just ended.
posted by ropeladder at 8:35 PM on July 31


There seems to be an assertion that Garden State was an influential, or significant, or impactful, or even popular movie when it came out.

Does anybody remember when this actually happened? I thought that people might have been interested in this movie because goofy Scrubs had its slight charms, at moments.

From late 2004 through mid-2005, Garden State was shown at more festivals and was released in over 30 countries. In limited release, the film earned about $26.7 million in North American box office, and a total $35.8 million worldwide.

Where was this movie a big deal? Scrubs guy and Natalie Portman are in a movie together.

One can argue that the movie is (some thing), but this is Reality Bites, again, 10 years later, with the same meh.

I'm picturing a Japanese kendo stick fighter in full combat drag, slashing and posing, then forcefully and dramatically attacking that pink pony pinata.
posted by dglynn at 9:41 PM on July 31


It was better than Spanglish.
posted by mazola at 9:55 PM on July 31


To be fair, though, there is a pretty good looking sandwich in Spanglish.
posted by dglynn at 10:47 PM on July 31 [2 favorites]


Before I went to see Garden State somebody mentioned its similarity to The Graduate, in retrospect obviously because the male leads do a lot of soul searching. But I thought they were referring to the relationship with the large age gap. So when Natalie Portman showed up

Sorry ropeladder, you're thinking about Star Wars.
posted by Apocryphon at 1:10 AM on August 1 [1 favorite]


I liked Garden State a lot when it first came out. I was in my mid-late 20s at the time, I think. I thought it would be an evergreen movie for me, like Noah Baumbach's Kicking and Screaming. I did watch it a few times in the following years on DVD, and still thought it was great.

I pulled it out last year and only made it halfway through before losing interest. It's not like I now think that it is a terrible movie, but whatever resonated so deeply with me those years ago has faded. I felt kind of sad about it.

I do have an affection for MPDG movies, though. They are a fantasy, a fairy tale for men. They only work because they do not exist in reality. I would go bananas if my wife was constantly playing the ukelele or wearing paper-mache masks to the supermarket.
posted by joelhunt at 5:26 AM on August 1




To be fair, though, there is a pretty good looking sandwich in Spanglish.

It's been a decade since I've seen that movie and I can still see that sandwich clear as day.
posted by sallybrown at 7:52 AM on August 1 [3 favorites]




Hey I hated this movie back when I saw it in 2006.

Because:

1) I had been told over and over IT'S GREAT and WOW YOU WILL LOVE IT
2) It is relentlessly smug.
3) It contains the line 'Let's just be OK with whatever it is we are."
4) New Slang doesn't make any goddamn sense ESPECIALLY not in the context of the film.

Anyway. I wouldn't have a strong reaction to it if I hadn't been told how GREAT it was by everybody who'd seen it. And I did actually WANT to see it anyway, without being told I NEEDED to.

I refer to this as the Radiohead Effect. I like Radiohead (after coming to them on my own terms) but having their fucking fans tell me how great they are turned me off to even thinking about listening to them for a long while.

Goddamn fans ruin everything.
posted by Tevin at 3:09 PM on August 1 [2 favorites]


New Slang doesn't make any goddamn sense

Sure it does. The lyrics are a little abstract, but it's about feeling stuck in a small town and starting to resent it. Carry on hating it if it's not your bag, but it does make sense, as much as off-kilter rock lyrics ever do, anyway. He's singing to an old love that didn't work out and speculating that if it had, the rest of his life would have gone better and he wouldn't feel so trapped and miserable in the town where he lives.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:27 PM on August 1


But yeah, I hear you on on your larger point. I got fucking sick of hearing about Radiohead, too.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:29 PM on August 1 [1 favorite]






You're right, it's not fair to say New Slang doesn't make ANY sense.

I actually really like the song it's just...not the song I would choose to hang my thematic hat on? Then again I probably wouldn't load that much importance into a song anyway so what do I know?
posted by Tevin at 12:15 AM on August 2


Are there any movies with manic pixie dream boys?

Sophie's Choice
posted by Ms Vegetable at 5:33 AM on August 2


But what's equally silly is all the people trying to be all old-timey masculine these days with their beards, whisky, workboots, overalls, pomade, etc. when you know at the center of it all they are scared wimps.
posted by ChuckRamone at 9:36 PM on July 31


Surely there's no better way to undermine traditional notions of masculinity than by adopting the stylistic signifiers of masculinity while abandoning and ignoring the values and or actions associated with it.

By which I mean I have a big beard and wear old workboots but I've got an extremely limp handshake and like occasionally to weep and smile.
posted by dng at 10:38 AM on August 5


ChuckRamone: But what's equally silly is all the people trying to be all old-timey masculine these days with their beards, whisky, workboots, overalls, pomade, etc. when you know at the center of it all they are scared wimps

I like whiskey and don't like navel-gazing. That doesn't make me a wimp, and saying that it does is no different than saying someone who isn't into sports or has a lisp is a wimp. Who is qualified to say what's an affectation or a real interest? People like what they like. For what it's worth, "the sensitive guy" of the 90's seemed to pretty quickly spawn the "Nice Guy" of friendzone fame, so I'm pretty sure any and all cultural kit can be harnessed by assholes for dickish or over-compensating purposes.
posted by spaltavian at 11:50 AM on August 5


when you know at the center of it all they are scared wimps

Obviously the only answer to this challenge is a birling contest. (Sets down ax; starts flinging logs in river.)
posted by maxsparber at 12:13 PM on August 5


Ever consider that some guys with beards who drink whiskey are just traditionally masculine?
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:51 AM on August 7


But what's equally silly is all the people trying to be all old-timey masculine these days with their beards, whisky, workboots, overalls, pomade, etc. when you know at the center of it all they are scared wimps

What's equally silly is assuming that genuinely old-timey masculine guys aren't also at the center of it all scared wimps.
posted by straight at 9:58 AM on August 7


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