by Eric Beebe
My favorite movie used to be Hobo with a Shotgun. In high school, a newly-finished basement, complete with home theater, made my house the ideal destination for movie nights. Friends were actually content enough in the setting that they obeyed my parents’ stringent warning against breaching the liquor cabinet just feet away, behind the fully-furnished bar. We’d scan Netflix for the most absurd movies we could find. If we didn’t get our fix of shock, we’d break between movies to search the internet for worse: fetish porn like “One Priest One Nun” or even real-life execution videos when our wandering led there. When a less-frequent visitor showed me the infamous “2 Girls 1 Cup,” I laughed while he fought back the nausea.
I took pride in labeling our weirdest discoveries as my favorites and looked forward to any opportunity to flaunt my preferences. It made me feel distinct from the majority of guys I knew who favored sports movies, which I hated, and flashy fight sequences, which I also loved too much like they did. I craved distinction but lacked the taste to distinguish myself.
My English teacher started suggesting movies to me like Guy Ritchie’s masterpiece Snatch. It quickly shot to the top of my list. I’d yet to learn terms like “MacGuffin,” “caper,” or much else, but the ways in which a botched diamond heist built up multiple plot lines and comedy around a single stone enthralled me. It wasn’t just distinctive; it was good, really good. There was artistic genius at play that I might not have understood, but I felt it.
After graduating and beginning to study creative writing in college, I noticed my old favorite movies didn’t cut it for me anymore. The techniques I was learning in class stood out to me and gripped me more than action shots and shock value. I loved the use of metafiction in Seven Psychopaths. I loved the surrealism of Riggan’s delusions in Birdman. Hell, I even loved The Lobster’s skewering deconstruction of human interaction, no matter how uncomfortable sitting through it made me feel. Fresh takes on themes and deft use of writing techniques stuck with me more than fight scenes or shock for the sake of shocking.
As my tastes became more focused, they became more exclusive too. I groaned when my family voted on Jupiter Ascending for a trip to the movies together. After watching American Hustle with friends, I was the lone voice of praise amongst comments of “what the fuck was that?” I found it harder to enjoy as many movies, but I felt a more potent appreciation for those I did. Before I left home to study writing, I joked with friends from my rural hometown that I was going to college to be “one of those assholes sipping wine, wearing an ascot, talking about how the color of the drapes represented the main character’s struggle for his father’s acceptance.” I had the spiel memorized. I pulled it out at parties. The caricature got some laughs and distracted me from the unsettling truth that I might not be the same person the next time we met. Learning, if it sticks, changes you. All we can hope is that we come out on one end of a class, degree, or experience happier with our new understanding, despite the parts of us it cost.
I have been.
Eric Beebe is a current degree candidate at Southern New Hampshire University's Low Residency MFA in Fiction and Nonfiction.