"It's funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you viddy them on the screen."

Friday, December 23, 2011

Five Easy Pieces

When I was a pre-teen I felt a strong connection with Bobby Dupea in Five Easy Pieces. He was free, doing his own thing, away from the expectations of a family of high-achievers. I longed for that kind of freedom. I longed for a lifetime of go-nowhere road trips.

Bobby was stuck in a family of musicians. He was brilliant, but never quite good enough or willing to work hard enough to get there. My parents were both professors, my sister was doing grade 13 math in grade 11, my other sister was valedictorian, the other, a musician and writer; my brother was “Deputy Mayor”- a title that evokes Deputy Dawg more than high-school politics, and my other brother won provincial math contests. Like Bobby, I’m the youngest of a large family, and the black sheep: I was a high-school drop-out and later an unwed mother.

Go me!

As children none of my siblings were like Tita, willing to love my foibles. They were more like Carl – just ignoring me, growing tired of waiting for me to come around – to finally be like them.  But I wasn't as charming as Jack Nicholson.

Bobby was aloof and cool. I mimicked that through my high school years. At the end of the film, we watch him stealthily ditching his pregnant girlfriend, but we don’t know where he’s headed – some say he’s going back home to practice piano and make amends, but it seems clear to me he’s headed for Canada, back into another mess with some other girl in another trailer-park town, or turning around to go back to Rayette.  Maybe, like me, he’s more responsible than he’d like to be. Is leaving his wallet with her a way of ditching his whole life up until then, or a leave-behind, an excuse to go back to her. He is certainly too fearful of his own family, of his own failure, to go back there.

I know just how he felt. After I quit school, I didn’t visit my parents for two years. I just dropped off the face of the earth. I was embarrassed that I couldn’t fit down the path they had laid out for me.  The big difference between Bobby and me is that my training stuck more – I couldn’t even pretend to leave the pregnant girlfriend. I stayed and did laundry and got old.

What do you do when you don’t fit into either of the worlds you inhabit – the uber-educated classics world of one-upping and leaving impressions, the “rest-home asylum" of pot-lucks and talk of children, OR the hard-working, rough-around-the-edges death metal world of scowling and tantrums? The second option seems more real, more authentic because it’s more intense, more awake. But maybe it’s just a sham too. So I look outwards to something necessary: life, the continuation of the species, concern for injustices, torture, and survival.

From a review: “Bobby cannot stand some of the more mundane aspects of this life – he wants more than Rayette (and possibly any other) can give him, yet he rejects the social sphere that can offer him more because of its implied intellectual (but vacuous) superiority. He is content in neither camp.... No matter where he goes, what he wears, or how he talks, he will not be able to find his place.”

Does Bobby have a responsibility to develop his musical talents? I felt a strong duty to use my abilities, to develop them in a direction most useful to humanity. But am I just developing myself enough to be used up by others?

It’s unsatisfying living cynically and hedonistically, like Bobby was. It gets old quickly. Imagining people holding the chicken between their knees is only funny so many times. So Bobby’s road wasn’t really cut out for me. A better path is one we’d want others to follow.

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