She Does That in Every Movie
My mom hates Diane Keaton. Just, fuckin’ hates her. She swears this isn’t true. She’s never even met Diane Keaton. But go to a Diane Keaton movie with my mom and she’ll shit-whisper through the whole thing. She always does that, Lauren. That freakout thing? Ugh. Exhausting. She’s always worn her pants like that. She probably has them custom made to fit that way. Do you see those lines on her lips? Smoking. You can’t hide that. Someone told her that freakout thing was funny and she just keeps doing it. No one acts like that in real life, Lauren. Ridiculous.
This is the dialog I remember from Father of the Bride at the dollar theater in Amarillo. This is also what I remember from First Wives Club, the fancy theater, a special occasion probably. This is the dialog I remember from Something’s Gotta Give, my mom’s condo in Providence, HBO probably.
You’d think Diane Keaton fucked my mom’s high school boyfriend, who was, incidentally, the drummer from a band with a horse with no name. But that’s neither here nor there. My mom’s never met Diane Keaton. And if Diane Keaton fucked someone from America, it was long after my mom broke his heart.
I never quite understood this until I developed my own passive hatred for a random actor who’s never fucked anyone I know. I won’t name them. Someone I know probably knows them and that would be awkward. It’s also not the point.
I was talking to my friend Gretchen the other night. (We’ve got a lot of unnecessary characters in this story already so I might as well name a main character, who, for baffling reasons is fine with being known as my friend.) Anyway, I was telling Gretchen about the latest twitter dustup—there’s always something. This last was particularly nasty. She was telling me to stop worrying that people hate me. I was trying to tell her that people don’t actually hate me. I said it’s like my mom’s Diane Keaton thing, or my (unnamed actor) thing. And because I’m insane, I’ve been working on this theory for a few days now.
Here it is:
We don’t see one another anymore. Even our most recent shared historical event was about separating ourselves. We’re no longer human beings, just little circles on a screen upon which we project all our impotent rage. My mom doesn’t hate Diane Keaton. I don’t hate the actor I’ve chosen. They remind us of someone, something we can’t name. Someone in our past against whom we were powerless, when we couldn’t fight back. Now there they are on the screen. They’ll never hear us shit-whisper about them. Never pop out of the screen to hurt us. It’s a safe little war only we are fighting. Doesn’t even require leaving the couch.
The strangest thing about a twitter brawl—if you change your profile picture to a childhood photo or a puppy, you get fewer people telling you to die. If you change it to a man, any white man at least, young Paul Newman maybe, even better. You’re still the same account. But now you’re not the image they conjured of someone to hate.
Take the latest dustup—a friend of mine wrote a book. The concept has been done before, every concept has. All the men disappear one day. Cool. What happens next is the question because a novel like this a thought experiment. In her tweet announcing the book, Sandra Newman said the world becomes kinder and more egalitarian. Twitter read this as the entire plot of the novel. I can only assume they’ve never read a movie logline about a family that buys an old house in the country. The cute little family can’t believe their luck at getting a farmhouse for that price. Everything seems to be going pretty well.
Twitter, somehow, interpreted the synopsis as “it would be good if all trans women were genocided.” How they came to this conclusion is beyond my comprehension. It’s like they read the synopsis to Silence of the Lambs and decided Thomas Harris must be a cannibal. I tweeted maybe read the fucking book before criticizing it. I tweeted just because a bad thing happens in a book, that doesn’t necessarily mean the author is a fan of that bad thing. So Twitter being twitter decided I too must be a TERF.
Twitter is very mad at TERFs right now. I’m mad at TERFs. No one but TERFs like TERFs. But a TERF is a real thing—a Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist. Whether or not someone’s a TERF can be answered with a simple question—are trans women women? If you answer yes, not a TERF. If you answer no—TERF.
Trans women are women. I am not a TERF. Neither is Sandra Newman. I have spent the past few weeks, and the better part of my existence on twitter fighting for the rights of trans people. So has Sandra Newman. But that doesn’t matter now. A few hundred people mad about a book they’ve never read decided she’s a TERF, and I’m a TERF because I saw a friend being mobbed and stuck up for my friend.
No twitter brawl makes any sense. But this, considering my history—well, I tried to understand. I looked at some of the accounts of the main players—the larger accounts leading the attacks. One thing they all had in common—they grew up reading Harry Potter. They loved Harry Potter. At some point, they likely described themselves by Harry Potter terms—quidditch or Slytherin. I don’t remember the terms. But you get the idea. They were megafans. And JK Rowling, who is actually a TERF, a proud TERF just TERFing all over twitter, betrayed them. Now they’re quite literally under attack by everyone from the author who wrote the books they loved, to the governor of Texas. But they can’t fight JK Rowling. She has millions of followers. She’s a motherfucking billionaire. Greg Abbott’s the governor of Texas. Neither of them care what a few Harry Potter fans think of them.
But I’m right there. Sandy’s right there. We can’t hurt them. We’re not real people anyway, just icons on a screen to project everything onto—their pain and their rage, and their complete inability to perform even basic critical thinking. The problem is, we can hear them. And it does hurt.
Maybe I should be Paul Newman for awhile.