Friday, January 25, 2013

When you grow up your heart dies

"Jules, y'know, honey... this isn't real. You know what it is? It's St. Elmo's Fire. Electric flashes of light that appear in dark skies out of nowhere. Sailors would guide entire journeys by it, but the joke was on them... there was no fire. There wasn't even a St. Elmo. They made it up. They made it up because they thought they needed it to keep them going when times got tough, just like you're making up all of this. We're all going through this. It's our time at the edge"
 -Billy (Rob Lowe), St. Elmo's Fire

A couple of months ago, my friend Allison and I attempted to attend a movie night at Nationals Park. The event was promoted by Groupon (which is how Allison found out about it) and we were super stoked to go hang out with other 80s movie fans on a brisk evening and watch St. Elmo's Fire. At a baseball stadium. I had planned to do a Lazy Movie Weekend post about the experience too. It was going to be epic.

But that did not happen. When Allison and I arrived at Nationals Park, the lights were completely off and no one was there. There was no sign of the 80s cover band that was supposed to be playing or the cast look alikes. She and I were it. The one Nationals employee we found had no idea what we were talking about. Four other people would eventually wander over too, unaware of any cancellation. No one at Groupon responded to the email, the tweet or, the Facebook post went sent. Groupon punked us and it was disappointing. And so we got back on the Metro and went back to Clarendon and had dinner. We did see someone almost get arrested so we considered the evening a success.

The next day, Allison and I both got a response from Groupon. The event had been canceled but somehow Allison (who made the reservation) wasn't on the list for notification. They refunded the ticket price and gave Allison credit for future purchases so that worked out.

So, I didn't get to watch the movie after all. And it either hasn't been on tv at all or I come in the middle of the movie which isn't fun. So this isn't a Lazy Movie Weekend post (although I am going to to tell you some great things about this movie). Every year, usually around this time, I find myself suffering from what I can only categorize as ennui. Or a psychological zombie apocalypse. And for some reason, I associate this movie with this feeling. I believe I've finally figured out why.

St. Elmo's Fire is a later addition to the Brat Pack movie world. It's not a John Hughes movie and does not feature Molly Ringwald (Ally Sheedy sort of takes her place in this one). The movie takes place in DC (which is weird because it's not about politics at all and I think only movies about politics should take place here). It focuses on a group of 20 somethings just out of college who are trying to make their way in life. They're moving into their first jobs out of college, trying to figure out their love lives, and generally doing the stupid things that people in the 80s did all the time (at least in movies). Like wear layers of clothes with shoulder pads. Or date Judd Nelson.

There are some things that I absolutely love about this movie:
  • Ally Sheedy's character Leslie is who I imagine Claire (from The Breakfast Club) would have become if she was a real person. 
  • There's a scene in which Ally (Leslie) and Judd (Alec) have an argument over who gets to keep which records when they break up (sorry for the spoiler). This scene is my favorite because I could envision myself having a similar debate with a boyfriend but I also realize that this scene would probably not exist in a film if it was made today. Because only old people (like me) actually buy albums or CDs anymore. What do people divide up when they break up now?
  • This quote by Kevin (Andrew McCarthy's morose character): "I enjoy being afraid of Russia. It's a harmless fear, but it makes America feel better, Russia gets an inflated sense of national worth from our paranoia. How's that?" This is why Red Dawn (and now it's remake) even exist.
  • That I learned to be wary of certain types of gifts from boyfriends. Judd Nelson is to blame for this. If you've seen this movie you know what I'm talking about.
  • If the club scene in Xanadu was what I envisioned adult night life was like, this movie is how I envisioned being 20ish and on my own would be like. Looking back on this now makes me laugh and feel sort of foolish.
  • The end of the movie where they're all standing outside the bar looking in at the new versions of themselves and decide not to go in. Instead, they talk about getting together some other time. Probably for brunch. Because that's what grown-ups do - they go to brunch.
However my absolute favorite thing about this movie is this: Almost all of the characters are the person (or some variation of the person) that Ally Sheedy's character in The Breakfast Club described when she said "When you grow up your heart dies." Whether it's Alec who gives up his ideals to the almighty dollar or cheats on his girlfriend for no apparent reason except that he can or Kevin who should be writing but he's too wrapped up in his obsession with Leslie so he settles for writing obituaries and complaining about everything or Jules living what can only be described as a very 1980s lifestyle, they all represent what happens when you just don't believe in anything anymore. And I think that's what Allison (from The Breakfast Club) was really talking about: when you grow up you have to be so concerned with things like money and status and following some sort of preset path that you forget who you are and what you really believe in or are passionate about.

Wendy and Billy are really the only two that I don't think fall into this camp. I don't really care for Billy but he does get the hell out of dodge to follow his dreams so at least he does something. Wendy could take money from her wealthy family, marry the man that her father wants her to marry (who is terribly boring) and have an easy life. But she doesn't. She has her job (social worker), she lives away from her family, and her heart belongs to Billy (even though this is a horrible idea - remember this is 1980s Rob Lowe so he's basically playing himself in the movie). Wendy is the heart of this movie. She keeps the group together. She doesn't want their hearts to die.

And this is why I equate my ennui with this movie. I think about "When you grow up your heart dies" all the time. I never want to come to a point in my life where I'm not passionate about what I'm doing or the life I'm living. There's something about this time of the year that brings this into focus. Is it the end of the rush and excitement of the holidays? The realization that it's only going to get colder between now and March? That Congress comes back into session? I just don't know. I don't want my heart to die. I don't want to be friends with people who have let their hearts die or if I am, I want to be their Wendy and help them figure it out.

After all, I am Erin Counselor and that's a very Erin Counselor thing to do.

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