Ted and The Willful Suspension of Disbelief

Willful Suspension of Disbelief: The temporary acceptance as believable of events or characters that would ordinarily be seen as incredible. This is usually to allow an audience to appreciate works of literature or drama that are exploring unusual ideas.

Let’s face it. Books and movies would be complete and utter snoozefests were it not for this handy little creative device. We’ve grown so accustomed to it in fact, that much of the time we don’t even realize we’re doing it. It begins when we’re children and books ripe with fire-breathing Dragons, wicked queens, sleeping princesses and frogs that turn into princes fill our bookshelves and imaginations. We come to accept early on that it is completely possible and even probable that a hungry monster actually lives beneath the bed or inhabits the closet.

As we grow and develop the ability to reason, we learn that these characters were simply the tenants of fairytales, recounted to us for the sole purposes of entertainment and moral direction. For the most part, we accept that our parents and teachers lied to us for years about talking animals and humans with supernatural powers. However, armed with this new and heartbreaking wisdom, we also realize that life just isn’t quite as fun without the world of imagination.

Therefore, we begin to exercise a willful acceptance of many things that are unlikely, unrealistic or downright impossible. Vampires creeping through our windows at night, space aliens attempting to invade earth or the notion that Tom Cruise really CAN act all become quite plausible if we want badly enough for them to be so. But as stated at the beginning of this post, oftentimes we exercise the willful suspension of disbelief with such regularity, we have a tendency to forget when we’re actually doing it.

Take the movie Ted for example. For those unfamiliar, Ted is a 2012 American comedy about a young boy, John Bennett, who wanted nothing more than for his beloved teddy bear, Ted, to come to life. Incredibly, his wish is granted. But once John is all grown up, his boyhood dream becomes a nightmarish nuisance.

OK… so cute premise, right? I thought so. And I bugged Lee about going to see it forever. He eventually agreed and off we went to the theater to settle in for a couple of hours of (hopefully) laughter at the ridiculously implausible story of an all-grown-up talking teddy bear. Except that about 30 minutes in I realized that something was really bothering me about this movie and thus interfering with my enjoyment of it.

It is revealed that John—who lives in Boston—is employed at a rental car facility and barely scraping by on his meager $38,000 a year salary and yet, has an amazing apartment right downtown. I found myself agonizing over the “realism” of Ted’s owner affording such a beautiful brownstone (did I mention that it was in Boston?) decorated with the latest trends from Ethan Allen and Pier One.

It bugged me so much, in fact, that I decided when the movie was over, to complain to Lee about how unrealistic I felt that particular part of the story was. To which he slowly and calmly replied: “Yes, Joanna, I agree. That is an unsettling and unrealistic aspect of the movie… <LONG PAUSE FOR EFFECT> … because the idea of a real, live talking teddy bear is totally realistic.”

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NYC: The City You Forgot You Knew

I’m a bit of a pop culture groupie. And New York City—with it’s starring role in so many movies and TV shows—is a popular culture lover’s dream. Forever a fan of both the small and large screen, I’ve been able to enjoy countless portrayals of life as I will never know it thanks to the magic of television and cinema throughout the years. 

I had not been to New York prior to this visit and yet I was amazed at how familiar it was to me once I arrived. Rounding every corner provided the strongest sense of deja vu I’ve ever experienced. And taking in many of the sights was like looking into the face of a dear, old friend. Whether you’ve been to the city or not, take a look at some of these famous places. Perhaps you will find them to be as familiar as I did…

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No Trespassing or “Dueling Banjos”

My dad tells me I watch way too many movies. And maybe he is right about that. Plus, I also have a pretty active imagination… But seriously, it did feel like a scene straight out of “Deliverance” at times. The woods were thick in every direction, the roads narrow and winding and the hillsides were extremely steep. Several of the houses and driveways were completely overgrown with weeds, and even though I was only a few miles from town… it felt remote enough that I was fairly certain no one would ever hear me scream.

<cue “Dueling Banjos”>

At one point I passed a boy driving a 4-wheeler, dressed in so much camouflage I almost didn’t see him. He had at least 2 cross-bows with him and as our paths crossed, he just GLARED at me. Come to think of it, everyone that I passed glared at me. Maybe because they knew I didn’t belong. A girl dressed in church clothes and heels, driving a silver Pontiac with the sunroof open and the radio cranked to Billy Joel, doesn’t exactly BLEND in with camo, ammo, tractors, 4-wheel-drive pick-up trucks and 3-legged dogs with one eye named “Lucky.”

But I was on a mission. There’s probably only one, maybe two weeks left of bright sunshine and glorious, leafy, green trees before everything drops to the ground, surrendering to winter. Full of determination and with the camera in tow, I headed out to the country. I was driving on some back roads to find the most beautiful photo ops. And the whole taking-my-life-into-my-own-hands-thing aside… I did manage to get some beautiful shots!

When I was satisfied that I had gotten all of the best pictures I could without my family having to send out a search party, I headed for home. On my way home I spotted these full, verdant trees along the edge of some water and knew that I HAD to get a shot of this. But I couldn’t just stop on the road because any on-coming traffic would not be able to see me. So I looked around for a place to park the car and walk to the right spot in which to shoot the picture. I noticed a little white house that looked harmless enough, and conveniently there was a place to park at the edge of the property, without blocking the driveway. It was technically on their property, and there was a “NO TRESPASSING” sign posted right beside where I parked… But I really didn’t think they would mind. Plus, I’d be so quick about it that they might never even know I was there.

I took my photos and began walking back to the car and was about to climb in when this dog comes out of nowhere and charges toward me barking wildly. Here we go. This is it. I’m in trouble. Either they’ve called the police, who will be here in no time to arrest me for trespassing, or I’m gonna end up in these people’s freezer. I cringe as the dog gets closer… prepared for the mauling I was sure was imminent. My mind flashing forward to the battery of rabies shots I was going to receive if I survived.

Just as the dog reaches me, I see the owner. It’s an older lady, but not the just-got-back-from-church-and-baking-a-pie kind of older lady. No this lady was dressed in jeans and flannel and I honestly couldn’t get a read on her or her dog right away. Instead of fleeing (I’d never outrun the dog) I decided to face my fate head on. I said hello to her and the dog magically dropped to a seated position at my feet. Whew! Rabies crisis averted. She said hello but was definitely not there to make small talk. She’d come to check out the trespasser who’d had the nerve to park on her property. I could tell by the way she was looking at me that she was sizing me up (probably determining whether or not they had room for me in the fridge). And I also noticed that she walked with a bit of a limp. Oh for crying out loud! This was SO a scene from a movie: Nice, innocent girl slaughtered by old, limping, flannel-clad woman in Backwoods House of Horrors.

I introduced myself and explained what I was doing, figuring it sounded decent enough. I mean it wasn’t as if I was out there mutilating squirrels and other small woodland creatures… I was taking nature pictures. What could be more harmless than that? She asked if the photos were “just for me” and I said that they were. I explained how I grew up near there and had been away for years and was still quite taken with the beauty of this time of year. It was then that she said: “I have some lovely trees in my backyard, if you would like to see them. You’re welcome to photograph those.”

Sure, sure… I thought… this was her ploy to lure to me deeper onto her property, and once I was out of public sight in her “backyard,” the real nightmare would begin. But I knew that the polite thing to do was to follow her. After all, I DID trespass and now she was asking me to see her backyard… the least I could do was indulge her. Although I WAS certain that her husband or son would be waiting for me behind the house with a chainsaw.

As I followed her and her dog, I grew a bit more nervous when I noticed that we would have to walk through a little corridor between the house and the shed. The passageway was draped with a tarp and had only slits in the front and back in order to pass in and out. Oh yeah… I’m definitely a goner. However, when I tentatively pulled back the edge of the tarp and peered inside, I saw that the enclosed space was not full of bloody limbs from previous victims… but fresh, garden-grown produce!! All sizes and colors of zucchini and tomatoes with prices marked on them. She was not a homicidal maniac! This woman was just a produce-peddler! For the second time in 5 minutes relief washed over me. I was not going to meet with some horrible demise in the backyard of this sweet old woman’s home.

The view of the woods from her backyard was gorgeous, and she told me how she’s been sitting at her breakfast table every day watching the leaves transform. Her and her dog… Millie. Harmless little Millie… the sweet attack dog who was now licking my hands while I stroked her fur. I took some photographs of the view AND the fresh veggies and talked with her a little while before getting back in the car and driving away. She told me I was welcome to come back anytime to visit or photograph her property. I could park my car on her land and take as many pictures as I’d like. I waved good-bye to both her and Millie as I drove toward civilization.

Perhaps I do watch too many movies… but real life or fiction… you still never know how the story is going to end. Luckily, this one ended happily-ever-after.

<banjo music fades>

“On the Side” a.k.a. High-Maintenance

The 1989 hit movie When Harry Met Sally is a beloved favorite for men and women alike. It was then and remains today a spot-on, hilarious narration of the intricacies of the male/female romantic relationship.

A couple of weeks ago while I was folding some laundry, it came on the TV and of course, for probably the 18th time… I watched it. And once again, for probably the 18th time… I laughed. Only this time I laughed at something I’d never really noticed before, but has since become a regular source of conversation and comedy in my own relationship.

Early in our relationship, my boyfriend and I watched this movie together. One night, months later, when we went out for dinner he called me “Sally Albright” after I finished placing my order.

At first I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about—Sally Albright. Sally Albright? First of all, WHO is Sally Albright and WHY exactly, did he think that I was SHE? Then he reminded me of the following scene from the movie when Sally Albright and Harry Burns sit down to eat at a diner for the very first time:

Sally: I’d like the chef salad please with oil and vinegar on the side, and the apple pie a la mode. 

Waitress: Chef and apple a la mode. 

Sally: But I’d like the pie heated, and I don’t want the ice cream on top. I want it on the side, and I’d like strawberry instead of vanilla if you have it. If not, then no ice cream, just whipped cream, but only if it’s real. If it’s out of the can, then nothing. 

Waitress: Not even the pie? 

Sally: No, just the pie, but then not heated.

OK. So maybe Sally was a bit, shall we say, particular about how she wanted her meal… but come on, she’s paying for it. But what I call “particular,” most men call “high maintenance.” And such was the case with Harry / my boyfriend.

Of course, what I want to know is: What is wrong with wanting things “on the side?” Salad dressing on the side… sour cream on the side… guacamole on the side… extra avocado slices for your sandwich on the side… extra limes wedges for your margarita on the side… an extra shot of tequila for that same margarita on the side? Since when did asking for anything “on the side” turn into being “high-maintenance”? To answer this question, I’ll refer to a scene from later on in the movie:

Harry: There are two kinds of women: high maintenance and low maintenance. 

Sally Albright: Which one am I? 

Harry: You’re the worst kind; you’re high maintenance but you think you’re low maintenance. 

Sally Albright: I don’t see that. 

Harry: You don’t see that? Waiter, I’ll begin with a house salad, but I don’t want the regular dressing. I’ll have the balsamic vinegar and oil, but on the side. And then the salmon with the mustard sauce, but I want the mustard sauce on the side. “On the side” is a very big thing for you. 

Sally Albright: Well, I just want it the way I want it. 

Harry: I know… high maintenance. 

And there it is. The male take on “On the side.” But I still don’t see the problem here. This is, after all America, and if we CAN have things “on the side,” then why are we considered “high-maintenance” just because we ask for it?

There are things that I prefer a certain way… and if, by requesting them, I am not placing anyone in harm’s way… then I just don’t see the problem. For example:

  1. I like to sleep with four, fluffy, down pillows. But only at night. During a nap, I prefer ONE down pillow and a body pillow.
  2. I like to wrap up in soft, fluffy blankets and it doesn’t matter where or from whom I have to steal them.
  3. I like so much ice in my drinks that with every sip I get the sensation of licking a glacier.
  4. I’ll only drink the orange juice that has NO pulp in it (served over ice).
  5. Individual foods on my plate must NOT touch one another. Unless it is Mexican food. And I prefer to eat one food at a time around the plate… usually in a clockwise direction.
  6. I feel it is perfectly appropriate to call the front desk and register a complaint if my hotel room does not look exactly like the one on the website.
  7. I feel it is equally appropriate to request that compensation be made for the aforementioned false advertising. And that said restitution ought to be delivered in the form of additional fluffy, down pillows.
  8. I place all of the items on my desk at 90 or 45-degree angles and specific items must be parallel or perpendicular to one another or I cannot get any work done.
  9. I must arrange my highlighter pens according to the colors of the rainbow.
  10. I like all of my picture frames to be turned at exactly the same angle on the desk / shelf / table / dresser / entertainment center… and just because I can immediately, upon entering the room, determine that one of them is a degree or two off and I cannot sit down or relax until I fix it…

    Do these things make me high-maintenance?

Sally Albright. It is a nickname that my bf still calls me to this day. And although I have absolutely NO idea why… What else can I say?

I just want it the way I want it.