Monday, May 3, 2010

Hollywood Fairytales

Last week there was a movie on TV. I don’t know the name of it and I could bother to find out except I don’t really care however it was apparently the story of the wife of the founder of the Alcoholics Anonymous movement who also happened to be the founder of the Al-Anon movement which as many of us know is the support group for the ‘victims’ of the alcoholic. Perhaps victims is the wrong word, although I suspect many of those victims would agree with me, however I cannot come up with a better word to describe it.

Anyway, I digress. Through the years I have never been one to watch movies about alcoholics, read books about alcoholics, go to seminars about alcoholics, etc. I was well-versed in the subject matter and I didn’t care to re-hash any of it. I had put it behind me, didn’t need to remind myself.

So they tell me that’s denial. Hmm. Well maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, either way I felt no need, I had no desire to walk that road again even if it was only in memories and theories and statistics born of studies. I was done with it.

And they tell me that’s denial. So be it.

This time I decided to watch the movie. Stop the denial, face it head-on, make myself watch the movie and so I did.

I managed to get about fifteen minutes of watching time out of what was I assume a two hour running time. It wasn’t because it brought back painful memories that I didn’t want to bother with it was because what I saw in that fifteen minutes of viewing time had no relation to my experience and certainly while I cannot know for sure my educated guess is that it had no relation to the experience of the movie’s main subject, the founder of the Al-Anon movement.

Here is what I saw in those fifteen minutes: a woman, dressed neatly in her expensive clothing sitting prim and proper in a chair quietly weeping with her face in her hands (as if nobody can see that) over the pain of it all, never losing her self-control, she was the brave and stoic victim of her husband’s alcoholism, accepting quietly and in a dignified manner the hand which God had dealt her. That’s what ladies do right? Accept the flaws of their man stoically. Now I will say that at one point her father did lose control a little and gave Mr. Alcoholic a good tongue-lashing when our heroine was lying stoically in her hospital bed after (I think) losing a baby, or maybe discovering she was pregnant or whatever it was. That was irrelevant. What was relevant is that gosh-darn, good tongue-lashing her father gave his drunk son-in-law. A good tongue-lashing albeit well controlled and diplomatic.

I have no basis for comparison for that picture because I can emphatically say that was not my experience. That was Hollywood’s presentation of what it is like to live in a home with substance abuse. Neat and tidy, everyone has on their make-up, nobody loses control, there is no yelling or screaming, it’s all so… presentable.

So I got to wondering what it would be like if somebody made a movie that depicted what it’s REALLY like to live in a home where there is a substance abuser. First of all the director would have to have first-hand experience, there is no other way. You cannot depict accurately the dysfunction, and when I say dysfunction I mean out and out CRAZINESS of an alcoholic home without having done it yourself. There is simply no other way. Then, in order to find actors to play the parts you would have to scour the country for Al-Anon meetings attended by trained actors because you simply cannot play the part accurately if you haven’t been there yourself. I would suggest excluding any actor that is classically trained in Shakespeare because that’s just too damned civilized for something like this.

Ok we have our director, we have our actors now it’s time for the screenplay and again and of course the screenwriter must him/herself have come from, well need I say it?

So what’s the screenplay look like? This was a tough one but I don’t think there’s any real, organized story-line, in other words we’re not moving towards any denouement. There are no heroes only people depicted as f**g NUTS and there is quite possibly no happy ending, on the contrary although the potential for an ugly and tragic Hollywood ending is great. I think the movie would be nothing but a string of scenes with people yelling and screaming, things being throw, fights being had, various sorts of abuses being perpetrated, you know what I’m talking about, that real and raw fear and anger and anguish that actual human beings exhibit in times of high stress. People would get hurt in the making of this movie, cameras would be broken, scenery would be destroyed, insurance rates would be exorbitant. You know what I’m talking about, the kind of behavior that the censors would never allow on TV. The kind of behavior that makes you cringe when you see it and causes you deep shame when you think about how you engaged in it.

There would be no Academy Award nominations for this film because we like our Oscars to go actors who can reach deep within themselves and pull out understated and poignant performances but there is nothing understated and poignant about this.  It is ugly and violent and destructive in the truest sense of those words and we seldom if ever hand out awards for ugliness and violence and destruction.

And then I thought nah, nobody would ever pay to see something like that. I know I wouldn’t.


  1. I read this not long after you posted it J... and felt it... and thought how well you'd written it... and thought about you and what you were saying in between all the things you wrote...
    It's a hard post and I'm so sorry you grew up in the midst of such chaos.
    i can identify a little bit...
    Addictions of any nature rule and destroy childhoods... adolesence... families...

    I too avoid things about what I've greown up with..
    Nobody can get it unless they've experienced it...
    I get the, " there's jut no point in even....2 thing...
    Don't know if you have that...?

    wanted to say that I've been thinking of you...
    I'm always reading... even if I'm a bit quiet at times.

    I thought of you today because my T ('the woman') said something about saying 'the unsayable' today and at first I couldn't place the expression... Then I realised it was in your last post....

    Sometimes JSS, I wish that I knew you and could communicate face to face.
    I'm sur we'd have a few things to say to each other....
    or maybe not...
    maybe just a depth of understanding that didn't really need any words....

    I don't know.

    A silly thing to say to someone I don't know perhaps, but I do feel your pain, confusion and frustration at this film and its inability to convey the true, raw, painfilled chaos that defines the unpredictability of living with an addict.

    Keep writing if you can.


  2. Hi WS - you always have such lovely things to say. I hope you are able to use that wonderful gift in your day to day with the people around you. And I suspect you and I would have plenty to say to one another. Great minds and all...

    I'm thinking a lot these days about how much we hide the reality of our lives, about how so often we feel compelled to shame over things in our lives of which we have no hand or responsibility. That movies like this are made to me feeds into the need to hide things. It was a farce... completely unrealistic but of course prettied-up for Hollywood. It is unfortunate that things such as these are not depicted in a more realistic manner. If they were there might be more people out there a little less willing to turn their back on a child they know to be living in the midst of it.

  3. JSS...
    I just wanted to say hi and thatI was thinking about you and wondering how you were.
    No pressure to respond. Just wanted you to know.

  4. Hi WS - I'm here and I'm fine, thanks for asking. There's a new post in here somewhere, I just can't seem to organize my thoughts enough to get it out. Soon.