The Girl Called Rachel


Kindergarten’s Gone

A little woman in girl’s clothing with a gap in her baby teeth.
Parents divorce.
Kids kiss on TV.
Asked to describe her teacher in a poem she writes:
Sexy.
A sponge for things not made for her.
But maybe
-secretly-
they are pleased she is soaking up their shit.
Her Mom guards her from the subway and kidnappers and “New York”,
but still she’s being snatched.
She’s called a hot mess, but let’s change that.
Someone must look after her
and my reign is over.
Please.
She is beautiful.
She thinks she’s a woman, but let her be a girl.
She’ll be famous one day.
Get her there safely.

“You’re special. Will you remember that?”
“I think I can.”
My little Limbo Princess.
Put your skirt down.
Remember that.

love

What 5th birthday party is complete without Hannah Montana plates?

What 6th birthday party is complete without this girl's face on some paper plates?

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“Dream pounding and enormously…”

The letter I wrote to Marianna Palka took me five weeks and cost me 42 dollars. From the moment I felt compelled to write her a letter, I felt an intense pressure that I would not be able to clearly enunciate the feelings I had for her film Good Dick, and couldn’t bear to send her something substandard that I knew I would obsess over. I worked and reworked my words so much, I knew I had wrung out all of the true emotion I was so eager to share with her. It was dry and tough and frustrating. After a full month of working on this letter like it was my thesis, I decided to buy a voice recorder and just speak my feelings and transcribe them later. I practically carried the thing with me all over my apartment because I was constantly thinking of little phrases I wanted to include. I would wake up in the middle of the night and start talking into the recorder, knowing that these ideas were so much more organic and useful for my letter.

One day, I put a deadline on the letter. I knew I was being a crazed perfectionist about it, and I just wanted to get it over with. After all five weeks of rough drafts and preparations, the letter came spilling out of me at 3AM when I woke up to get some water. I sat in bed for two hours and wrote it, start to finish. The final draft was a compilation of different pieces I had culled in the past month, but all in all, it was pretty spontaneous. After reading it over a couple of times to check for typos (I missed one… but I’m still alive.) I sent it out and posted it to this blog, eagerly awaiting a response. I had to wait for a while, but on a day that had been utterly depressing, deflating and lonely, I checked my email:

Dear Rebecca,

Thank you so much.
I have been profoundly moved by your letter. My intention when making the film was in fact to enable people in the very ways in which you described being enabled. We are none of us alone. And it is very helpful to watch, read, see and participate in works of art that remind us of this through their complexity and vitality.
I commend you for sending the letter, you mentioned that it was scary to do so. I think it is a great thing to do to send a letter. I think you should continue to write letters to whomever you wish and always send them.
What your letter so eloquently details is the energy exchange you had with the film, it spoke to you as you spoke to it. This kind of energy exchange is, in the final analysis, the reason why film is a terrific medium and a positive force, it is the reason why films are made. It is a big day the first day you see a film that changes you. It makes you want to keep growing and never stop. As it should be. Many works have no doubt made and will continue to make such impressions on you. I say keep these close to you. It is always good to return to your favorite works at different times, to see them again or see them in a new light. Thus you learn a good deal about yourself and art in general.
I enjoyed reading about the children at the kindergarden you wrote about who are in love with High School Musical. I always think it is funny that as a child, I was really into Barbies and big time into the color pink. I feel that this kind of sweeping dangerous mediocrity currently existing on the landscape of what is mainstream, can only serve to inspire and define us as artists. Otherwise, with out motivation, what else is there? What is the alternative? To be destroyed by the ridiculous and untrue? To sit and watch it all fall apart or seem to before our eyes? To keep buying the porn and enabling the sex trade? To keep it going even though we don’t believe in it? What a most vibrant time to be making art. We have something to say and we can say it very well, and so that is what we all do. We say it. And it changes. Having something to fight for, having enlightened things to say, having a voice against the odds. What a life! I have come to love that push and pull between the mediocre and the divine, I think you can find that push and pull in everything. I think we always need something challenging to fight against. The bigger the hill the bigger the climb. You can’t sweat without something to sweat for. We all beautifully say our piece and we work hard and then we add to the landscape, and suddenly it is a lot more interesting to be alive, right? Finding what you want to say artistically and saying it is the greatest thing you can do with yourself. I believe that more than I can explain. Suddenly the couch is less enticing, the junk food is tasteless, the mediocre no longer has a hold of you and have better things to do, you soar. This flight is why you came onto the planet to spend time here. It is why you watch films of all kinds. You are meant to be here and you are meant to make work that inspires and helps people. You are cared about and you care deeply. That is also why you came onto the planet.
You are able to have whatever you want, you can make whatever kinds of films you dream about (make the most difficult kind, the ones that seem in a certain way impossible- make those) Dream massively about the love that you want and what it does to you and who it makes you. You must continue to dream pounding and enormously because dreams come true. They come true, so be as audacious as you possibly can be when dreaming and believe your dreams. Actively believe your dreams. All the time.
I am so excited for you and for your parents and for the fall. I think amazing things have already begun for you. I am wondering what else is in store!
When you write your script or when you find your script, send it to me at this email address and I’ll be happy to read it and talk to you about it.
Meantime, get the following books and read them:
THE WAR OF ART- Stephen Pressfield
AND THEN YOU ACT- Anne Bogart
THE PURPOSE OF YOUR LIFE- Carol Adrienne
Look on the Sundance website and the UK Film Council website. Look at the AFI website. Where do you currently live, in what state?
The last thing I would like to say is a request. I would very much like to put your letter among other such beautiful things on our website for the film. We would love it. We can remove your name and just write from “anonymous” if you would prefer to be nameless. Let us know,
Thank you so much and loads of love to you gorgeous Rebecca,
Love Marianna x.
The timing of the letter was so perfect that before I could figure out what it said, I was crying. I didn’t need to read any of the words because all that mattered was that I put so much of myself into reaching out to another person and the gesture was being reciprocated, fully and finally.

Maxine Noel's "Sisters of the Dawn"

Maxine Noel's "Sisters of the Dawn"


Jump.

For those of you who know me, I’m sure you would agree that I’m a private person. This privacy has infiltrated all of my relationships, including the one I have with myself, to the point that I spend an inordinate amount of time stifling who I am and what I want to say because I’m afraid of being vulnerable. (Who isn’t, really? But I seriously take it to a different level.)

About three months ago I watched a movie that has since changed my life. It has been such a constant source of comfort and inspiration for me that I wrote a letter to the filmmakers.

In the film, one of the main characters recites the Emerson quote, “Knowledge is when you learn something new every day. Wisdom is when you let something go every day.” Let’s let some things go, shall we? By sharing this letter with you I don’t expect these fears and problems to melt away all at once, but publicizing them will start to diminish their taboo for me and maybe open some doors for growth and change down the road.

Holy shit. This really is scary, but I’m told a little fear is necessary in life. I started this blog to talk about what I have learned from pop culture throughout my life, and this film has taught me more about myself than anything else before.

Dear Marianna,

First of all, it’s an honor to have bought your first DVD because I feel like Good Dick has left a definite and permanent stamp on my life. I’ve been working on this letter for an entire month, partly because I’m a perfectionist and I don’t want you to read something that I don’t think properly conveys my feelings about you and your film.  Mostly it’s taken so long because I have a hard time sharing personal details about myself, because once they are out there… who knows what can happen or what people will think. I do feel like I can share personal things with you (and I hope you won’t mind) because I think you can relate to me and you understand where I’m coming from with my view of the world and my place in it. Even if Good Dick wasn’t autobiographical, it came from you and the fact that this film was made is proof that these characters and this story, which I relate to so thoroughly, are worthy of an audience.

I’ve never had a reaction like this to another movie, and I think that’s because I’ve never seen my reality in mainstream film. I watch movies or TV shows about beautiful people with problems that I don’t relate to at all. Then one day I saw Good Dick and it was so realistic and it scared me to think, “Oh my god, this is exactly what I want and what I think love is going to be like for me”. I’ve always distanced myself from all different kinds of love. I’ve never thought about what it’s going to realistically look like when I am in a relationship and I find real intimacy with a person who truly understands me. The thing about Hollywood is that it really shapes the way people see themselves and think about love from a young age. I work in a kindergarten class where all of the girls are in love with Zach Efron and High School Musical, and they heard somewhere that only boys can save girls and not the other way around. I try to talk them out of it, but it seems like they’ve already been indoctrinated into the mainstream culture of fat-versus-skinny and they are waiting for Prince Charming. I think it’s extremely valuable for people to see themselves in pop culture, because when you have watched a lifetime of TV and film without seeing someone who represents you, how are you supposed to know you aren’t alone?

This movie is so therapeutic for me because I see someone like me being loved, and that’s the image I need to see often. I need to watch people like me who are loved and comfortable with themselves and are able to overcome any past or present hurt. I need to see that this is a possibility. I feel like I come up against obstacles and just stop and turn around instead of maneuvering through them and continuing to grow. I’m stunted because I haven’t allowed anyone the opportunity to love me regardless of my faults. It’s hard enough for me to stomach my imperfections, let alone embrace them, so I have very little faith that someone else will accept me for who I am. I have always thought of my relationships as a precise balancing act that will crash down with any misstep on my part. I constantly compromise and silence myself in order to keep the equilibrium. Nothing this fragile can survive for long. The most important thing I need in my life is an honest relationship where I’m not afraid to show my flaws and I can trust that people aren’t going to leave me because of them.

My first real connection I felt with Good Dick was when she lets the guy into her apartment for the first time and we see what a mess it is. Just seeing it made me so anxious because my apartment is a like that and if anyone ever saw it I would be mortified. If anyone knew the real environment that I am living in, the shit that I’m surrounded by all day long, that would be more than embarrassing. And it’s just another wall between me and everyone else, an obstacle that hinders any kind of spontaneous visitors. No one knows how chaotic my home really is because I don’t allow anyone the opportunity to see it if there is any incriminating evidence of my real lifestyle. I’m unable to provide a certain standard of living for myself, and it totally stems from a lack of self-respect. I eat shitty food all day, don’t throw away my garbage, and don’t do my dishes or laundry until someone comes in and does it for me, or the threat of someone coming over sends me into a mad rush to clean up.

You know, I look both ways when I cross the street so I don’t get hit by a car. I don’t really care about getting hurt, I care about someone taking me home from the hospital and seeing my apartment in all its gross glory. Seriously, that’s one of my fears in life. That there is going to be an emergency and I’m not going to want the police to come until I clean my apartment. What kind of fucked up logic is that? These are the kinds of things that make me nuts because I don’t know where all of these behaviors came from, but I can recognize that they are totally unhealthy. Why can’t I just clean up after myself, and why do I think that someone seeing my dirty apartment would send them running away from me? Where did all of my confidence go and when and why did it happen?

Another thing I have in common with your character is that we are both supported by our parents. I feel guilty about it. I don’t deserve their money. I feel like I’ve fucked up my life. Why are you paying my rent? I never finished college, but my parents paid for me to almost fail out of two different schools. All they want is for me to go back to school, but I’m afraid I’m just going to waste more of their money. If I won the lottery I would immediately give it to them, because I feel like I owe them thousands of dollars, and maybe that would help alleviate some of the burden I feel I have put on them. I feel this heavy chain attached to my parents money. I have to do what they want me to, and if I don’t I feel guilty about their disapproval. And then I use my apartment, which they pay for, as my den of iniquity.

I also watch porn like your character. I started as a young teenager who was just curious about sex and I think it was pretty normal behavior, but now I feel like I’ve replaced the potential for real human interaction with porn. Why put myself out there and probably get rejected when I can watch people who are prettier, or at least more confident, than me have sex? I know that porn doesn’t replace real love and movie characters aren’t real friends, but sometimes it’s easier to live vicariously through other people than face the challenges that plague your own life.

I think you certainly accomplished your goal of making a romantic movie. This story is about realistic romance; different from the saccharin sitcom plots and predictable romantic comedies that Hollywood bombards us with in the cineplexes every weekend. It was so bizarre to see the hair-washing scene because the day before I watched Good Dick for the first time I was thinking how intimate it would be to wash someone’s hair. That was when the light bulb went off in my head and I knew that I was going to have a real connection with your film. The scene where you sleep together in the bed is so amazing, with the combination of the lighting and music and the sheer fact that pressing your back against someone else’s seems so comforting. In the ice rink, Jason’s character says, “real sex, loving sex”. I love the fact that the main male character in your film characterizes real sex as “loving”. I feel like if I had seen this film when I was younger I would have a much more positive opinion of men today.

When Jason’s character says, “I care about you” is when I first thought, “Oh my god, this movie is making my heart hurt”. I want to hear that so badly! I care about you. I care what happens to you. I care how you feel about yourself. I care how you feel about me. I care what you do everyday. I care how you are treating yourself. He makes himself so vulnerable by letting her know that he cares about her when he probably knows she won’t reciprocate the feelings openly. It makes me so envious and so ready to hear someone say that to me and to say it back.

A lot of people comment about how the woman is so crazy and brutal and irrationally mean, but I found her totally honest, and I was jealous that I stop myself from being\ that way. I feel like I put myself in situations where I’m going to be uncomfortable and I stay there as a sort of punishment. Like feeling miserable when other people aren’t will prove that I am not normal and I have to change. But your character says no if she doesn’t want him coming into her apartment. She doesn’t open the door for him, she doesn’t put herself in a situation where she won’t be in charge, and I love that. I see her very much as a heroine. A woman who knows what she wants, even though she has demons that dictate some of her behavior and decisions. She has taken her sexuality in her own hands; she has set rules and says, “These are my boundaries and if you cross them, it’s over”. I found that so refreshing and I wish I could be like that. I wish I could be honest with people and say, “I don’t want to be with you right now because you are driving me insane” and not feel guilty that I seem anti-social or think about what my friends are going to say about me. I need to find a partner who can acknowledge and understand my hesitance when it comes to both physical and emotional intimacy. It makes me uncomfortable to think I could be at the mercy of someone who may not have regard for my feelings and insecurities. The fact that Jason’s character is completely accepting of her rules and doesn’t want to move faster than she is prepared to go makes him such a fantasy boyfriend for me. Through his gentle persistence, she realizes that she is worthy of love and self-respect and she is given the tools to help herself improve her life.

I feel like your movie came to me at a really important time because my plans to finish my degree were somewhat sidetracked, I found out I won’t have a job in the fall, and my lease is up on my apartment in October. I feel like, come this fall, I have a million choices to make and an infinite number of paths I can take. It’s freedom, but it’s also fucking scary. Now is the time when I actually have to think about what I want my life to be like, and try to start living that life. I think that I’ve finally realized that I want to be a filmmaker because I want to create something that might impact someone in the same way Good Dick has impacted me.

I want you to know how much you mean to me, even if I never meet you, even if you never make another film, you have done enough for me to really think about my life and think about the world and reality and love in a realistic and attainable way. I want you to remember me, whether or not you remember my name or the specific things I said. I just want you to recall the feeling that you really affected change in the world, because I am changing, I am going to reach out to other people who may change. I believe we are all connected in this way, that we live life and we grow by learning from other people and hopefully teaching a few along the way. All of my life I have used movies to escape or avoid my problems. It’s very passive to sit in a room and see faces in front of me without having to deal with the reciprocity of real friendship. The stuff I was watching wasn’t helping me understand or deal with my life, but drown out my desire to help myself change. I needed a movie like Good Dick to hold up a mirror to my face so I could see what it looks like when I isolate myself, neglect people who love me and deny myself happiness and self-respect. Now I want to be a filmmaker so I can reach other people, help them learn about themselves and continue this chain of humanity and real people talking to each other.

It sounds strange to say thank you after all of that. I think that goes without saying.

Love,
Rebecca Martin

P.S. Good dick means to me… a relationship that encourages growth and intimacy and makes you feel safe with the people you love or by yourself.

Waiting for the panic after pressing send on the letter

Waiting for the panic after pressing send on the letter