Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The '90s Revisited Part Whatever: Aerosmith Videos and Romeo + Juliet

John is in Connecticut and I've been home alone, which seems to trigger cravings for "comfort media" rather than comfort food. Accordingly, I can't stop reliving my teen years. This weekend, I noticed The Man in the Moon is on Netflix Instant. Remember this movie? It was Reese Witherspoon's first role, and I hadn't seen it since junior high. It's an okay little flick about two sisters competing for the attention of the same guy, "first love" and all that. I'm thinking, due to recent life stressors of one type or another, that my body just wants to cry, because I started basically sobbing during the scene where Sam Waterston walks around the truck and hugs Dani. Earlier the same day, I was crying uncontrollably at the end of the lunch lady episode of Chopped, so clearly I'm just looking for any excuse to emote.

Anyway: The love interest in The Man in the Moon is played by Jason London, and that made me want to rewatch some of those Aerosmith videos from the '90s, the era when music video budgets were growing exponentially and MTV even told you who directed them. The first one I watched was "Crazy," which was weird because the imagery at the end of the tractor going around the field with no driver, and the splashing in the pond, echoes TMITM so closely that for a second I couldn't remember what had made me think of the video. But it wasn't the tractor, it was Jason London, who is not in this video, but in "Amazing" (the one with the virtual reality theme).

The main point of all these videos was pretty much "Alicia Silverstone is hot" (with a side, in the above case, of "My daughter is hot, too"). Watching this and "Cryin'," I remembered how intensely, at the age of 14 or 15, I wanted to be pretty – but really, not just pretty, desirable.

I wasn't savvy enough back then to break this shit down on a feminist level; all I knew about the male gaze was that it was important. The crap you watch after school when you're 14 indoctrinates you: GIRLS MUST BE HOT.

Relatedly, check out these excerpts from the diary of a 15-year-old girl obsessed with Leonardo DiCaprio in the mid-90s; on November 2, 1996 (my 17th birthday!) she writes:
I have come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a Romeo. I’m still crying. There is no guy that beautiful who will come and declare me his love the moment he sees me. There is no guy that beautiful who would die for me. I don’t think there is a guy that gorgeous who will ever kiss me. I hate William Shakespeare.
And the next day:
Today I was in an awful mood. I cried sporadically (alone) and blamed my mood on tiredness when my parents bugged me. But the truth is: I’m obsessed with Romeo and Juliet. 
I keep rethinking scenes from the movie like when they first meet. Romeo is looking into a huge fish tank from one side when his eyes meet Juliet’s through a coral reef. Romeo follows her head with his—nose pressed against the glass. It is so totally believable that they had fallen in love. I’m miserable.
Which reminds me, I rewatched Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet last summer, and that scene is quite amazing (in no small part due to the love theme performed by Des'ree):

Lara Ehrlich's diaries really capture the poignancy of the pre-boyfriend years. (See also My So-Called Life.) I remember feeling unwanted so exactly that it's somewhat difficult to believe I was going around being wanted like two years later. At 15, it feels like your life will NEVER HAPPEN. Then suddenly you're 17 and sexually assaulted the first time you get drunk.

Ladies, talk to me about your '90s feelings. Who were your celebrity crushes? Is there a word for that particular adolescent desire to be desired, not even by anyone in particular?


  1. "I remember feeling unwanted so exactly that it's somewhat difficult to believe I was going around being wanted like two years later. At 15, it feels like your life will NEVER HAPPEN. Then suddenly you're 17 and sexually assaulted the first time you get drunk"


    I remember sitting at home crying every Friday night when my best friend would have dates, and writing poetry in my notebook. I don't feel like I ever fixated on a single celebrity crush... it was usually just boys at my high school. I guess I had some kind of emotional involvement with Billy Corgan, to some degree, but he was so much older I knew it wasn't realistic so I was OK with that.

    At least we didn't have cable, so I couldn't sit around and watch MTV and feel sorry for myself.

    1. I guess I was lucky in that my best friend at the time and I were in a similar place: not exactly early bloomers, and our parents were on the protective side. Hence, all yearning, all the time.

      '80s videos screwed me up in a whole different way. Looking at you, Guns 'n' Roses!

    2. Oh, I feel you on the protected thing. I had no car, lived on a farm, only child... I think it directly led to me going crazy in college.

      High school was actually a really good time for me - I was mostly so happy, but I would go on these crying tears about boys, almost always on the weekends and specifically Friday. But the rest of the time things would be grand.

    3. The girls are memorizing every recipe in this month's McCall's
      because they haven't eaten in three days
      because they want to look thin in their minis and hipslingers.
      They are starving in hopes
      of having a yogic vision: a lost Beatle
      drives up in a psychedelic Rolls and proposes
      whimsical English sex. They are thumping
      their feet to imaginary drums and thinking
      if John Lennon loved them they'd be skinny
      though for that to happen they'd have to be.

      Hopeless! They are hopeless!
      I see their faces pinched with wishing....

      --Alice Fulton, “From Our Mary To Me”

    4. When they update that poem for the anthologies they should sub in Leo for JL

    5. Leo drives up in a yellow Rolls and proposes whimsical bootlegger sex?

  2. Let's just say I know more about the Phoenix family than anyone who is not an immediate member of the Phoenix family should know. Where was River Phoenix born? In a cabin in Madras, Oregon, to a roomful of thundering applause. What color did he wear? Black, because it makes you look all the more radiant. Why did Joaquin change his name to Leaf (before changing it back again)? Because he didn't understand Spanish—"Why do I have this name Walking?"—and the Phoenix parents had told all their children since birth that they could change their names whenever they liked.

    I was 17 when he died so it didn't hit me as hard as it would have had it at age 13, but of course I still had a wake of sorts, where we watched his movies and kept playing "Cry Me a River."

    As for boys, my solution was to basically go out with anyone who showed a flicker of interest, a technique I stuck to until, what, 31? In any case, despite always having a boyfriend, Saturday nights could still feel excruciating if I wasn't hanging out with him (which, given that I was 14 and at my parents' chauffeuring mercy, was often)--that feeling that Absolutely Everyone Is Having Fun and I Am Not And Never Will.

    1. It's funny that you mention the Phoenix clan because this post was almost half about The Thing Called Love (River Phoenix's last movie), which I also watched last night, but the movie's female empowerment message doesn't really fit the theme of the post.

      I think I had a bit of a "I reject you all before you can reject me" complex as a kid, so I spent a number of years boyfriendless.

    2. I really like The Thing Called Love!

    3. I'm embarrassed to say how many times I've seen it! I crave it every couple years or so. A good country music movie is hard to find.

  3. "Then suddenly you're 17 and sexually assaulted the first time you get drunk."

    This terrifies me. It seems to happen a lot, and I'm not sure what parents could do to protect their daughters (I mean you can talk to her about it, but it's not so easy to equip a 17-year-old with information she can actually use). There seems to be a pretty sharp disjunction between what we encourage girls to want and what we have arranged our sexual marketplace to provide. But that is maybe beside the point: even in a liberalized sexual culture there is no excuse for this kind of behavior, and it is troubling that it is so prevalent.

    1. I don't think there's any realistic way for parents to protect their kids from boys/men. It's gotta come from the culture up. I mean my parents did as much protecting of me as they could, but kids go off to college while they're still basically kids. What can you do? That's why the "boys will be boys" attitude toward rape is so dangerous. It puts all the onus on women/victims and to some extent their parents to protect, avoid, etc. rather than on men/attackers.