I am a big fan of musicals. I love the joyousness of musicals and I love the cleverness that has to be employed to write songs that forward the plot and have integrity as musical compositions. One of the musicals I like is Legally Blonde. Emmett is the lawyer who helps Elle begin to take herself seriously as a smart, capable law student. Elle returns the favor by taking Emmett shopping for a suit that will force the world to take him seriously. The shopping scene is the beginning of their romance. In it, Emmett wonders (in song, of course) What does she want? Not really sure. Why can I never say no to her? What’s that smell? And the store clerk waves a perfume sample in the air with a smirk, Subtext, she says, by Calvin Klein.
My friend Gigi and I took some great classes on women’s studies in college. Mostly in classes like that you learn to discern subtext. You become aware of the assumptions and messages behind the words and actions seen in the media and in daily life. Then you begin to see how an advertisement for Venus razors is not just trying to sell you replacement blades, they’re selling a particular construct of femininity (in this case: thin, exotic, hairless and exuding sexuality… the song says it all I’m your Venus, I’m your fire, your desire!). It’s a very good thing to know about this kind of thing.
But what Gigi and I have discovered is that there is no turning off the subtext radar. We both like a good chick flick; we’ve even been known to attend the midnight showing of certain teenybopper sensation movies. But it is hard to enjoy the candy of entertainment when you know what it is made out of.
I’m in the middle of Donald Miller’s book “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years”. It’s a book about living good stories. One of the things he says is that when you become aware that better stories are out there, and that you want to be living a better story, you stop having a choice. Because, “Not living a better story would be like deciding to die, deciding to walk around numb until you die, and its not natural to want to die” (66). It is a gained understanding from which you can’t turn back. It is like subtext… once you know about it, you see it everywhere. You could only cease to see it by stubbornly closing your eyes, putting your hands over your ears and singing, “La la la, I can’t hear you!” And that is no way to live.
All of this to say: I am becoming much more aware of the stories being told around me and in me. Unable to ignore them, I must change, you know?
P.S. I never write what I think I’ll write… The writing always takes me somewhere else.