Friday, June 21, 2013

Femme-spiration Friday: Lelaina & Vickie from Reality Bites by Candace

My best friend still denies it, but she absolutely destroyed my VHS copy of Reality Bites when we lived in our first apartment together. 

And I deserved it. I watched that movie like it was my job. I can still quote every line and cadence. I’m amused -- and somewhat embarrassed -- by how every time I revisit it I discover that there’s some weird reference I didn't get back then. Because despite my best efforts, at 18 years-old it turned out that I did not actually know everything.

No one has ever looked so great while running a credit card scam. Or had such a great haircut. 

Winona Ryder plays Lelaina Pierce, fresh-out-of-college graduate and hopefully documentary filmmaker in the age of MTV’s The Real World. “I’m making this documentary about my friends. It's really about people who are trying to find their own identity without any real role models or anything.”  Obviously.

This is basically the expression I had on my face throughout my late teens and early 20s. And maybe last week. 

Vickie Miner is her best friend, played by Janeane Garofalo. Vickie is that real friend you need to call you on all your bullshit. And if your Lelaina Pierce, you have a lot of it. 

My love for Janeane is endless. 
Now Lelaina Pierce is inherently flawed. But she’s Winona Ryder. Who is also inherently flawed. So in my mind this all sort of works. Meanwhile, Vickie is a fucking rock -- even though she spends the majority of the film terrified that she has AIDs because of all the sex she’s had. 

This movie is a Gen X classic, with characters who fill their personal interactions with so many pop culture references that the real dialogue and honest emotional moments start to feel like the commercial breaks in the television show that is their lives. 

I recently battled it out with a colleague at work who insisted that I was a Millennial and not a member of the coolest generation. 

“You can’t just chose what generation you belong to. I can’t just decide that I am a Baby Boomer,” he said. 

But if you’re on the cusp it isn’t so simple. Being born in the late 70s early 80s is a little bit like the generational equivalent of being ages 11-13. Tweenage. Stuck between childhood and adolescence. If you’re my age you grew up in the shadow of everyone’s cooler, older, authentic Gen-X sibling. They were old enough to go to Nirvana concerts before Kurt died or whatever. They got Singles and we got My So-Called Life (note for editors: can I just call the post about Rayanne Graff right now?). 

But they couldn't keep Reality Bites to themselves. 

If GIRLS has taught us anything (oh boy, here we go), it’s that the more awful and unlikeable you can make your character, the more realistic you are attempting to be (see what I did there? I called all those girls unlikeab--oh forget it). Lelaina is kind of awful. But unlike Dunham’s creations, I can relate to her ways of awfulness. I can understand falling into a pit of depression over not knowing what you want to do with your life and then racking up a giant phone bill with your psychic that you manage to pay off through an elaborate scheme that can only be described as a credit card scam involving a gas station. 

Lelaina and Vickie are just trying to make their way through the world. They’re trying to not become their parents. They’re trying to figure out what adulthood is actually supposed to be. And all throughout my early (...mid...late) 20s, I could find reflections of my own confusion inside their cheesy references.  

As a Gemini, I find that it is completely appropriate to adore two characters equally at the same time. Its part of that whole twin/dual identity thing. These two are yin and yang. 

Reasons to love Lelaina: 
  • She runs out of coffee filters and then makes a pot with toilet paper and sings Schoolhouse Rock songs to herself while braiding her hair (see above).
  • Her “work clothes” are these insanely oversized pants that she pairs with the world’s literal largest black blazer (it comes down to her knees) and a sheer button up.
  • She is putting all her energy and heart into making a documentary about her friends, poster children for Generation X, but somehow elevating their pop culture references with reflections of real emotional turmoil (see also: Douglas Coupland).
Reasons to love Vickie:
  • She kind of has her fucking shit together on a pretty basic level. If even she doesn’t realize it. 
  • Vicky’s outfits steal the show. It's like shopping at a vintage store and grabbing everything that is big and colorful and bold. Yet she works at The Gap and we also get to see her wearing khakis and chambrays throughout the movie. 
  • She's funny and nothing is hotter than humor. She keeps everyone in line, including her self indulgent BFF. That's the kind of person you want in your life. 

Oh and since I think this is actually supposed to be a blog about fashion on some level, I think I am contractually obligated to point out that Lelaina and Vickie’s outfits are stellar. And so 90s. This is basically the makeup of my entire closet: floral dresses and jumpers, oversized button downs, and sleeveless shirts. Bonus points for really cute short haircuts. 

My dream is that I will someday have what it takes to rock a vest like this.

Look at this fucking vest. What is even happening here? 

As a mature (ha) adult woman now I can finally look back on this movie and file it under “nostalgia” instead of “active, relevant emotional go-to films.” But just because I think Troy Dyer probably cheated on her in the fictional world where the film continues and Michael was never good for her anyway. As I’ve said elsewhere (yeah, this is not the first time I have spilled digital ink over this movie) I like to imagine that Lelaina and Vickie grew the fuck up, got their shit together and now run a business doing something cool. They’re probably consultants. 

These tights. That is all.

Because isn't that the American dream job of Generation X anyway?

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