As it is J.K. Rowling’s big 50th birthday (same day as Harry Potter’s- 50 points for Gryffindor!), I am posting something slightly amusing in her honor. Ms. Rowling posted inspiring things to say as she currently celebrated her birthday today with the actors of the eight-movie series based on her seven books, setting the standard for today’s fantasy writers. It also reminded me that my 27th birthday was not too long ago, only last Saturday, and it got me thinking.
How many famous writers celebrated their birthdays in style can you name? J.K. Rowling is having her 50th right now, Neil Gaiman had his big 50 in New Orleans (jealous), Steven Moffat had his 52nd at Buckingham Palace with a royal Countess in celebration of 50 years of Doctor Who (even more livid green jealousy…), and—there seems to be a pattern here.
I’m currently listening to Louis Armstrong, dear Satchmo playing that beautiful trumpet, and I’m thinking I could go for some Stewart’s cream soda and later maybe some tea and Jammie Dodgers to celebrate a tiny bit. Then again, I’ve noticed writers and many other people make a big fuss over the five-zero more than any other birthday, not the 30th. Many people have told me a lot can happen in three years, but I doubt it.
But back to the matter at hand: These people who celebrated their 50s are British in some way. Could I ever fit in with the likes of them? Probably not.
Ever since I was little, I’ll admit I’ve fallen in love with some of the shows from Britain, mainly Red Dwarf and Monty Python. Both of my parents learned of these shows possibly before I was even born, because my father started going to conventions when William Shatner was still in a popular television show as a Starfleet Captain, and Gene Roddenberry was still alive. Back then, it was very easy for my dad to go to Shore Leave and shake James Kirk’s hand. The last time Shatner was in Baltimore in 2013, however, dad had to pay about $80 just to see his panel.
Sadly enough on February 27th, we lost quite possibly one of the greatest men in Star Trek who ever lived, the one with the Vulcan phrase, “Live long and prosper.”
Leonard Nimoy sure did just that. May he rest comfortably with my fluffy puppy D’Artagnon snuggling next to him. I imagine Sheldon Cooper cried sad tears that day. First Howard Wolowitz’s mother, now Sheldon’s favorite Starfleet commander Spock.
So the more I thought about all of this on a cold Friday night at dinner back then, while finally watching the new episodes of Doctor Who featuring the Twelfth Doctor Peter Capaldi (the Dalek episode in the style of Fantastic Voyage: a tiny Doctor and tiny Clara inside the brain of a Dalek… YES!), I couldn’t help but think that if I’ll be thirty in less than four years, I don’t have much time to get my career in place or just make something of myself. Now that I’m 27 years old, I have three years left, which is not enough time.
I recently wrote a good deal of my Doctor Who fanfiction for the reason of having fun, but because of some underlying factors, there’s no way I will ever come close to publishing the work. Perhaps not anything related to Jane Austen, Doyle, or anything else British related.
Here are my sincerest reasons: Not only am I a woman, I’m also a Yank. And chances for Americans like myself who write those kinds of things are guaranteed to not be as nearly successful, or just successfully at writing something stupid and getting movie options to showcase your stupidity.
Case in point: Stephanie Meyer for the Twilight books and possibly Nicholas Sparks for his novels after A Walk to Remember and The Notebook (I preferred the Walk movie with Mandy Moore, and even so, I don’t want to read any of his stories because they all have the same theme—tear-jerking romances where someone dies or “fate” brings the couple together.); and the only John Green novel I actually liked was An Abundance of Katherines. Fault in Our Stars sounds like yet another Walk to Remember story, only the person you think is the least likely to die of cancer first (the one who doesn’t carry the oxygen tank around) is the one who ends up dead—too depressing for me.
So there’s one of the reasons we Americans would be terrible writers for shows and movies inspired by or intended by some other country. But in case you prefer a list, here it is, the Yanks’ Seven Deadly Sins:
Jealousy: England’s on the other side of the planet. You have to admit, they have that advantage of being the center of everything in Europe. I’m not trying to be an Anglophile when I say this. Americans have their own pop culture that differs from the British in many aspects, and too many Americans, like the Doctor Who fangirls, want whatever the British have that we don’t have. At least I found a grocery store that sells Jammie Dodgers, so I’m good with staying right here in the States. For now.
Wrath: Brits (sort of) have a grudge against the Yanks… in certain areas. Yes, we fought for independence and won, sue us; I won’t go into that long Revolutionary 1776 “Declaration of Independence” story. But in other ways, we Americans are too loud and noisy and we do things much differently. Our television series “seasons” run much longer than the British television shows, our writing styles are much different (we spell “flavor” whereas the British spell the word “flavour”), and we’re drawn to a certain few particular demographics as far as shows go.
Crime drama, thrillers, comedy and anything that has to deal with lawyers, doctors and police officers, they all lead us into the next pillar of why we Americans can never write for a British series, and that is…
Lust: We’re so freaking fixated on syrupy romances, which screws up plotlines. Doesn’t anybody remember what we did to the final season of How I Met Your Mother? The show ended just like the ending of another movie that had the exact same premise, but with one slight difference. Instead of Ted Mosby’s wife being unceremoniously killed off at the series finale, the wife of Ryan Reynolds in the chick flick Definitely, Maybe already served him with divorce papers as he told the story of how he met her to his 10-year-old daughter Maya (Abigail Breslin). Familiar enough?
How about The Mentalist? It was originally a pretty solid crime drama developed by a writer from the United Kingdom, Bruno Heller, and starred an unknown Australian actor whose resume included a brief role with Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada. Not too recently, the hot sexy actor who played the main mentalist antihero, Simon Baker, got his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the show took a turn for the worst. Heller and his American staff writers killed off the main antagonist serial killer Red John early and proceeded to end the show’s seven year run with a romance between Baker’s Patrick Jane and his co-starring detective Theresa Lisbon, played by Empire Records star Robin Tunney. A little too sudden to do that to a man who just sought vengeance for the murders of his wife and daughter, don’t you think?
Now, do I have to mention the sob story of the Eighth Doctor in 1996? I don’t think I have to, because the American production company that toiled to get Paul McGann to play the new Doctor following Sylvester McCoy decided to make the show a little too campy. It’s our fault for making that episode a natural disaster.
Gluttony: We love to play with plot so much that we totally forget the original premise. We call that “jumping the shark”. Case in point: Happy Days where Fonzie jumped a shark in one episode and the show was never the same again, The Mentalist when Red John was revealed and non-heroically killed by Patrick Jane in the middle of season six, Smallville when Clark Kent ran away from home with the red Kryptonite ring, Get Smart after Max and Agent 99 got married… I could continue with this list.
Oh, and who could forget the ninth and final season of How I Met Your Mother where the entire season is completely spread over the hours leading to Robin and Barney’s wedding? And then finding out Ted’s wife, the “Mother” Tracy, is in fact dead… and Ted’s children tell him he’s in love with Robin… You have GOT to be kidding me! I loved Tracy Mosby-McConnell!
We tend to covet our plots a little too much. I’m sure there are more examples of this scenario, in fact I could write a dictionary of these. Don’t even bring up what the screenwriters did to J.K. Rowling with the Half-Blood Prince movie.
Greed: We’re always going to want a raise. Or that big promotion. Ever wondered why Marvel Studios and Star Wars are now owned by Disney, bought from Stan Lee and George Lucas, respectively? George Lucas, as much as he wanted to write another sequel to Return of the Jedi, decided it would be in the right mind to sell it all to the mouse-eared conglomerate since he couldn’t do much else with it.
Also, it was because J.J. Abrams would do a much better job at directing the next few films, just as he took a new direction with Star Trek. Just as Qui Gon Ginn said in The Phantom Menace: “There’s always a bigger fish… (in this case) to hand over your projects.
Pride: We are so full of ourselves when we talk about our country. We play the “Star Spangled Banner” at every sports event, we let our reality shows talk about how important our military is to us, there are too many war and soldier stories told in movies like Zero Dark Thirty and American Sniper, and every so often during commercials in between every show, there’s an ad about the USAA insurance for war and military veterans.
Ergo, we have too much pride that we couldn’t care less about other countries. If you remember the Chris Rock movie Head of State, the Republican opponent running against Rock for President said, “God bless America… and no place else.” Even our own President Obama would take offense to that phrase. Correction: “God bless America—and everybody else!”
The seventh and final reason, Sloth: We Americans are just so “stoopaad”, pardon me, stupid. The reasons why shows like Forever and Pushing Daisies were cancelled from ABC’s lineup were very simple: the scripts were too smart. America is considered one of the dumbest countries on the planet as far as our higher education rating, hence the No Child Left Behind Act, thanks to the worst man ever seated in the White House, President George Bush.
We now have Obama, who sadly will leave office next year in 2016, but it doesn’t help many primetime viewers who want to sit down on a Tuesday night and watch some show and become little potatoes and veggies. Nobody wants to see a show that makes you think. There’s a reason why my mother and my grandmother on my dad’s side (may she rest in peace) have called the small black appliance with moving pictures on it, “the idiot’s box.”
We Americans are programmed to be couch potatoes and sleep to something that won’t make us think. We crave stupidity! If we were all smart intellectuals like me who wanted to watch shows that made us use our subcraniums, even while we sleep, there would be no reality TV and lame game shows like Big Brother, Survivor, The Bachelor, Jersey Shore and America’s Got Talent, just to name a few.
Well, I guess odds for me are not that great. I might as well wait until I turn 50 years old when things actually get better. I just don’t know when. Until a later date, we’re stuck with the Seven Deadly Sins running our media lives.
But a very happy birthday, Joanne Rowling. Here’s some celebratory music for your celebration, sweet Hogwarts lady: