I have a screenwriting class that meets twice a week, and in one recent session, we had to go around the room and discuss voice. Specifically, each writer’s voice when writing, and each writer’s voice when speaking. I use “voice” in the vague sense of one’s personality as it comes across in her writing, and one’s personality as it comes across in her conversation. A writer’s term, naturally, to describe some innate quality that is difficult to assess in concrete language.
I’ll take subversive, feisty, even direct and opinionated. But what I can’t tolerate is being told that I have a tendency to apologize for my work as printed copies are passed around the room. Do I do this? I don’t think I do this. All my life I’ve made a conscious effort to avoid the stereotype of the insecure woman who can’t stand behind the quality of her own work. Sure, I can’t take a compliment to save my life, but apologize for my writing? I never thought I was guilty.
But in writing script, one learns to consider every possible outcome of the story until the right one is clear. So I’ll entertain the possibility that my voice is uncertain and apologetic. And I will work harder to ensure it doesn’t always seem so. But before I go, I need to apologize for one more thing:
I’m sorry I wrote nice, bland pleasantries about New Girl. I’m sorry because when I think about the show, and I think about the conversations I’ve had about it with other women, I need to acknowledge that it’s really just another piece of post-feminist, fairer sex bullshit. So what I’m really sorry for is trying to convince myself and my readers that it was alright.
Here are the reasons why I didn’t eviscerate this undeniably mediocre show:
- I went to the screening with friends from the film school, and they all enjoyed it. It’s very hard to be mean when you want people to like you. So you take the easy route and laugh along every time a pretty girls plays at being a loser. Because you know what it feels like to be a loser, and it’s not quite what she’s feeling, but it’s easier to laugh and say Oh, yes, that’s exactly it.
- I had just moved to Los Angeles three weeks earlier and I didn’t want a reputation as the mean girl. And I know I’ve earned it, this second sandpaper skin that abrades against everything with a rotten core, but it was too soon. Too early to be the girl who doesn’t like anything.
- I wanted to believe in the golden lie that permeates every writers’ room in this town, every coffee shop critique, every mid-morning pitch: if a woman made it and we show it, that’s progress. And I know this is so incredibly wrong, but there it is. The lie that will take me places, the lie that will get my television shows on the air, my romantic comedies on the screen.
Do these sound like women’s reasons? Do these sound like apologetic musings? They should.
I’m sorry I pretended to like a show that was mediocre. I’m sorry I wanted to make friends before art. I’m sorry I bought into that incandescent lie.
I assure you it won’t happen again.