Diablo Derangement Syndrome

I found this on Just Effing Entertain Me, a post entitled What’s the Deal With Jennifer’s Body? discussing the apparent backlash against Diablo Cody. The consensus in this post, along with what has been posted on Scott’s Go Into The Story blog and a few others is that the majority of writers who share Diablo Derangement Syndrome (coin the phrase) are either jealous of her instant success or possibly resent her because she’s a woman.

I don’t want to start a subjective argument over Juno or Jennifer’s Body, my gripe with the former had to do with the inference that H.G. Lewis was a better horror director than Dario Argento (bull-fucking-shit). But I don’t have any problem stating that I have symptoms of D.D.S. and it’s in this post that I’d like to address what they are and why I feel that way so they can be understood, both for you the reader and for myself because you should never hate on anybody unless they’re in politics or they drive a white Lexus.

Diablo

There’s no reason any writer should dislike Diablo Cody. What she’s successfully done is brand herself as a writer to the extent that she has a level of control over her career that very few are able to obtain. And more fucking power to her. Why shouldn’t the writer enjoy the spotlight? She’s forging paths that anybody willing to put themselves out there can now use to their advantage. And that’s a great thing. That’s the only thing, I say, because it represents a kind of endgame for writers as a whole. We can take our piece of the spotlight beside musicians, actors, directors, and the rest of the art world. It gives us power that a union never could, and it creates a liquidity within the system whereupon her success could potentially make it easier for the next struggling bastard to step up and do their thing. These are all good things. This is what we should be rejoicing. A new way to push ahead.

So why do I feel deranged? I would say that at least sixty percent of my Diablo Derangement stems from her punk image. I have a personal bias against punk image. I never understood it. I spent my college days in writing classes where guys with black hair and nose rings skated on their outcast / misunderstood artist image in place of actual substance. If I’m at a show waiting for the headliner and the opening group walks out onstage and they have a mohawk, fo-hawks, hair dye, chain wallets, or any other obvious accessory my ass is finding the bar and somewhere I can smoke for 30 minutes. I just don’t like it. That is not to say that artists conscious of their physical image are inferior or not real artists, but I am in many ways the simple son of Christian conservatives. The word “vagina” still causes me to fidget in some dark corner of my brain. Her sexual openness moves in contrast to what was instilled in me since I was three years old. And even though I don’t believe in hell, I know I’ll go there if I succumb to the power of the word “vagina”. (moreso in succumbing to actual vagina, amirite?) So punk is just not my thing. Neither is sex culture.

Diablo 2

The second part of my derangement is pure contrarian stubbornness. The fact that Juno-dissent is punishable by labels of jealousy makes me feel compelled to project that onto her. And I’m sure Diablo wouldn’t give a rat’s ass if I told her I didn’t like Juno. She could tell me to make my own goddamn movie and be lucky if I won something out of a Cracker Jack box. Or she could go cry herself silly in a bathtub full of hundred dollar bills. Either way, if you remove her from the equation this argument essentially becomes people bickering over movie preference with one woman’s career being used as leverage. It’s no different than when my coworker claims Dark Knight was only hailed as a triumph because Heath Ledger died.

The last, and probably the most universal, is my feeling that her own particular brand of straight-forwardness lends itself to statements which seem flippant with regards to her success. This can be construed as ungrateful, which is why I feel that a lot of writers have such strong feelings of resentment. Case in point, her recent piece How I Punked The Establishment:

“I said, Screenwriting is not that interesting to me. To be honest, I was enjoying the kind of gonzo sex writing that I was doing. But he said, No, writing a movie is easy. If you can pull this off just once, you won’t really have to work anymore. You can sit outside and write every day. And I thought, that doesn’t sound so bad. I’ll take a crack at this.”

I imagine to a guy who’s spent his last ten years eating Top Ramen in a dingy apartment, struggling with day jobs and having no luck catching a break while laboring over his work, it’s hard not to read that and feel something tighten in the pit of his stomach. It does suggest a certain “ease” with which breaking in can be made, as well as a motivation that seems less than noble. But to be fair, I think many of us like to believe that if we “made it” to the extent that she has we would be driving vans filled with bread loaves to distribute amongst poor hungry writers while clutching the shoulders of our brethren and giving a teary-eyed “I’ll come back for you…all of you,” like some escaped POW.  In truth, most of us would do what we’ve always wanted to do, which is act fucking dumb, nail a couple of women that were previously out-of-our-league, develop a coke habit, and pay Lemmy from Motorhead to sing “Ace of Spades” while eating our breakfast cereal out of a bowl that he’s balancing on his head. Maybe pick a couple fights, flip off a police officer, or even buy your wife a healthy newborn baby on the black market. To each his own.

In short, I think we as writers shouldn’t feel ashamed if we dislike Diablo Cody, and I don’t think it’s any kind of statement about sexism or jealousy. But what we should be doing is studying what she did to make herself such a viable brand and try to figure out a way to use that to our advantage. I personally want to see different flavors of writer “brands”, especially if they’re willing to cross over into different mediums. I want to see drunks, cowboys, rough-and-tumble kids from Jersey, homemakers, burnouts, skeezers, skanks, scollywops and hoolie-who’s, and guys named K.G. with their Motorhead-based breakfast tables. Now isn’t that a beautiful thought?

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3 thoughts on “Diablo Derangement Syndrome

  1. I don’t have a problem with Diablo herself. I have a problem with the buzz generators turning her into a minor celebrity based on nothing more than her catchy name and having been a stripper.

    Jennifer’s Body is a decent achievement, but on the whole, it could have been a late 60s to early 70s splatter-gore exploitation horror flick as far as the premise and script go. So thumbs up to her for the success but that’s it. A thumbs down to the idiots playing her up because they’re imagining watching her strip and like her name.

  2. Another writer to look at in regards to brand is Kevin Smith. That guy really knows the meaning of “fan service”. A few weeks ago he did a 24 hour twitter Q&A that was pretty entertaining. And his podcast is pretty fucking great. I don’t think he’ll say “no” to an interview, and his website is pretty much a hub for merch.

  3. I liked Juo, which was odd because I had decided to hate it based entirely on the opening credits and song, but I was on a plane and couldn’t walk out. I’ve not read any Diablo interviews, though I have seen her marketed as the new Messiah on the covers of various women’s magazines. From what i can tell, good screenwriting is good screenwriting, but it can be easier to get your stuff seen if you are famous, married to someone famous, buying drugs from/for someone who is famous and or sleeping with one or all of the above. I don’t come into any of these catagories, and thus will die in obscurity.

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