Yesterday morning we watched The Last of the Mohicans in my film class. No problem there, not a bad movie – except that it was supposed to be In the Heat of the Night, which I’ve never seen and was really looking forward to. Both professors are going out of town on Good Friday (together?), meaning class that week is cancelled and they had to drop one movie from the course. So they dropped In the Heat of the Night. The last two films on the syllabus are Erin Brockovich and Fatal Attraction, which are obviously indispensable to a course designed to explore the role of the hero in American cinema, whereas Virgil Tibbs and Chief Gillespie clearly have nothing to teach us on the subject.
There’s this dude Ben who always sits in the same row as me. A few weeks ago in my screenplay class Professor Hessler mentioned that he didn’t like “theater people” because they seem to think they’re always onstage, and I instantly thought of Ben. Ben is – loudly, proudly, unmifuckingstakably – theater people. Awhile ago I deduced that Ben is also a Christian. Not the rational, ecumenical, minds-his-own-business kind of Christian. The other kind. The kind likely to fly to Africa to hassle an ancient and isolated tribe of natives; though, unfortunately for me, probably not the kind to get speared through the lung and have his heart ritually eaten by the chief in front of the whole village.
It’s this combination of smug piety and phony ebullience that makes me want to do harm to Ben. He’s the type of guy who calls the professors by their first names, like they’re his “buds,” and is careful to laugh at everything he’s supposed to laugh at and smile and nod reassuringly at whoever is talking, as if to say “That’s it, keep going, you’re doing a great job!” Well fuck you, Ben, I know I’m doing a great job – I’m not the one who makes an observation about the film we just watched and then instantly reverses himself when one of the professors offers the slightest disagreement. Why not just invite them both to Bible study and get it over with?
I knew I wasn’t going to like him the first day of class, when he walked into the auditorium (through one of the backstage doors), sat down, looked around very melodramatically and said to no one in particular, “It’s quiet in here . . . a little too quiet.” I did not laugh when Ben said this, because it was not funny. I decided that I would never laugh at anything Ben ever said or did, because to do so might imply that I approve of his mother’s decision to carry him to term, which I do not. Occasionally he will say or do something that does strike me as legitimately funny, but I still don’t laugh or even acknowledge it at all. I accomplish this by sitting quietly in my seat, usually gazing into space with my hand on my chin, thinking of how very, very much I would like to bludgeon Ben to death with something very heavy – a sturdy, hardbound family Bible, for example.
He outdid himself yesterday. Before class he struck up a conversation with another dude about the movie 300, which Ben thought was awesome except for what he described as two “unnecessary and stupid” love scenes. Ben, true to his faith, has no objection to orgiastic displays of gruesome violence, but has to blush and turn away at the mere suggestion of sexuality. He described a scene when the wife of King Leonidas handed him his shield prior to battle as the epitome of womanly devotion. I now quote Ben: “Man, if I had a girl who would hand me my shield, I’d be like BOO-YAH! You’re my girl!” He then looked around at everyone and offered a half-ass stage apology before repeating his performance verbatim seconds later. I now quote Ben’s second approbation of the “shield scene”: “But seriously man, if I had a girl who would hand me my shield, I’d be like BOO-YAH! You’re my girl! . . . Sorry.”
A few minutes later Professor Harsh suggested that 300 isn’t the best date movie, which Ben contradicted by claiming he had gone to see it with his girlfriend and her brothers. I wonder if Ben invites his girlfriend’s family out on all their “dates.” I also wonder how she would feel knowing her boyfriend would tell her to hoof it over the next Spartan broad who comes his way with a shield. Ben is a dick. I hope he dies of AIDS like all the other theater people do.