?

Log in

coffeeandfilm
Fiction is, put simply, something imagined or not real. Writers wrack their brains for every ounce of creativity they can use to create an original and imaginative story. It is the mark of a truly creative mind that can create real but completely invented characters, plots, concepts, and worlds. Many writers draw from personal experiences to create their worlds, but put them into different perspectives to make it different and new enough to be called fiction. However, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise and many of the themes and characters used in Woody Allen’s work are simply too similar to their personal lives to be called fiction, which can be attributed to the self-indulgent nature of their work.

Let us examine how much these similarities stand out. Fitzgerald and Amory Blaine, main character of This Side of Paradise, both attended Princeton and were members of the same club, held the same attitude on life and were involved in the same poor romantic relationships (“A Brief Life of Fitzgerald”). It would be easy to substitute Fitzgerald’s name in place of Amory into This Side of Paradise and sell it as an autobiography—it is that similar.

As for Woody Allen, more often than not, there is a character in his films who is neurotic, insecure, bespectacled, Jewish, and of course, played by Woody Allen himself. Take, for instance, Alvy Singer of Annie Hall (a standup comedian from Brooklyn, like Allen) and Cliff Stern of Crimes and Misdeanors (a struggling filmmaker, like early Allen), both prime examples of this stock character Allen became fond of early on and continues to write roles for. When watching the films, an audience member cannot help but wonder if Allen is actually acting or simply playing himself. Additionally, both men have a tendency to place their real life love interest in the place of their work’s fictional love interest. Fitzgerald remodeled Rosalind to look like Zelda, telling her, “the heroine resembles you in more ways than four.” Fitzgerald later went so far as to lift excerpts from Zelda’s diary and place them verbatim into his books. Allen acts similarly—Louise Lasser, Diane Keaton, and Mia Farrow are all actresses that have starred in Allen’s movies, as well as in Allen’s personal life. It seems that Allen is particularly fond of placing his current love in the leading role of his movies, though, whether the sentiment was romantic or not is still undetermined.

The similarities between characters and authors have been firmly established, but what was the point in creating mirror images of themselves? Perhaps it was not so much intentional as it was therapeutic. Charles Goulet describes self-indulgence as “effusively sentimental, lacking in substance and fidelity,” as well as being more than self-gratifying (Goulet, 2007). Both Amory Blaine and Allen’s neurotic stock character fit this description well. In This Side of Paradise, it seems Amory learns the lessons that Fitzgerald should have learned. Instead of having the girl of his dreams return to his arms after conforming to society’s demands (as it happened to Fitzgerald), Amory finds his only solace in himself, stating in the last line of the book, “I know myself, but that is all.” The line is meant to be dramatic, but comes across as deluded and is difficult to take seriously.

As for Allen, his self-indulgence can be found in his stock character’s treatment of the rival character (take Crimes and Misdemeanor’s Lester, who has everything that Cliff wants). Cliff views Lester as stupid, calling his work “sub-mental”, and his pursuit of Halley sleazy. Because Allen often plays the role of this neurotic stock character, it is not hard to believe that his treatment of these rival characters in his movies is no more than self-gratification, a ruse to finally wreak revenge on similar people he may have met as a struggling filmmaker.

The similarities between Fitzgerald and Allen’s personal lives and those of their fictional characters are striking, however, one may argue that the slight bending of the truth to create fiction anew is Fitzgerald and Allen’s poetic license in use. In such a case, a question arises: just how much poetic license is necessary to turn nonfiction into fiction? At what point is a story no longer true? An interesting example is that of Michael Martone, a writer who specifically crafts his words to blur the line between fiction and nonfiction (“Martone Blurs”, 2010). The difference, however, between Fitzgerald and Allen’s work and that of Martone’s lies in the fact that Martone has blurred the line well enough that it is difficult to tell where reality and fiction differ, whereas the line is distinct in Fitzgerald and Allen’s works. If Fitzgerald had not been so obvious in basing Rosalind off of Zelda (again, taking verbatim excerpts from her diary), perhaps Rosalind would have been a more believable character than reading like an embellished text version of a real girl. Similarly, there is a scene in Annie Hall in which Alvy writes a scene almost word-for-word a copy of a conversation with Annie, except with the ending changed more to his liking. It is difficult to watch the scene without paralleling Alvy to Allen, as if Allen did the exact same thing to write the script of Annie Hall. In short, the similarities stick out too obviously for the work to be perceived as fiction.

One cannot help but relate the ideas of egoism and narcissism to Fitzgerald and Allen. Egoism, in short, is the idea that people only act in their own self-interests and desires (Sherwood, 2009). Fitzgerald’s creation of Amory can undoubtedly serve no other purpose than a personal one. Amory is good-looking and charming, and given how much of his background is shared with Fitzgerald, it is not difficult to think that Fitzgerald may have re-imagined his past with a more attractive version of himself. One may argue that Fitzgerald’s motivation behind writing This Side of Paradise was to woo Zelda Sayre with the money made from book sales, but if that were the case, why not write something more imaginative instead of simply rewriting his life? Courtship itself is a selfish act; Fitzgerald did not write for Zelda without hoping that it would gain him her affection. Such a written flight of fancy cannot be considered anything more than selfish, and thus, egotistic.

As for Allen, one need only watch a few of his movies to notice his narcissism. Narcissism, an egocentric behavior designed to create defenses to build one’s ego due to low self-esteem (Thomas, 2005), can easily be applied to Allen and his works. Allen’s neurotic stock character, more often than not, has poor self-esteem, but finds himself able to cope by looking down upon those considered of lesser intellect, such as Alvy Singer’s scathing rebuff of a bystander’s incorrect interpretation of a movie in Annie Hall. This is a clear example of a narcissist, as he manages to inflate his ego by flattening someone else’s (Thomas, 2005). The same is done in Crimes and Misdeanors; Cliff snubs Lester’s work, hoping it will not only make Lester look bad in Halley’s eyes, but make himself look better by contrast. This, in particular, reveals the insecure nature of the neurotic stock character, as he is desperate enough to verbally tear down another person in hopes of bringing up his image.

Fiction is a difficult art in creative writing. It is one decorated with embellishments in a façade of real life, but tarnished by the ego that real life brings with it. Egoism and narcissism are traits that easily lead people to self-gratifying acts, regardless of the means. The anxiety caused by egoism and narcissism’s relentless desire for an inflated sense of self can only be remedied by more ego-stroking, leading writers like Fitzgerald and Allen to disillusion themselves into thinking that their work is truly original and imaginative, when it is really only a fantasy of a better self. Such work cannot be considered true fiction, as it has far too much similarity to reality to be detached from it. There is, after all, a reason why autobiographical work does not belong in the fiction section.


Works Cited

"A Brief Life of Fitzgerald." University of South Carolina. Web. 17 May 2010. <http://www.sc.edu/fitzgerald/biography.html>.
Goulet, Charles. “Self-examination Vs Self-indulgence - Writing.” Writing360.net. Web. 23 Mar. 2010. <http://www.writing360.net/Articles/23145.php>.
"Martone Blurs the Line between Fiction Nonfiction Literature." The All State. 31 Mar. 2010. Web. 17 May 2010. <http://www.theallstate.org/2010/03/31/martone-blurs-the-line-between-fiction-nonfiction-literature/>.
"Poetic License – Dictionary Definition of Poetic License | Encyclopedia.com: FREE Online Dictionary." Encyclopedia - Online Dictionary | Encyclopedia.com: Get Facts, Articles, Pictures, Video. Web. 17 May 2010. <http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O999-poeticlicense.html>.
Sherwood, Dee Ann. “Egoism (Informational Paper).” Learning to Give - Curriculum Division of The LEAGUE. Web. 13 Apr. 2010. <http://learningtogive.org/papers/paper21.html>.
Thomas, David. “Causes of Narcissism and Egocentric Behavior.” Winning Teams: Leadership, Teamwork and Narcissists. Web. 13 Apr. 2010. <http://www.winning-teams.com/narcissism_causes.html>.
 
 
coffeeandfilm
Fiction is, put simply, something imagined or not real. Writers wrack their brains for every ounce of creativity they can use to create an original and imaginative story. It is the mark of a truly creative mind that can create real but completely invented characters, plots, concepts, and worlds. Many writers draw from personal experiences to create their worlds, but put them into different perspectives to make it different and new enough to be called fiction. However, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise and many of the themes and characters used in Woody Allen’s work are simply too similar to their personal lives to be called fiction, which can be attributed to the self-indulgent nature of their work.

To begin, let us examine the similarities that detract from the worth of the authors’ pieces. Fitzgerald and Amory Blaine, main character of This Side of Paradise, both attended Princeton and were members of the same club, hold the same attitude on life and are involved in the same poor romantic relationships. It would be easy to substitute Fitzgerald’s name in place of Amory into This Side of Paradise and sell it as an autobiography—it is that similar. As for Woody Allen, more often than not, there is a character in his films who is neurotic, insecure, bespectacled, Jewish, and of course, played by Woody Allen himself. Take, for instance, Alvy Singer of Annie Hall (a standup comedian from Brooklyn, like Allen) and Cliff Stern of Crimes and Misdeanors (a struggling filmmaker, like early Allen), both prime examples of this stock character Allen became fond of early on and continues to write roles for. When watching the films, an audience member cannot help but wonder if Allen is actually acting or simply playing himself. Additionally, both men have a tendency to place their real life love interest in the place of their work’s fictional love interest. Fitzgerald remodeled Rosalind to look like Zelda, telling her, “the heroine resembles you in more ways than four.” Fitzgerald later went so far as to lift excerpts from Zelda’s diary and place them verbatim into his books. Allen acts similarly—Louise Lasser, Diane Keaton, and Mia Farrow are all actresses that have starred in Allen’s movies, as well as in Allen’s personal life. It seems that Allen is particularly fond of placing his current love in the leading role of his movies, though, whether the sentiment was romantic or not is still undetermined.

The similarities between characters and authors have been firmly established, but what was the point in creating mirror images of themselves? Perhaps it was not so much intentional as it was therapeutic. Charles Goulet describes self-indulgence as “effusively sentimental, lacking in substance and fidelity,” as well as being more than self-gratifying (Goulet, 2007). Both Amory Blaine and Allen’s neurotic stock character fit this description well. In This Side of Paradise, it seems Amory learns the lessons that Fitzgerald should have learned. Instead of having the girl of his dreams return to his arms after conforming to society’s demands (as it happened to Fitzgerald), Amory finds his only solace in himself, stating in the last line of the book, “I know myself, but that is all.” The line is meant to be dramatic, but comes across as deluded and is difficult to take seriously. As for Allen, his self-indulgence can be found in his stock character’s treatment of the rival character (take Crimes and Misdemeanor’s Lester, who has everything that Cliff wants). Cliff views Lester as stupid, calling his work “sub-mental”, and his pursuit of Halley sleazy. Because Allen often plays the role of this neurotic stock character, it is not hard to believe that his treatment of these rival characters in his movies is no more than self-gratification, a ruse to finally wreak revenge on similar people he may have met as a struggling filmmaker.

Perhaps there is other motivation for creating such self-indulgent works. On that note, one cannot help but relate the ideas of egoism and narcissism to Fitzgerald and Allen. Egoism, in short, is the idea that people only act in their own self-interests and desires (Sherwood, 2009). Fitzgerald’s creation of Amory can undoubtedly serve no other purpose than a personal one. Amory is good-looking and charming, and given how much of his background is shared with Fitzgerald, it is not difficult to think that Fitzgerald may have re-imagined his past with a more attractive version of himself. One may argue that Fitzgerald’s motivation behind writing This Side of Paradise was to woo Zelda Sayre with the money made from book sales, but if that were the case, why not write something more imaginative instead of simply rewriting his life? Courtship itself is a selfish act; Fitzgerald did not write for Zelda without hoping that it would gain him her affection. Such a written flight of fancy cannot be considered anything more than selfish, and thus, egotistic.

As for Allen, one need only watch a few of his movies to notice his narcissism. Narcissism, an egocentric behavior designed to create defenses to build one’s ego due to low self-esteem, can easily be applied to Allen and his works. Allen’s neurotic stock character, more often than not, has poor self-esteem, but finds himself able to cope by looking down upon those considered of lesser intellect, such as Alvy Singer’s scathing rebuff of a bystander’s incorrect interpretation of a movie in Annie Hall. This is a clear example of a narcissist, as he manages to inflate his ego by flattening someone else’s (Thomas, 2005). The same is done in Crimes and Misdeanors; Cliff snubs Lester’s work, hoping it will not only make Lester look bad in Halley’s eyes, but make himself look better by contrast. This, in particular, reveals the insecure nature of the neurotic stock character, as he is desperate enough to verbally tear down another person in hopes of bringing up his image.

Egoism and narcissism are traits that easily lead people to self-gratifying acts, regardless of the means. The anxiety caused by egoism and narcissism’s relentless desire for an inflated sense of self can only be remedied by more ego-stroking, leading writers like Fitzgerald and Allen to disillusion themselves into thinking that their work is truly original and imaginative, when it is really only a fantasy of a better self. Such work cannot be considered true fiction, as it has far too much basis in reality to be detached from it. There is, after all, a reason why autobiographical work does not belong in the fiction section.
 
 
coffeeandfilm
24 March 2010 @ 11:20 am
Fiction is, put simply, something imagined or not real. Writers wrack their brains for every ounce of creativity they can use to create an original and imaginative story. It is the mark of a truly creative mind that can create real but completely invented characters, plots, concepts, and worlds. Many writers draw from personal experiences to create their worlds, but put them into different perspectives to make it different and new enough to be called fiction. However, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise and many of the themes and characters used in Woody Allen’s work are simply too similar to their personal lives to be called fiction, which can be attributed to the self-indulgent nature of their work.

To begin, let us examine the similarities that detract from the worth of the authors’ pieces. Fitzgerald and Amory Blaine, main character of This Side of Paradise, both attended Princeton and were members of the same club, hold the same attitude on life and are involved in the same poor romantic relationships. It would be easy to substitute Fitzgerald’s name in place of Amory into This Side of Paradise and sell it as an autobiography—it is that similar. As for Woody Allen, more often than not, there is a character in his films who is neurotic, insecure, bespectacled, Jewish, and of course, played by Woody Allen himself. Take, for instance, Alvy Singer of Annie Hall (a standup comedian from Brooklyn, like Allen) and Cliff Stern of Crimes and Misdeanors (a struggling filmmaker, like early Allen), both prime examples of this stock character Allen became fond of early on and continues to write roles for. When watching the films, an audience member cannot help but wonder if Allen is actually acting or simply playing himself.

The similarities between characters and authors have been firmly established, but what was the point in creating mirror images of themselves? Perhaps it was not so much intentional as it was therapeutic. Charles Goulet describes self-indulgence as “effusively sentimental, lacking in substance and fidelity,” as well as being more than self-gratifying (Goulet, 2007). Both Amory Blaine and Allen’s neurotic stock character (as I will continue to call it) fit this description well. In This Side of Paradise, it seems Amory learns the lessons that Fitzgerald should have learned. Instead of having the girl of his dreams return to his arms after conforming to society’s demands (as it happened to Fitzgerald), Amory finds his only solace in himself, stating in the last line of the book, “I know myself, but that is all.” The line is meant to be dramatic, but comes across as deluded and is difficult to take seriously. As for Allen, his self-indulgence can be found in his stock character’s treatment of the rival character (take Crimes and Misdemeanor’s Lester, who has everything that Cliff wants). Cliff views Lester as stupid, calling his work “sub-mental”, and his pursuit of Halley sleazy. Because Allen often plays the role of this neurotic stock character, it is not hard to believe that his treatment of these rival characters in his movies is no more than self-gratification, a ruse to finally wreak revenge on similar people he may have met as a struggling filmmaker.
 
 
coffeeandfilm
09 February 2010 @ 10:33 pm
Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint is known for its take on the Jewish mother stereotype, as well as its commentary on Jewish culture in general. Its brusque way of bluntly addressing the problems in main character Alex Portnoy’s life has undoubtedly been influential, even in modern day work, such as the comedy Meet the Fockers starring Ben Stiller. Ben Stiller’s character, the poorly-named Gaylord Focker, is also a man living under the weight of his eccentric parents and Jewish upbringing.
In Portnoy’s Complaint, Alex gets his first glimpse of sexuality by seeing his father naked and his mother’s menstrual blood. Alex is astounded by his father’s shlong as being of “magisterial length and girth”, and still remembers with relish watching his mother roll up her stockings up a “tight, slow, agonizingly delicious journey up her legs.” Alex eventually develops into a very sexually repressed man, finding solace only in sneaking to the bathroom and masturbating. Gaylord (known as Greg), however, grew up with his mother, Roz, as a sex therapist. But regardless of his upbringing, Greg is uncomfortable speaking openly about sex, as seen when he asks his mother to be discreet about her choice of profession.
Both Alex and Greg are accustomed to being smothered by overwhelming Jewish mothers. Upon seeing her son for the first time in months, Roz immediately beings nitpicking at his thin stature, saying, “You’re not eating. What’s the matter?” before Greg can get a single word in. Alex describes his mother’s overbearing nature in far more detail, reminiscing in horror about how she gloated to her friends about having to hold a bread knife over him to make him eat his dinner.
The father figures are also prominent characters in the lives of Alex and Greg. Greg’s father and Alex’s father are entirely different. Greg’s father is a warm, incredibly inviting man, happily planting a kiss on the cheek of his son’s future father-in-law less than a minute after meeting him. In contrast, Alex’s father is a beaten, constipated man (both figuratively and literally), whom Alex describes as willing to just lie down if Alex tried to kill him. Perhaps Greg’s father’s light-hearted attitude is simply a comic device—it probably would not do well to have a paper-pusher type of character in a comedy. On another, most likely unrelated note, both men suffer from some sort of gastrointestinal problem. Alex’s father is constantly constipated without any reprieve, and Greg’s father has particularly bad flatulence after eating a chimichanga.
More than forty years later, Portnoy’s Complaint is still influencing modern day work, particularly those trying to showcase the Jewish culture. Meet the Fockers is a prime example of it, with its sexually uncomfortable main characters, typical overwhelming mothers, and repressed fathers.
 
 
coffeeandfilm
25 January 2010 @ 12:35 am
As I mentioned in my first post, I am unfortunately unfamiliar with Woody Allen's works. We were given the task of finding and posting our favorite scene from a Woody Allen film for homework, and I decided I would do a little research on Woody Allen films, find one that sounded interesting, watch it, and pick my favorite scene from it.

In my research, I came across Allen's fourth film, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (*But Were Afraid to Ask). I am a psychology major leaning towards sex therapy, and the title sounded enticing. The movie is broken into seven parts, each one revolving around a sex-related question. The scene I picked is from the second vignette, "What is Sodomy?"



The video itself is long and has distracting Spanish subtitles (sorry about that), but the specific scene I enjoyed most is from 1:00 to roughly 4:42. Perhaps I'm just partial to Gene Wilder, but the acting is fantastic. The two characters in the scene, Stavros Milos and Dr. Doug Ross, make wonderful foils of each other, exemplified by Milos' delusional love for Daisy the sheep in comparison with Dr. Ross' logical medical mind.

I greatly enjoyed watching Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (*But Were Afraid to Ask). I look forward to watching more films in class!
 
 
 
coffeeandfilm
20 January 2010 @ 09:35 pm
As you might have read from the profile page, this journal is dedicated to the works of Woody Allen. I should post a video clip from my favorite Woody Allen scene, but unfortunately, I'm unfamiliar with his works (so far!). I expect I'll become much more familiar with them over the course of the class.

In the meanwhile, I should look for a clip that I like! I'll post again when I find one--I just wanted to put up a post so the page doesn't look so bare.