Will, in the Diablo Cody debate from Friday, says:
Also, I’d call her “In summation: you try it,” condescending at best and ignorant at worst; I’d wager that a large portion of the people criticizing her work and method in the first place have, in fact, tried it, but unfortunately were never able to take up stripping to quit their dayjobs, an experience from which they drew a quirky, acerbic memoir they could sell to Penguin and which would, given some prodding from their manager, help them break into the industry with no previous screenwriting experience whatsoever.
Will may say that I am misinterpreting him a bit here, but the overall tone of the comment has a sort of “she cheated” vibe to it, and that’s something I just can’t allow to go unchallenged.
First off, just about everybody breaks into the industry with no previous screenwriting experience whatsoever, because screenwriting is an industry that doesn’t translate well to… anything, frankly. You have to demonstrate to any potential boss that you have talent and that you have the work ethic necessary to rewrite your entire script on a moment’s notice. Not a lot of people have this. Not a lot of aspiring writers have this either. (Healthy amounts of natural talent are rare; people willing to put in the time to cultivate it to the point where it means something are rarer.) So it tends to be a bit of a grab bag when you hand somebody your CV.
Oh, wah, she took up stripping and wrote a memoir. First off, I’m pretty sure she didn’t have the memoir planned when she chose her new, different life path. Second, there’s nothing stopping anybody who doesn’t have dependents relying on them doing what Cody did. You don’t have to strip to find interesting stories. Go work in the merchant marine, or as an oilrigger, or become a video editor who edits gay porn, or as a court reporter, or… whatever, life is inherently interesting, is the point, and if you’re any good you can create a decent memoir from it. (And if you do have dependents, there’s a memoir there as well that doesn’t require you taking up an interesting lifestyle.)
Sure, Candy Girl isn’t the best memoir in the world (it’s not bad, but Cody’s style tends to grate towards the end – although I think she’s improved as a writer since then), but it’s got a style that people liked and it’s about a topic that doesn’t get that much play in the literary memoir world, and that got some notice. How is capitalizing on this bad? Christ, most writers just throw their shit out to the four winds with a “judge me and find me wonderful” attitude that I find wholly annoying.
Really, the attitude that Cody’s choice to use networks to leverage her minor literary success into something potentially greater baffles me (and Will’s echoing of that is far from the first time I’ve heard it). Cody thinks that her work deserves greater exposure and did what it took – and did nothing particularly amoral, either – to get that. How on earth is this wrong? It’s exactly how I got my job at Torontoist, and in turn how I started getting to appear on the CBC, and if the CBC stuff works out well then I’ll use that too. I have no shame about putting any of this in a cover letter.
Ditto this blog. Not that I don’t like entertaining you people – I mean, if I didn’t like doing this, I wouldn’t do it – but if you think I don’t keep in mind the value of exposing my work to a greater audience along with being able to point to my readership stats (which are frankly very good for a personal journal of somebody who is not for-reals famous and/or a teenaged girl who shows titty) when I try to get related work elsewhere, you’re crazy. The fact that the blog has helped me in the past is part of the reason I try to make sure it gets updated fairly regularly with original (and not-so-original) work.
In short: Cody earned her right to call people out fair and square, and she’s wholly right when she points out that a lot of people dissing her do so out of sour grapes. Not all of them, of course – it’s entirely fair to have legitimate issues with the quality of her work. (I often wonder how legitimate a lot of those issues are, considering I’ve seen people slam Cody’s “unrealistic dialogue” in the same paragraph where they praise Aaron Sorkin or David Mamet, both of whom write dialogue so stylized it bears no resemblance to real-life speech at all, but that is neither here nor there.) But a lot of the hate directed at Cody is nothing more than simple spite and envy, often mixed with a healthy amount of sexism as well, and that’s obvious, and she’s got every right to get sick of it from time to time.
And she’s completely right to say that a lot of her detractors couldn’t hack her job. Because that’s the truth. (A lot of her detractors can’t handle regular fucking blogging, for crissake.)
For my part, I think Juno is good from a writerly standpoint. Yes, the dialogue can grate somewhat depending on your preference, but it’s a movie with a strong emotional core and good character arcs for everybody involved. Do I think it deserved the Academy Award? Not really, it’s rough around the edges. Do I think it’s “proof” that Cody is a one-trick pony? Far from it.