Internet Sheep

Recently I blogged on the nature of the ever-ominous (and often childish) Facebook deletion.  It’s happened to all of us – at some point or another, we’ve realized our friend count has decreased, only to find out it was because someone had deleted us.  Maybe it was for personal reasons, maybe we posted one too many political rants, or maybe the person’s page just disappeared into cyber-trash – whatever the reason may be, deletions, blockings, and (most importantly) Internet drama are all realities we face in this age of social networking.
In writing this blog, though, I realized that a big downfall of social networking is in the fact that we now believe we can judge people by the content of their Facebook (or equivalent social networking) page.  (This, of course, if we actually thought about it could not be any further from the truth.)  But I think the problem is much greater than our error in “judging a book by its cover.”  It seems that society as a whole has grown a sense of self-centeredness – and (moreover) a tendency to judge others against ourselves as if we are the ultimate standard by which we judge all.
And, again, we can look at Facebook as proof of this.
What has been touted as the beauty of social networking and the Internet is the fact that users can have access to such pages as Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc.; and they can use each page however they deem best suited for their purposes.  So, for example, many bands find Myspace to be a great outlet to network their music and influences to a larger group of younger people.  Specialized social networking sites are even popping up for specific groups of people – for example, sites for writers, bakers, artists, football players; all designed specifically as a place for them to come together as an Internet culture and network.  Linked In – a place for professionals to network and find professional- and career-related opportunity.  The list is steadfastly becoming too long to include everyone.
But with Facebook there is no specialization.  It is not just a place for music; or a place for chatting; or a place for professionals. It is not just a location to get email; or to share information; or to upload pictures.  Facebook has either no specialization or all specializations.  The point is that Zuckerberg and the other brainchilds of the Book tout the site as being your one-stop shop for all social networking needs; and in doing so have inspired the creation of Internet drama.
Because there are so many different functions to Facebook, everyone has a reason for being on it – although no one person the same, exact reason.  I think here may be where some of the contention and Internet drama arises, for in allowing ourselves to be in such quick and constant communication with people we might otherwise not be in such communication with; and in all speaking on different wavelengths in doing so – contention is inevitable.  In other words, we are pissing each other off by all being there for a different thing.
This is quite obvious, actually.  Take into account the major reasons people are on Facebook:
The Curious Watcher
For many of us, this may have been why we started social networking in the first place!  Everyone was jumping on the Facebook bandwagon, and so we thought we would try it to.  Originally, we saw it as a way to see what other people were up to, and occassionally say “happy birthday” or “congratulations on the engagement!”  The Curious Watcher rarely posts on their own page.
The Keep-In-Toucher
This is what a lot of us have turned in to, over time.  Shortly after the advent of Facebook, we all graduated from college and realized that the social networking giant would be the perfect way for us to not only watch what others are up to, but keep in touch on what is going on with our old friends and family.  The Keep-In-Toucher is always friends with family members, and makes lists for high school, college, etc.  More over, these are the people who post album after album of wedding, family, event, baby, and other photos; and rarely post status or other updates, unless of course it is one of those (inevitable) accidental updates that meant to go on someone’s specific page (“The Keep-In-Toucher Oh, I know!  Glad to hear the kids are doing well, Barbara!  It was so great to see you the other day.  How’s Tom’s rash doing? 13 minutes ago Like Comment“)
The Sharer
(And this is the category I believe I fall under the most) – The Sharer is the person who has a Facebook page for the explicit purpose of sharing information.  Could be political, news, humor, events, ideas, tips – you name it, The Sharer shares it.  These are the people who comment the most (it seems), and also those who actually erupt in conversation over seemingly-irrelevant posts about the mundane details of life.  There seem to also be two types of sharers, though:  (1) those that share general things they think are of interest; and, (2) those that share every, faceted detail of their sordid (or not-so-sordid) lives.  The second kind of this group is the one that seems to annoy the majority of other Facebook users, for these are the people who find Facebook to be for broadcasting every, single detail of their lives to a large group of people they may or may not know well.
The Cutesy-User
This is the final category, and that is the person who probably realized a long time ago that Facebook jumped the shark, but still uses it as a place to post questions, ideas, and chain letters.  These are the people who play the “post what color your bra is” game (primarily women); but also, those that use Facebook as a place to play game applications, such as Farmville, Zoo World, Cafe World, etc.
It seems that most Facebook users are a combination of all of the above, but at the same time, have a propensity towards one of the four, major Facebook groups as their belief of what the social networking giant is actually for.  And here is where the problems arise.  For in having so much functionality, and so many different reasons for use – Facebook has given the afore mentioned narcissistic ways of our culture an ample opportunity to further assert its self-centeredness in believing that because they use it for a specific purpose, must indicate that all should use it for that same purpose.  And unfortunate is that this only further creates a sense of misunderstanding, for in seeing how people use their Facebook page, it is often assumed that this must be the way the person is.  
Although, perhaps this is a good thing; for if someone judges a person’s character by what they do on the Internet, they perhaps are not someone you would want to be “friends” with in real life anyway.  Besides the obvious fact that on the Internet all body language is lost; the mere fact that Facebook has no direction allows others to assume it is for whatever they deem it is to be.  Every sheep herder knows that if you don’t have a combination of dogs, horses, and men to lead the sheep in the direction the herd is to go; that the sheep will just meander around willy-nilly, not knowing where to go, and becoming completely defenseless.  Sheep will die, sheep will get lost – the herd will be so scattered that soon there will be no way of even calling it an herd anymore.  Moreover, each individual sheep will have a “plan of survival;” yet, this will only cause contention, for no sheep will have the same, exact plan.  At the risk of equating Facebook users with sheep, we can see the situation is still similar.  With no direction, Facebook users are at the behest of the uncontrolled state of nature that is only natural for us to fall into.  When we define things for ourselves, we inherently assume we define things for others – and contention arises.  This just is not the case, though, with the reality of the Facebook network.  It is a double-edged sword, for in being the all-encompassing, one-stop-shop for Internet interfacing, it (at the same time) makes us more isolated than ever before.
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Bah-Humbug!

I know what you are thinking.  Oh look, another criticism of other people; Looks like another stream of complaining about why the world is a full of morons; How jaded can this person be?!  It is one thing to go after my mother, my husband, my high school reunion, the 4th of July, and Facebook.  But to go after The Holiday Season?  I must be insane – jaded and skeptical beyond all semblance of human recognition.  
Or perhaps I am honest.
In just a few, short hours, people across America will begin to indulge in the most self-indulgent, glutenous holiday of the year – Thanksgiving.  This will then kick off the season of indulgence (on the part of American people, and people at large in the world in some cases) – what we now refer to under one, all-encompassing umbrella of The Holiday Season.  During this season, we will eat, spend, binge, and drink more than at any other time of the year.  I must be truly jaded to think there is something wrong here.
But to be truly jaded, I would have to be looking at facts in a skewed-way.  I would have to look incorrectly at the fact that on Thanksgiving day, Americans consume roughly 4500 calories (two to three times the daily recommendation); the big meal, itself, constituting an average of 3000 calories and 229 grams of fat.  I would have to be inaccurately questioning what it says about our culture that on the biggest shopping day of the year, people are so desperate to spend and get deals that they will trample a man to death in a stampede of angry shoppers.  And while it was proven that jaded people were skewing the facts in asserting that suicide rates in fact increase during the holiday season, I would have to be truly demented to actually believe the Mayo Clinic’s recent report findings that depression and stress increase significantly between Thanksgiving and New Years, with suicide rates rising significantly shortly after in the spring.  What absurdity!
How unAmerican to question the fact that people (during the holiday season) gauge who they should spend their money on based on who is going to spend money on them.  This year, my husband and I made a Christmas spending budget, on which we listed people among our families, friends, and professional lives – almost all of whom I had no idea why we were purchasing gifts for them, except for the sense of guilt and obligation that hangs its ugly self over our heads.  Further is the fact that by and large people in our culture seem to feel obligated to spend every holiday doing the same, monotonous thing with people they otherwise would not associate with.  One is considered “weird” and “untraditional” if they do not engage in the same, exact thing every year; with the same people; and along the same lines as what everyone else in the country (or world) are doing.  And I cannot tell you the number of times I, or others that I know (and there are many), have gone against the “traditional” route of holiday time and done something different; yet in the end, received nothing other than flack, scorn, and guilt for it.
Who is the better person, though?  One who spends every holiday conforming to what others want them to do?  Or one who spends the holidays doing what they want, while enriching their familial and friendly relations during the rest of the year?  The other day my husband mentioned that he would like to see his family over the holidays, to which I responded “but they live within 30 minutes, if you really want to see them, why do you need a holiday to do so?  Why not pick up the phone right now.”  He, of course, had no response.  
But in a post-modern society; where we value diversity of opinions, culture, beliefs, and thought – in an age where tolerance reigns, who are we to judge?
Perhaps I am jaded, cynical, and crazy – the most unAmerican of all Americans; but it seems that “tradition” is no longer anything other than a term used to judge each other.  “Untraditional” is a bad word in this country; and it states that there is a standard by which we judge other things as being right or wrong.  But who are we to judge?  Who are we to call something a person does “untraditional,” when, in fact, the term has become so muddied with modern interpretation that it no longer bears much meaning at all?  If there is a person who would rather ski in the Alps on Christmas day, or have a Chinese meal of tofu and vegetables on Thanksgiving, what right do we have to call it “untraditional?”  
In other words, just because something is a traditional for you does not mean it is a traditional for others.
There are inherent problems with some of the mainstream behaviors our culture engages in during The Holiday Season.  Indulgence on such a grand scale (no matter how you look at it) is never a good thing.  But there is something to be said for respecting each other’s opinions – no matter who they are in your life.  If your daughter decides she is going to spend the holidays backpacking with friends, you should be happy for her.  If your aunt has decided to prepare a healthy, low-fat holiday meal, then you should go if you want healthful foods, or find a new place for you to stuff your face.  At the end of the day (and by day, I mean our lives), we will judge ourselves not on how many “traditions” we engaged in with others based on their expectations, but how fulfilled we feel in what we have done with our lives.  The only real question that remains, though, is whether the mainstream “traditions” (for those that do do them) are really what is desired?  Do people who say they want to do the Thanksgiving feast really actually want to do it?  Do people who spend more on Christmas gifts for people they barely know than a birthday card for their own children really feel this is the right thing to do?  Do we really want the “tradition,” or have we just convinced ourselves in (perhaps) the grandest con of our own selves?
As the clock strikes midnight at the end of the holiday season, people all over the world will be looking around for someone to ring in the New Year with a kiss – the ultimate of all holiday season “traditions.”  Perhaps this year, though, we should all forgo the kiss and just take pause to consider, instead, what traditions we will create for ourselves in the years to come.

Mama

Shepherd of the Hill Lutheran Church Faith Clowns at the 1989 Lockport Canal Day’s Parade.  My mother and I are pictured on the right.

Recently I decided that the only way to truly come to terms with my twenty-eight year relationship with my mother has been to write a book; the crux of which will address the fundamental issue of whether it is possible to overcome the path ‘nature vs. nurture’ sets out for us.
Though, while the book will use the experiences (and their reprocutions) of dealing with my mother through the course of my life to illustrate the point, it will not necessarily focus on what, specifically, is awry with the relationship.  It will describe events that have shaped my relationship with my mother – events that have left such a bitter taste in my mouth that I cannot see her, or even think of her, without the flush of memories coming forward to explain her present actions.  For my mother will never change.
When I was ten years old, I lived with my mother for one year.  During that year, I walked in on her with a boyfriend a total of five times (that I can remember) – the last, of course, on my way home from school; in the living room – them on the floor.  It is hard to think how she could not have thought I would walk in on them; although, now it is quite clear that she just did not care.
When I was ten years old, she sent me back to live with my father because she had (supposedly) fallen in love and planned on moving across the country to be with the man “of her dreams.”  (Two years later, he of course admitted that he was still married and would not be leaving his wife.)
When I was twelve years old, on visits to see my mother over the holidays and summertime, she began taking me with to sit in one of the booths at the many lounges she hung out in.  I busied myself with books and art projects; and (of course), I was constantly made fun of by all her booze-hounding, bar-friends for being such a nerd.  [At this point this posting will be upgraded to PG-13…] This same year, she started calling me a “cock block,” for (apparently) my visits with her prevented her from feeling she could go balls-out on the drunken, bar-room hook-ups.
By the time I was sixteen, my mother had set me up on a blind date with one of the twenty-one year old bartenders at her current watering hole.  The date began with the guy being so drunk he slammed my hand in the car door; and ended with my walking home to my mother’s after the guy tried to convince me to stay at his friend’s party by licking my ear.
Every boyfriend that has ever broken up with my mother has been blamed on me; every thing that has gone wrong in her life has been attributed to my presence.  She has shamed me, rejected me, yelled at me, picked on me, and hurt me so many times it is more logical to keep track of the times she has not done me wrong (for the bookkeeping would be much simpler).
And I just can’t stop asking for more.
No matter what my mother does to me; and no matter how much her behavior crosses over the border into abuse, I just keep coming back for more.  She is my mother – for some unseemly reason I feel a sense of obligation towards her more than anyone I have ever known.  It is, perhaps, for the very reason that I am used to her abuse that this is the case –  but whatever the reason, I continue to set myself up for it.
So the question remains (which is the centerpiece of my book):  is it possible for me to overcome this cycle of dysfunction and be the better person I wish to be?  Regularly, my mother tells me I am a bad person; compares my actions to hers (when they are in no way comparable); and, spreads such vicious lies and rumors about me within her family that they all seem to believe I am nothing short of a monster.
My relationship with my mother is one that is complex and yet (paradoxically) reducible to nothing more than typical.  I am sure that I am not the first to have this (seemingly) bizarre relationship with one of her parents; and I am sure I will not be the last.  But on the evening of having seen my mother for the first time in almost two months – when she announced she is marrying a man she has known for three weeks; I take pause.  I take pause and I remember that to come to terms with such a relationship, one must overcome it.  
The only question, then, is:  how?

Deletion City. Population? You

CNET’s Technically Incorrect blogged last week, reporting recent studies published at University of Colorado on the top reasons people delete from Facebook.  We’ve all been victim of it in the past; in fact, many of us have probably had deletion parties of our own.  But as the technological phenomenon of Facebook has rapidly become an overused and overworked site, it would seem that this emphasis on deletion would have gone the way of Myspace (so to speak).  In other words, as Facebook has become commonplace (and a candidate for technocratic entry into Webster’s dictionary as a household term, such as “to google”), the seriousness of this phenomenon should also have burgeoned into the general cliche the site, itself, quickly became.  To be even more specific:  who takes Facebook so seriously, anymore, as to delete woe-be-gone friends?
According to the University of Colorado study, the top three reasons Technically Incorrect cited for deletion were:  (1) too many posts about mundane details of life; (2) political or religious postings that were in some form disagreeable to the deleter; and, (3) inappropriate or racist comments.  And, rightfully so, Technically Incorrect then cites all the things wrong with deletions on these levels.  Facebook and status updates are all about posting mundane details about our lives.  Facebook is supposed to create a globally inclusive place for people to feel connected – even when they are just connecting by virtue of complaining about the tuna salad sandwich they had for lunch.  We are supposed to love our friends and their ideological quirks.  And when a friend makes a seemingly out-of-line comment that borders on racist or offensive, we are supposed to consider the times we have done that and/or embrace the tolerance of postmodernism that we like to blanket under the umbrella of being “culturally relevant.”  Facebook is for being aware and connected, and as Technically Incorrect comments, it is more about connecting in a world where it is so very hard to connect.
It seems, though, that the deletions go much more deeper then just this University of Colorado study, though.  For in considering the nature of my own deletions, I can see that the issue is much larger than just people becoming offended by my brazen comments and ridiculous postings.  Just today I realized, in fact, that one of my husband’s family members had deleted me; apparently out of feeling offended by my posting of hilarious (but fake) Onion news articles on my page every so often.  It was in this realization that I understood this Facebook deletion issue is much greater then we all thought.
Through those mundane connectivity postings that cover our newsfeeds and top stories headlines every time we log in to the famed site of over 500 million users, we seem to now believe we have come to actually know the people with whom we call ourselves “friends.”  That same study that Technically Incorrect cited commented that “the study showed 57 percent of those surveyed unfriended for online reasons, while 26.9 percent did so for offline behavior.”  This is a disturbing trend, for in seeing this statistic at a happenstance, one might conclude that we are now (more then ever) judging people from their online activity rather then that in person.  Is this why my husband’s family member defriended me?  Because my online activity was something she did not want anything to do with?  It is beyond disturbing that we are judging people in this manner, for in doing so we have begun to completely depersonalize the very experience of human interaction.  We are actually judging books by their covers (despite our grandmothers citing that old adage to us over and over again).
But it grows deeper than that.  It would seem that in our effort to become more inclusive with the world community at large viz-a-viz the social networking giant, we have in effect isolated ourselves even further.  Deletion is not the only phenomenon at this point; now privacy is as well.  After all the hub-bub over privacy violations committed by Facebook and its advertisers, an entire cadre of privacy features popped up that allowed users to block anyone and everyone from seeing their data, photos, videos (you name it) – whether they were friended or not.  I am not arguing, here, that privacy features should not be available; however, I do think that all Facebook has done in adding these is create a new air of privilege that is just not real.  And of security, for it is naive to believe that selecting “Only Me” on who can see your information truly means it is only you.  And it has done a disservice to society at large, for through the acts of deleting people for various reasons; and blocking others from viewing certain things on your page, Facebook has now given us a whole new way to isolate ourselves from each other and create our own net-based cliques (much like the ones we knew all-too-well in the hallways of high school, only now there is no personal contact).
“Will she be my friend?”  “Why did they delete me?”  “Can I see their pics?”  These are the questions that are now at the forefront of our minds as we turn on our computers and almost instinctually navigate to this dreaded page which means so little, and yet is taken so seriously.  And (just as in the real world) – you are always in the haves or the have-nots.  You are either the friended or the deleted.  The viewer or the blocked.  Anyone who takes these types of social networking Internet sites so seriously deserves to be caught up in this world – a world which exists only on a machine, from the quiet of home.  Facebook is not a book club, where everyone gets together and sees each other in the flesh – where the group cannot just delete someone from the club because they said something the others did not like; or where a member cannot erase the memory of a particularly bad hair day with just the click of a button.  It is not a book club, or a church gathering, or a family reunion, or any other social function in which people actually interact in the flesh.  What the secrecy and deletion era of Facebook has brought upon us is not only a discussion on the etiquette of the Internet; but one of the way in which we conduct ourselves in society at large.

The High School of Life

Much to the chagrin of my youth (or rather, my denial over the fact that I am no longer a teenager crushing on a new boyfriend, while flipping burgers in my local Wendy’s) – my 10 year high school reunion is now upon me.  I am not going; yet, more than the event-itself, the words “10 year reunion” leave a strange taste in my mouth; that is hard to pinpoint, yet impossible to ignore.
The nature of the last ten years (of course) can be described as: quick, indecisive, unexpected, and (in a nutshell) other than what I planned.  If I were going to my high school reunion, I’m sure I would run in to many others that followed the same path.  There would be those who were going to make it big, and now still work as baggers at Jewel.  There would be those who said they would never get married or have children, and are now endowed with a spouse and enough children to man a little league baseball team.  And I’m sure more than anything, I would especially find those who everyone thought would fail, and now are doing more with their lives then many of us could even imagine.
The whole point of an high school reunion is to get together and see how everyone has changed.  Who looks older?  Who looks young, still?  Who has put on weight?  Who has had kids?  Who is still single?  What are people doing with their lives; and how does it compare to what they wanted ten years ago?  It is an end-all-be-all reconnection of people who promised never to fall out of touch, yet inherently did.  And much like the last dance of senior year, or of the parties after graduation before everyone went off to college, it is a night of empty promises and self-reflection.

In other words, it is like going back in time and having one more night of high school.  Yet the truth is that high school never ended. 
High school is about looking at each other and either quietly or loudly judging them.  It is about teasing people because they are band geeks, or avoiding the bullies.  It’s about thinking that the Associated Student Body is actually vital to the school, and that Model UN will really help save the world and all it’s problems.  It is about the cafeteria; the homeroom; the PE teachers that everyone hates; and the cool kids versus the strange ones.  And there is an overwhelming sense of conformity – within your own group; and within the school.  It’s about ditching class to hang out with your friends, and about playing the part of a mini-adult not yet old enough to make it in the world; not yet smart enough to know that this mini-adulthood is the best time you will ever have.
On this night of my 10 year high school reunion, I realize that life is nothing more than high school.  Ten years ago people were judging each other for their looks, their ideas, and their plans – today it is no different.  People still bully.  The cafeteria has just been renamed “the breakroom;” homeroom “the cubicle” – the PE teacher is now your boss, and we still all hang out with the types of people we did all along.  Tonight at the reunion, they will look at each other and judge for what has been done and (moreso) what has been left undone.  There will still be people trying to fit in with the popular crowd.  There will be people making their careers out to be more than they are; their happiness out to be something it is not.  Even the reunion of the high school class resembled high school – with its lack of support in planning, lack of funds from the school, exclusion of people who would have gone or helped, and the drama that surrounded the event.
What comes with this unchanging reality, though, is that unsettling truth that while we may still live in a real-world version of high school, we are now much different then we were ten years ago.  In other words – in an ultimately paradoxical way, we are faced with the contradiction of living in high school, yet no longer having its comforts.  We still may cling to the same groups of people we once did when we were freshman and sophomores, struggling for survival in the teenage jungle; but the friends we have not seen in ten years will not be seen for another ten more.  At my 10 year reunion, people will make promises to each other; they will say they will keep in touch – but just as the promises in the yearbooks and at the graduation ceremony, ten years from now we will be wondering where everyone went.
But the conformity is still there.
And this is the main reason I am not attending my 10 year high school reunion.  It isn’t so much because I live all the way across the country from where I grew up; or because the cost of airfare and travel is more than I can afford right now.  It isn’t really because the notification was short, and because many of my real friends are not going.  These all weighed in to my decision to stay home, but ultimately it is because after years of branching out; doing my own thing; living my life according to my rules – this one night would call everything into question.
A very good friend of mine responded to my question as to whether he would be attending the reunion by saying: “you know, I have spent the last ten years of my life trying to forget about that place, why would I want to go back now?”  I think this hits home for many of us who decided not to go.  I loved the people I was friends with, but I hated the experience of being immersed in the chaos, the judgment, the drama, and the conformity.  By choosing not to go to the reunion, I am not rejecting the people or the event – and I will always try and stay in touch with those for whom I cherish some of the best, and most valuable, memories.  
But I reject the high school of life; and I am much better off for it.

The Shape of Hogwash

As I sit here, watching another worthless piece of drivel on the outdated tube-TV in our overcrowded living room, the denouement (if you can call it that) of the 2003 cinematic production of “The Shape of Things” unfolds before my eyes.  As I watch this entirely unrealistic finale take place (in which the female antagonist of the film commits acts against the protagonist male that are not only unethical, but entirely impossible in the academic situation she presents herself in), I look to my husband and I see that he is absolutely gripped by the moment of emotion taking place on the screen.  His hand is to his chest; he looks completely horrified – I think to myself: “my God, is he gullible.”

But you cannot blame him for being the gullible hubs that he is – he, like all other worker-bees in the film industry – have been trained to fall for this sappy, unrealistic melodrama that permeates the on-screen action today.  Granted, “The Shape of Things” was produced seven years ago; however, we can point to this as the early onset of the new style of filmmaking, which we see hackneyed and overdone today.

The Pattern


“The Shape of Things” sets up the pattern that seemingly all films do today:  we begin with a bizarre and quirky scene.  Sometimes it involves a couple (such as in this film) meeting for the first time; often it involves an action sequence or something that is odd but sets up the plot.  Our hero is now always an awkward male – in the Pauly Bleaker style of awkward linguistics and stereotypically undesirable physical features.  In “The Shape of Things,” we are given Adam, who is overweight, strange, nerdy, and just plain socially awkward.

The bizarre and quirky scene, of course moves on to the incessant dialogue, which also seems to be a contemporary phenomenon in filmmaking.  As was the case in Dogville (which had me begging the TV to end the film by the point where we find out Nicole Kidman is the daughter of a mobster), “The Shape of Things” engages us in an unending series of dialogues in which we witness useless and irrelevant discussion points, that do nothing other than add meaningless details to a meaningless story.   The worst of these is the dialougue between Adam and his soon-to-be-married friends, where we listen to them talk about how they want to get married underwater – a detail which bears absolutely no consequence to the story at large, in any way, shape, or form.

The Plot


You would think that a film which lasts for almost two, whopping and laborious hours would have something of a plot; yet, since we are bogged down with endless dialogue, it is difficult to tell.  The undercurrent of the film, though, is that Adam’s new girlfriend (introduced in the opening, awkward scene), is “changing” him.  The interesting thing about this, though, is that statistically all people in relationships change (and, to be honest, Adam changes for the better).  He starts to take better care of himself, physically.  He dresses with a little more self-respect.  He starts to gain more confidence.  These are things that happen when everyone is in a relationship; yet, for some reason our authors imply from the get-go that this is an intentional doing on the part of the girlfriend.  It is true that there are a few changes that are a little more major and could be attributed to the girlfriend (ala a nose job), but ultimately they are all natural occurences.

In the end, though, we find that she has done this all on purpose, as a means to use him as an art project for her Master’s Thesis.  And so enters the destruction of this film.

The Problem


Evelyn (please note the obvious ‘Adam and Eve’ reference) presents this portion of her Master’s Thesis Project to a portion of the student body, wherein she announces that she entered into this relationship with poor Adam as a means to see if she could “sculpt” a human being.  She has photographs of him.  She has pieces of his diary.  She has his old clothing.  She has films of their sex life.  She makes a mockery of him at this presentation as she turns down a marriage proposal (adding his grandmother’s ring to the art display), and he (of course) had no clue of any of this until this final moment of truth.

The problem, though, is that for this to be even remotely believable, she would have had to do something a little more ethical and sane.  In the real world, Evelyn would have been both expelled from the university and sued for slander and liable.  In the real world, Evelyn would have been required by a judge to take psych meds.  In the real world, Adam would not have just stood there and agreed to allow her art project to remain on display for an indefinite period of time.  The problem is that the “shock and awe” denouement of this film is in no way shocking, and does not inspire any awe – for it is completely unbelievable.

It is one thing for the contemporary film industry to present a style of film that both empathizes with its audience (the awkwardness of being a person in the world) and creates an unexpected twist at the end.  But there is something to be said for doing the latter in a way that people can still relate.  The mark of a successful play, film, or other piece of performance art is that the audience is so engaged, and so affected, that they feel it truly touched a part of their life that they may have previously thought no one could understand.  Long, drawn out conversation about nothing and completely unrealistic scenarios does not achieve this.  Shame on the makers of “The Shape of Things” for taking a potentially interesting idea (the moulding of a human being, and the art of human interaction) and turning it into nothing more than hogwash.