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Monday, January 14, 2008

You Remind Me of Someone, Part II

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned the flight attendant who told us that our little Roo looks just like “Tom and Katie’s baby.” She definitely meant it as a compliment, and while I was not at all offended by the comparison, I wasn’t especially flattered either. After all, to me my baby is the most beautiful baby in the world, just as her brother O. was the reigning most beautiful baby when he was an infant.

I’ve never been especially flattered when random people have compared me to some famous face, either. Maybe it’s because I’m just not hot enough to garner comparisons to anyone really gorgeous. Very few of us are likely to inspire the exclamation “Wow, you look just like Haile Berry!” or “For a minute I mistook you for Angelina Jolie!” On the rare occasion when someone compares me to a celebrity, it’s always someone roundly average-looking, like Sarah Ferguson, former Duchess of York, or the band geek girl from American Pie, neither of whom are dogs, but neither of whom I’m really modeling my look on, either. (Then again, when you have red hair, you’re likely to be compared to any random redhead. We all look alike.)

To me, it’s more interesting to have someone notice a likeness that transcends physical resemblance and illuminates something ineffable. I confess that I’m secretly proud of having once been likened to a character in a Coen brothers’ movie.

When I was a Freshman in college, my roommate came home from a quirky film that one of the campus film societies was running that weekend. “You have to see it,” she said. “I think you’d love it. And one of the characters reminds me so much of you.” The film was Raising Arizona. I made plans to check it out the following night. “What’s the name of this character that reminds you of me?” I asked. She said “Hi.”

I saw the movie and indeed I did love it. But I was a little bewildered as to why I would remind anyone of H.I. McDunnough, the hapless but lovable outlaw played by Nick Cage.

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The fact that he was a dude was the least of the differences between us. He was a scruffy Southerner with a checkered past, living in a trailer on the outskirts of Tempe. I was a clean-scrubbed Wisconsin girl living in a single-sex dorm. I admired his purchase on the English language, which was homely yet biblical in its eloquence, but it was a far cry from my own idiom. Hi is like a Faulkner character who wanders into a comedy; as a college Freshman, I was more along the lines of a goofy but articulate character from a John Hughes movie.

Confused, I asked my roommate what about Hi reminded her of me. “I don’t know,” she said, “There’s just something about him that’s very you. I can’t put my finger on it. ” Knowing her as I did, I knew I’d have to just accept this answer.

Over time, my confusion subsided, or perhaps just became irrelevant, and I eventually came to see the fact that someone who knew me well saw some Hi in me (or some me in Hi) as a great honor. I became an ardent Coen brothers fan as the years went on, and the more I saw Raising Arizona, the more I liked Hi. He’s the salt of the earth and always tries his level best (though lord knows it’s not easy with that sumbitch Reagan in the White House), he has the aforementioned facility with the English language, and like so many Coen brothers characters, he is funny and eccentric but still likable, at times poignantly so. There are other Coen characters I see more of myself in (I’m actually kind of a cross between Maude Lebowski and Marge Gunderson, if the two can possibly be crossed), but if someone else thinks I’m more akin to Hi, I’ll take him.

But more than the fact that I like Hi and the oeuvre of movies he emerges from, I just think it’s cool that a friend of mine came up with such an odd analogy for me. I guess it makes me feel that I’m complex and enigmatic, that despite my austere exterior, I’m a freak, and that those who know me well can see this.

I use a clip from Raising Arizona in my Creative Writing class every spring, to give my students an example of a great use of idiom in character development, and I can’t resist sharing the anecdote about me and Hi. I tell the story with an “isn’t that strange?” tone. But actually, in my own strange way, I’m bragging.

3 Comments:

Blogger Elizabeth said...

Awesome post. I never would have compared you to Hi - although I can totally see you as a cross between Maude and Marge. I hate the celebrity-comparison thing, because the best anyone has come up with for me is Alanis Morrisette. Really??

5:02 PM  
Blogger Rayne of Terror said...

Raising Arizona was the movie Bob and I took to and watched at the hospital while I was in labor.

5:36 PM  
Blogger E. said...

Elizabeth, you deserve a much finer comparison than Alanis Morrisette. Personally, I think you're incomparable. But if they have to compare, they need to do better than that.

Rayne, I think Raising Arizona is a great labor movie, what with the quest for progeny plot. When I was in labor with O. we watched Fargo, which has obvious connections. And I happen to know that Feral Mom and her man watched Lebowski the night before their twins arrived ("I'm just helping her conceive, man!") . I wouldn't, however, recommend No Country for Old Men when you're in labor...

3:03 PM  

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