Breaking up is hard to do: Watching 500 Days of Summer on V Day

Note: This was written while watching 500 Days of Summer for the first time. What follows in an exercise in indulgent diarrhea, an outlet for the angst of experiencing the fantasy of one's past in film form, and a way to type away the twitchiness evoked by Summer's feminine wiles.

It's hard to follow up Emily's quintessential Valentine's Day post. A list of perfect sad-sack songs for the bitter Singletons (as Bridget Jones would have put it) among us is appreciated by anyone who's ever had a F-ck Valentine's Day toast. Personally, the V Day hate has never really resonated with me - single or coupled, it's just another day, and unless you work in retail or a restaurant, it's pretty easy to avoid. I wish I could say it was due to a conscious choice to eschew heteronormative capitalist bullshit, but really it's just because I'm usually unemployed and make for an almost embarrassingly low-maintenance girlfriend.

But today I rolled out of bed at 4pm on February 14th to 500 Days of Summer playing in my living room. And let me tell you, watching the calculatedly quirky montages of the two delicate leads does little to soothe the disaffected soul.

A lot of ink has been spilled and bandwidth used by musings about this film, much of which analyses how Zooey Deschanel's character fits into the Manic Pixie Dream Girl archetype (which I'll hopefully cover on this blog in the near future - for now, the quintessential coverage is found on the A.V Club, Jezebel, T.V Tropes, and, in my opinion, Eye Weekly.) But watching this movie on the most whined about manufactured holiday of the year has a special tinge of melancholy to it.

I almost wish I could say that watching 500 Days of Summer was painful because it reminded me of the excessively emotional boys in my past (which is... also true...) but most of the pain is derived from breaking up with the culture worshipped in the movie.

From the cringe worthy "Oh em gee, we both listen to the Smiths!!!111" elevator dialogue, to the male lead's adorable butchering of Pixies' classic Here Comes Your Man, to the Feist and Spektor tracks slipping in as backtracks to post coital cuddle sessions, 500 Days of Summer reminds of my youthful 'innocence' and folly. Back when Garden State was my favourite move, back when The Shins and Belle & Sebastian were fresh, back when I only knew five people at my high school who watched The Wedge and they all bad skin and early curfews.

Before I realized that everything in this niche is insufferably cliche, before I realized how commodified the aesthetic is, before anyone I knew had clued in to how the music and it's associated scene is often just a shrine to the excess and privilege in our lives, back when we thought we were so different and original. before the Sarah Harmer line, "we always thought that we were different, and we know now that we weren't" felt personal. Before quoting song lyrics to describe your own internal landscape felt adolescent, because so were we.

This is a mopey self-indulgent lost love letter to a world that never was, but hey, isn't that what Valentine's Day is all about?

I feel sorry for the friends with whom I'm watching with. First of all because I'm typing this throughout the whole thing (I needed some sort of outlet for the angst!) and secondly because I'm moaning in pain everytime a song I loved came on, making snarky comments anytime some archetypal Under the Radar or Filter magazine aesthetic was shown, and scoffing whenever Tom fulfills the post-Perks of Being a Wallflower flavour of misunderstood.

I'm pretty sure for them it's like watching a love story with someone who has been burned a few too many times. Instead of being betrayed by a person or, like Tom, ideas of true love, I, and I'm assuming some of you, have been betrayed by, the subculture, the aesthetic, the music, the movies, the books, the blogs... the.... scene?

I broke up with the scene over two years ago now, before we even really got together. When you're sitting in your bedroom reading blogs and webcomics to CDs you bought on a trip to Buffalo in a tshirt you got at a show on a trip to Toronto (fulfilling every lost lonely girl suburban cliche while you're at it!) you're not really in any scene per se other than the one on the internet and in your imagination. When you're finally away from the curfews and mall culture, the scene really isn't all it's cracked up to be. It's full of vapidity, self-importance, cocaine and appropriation and exploitation, rich kids who pretend to be poor, exclusionary sneers and self-conscious smiles.

On Valentine's Days of the past I could easily excuse any singledom with a simple Hold Steady line about a girl who sang, "I'm saving myself for the scene."

But there's not really a scene worth saving yourself for. So hit the bottle, hit the club, and be open-minded when you're wandering around Metro at 2 a.m.

If watching 500 Days of Summer has taught me anything, it's that Hornby's classic oft-quoted line, "It's no good pretending any relationship has a future if your record collections disagree violently, or if your favorite films wouldn't even speak to each other if they met at a party" is not very true at all. Which, was, of course, the moral of High Fidelity, but most rock snobs conveniently forget that, choosing instead to live by the first hundred pages of the book.

Well, the movie's over now, so I'm out. Until next year, and its inevitable nostalgia for another bad cultural relationship...

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.