It’s been what you might call a trying week: I’m up to my eyeballs in work deadlines, still reeling from wasting $13 on Prometheus, and a wee bit hypersensitive thanks to losing a lot of sleep [over said deadlines and said IMAX ticket]. Balancing work, motherhood, wife-ism…blah di blah, cliché chatter about feeling overwhelmed, etc.
Yes, these are garden variety, first-world non-problems but, still, I’m on edge. And it is an edginess of which fellow motorists, random passersby, slow-walkers at Target, and EVERY OTHER PERSON I SEE seem to be blissfully unaware. On weeks like these I find myself groping for the appropriate response. For the stirring speech. The perfect rant that stops just short of nutball (or maybe not but, at least, the one that doesn’t leave me teary, panting, and feeling like a jackass). My mother—who died ten years ago this week BECAUSE, AGAIN, IT’S A PEACH OF A WEEK—was the Queen of the Rant. She was the inventor of the strongly worded letter to anyone who crossed her or her children, from school administrators to local community theater critics.
I did not inherit my mom’s admirable ability to unleash on people who wronged her (for reals or less-than-reals). I am generally smiley and do not do anger well. My angry schtick spirals into panicked flailing, not exactly the ticket to being taken seriously. Allow me to demonstrate, when I get mad it goes a little something like this:
So when I need to fantasize about abandoning my composure and giving the world what-for, I have to channel someone else. My mom…well, she was the master. I could never hold a candle to her ability to make a sassy speech and put everyone in a two-mile radius in his or her place. So I turn to the next logical role models: imaginary people in movies and on TV. And so I give you my catalog of inspired rage for strung out moms/dads/women/men/working folks everywhere. Proceed with caution.
Julia Sugarbaker on Designing Women / “The night the lights went out in Georgia”
Growing up, I loved Designing Women. The unabashed liberal agenda. The humongous shoulder pads. The implication that Annie Potts and Scott Bakula could sleep together without ripping a hole in time and space. My favorite, natch, was the late great Dixie Carter as interior designer/big sister/sasspot Julia Sugarbaker. And whenever I imagine telling someone off, I think of her defense of her spoiled beauty queen sister Suzanne, lambasted in the bathroom at a pageant reunion after she’d put on a few pounds. If I die tomorrow, please engrave the following on my tombstone: ”She spoke so eloquently of patriotism, battlefields, and diamond tiaras that GROWN. MEN. WEPT.”
Howard Beale in Network / “I’m as mad as Hell and I’m not gonna take this anymore!”
I try to stay away from the terribly obvious epic pop culture rants (Braveheart, anything from a Sorkin film, Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross) but you cannot top the original tale of coming unglued in the modern era: Network. Peter Finch’s turn as a Beale, newsman with a sudden on-air onset of bone-picking, is epic. Even though this scene depicts a man unhinged do you ever hear this speech recounted as anything by heroic? Nope. Because it reminds us the first rule of losing it with style: ”First, you’ve got to get mad.”
Murphy on Murphy Brown / Every episode ever
Another obsession for Young Molly, Murphy Brown was my hero. Smart, sassy, furious, and able to feather the eff out of her hair. But I have approximately 1/18 of the fictional journalist’s bravado. There is no one speech, no one episode that I imagine when I envision myself pulling a Murph. But I think this quote pretty much sums it up: ”I was waiting for the universe to dispense some justice but sometimes the universe is just too damn slow. The effects of putting Nair in someone’s styling gel, however, only take a few minutes.”
Frasier on Frasier / “Radio Wars”
In this episode Frasier takes on the morning radio jocks who have been prank calling him, making him miserable. Doing what I feel like I might do in the same situation, he plans a rebuttal. An extremely nerdy rebuttal. With an exceptionally pretentious cheerleader in brother Niles. Woe to us that the clip is unavailable on the interwebz. But here you go, from the script, so that you might do your own dramatic reading.
Niles: I see your “Bartlett’s” is out. You’re not pulling any punches!
Frasier: Hardly. I go in swinging with La Rochéfoucauld: “If we had no faults of our own, we would not take so much pleasure in noticing those of others.”
Niles: [boxing-match style:] Ouch!
Frasier: And when I’ve knocked them reeling, I go in with a jab of Dorothy Parker: “Wit has truth in it, wise-cracking is merely calisthenics with words.”
Frasier: And when they’re bloody and against the ropes, I go in with the kill: Twain, Wilde, Twain, Twain, Mencken.
Niles: It’s not a fight, it’s an execution!
You know, this might not be the best model for me to follow. This would sort of exacerbate my failure to be taken seriously.
Dorothy on Golden Girls / Confronting Dr. Bud in “Sick & Tired”
Hey, remember that Golden Girls when Dorothy was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? Of course you do, because it’s on right now. It’s always on. Making you angry that no one believes Dorothy is sick. Getting you misty when Sophia starts to cry that she might outlive her own daughter. Freaking you out when Dorothy crosses the line and goes to Empty Nest‘s Dr. Harry Weston’s office for a referral. At the end of the multi-part episode, we’re treated to some fine-ass Bea Arthur ass-kicking when she encounters her naysaying doctor at a fancy restaurant. The same doctor who implied her symptoms were a result of being a chick and getting older, to boot. “You don’t remember me? Maybe you’re getting old.” Swoon.
Archie and Ken in A Fish Called Wanda / “Disappointed!” and “Revenge!”
You’ve forgotten, haven’t you, that A Fish Called Wanda is one of the funniest films ever made? You’ve forgotten that it was an Oscar-nominated film (no small feat for a comedy). You’ve forgotten that it earned Kevin Kline the statue (which he failed to get, even, for a movie about Nazis and choosing between your kids). And, for the purposes of modeling great cinematic moments in rage, it has two of the best, briefest, most satisfying angry utterances in movie history.
Hannah and Marni on Girls / “Episode 9″
The writing on HBO’s new comedy Girls is a thing of self-involved beauty. Writer/creator/star Lena Dunham gives all of her speeches as lovably-selfish Hannah extra punch since she is bringing to life her very own words. And Hannah’s clueless confidence was matched in Sunday’s episode’s argument with best friend Marni (Allison Williams). It devolved into the sort of smart girl, self help, hipster mudslinging of which, at 34 years old, I can only dream. Any fight that involves “You’re so selfish, that’s why you don’t have any friends from preschool” is a fight from which we can—nay, must—learn. You’d silence any foe.
Samantha Jones on Sex and the City / ”Belle of the Balls”
In this season four episode of SATC, Samantha (Kim Cattrall) gets blatantly passed over for a PR job because she’s a woman. And the prospective client doesn’t dance around it: he flat-out tells her, spurring a conversation about men’s collective fear of emotion in the workplace. ”‘Emotional,’” she points out, “is just code for ‘I don’t want to hire a woman.’” Samantha tells her would-be client off in spectacular fashion, never flinching. She sheds a few tears in the elevator but, as the tone of the email points out, so would a male character. They’d just cut the scene and replace with an Axe Body Spray ad or something.
I hope that, if I master each of these speeches—or, at the very least, the bravado and persona—I can one day inspire my own daughter to be a bold, artful teller-offer. What else would you recommend that I study to reach my goal? And tell me, MamaPop, whom do you channel when it’s time to tell of the world?