On support groups, giant leeches, and the American Dream

So, last night a friend texted me about an uncomfortable encounter they had just had at a support group. Their story was so emotionally raw that I was a little bit at a loss as to how to respond, but then they offered up a stray comment about how another one of the meeting attendees was remarkably tall, so I started making jokes about 1958's Attack of the 50 Foot Tall Woman. (I did this because I am a good friend and responsible adult.)

This caused me to look up the Aot50FTW IMDB page, and from there I rabbit holed down into Yvette Vickers' page, which I instantly found to be surprisingly interesting. Because first of all: "Died (details not available)" makes it sound like she might have been buried with Jimmy Hoffa if you catch my drift.

(Update: Just investigated this and wikipedia says that she might have been dead in her own house for over a year before her body was discovered by a woman named Susan Savage - which I would point out is a very good name for a body discoverer.)

Secondly: what's the White Rain Girl?

However, the main thing that's fascinating about her page is that her top three credits are such an odd grouping. Hud - which is an Oscar winning prestige picture about some hard luck ranchers' struggle to keep a roof over their heads - is sandwhiched in between a movie about gargantuan leeches attacking and a movie about oversize dames attacking.

And this got me to thinking about how that juxtaposition is a good snapshot of the American Dream, because this country is a land of highs, lows, monstrous bloodsuckers and Paul Newmans... We've got it all, but generally in the wrong proportions...

When F Scott Fitzgerald said that there are no second acts in American life he didn't mean that you couldn't reinvent yourself here - he meant that everything moves too damn fast in the good ol' USofA. In theory you're supposed to set the table in act one, build the drama in act two, and have a payoff in act three - but here we tend to go straight from the hardscrabble origin story to the car crash finale, all highs and lows with nothing in the middle. We're all about trashy leech filled creature features and stark portraits of stoic cattle farmers, but we're never about space leeches who nearly lose their heartland farm after their exoskeletoned livestock gets hoof and mouth disease...

(That last metaphor might have gotten away from me a bit.)

 When you search for Yvette Vickers this comes up, which is... basically perfect

When you search for Yvette Vickers this comes up, which is... basically perfect

 

Anyway, as I was going off on this tangent with my friend I realized I was turning into one of those insufferable beat poets who is always writing about What America Really Is. And this lead to two further revelations.

 

One: you could start a good parody of Howl like this: "I've seen the best minds of my generation attacked by fifty feet women / starving hysterical naked, crawling through the leech soaked streets / looking for a shrink ray to fix their problems."

 

And two: my friend is telling me a heartfelt story about their struggles, and here I am, ranting about space leeches vs. the American Dream... which means that we are each a half of Yvette Vickers. If you combined us together somehow we would make a complete Attack of the Fifty Foot Hud Woman. And knowing that - well, goddamnit, it makes me feel so damn... American, in ways that are both good and bad, but which I can't really discuss too much further (mostly because I've already quoted all the bits of Howl that I know.)

Winner: AMERICA

Yvette Vickers on IMDB