Something I’ve learned from “The Heat”

In theaters now.
In theaters now.

Yesterday, I went and saw the new movie The Heat with friends. I hadn’t even heard of it before I went (sue me, I don’t watch TV commercials, or all that much of TV, honestly), but I had a free comp ticket so I decided to use it. (I got the comp ticket from the last time I went, when the movie projector about to show Star Trek: Into Dorkness blew a bulb. Should’ve been a sign right there…)

I was told, shortly before I went to see the movie, that The Heat is a chick flick, but it really isn’t. It’s just a hilarious buddy-cop film that happens to star women as both of the cops. I’m not going to spoil the movie for you, because it’s really quite a good film. I laughed so hard my ribs threatened to burst their way out of torso. What surprised me, however, was that I actually got a life lesson out of it. This happens quite rarely for me, mainly because I think most Hollywood writers are, frankly, idiots about life, or they just have such different experiences from me that their “lessons” are simply inapplicable to me. Or maybe they aren’t writing in any life lessons at all. Or maybe I’m just a dense, misanthropic jerk. I don’t know. But it just never happens.

Except this time.

Sandra Bullock’s character, FBI Special Agent Sarah Ashburn, is socially inept. (Somewhat like me.) She’s an extremely career focused individual (okay, that’s not me) who grinds on other people’s nerves because of this dearth of people skills. She’s also very interested in all sorts of learning (yep, me), and her head is full of data.

The crucial scene, in this case, is after Ashburn–together with her unofficial partner, Boston PD detective Shannon Mullins–basically gets kicked off the case by her boss, just took Mullins’ family and stashed them in safe house, and is now at a Denny’s having lunch with Mullins. Naturally, the two get into an argument, where Mullins says that Ashburn thinks she knows everything.

“I don’t,” Ashburn says. “I just know a lot of things, and then I tell people what I know!”*

That struck me pretty close. I have been accused, over the years, of speaking in a very “matter of fact” tone, which is offputting to a lot of people. I’m not trying to be a jerk, I’m just explaining something or pointing out a fact, but people still take it the wrong way. I’m sure it has to do with my delivery; I’m a writer, not an orator. I would suck being a politician because I could never give speeches.

I’ve tried dealing with this before, in some ways, though it never seems to work. I think that this is basically who I am, a part of me, just as I am over six feet tall, white, and have a face that looked like it was chopped out of a slab of ham with a meat cleaver. Some people will deal with it, as I have. Others will be frustrated, but that’s their problem.

Yet hearing this in a feature presentation shocked me. Maybe this is a part of me, but I can still try to do better. Maybe just stop using facts and knowledge. Maybe stop explaining things to people. But then where would we be? Or I, for that matter?

So I’m not sure what the precise lesson for me is. But in general, I need to try harder when I talk to people, that they don’t see a reason to hate me or get pissed off at me.

Or, I just need to accept that some people are going to get pissed off no matter what.

Hmm. Maybe there wasn’t such a lesson here…


*Paraphrasing here.