3:30 Thursday, Projects

Dear Hollywood…

The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by life long friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret, and Jillian. Several months ago, we wrote about our favorite movies—the ones we return to again and again. This month we flip that around and explore movies that we never need to see again. Today Maggie shares her thoughts on her least favorite story line.

Dear Hollywood,

We’ve seen this movie before. And frankly, I think we need a better story.

Boy and girl are in relationship. It’s not perfect, but they’re making it work.


Boy and girl think they are happy. They’re going to get married. Everything is great.

But then, a new girl comes into the picture. She’s more fun, prettier, smarter, and in all the other important ways better than the first girl.


Try as he might, boy just can’t stop thinking about new girl. They have chemistry. Excitement. Romance.


He hasn’t felt this alive in years.


Finally, boy must face the truth. He wants to be with new girl.


So old girl must let boy go. But, old girl gets together with new boy, so it’s all good.


You know. A modern fairy tale.


With all due respect, Hollywood, I think we can do better.

We’ve all heard the phrase: “Art imitates life.”

Maybe, this trope of a man being trapped in the wrong relationship and he doesn’t have the courage to leave until the right girl (or as Meg Ryan shows us in Sleepless in Seattle, the right guy) comes along is so familiar because it’s so common.

But…life also imitates art, and I know this because my daughter was singing a Sesame Street song about morning routines while we got ready for pre-school this morning.

So, why can’t we have a movie where boy is unhappy in his romantic relationship, and he honestly tells girl 1. Then boy and girl decide (without some other person being involved) whether or not they want to be together. Maybe they go to counseling, maybe they rebuild their relationship, maybe they ultimately part ways – but they’re doing that because that’s what needed to happen in their relationship, not because boy had the next relationship ready to go, and the first girl has to move aside so he can move on.

Give the jilted girl a chance! Maybe if he told her how he really felt, she could change. Maybe she’s not happy either. Maybe he’s the problem, and if he doesn’t face the problem it doesn’t matter how many new girls come into his life, he’s never going to be happy because the person her really needs to change is himself.

And if this sounds like I’m taking this a little personally…I am. I definitely identify with girl 1 in this story line, and it feels a little unfair to me.

I can see how some other girl – one who wasn’t busy getting the kids to school on time, paying bills, grocery shopping and doing laundry – could waltz into my husband’s life and be funnier, more spontaneous, sexier and have better hair than me.


I’m over here in fairy tale land trying to make sure my children are fed and don’t pull a bookcase down on themselves or jump out a window because they think they can fly like a superhero they saw on television (yes, that’s why I live in a one-story home)…of course someone else could easily be more desirable than me.

Hollywood, I know you want to inspire us, make us laugh, and show us what the world is like. But raising a family, having a job, and growing your romantic relationship is hard work. And, it isn’t helpful to me when you make a movie where the solution to your relationship problems is getting out of the relationship by upgrading to a better model. It’s the opposite of helpful. It’s unhelpful. So, if you could work on that, I’d really appreciate it.

Love and Hugs,


3:30 Thursday, Projects

Dear Hollywood…Once was Enough

The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by life long friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret, and Jillian. Several months ago, we wrote about our favorite movies—the ones we return to again and again. This month we flip that around and explore movies that we never need to see again…for varied reasons. I’m up first (Mary Margaret), and to be perfectly honest, I had no idea that this would come out of me when I sat down to write, so I’m hoping for your grace as I try to articulate a difficult subject. 

12 Years a Slave

Undoubtedly this movie is tremendously acted, with impeccable production design, stunning visuals, and of great historical relevance, but having watched once, I can also say that I never need to see this movie again. This movie falls into a category that I find a bit tricky, because I feel like people don’t so much watch or enjoy a movie like this, but rather, they submit or subject themselves to it. Films like this develop the status of being labeled “important,” and then groaning under their powerful historical weight, they suddenly become the sort of films that people do not simply want to see, but perhaps more significantly, feel they should see. In a country and culture still deeply and painfully grappling with its legacy of slavery, systemic and self-selected segregation, and racism, some of us feel the need to attempt a head-on look at our past; one way we seek to do this is through the medium of film and other arts. I know I may be generalizing or that this may sound judgmental, but I sometimes feel like I hear white, educated, liberal people falling over themselves to say how excellent and amazing movies like this are, without being truly honest with themselves or others about how the movie actually impacted them. I’m not suggesting that the movie is not of cinematic excellent and deserving of its accolades, but rather that there’s a different sort of conversation that occurs when a movie takes on certain grave, (almost sacred), and relevant social subject matter. I sometimes feel that the vociferous adulation of “important” films is used as if to prove some point about one’s level of social consciousness and awareness. Incidentally, this film came out the same year that the Black Lives Matter movement began, and I admit a part of me wonders if the impulse to discuss the power of this film is also an attempt to signal one’s “woke-ness” to the racial divides coursing through both our history and everyday reality. In other words, “I appreciated this film, therefore see how racially sensitive and enlightened I am.” I am not criticizing the impulse to signal open-mindedness, but I want us to be honest about what we mean and the limits of this kind of signaling.

So I will be frank about my experience: This movie was truly difficult to watch, and I can honestly admit I did not enjoy the experience of sitting through it. Great acting does not make seeing people inhumanely chained in the hold of a ship, or being raped, or being flogged to within an inch of their lives a pleasant or good experience (not that I’m suggesting this as the ultimate goal of art, to be clear). In fact, I did not watch the movie all in one sitting, and I had to force myself to return to finish the last hour, driven by an innate sense of guilt that I should face these images. These events truly happened to people, so who was I to say that I wanted to look away from viewing a fictional presentation of these atrocities on a screen?

The story was undoubtedly fascinating, the performances powerful, and I do not regret seeing the film…but once was enough. Firstly because I do not have to convince myself that winning awards or being historically significant means I must like a film; I did not like watching this film. I felt sort of sick and emotionally wrung out, but not in the cathartic way that certain songs, films, and books elicit. Secondly (and closely linked) because I think we need to remember that simply subjecting ourselves to the difficult facts of our past is not some sort of atonement or exculpation for those events. I am not a better, more purified person for simply having watched 12 Years a Slave and experiencing an emotional reaction to its raw intensity. I haven’t done anything to help heal the wounds that the institution of slavery drove deeply into the core of this country.

Sorry, folks, there are just no moral merit badges handed out because you watched a movie that exposed you to difficult truths. There is always the temptation to substitute emotional reactions for true changes of heart or meaningful action, and I think we must guard against this. Art is one of the most powerful ways we can be awakened to certain heartbreaking realities, but we can’t get stuck in the moment of realization or emotion and feel the work is done somehow, when that’s really the point where the true work begins. I don’t need to revisit this movie to remember that the gut-wrench it left with me is a merely an infinitesimally small twinge of the pain that we must continue to try and heal in our nation. It is a pain not mine to claim, a pain inflicted undoubtedly by some of my own ancestors as white Americans, but also a pain that I pray I might have a part in further distancing ourselves from.

So view this film and others like it–if you truly want to. Dare to ask yourself the context that brought you to watch it, and try to recognize how your own race, gender, age, cultural identification, history, and bias may play a part in reaction to the film. Perhaps most importantly, remember emotion isn’t action; you may not have to watch the film again, but I think we must keep trying to face the hard truths- again, and again.