The Big C: Down and Out at the Naked Turtle

The Big C S03E02: “What’s Your Story?”

Ah, that awkward moment when someone who was never supposed to see your blog reads your blog. We’ve all been there...some of us more than once, because sometimes it takes a shamefully long time to realize how the internet works. Poor Paul, however, just learned his lesson when Adam read about Cathy’s Season 1 affair with Lenny on Paul’s blog and threw a sad, no-one-understands-me hissy fit in response. Since Paul conveniently left out the part about his own affair, Adam was more than happy to go back to vilifying his mother. Cathy was thrilled. I think I’m starting to understand why she’s so keen on playing pretend over at the Naked Turtle.

Paul just wanted to tell his story. It’s a noble aspiration, sure, and Paul has a very good story to tell, but he definitely started down the slippery slope of artistic vision. The problem with “I just want to tell my story” is that “your story” isn’t always the truth. Memoirists both on the internet and off are often slammed for exaggerating events in their stories, for altering actions, motivations, conversations. A memoirist can do that and still tell his or her story, but sometimes the factual accuracies behind that story have been altered...and sometimes the very meaning of the story itself has changed, too. Paul was not incorrect in his revelation of Cathy’s affair, but by omitting the details of his own, he painted an incorrect picture of the situation. As a result, the understanding his readers gleaned from his experience was skewed.

Unfortunately, when the memoir is written as a blog post that's read by one’s friends and family, the results tend to be a little more immediate and harsh, which was certainly the case when Adam read about Cathy and Lenny without the additional details of Paul and Tina. Cathy, sick of being the bad guy, demanded that Paul admit his affair to Adam—and while I saw her point and certainly wanted to kick Paul in the junk in retaliation, I couldn’t help but wonder how much good a confession would actually do.

The answer? Not much.

Poor Adam, he just wants at least one parent who can act like an adult.

And there, dear readers, is the crux of the problem I had with “What’s Your Story?” Last week, I questioned how much longer The Big C can go on in its current state. Specifically, I talked about the idea of cancer and humor, but my concern also extends to the very characterizations of Paul and Cathy.

Adults are people too. I get that. Hitting age 18 or 25 or 30 or 41 does not instantly grant anyone the magical ability to act his or her age. The very idea of acting one’s age is flawed and archaic and just plain incorrect. The major difference between myself at 18 and myself at 25? About 20 pounds and a stack of student loan bills. But Paul and Cathy’s rebellion against their social expectations would be easier to swallow if they (A) didn’t completely disregard the effects their actions have on others, and (B) see (A).

I don’t have a kid, but I like to think that if I did, I would at least try to rise above my bad habits and mistakes. I’m not saying that I would succeed, but I would try, and if I failed miserably, I’d at least feel bad about it. Adults and parents can be just as immature as their teenagers and two-year-olds, but the thing that sets them apart from their spawn is that they supposedly try to transcend it.

Cathy and Paul don’t try anymore and my inability to see them as responsible, admirable parents has severely inhibited my ability to sympathize with them as characters. Cathy’s quote, “I made mistakes. I’m gonna make more,” felt more like an excuse than the empowering message I’m sure it was meant to be, and her confrontation with the school principal coupled with the trip to the tattoo parlor in the final scene of “What’s Your Story?” made me roll my eyes rather than cheer for Cathy’s newfound rebellious nature. We’ve spent two seasons watching Cathy and Paul indulge in Cathy and Paul. There is nothing new about it.

Comments (4)
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I think you might be reading the show differently than I do because that episode was one of my favorites so far. To me, the series is about a woman dedicated to living life. That's it. She doesn't have time to care about morals, and that's the interesting part.

She is being selfish. Of course she is. But besides the affair, which she has apologized and repented over extensively, she hasn't done anything else worse than general disrespect of authority. And I think if we as a society were a bit less afraid to break the rules and did things like admit to our children how imperfect we are, we would all have happier, more complete lives. Anyone who postulates that Cathy doesn't love her family is misrepresenting her character. Not that she's good at being perfect for them by any means. But I feel like people's discomfort with the show stems in their own discomfort in stepping out and being real with one another, imperfections and all.
I thought your review was a good critque of what has been wrong with this show for some time and why I rarely watch it anymore. The excuses for bad behavior of most of the characters, especially Cathy, is almost endless. And the key word is excuses, not explanation. Cathy never has to endure the consequences of her bad behavior because of her cancer. For example, when she had the affair with Lenny, Paul didn't divorce her because of her cancer. She craps all over him and he still stays with her because he still loves her.

I will take exception with one view point. While it's true that both Cathy and Paul were unfaithful, treating the two "affairs" as comparatively equal is ridiculous. Yes, both cheated. In the same way that shoplifting a can of beans from the supermarket and stealing the crown jewels of England are both acts of theft. Cathy had a full blown affair that lasted several weeks and included bringing the guy into the house she had shared with her husband. When Paull spent a day having sex with Tiina, he was bitter and hurt having found out that Cathy had been cheating on him. And no, I'm not saying what Paul did was justified. Otherwise I would be a complete hypocrite after making the statements above about excusing bad behavior. However, what Cathy did was much worse that what Paul did and it was after her prolonged affair with Lenny that I really started to lose interest in the show. He cancer became more of an excuse with every episode for treating the people who cared about her like they meant nothing to her and I just grew tired of it.
I actually loved this episode. It was fun and for once it didn't walk on the line of darkness. It was a fresh breath of air with a gloom of tragedy to come....pardon my english, I'm from Viking Land aka Sweden.
I'm starting to wonder if Ryan Murphy is a silent partner in this series, because his signature style (over the top) seems to be ever present in this show. The character of Cathy's brother has been written over the top right from the start of the series. Andrea coming back from Africa and insisting on being called Ababu....over the top. Cathy's whole other doppelganger (Alexis) is another example, as is her showing up at school drunk, giving the principal the bird, and then getting a "Big C" tattoo (I wonder is that's supposed to stand for "Cathy" or "Cancer")???

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