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.

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