Thursday, January 08, 2009

Only in fiction

Dear Film and Television Writers everywhere,
Excuse me while a pick a nit, but this has been bothering me for years--nay, decades!--and I need to get it off my chest.

There is a phrase that I hear ALL THE TIME in movies and on my shows, that I have NEVER ONCE heard someone utter in real life. I don't know why it keeps showing up on screen, except that I think writers are watching a lot of film and TV, and their ideas about What People Actually Say are being fed by fiction in some kind of vicious, weird meta-cycle.

What is this phrase I loathe so much? The phrase that makes me wince at the uncreative weakness of the writer that wrote it and generic blandness of the actor that uttered it?

"I'd like that."

Not as in, I'm at a bakery and I see a fresh batch of jumbo chocolate chip cookies come out from the oven and placed in the case and the mere sight of them makes me drool all over the glass and lose my ability to speak politely so that when it's my turn to order all I can do is point to the cookie and say, "I'd like THAT."

No, no. It's more like, the couple has cute-met at the bakery and she spilled her coffee on him and after splitting a cookie and arguing sweetly over the merits of Scrabble, or something, he gets up the nerve to ask her on a date, and she responds, "I'd like that."

Only in fiction to people ever respond to an invitation with, "I'd like that." In real life, people say, "Sure" or "That sounds fun" or even, "I'd love that!" (Even though, "I'd love to!" is far more likely.) I've never once heard anyone I know utter the response, "I'd like that."

The first time this got under my skin was in the movie Heathers. (Oh, Heathers. You beautiful masterpiece of noir teenage comic camp. I love you so much.) The dialog in this movie was so creative and fresh that it created its own lexicon of words and phrases that are still in heavy rotation today. And then, Veronica blows up the school and her boyfriend, steals the almighty red scrunchie, plants a sooty kiss on Heather Duke's bewildered mug, invites Martha Dumptruck to hang out, and what does Martha say?

"I'd like that."

Even at 14, when I first saw this movie, I was like, ...Really? Not that Martha wouldn't want to hang out with a sooty Veronica, but who says that?? (You'll note that I easily believed that teenagers in high school said all the other crazy stuff that was in the movie's dialog; this was the only bit that rang false. You'll also note that people today will still throw out lines about Diet Coke-heads, or eating a brain tumor for breakfast, but no one, I swear, ever says the other thing.)

Now, nearly 20 years later, it has become (or still is, I don't know how far back this goes) this over-used crutch meant to indicate that the person saying it is, or has recently become, warm and receptive to the person with the invitation. Or something, I honestly don't know why it's used so over-much. All I know is, I would enjoy all the myriad movies and shows I watch a hell of a lot more if you would knock it off with the weak "I'd like that" response, and start writing the way people actually talk.

I would love that, in fact. I really would.


- The M.A.D. Hapa said...

Seriously, good call. I don't think I've ever said that phrase and it turns up all the time!

Something else that drives me nuts: couples running together, holding hands, laughing, and then falling down. Usually they fall down at the beach, but sometimes it's in a meadow. Either way, no one does that. Moreover, have you ever fallen down on wet sand? That shit is hard. It fucking hurts.

Anonymous said...

My dialog pet peeve: "I don't have a choice" or "We don't have a choice" Showing up as the worst rationalization ever in fiction - never heard in real life. When I heard someone say "We don't have a better choice" a couple weeks ago on TV, I was like "Thank you!" damn. is that so hard?