When a childhood friend recently asked me to be in her wedding, I was quick to accept. Then I did what anybody would do next — rented “27 Dresses.” For those not up on their cinema, it’s a romantic comedy about a woman who is always a bridesmaid, never a bride. What better preparation could there be for my new gig? But not long into the film, it started to hit closer to home — it’s the story of a journalist falling in love with their subject.
Flashback to four years ago. I was running a website/club called the Mixtape Collective of Portland. My last future ex-boyfriend and I met when he asked to do a documentary about the site for his student project at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Over the course of our interview he apparently developed a crush. Even after the 12th call asking if he could come over yet again to rephrase a question, I was slow to figure out what was going on. I wondered why he seemed so under-prepared. It wasn’t until after he finished his program that he finally asked me out. Perhaps not a Hollywood-ready tale of love at first sight, but there’s plenty to be said for his journalistic integrity.
I found some romance in the whole thing, but films like 27 Dresses and a little Googling reveal a cliché at work: Fledgling reporter and subject meet; they hit it off, the subject unaware of the scrutiny they’re now under; journalist is thrown into a state of turmoil over their ethical obligation to the story, and the newfound love of their life. Always, the piece gets published, and after some harsh words (and maybe a little slapping) the subject forgives and forgets, and presumably they go off to have a host of attractive, inquisitive, interesting children. Add the following films to your Netflix queue if you don’t believe me: “Runaway Bride,” “Bridget Jone’s Diary,” “How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days,” “27 Dresses” and “Never Been Kissed.” Check out 1953’s “Roman Holiday” if you’d like to see it in black-and-white.
Why is this scenario so durable? Simply, journalists make excellent protagonists. They’re persistent, they ask pesky questions and are fine listeners.
As somebody who’d only previously been a subject, I was just happily blogging away when the former executive editor of The Free Press, Dan MacLeod, called last fall, offering me a column in these pages. Eventually I picked up a few reporting assignments, and now I’m occasionally freelancing at The Portland Phoenix. This semester, in a course called Writing the Feature, I’ll be asked to come up with two 5,000 word investigative pieces. So I’m slowly, but surely, becoming something of a journalist myself.
But thanks to my recent film research, I think I’m ready to do this without jeopardizing things with my current boyfriend or my budding professional reputation. I think my first story will be about dialysis.