WEIRDLAND: Social Anxiety, Alcoholism, Bad Boy Myth: "The Spectacular Now" (Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley)

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Social Anxiety, Alcoholism, Bad Boy Myth: "The Spectacular Now" (Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley)

Social anxiety is normal and, add to that, about 11 per cent of the population suffer social phobia. Common as social anxiety is – in its varying degrees – it is also very common for people to use alcohol to dull or cope with the symptoms. Whether they use it before they go out or while they're out, many people think it will make them more sociable and less shy. For about 28 per cent of those with social anxiety, they'll end up drinking to excess in an attempt to manage their feelings. "The socially anxious individual may be better off seeking some counselling aimed at replacing drinking with some other strategy to help him or her cope with that anxiety," says psychologist, Joseph Nowinski. "There are many proven therapeutic strategies for doing this, such as role-playing, cognitive role-playing, and cognitive-behavioural therapy, which involves changing thoughts, perceptions, and expectations." Source:

Sutter’s a good guy who drinks too much and misses his dad; the movie opens with Sutter sitting in front of his computer, attempting to write what could only be a college application essay: “Describe a challenge, hardship or misfortune in your life. What have you learned from this and how has it prepared you for the future?” He takes one long swig of his beer and begins telling the dean of admissions (and us) about his breakup with the “best fucking girlfriend in the world.” This is also where casting is king, because as actor Miles Teller plays him, we like Sutter right off the bat.

Aimee (Shailene Woodley) reads a series of sci-fi books called Bright Planet in the novel; in the movie it’s changed to Gleaming Planet. I think Ponsoldt just wanted a less generic sounding name to avoid any copyright disputes from similar titles, like this out-of-print 2004 book from Australia. He even commissioned an original six page Gleaming Planet story segment to use as a prop in the film.

In the novel, Sutter maintains the lie that his Dad is an office executive working in the Chase Building downtown, but in the movie his pretend job is changed to an airline pilot. It’s certainly more exciting and romantic, if slightly less believable. It also explains better why he wouldn’t be around a lot. Aimee leaves Oklahoma for school in Philadelphia, not St. Louis like in the book. The biggest change from novel to film is in the relationship between Sutter and his mom. In the book, she’s a minor character without any real influence (or even a name). Sutter sees her as a shallow woman worried more about her second husband and trips to the beauty salon than she is to him.

And so we arrive at the ending. Sutter hits rock bottom, but after a heart to heart with his mom, he applies to college (again sitting in front his computer screen, but with new resolve), and even reconciles with Aimee. His future in the book, by contrast, is more bleak. Sutter is left alone with only his whisky and Seven for company, having been disappointed by, or driven away, the people closest to him. You often wonder, in young adult stories such as this, how different things could be if only our protagonist had received the love and reassurance he craved from a parent. The movie answers that, and it’s not unsatisfying. Both novel and film compliment one another, examining the devastating and saving power of influence—that of alcohol and the people in your life. Source:

In an interview with Pop Sugar, Shailene Woodley revealed her affection for Miles Teller, saying her first impression of her co-star was quite favorable. "I was, like, oh my god, Miles is hilarious. He is so hot," she said, also noting they have their differences. "We're polar opposites… [but] Miles has one of the biggest hearts in somebody I've ever met. I know that sounds so cliche, but it's true." Source:

“Nice guys finish last” is one of the most widely believed maxims of dating. Fleshed out, the idea goes something like this: heterosexual women might say they want nice characteristics in a partner, but in reality what they want is the challenge that comes with dating a “bad boy”. But, for the most part, the evidence suggests that both women and men prefer nice partners and are turned off by jerks.

Of course, sometimes we do find “bad” people attractive. Narcissists – people who show high levels of self-importance, superiority, entitlement, arrogance and a willingness to exploit others – are often perceived as very attractive in initial encounters. This may be because they put a lot of effort into their appearance and how they come across. Studies have shown that female narcissists tend to wear more make-up and show more cleavage than women who score lower on narcissism, whereas male narcissists spend more time building up their muscle mass. In the very short term, narcissists can even seem more well-adjusted, entertaining and generally nicer. But over the long term, narcissists find it difficult to maintain a favourable impression and tend to be perceived as less adjusted, less warm, and more hostile and arrogant. Source:

Aimee is taken by Sutter, who has an undeniable and easy charm, but instead of becoming a typical good-girl-falls-for-bad-boy story, director James Ponsoldt (Smashed) dives into their relationship deeper, showing their conversations and how a connection slowly but surely develops between them. The film is at it’s best during these moments, played with honesty and relatability by Teller and Woodley. Source:

Neither Miles Teller nor Shailene Woodley is Hollywood glamorous, but both have talent and charisma to spare. Together, they find a convincing and exquisite intimacy that skips many of the standard-issue coming-of-age tropes and instead focuses on complex self-acceptance. Sutter, despite his charms, is not only adrift, he’s self-destructive, and his ability to overcome those instincts is never a given. Aimee is intensely vulnerable, lacking the confidence to take control of her life. There’s something sad and genuine about this bright young woman hanging on Sutter’s every romantic gesture. From their delicate first kiss to the first time they have sex, the actors navigate their characters’ emotions, rationalizations and disappointments with such unbearable authenticity. Source:

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