In just over a week, I’ll be in LA delivering a class. As luck would have it, while I am there, Felicia Day (FD) is doing a book signing and speaking engagement with her good friend Wil Wheaton. As soon as I realized it was happening the week I was in LA, I bought tickets to go. I read her book and have been inspired by both the book and her work in web video. The Guild was a series I watched and immediately understood. After that, I found The Flog which I thought was just awesome.
While in Vegas last week, I found out that Wil Wheaton is actually going to be with her. This just added to my excitement as both Wil and Felicia have struck a chord with me for very different reasons. I don’t know if either of them will read this, but regardless, I wanted to say a few things.
I was on your website the other day and you had posted a link to this:
Let me tell you a story about 4 boys, growing up in a small city, who hung out and did stupid crap together. One of them is a kid who was smart and went on to be pretty successful in his life with a family. But he always has had a passion for writing that he’s been doing since he was young. His closest friend, kind of a tough guy, from a tough family, but has a heart of gold for those who are close to him and stands up for his friends. Another good friend who suffered a bit of abuse from his dad, but despite that, loved him dearly. And the last friend, kind of a goofball and always up for something, he made the four of them the best of friends.
Reading that paragraph could easily describe the four main characters from the movie Stand By Me: Gordie, Chris, Teddy, and Vern. But what it also describes is myself and three of my closest childhood friends: Jason, J.C., and Ben. Known as The Four Horsemen, we were 4 inseparable friends through junior high and high school. Jason was as close to me as a real brother and J.C. and Ben were both great friends as well.
Despite my passion for science fiction, Stand By Me has stayed at the top of my favorite movie list for years. I have a VHS tape copy of the movie in a box downstairs, signed by Jerry O’Connell when he was part of the TV show “My Secret Identity”. Any of my friends remember the weekend he did the Christmas Daddies Telethon at McNaughton High? Me and J.C. were in the audience and when they mentioned Stand By Me, we waved my movie in the air and he pointed to us.
The reason SBM has stayed my all time favorite movie is because of how much it seems to parallel my own life, and every time I watch it now as an adult, it’s like watching my own life backward in time. I see myself, Jason, Ben, and J.C. hanging out in my basement (our version of their treehouse) talking about girls, playing games, and just doing stupid kid things. I remember J.C. coming to the house scared of his dad after he’d been drinking too much. I remember countless things about that time in my life and I realize in watching Gordie, in some ways it feels like I was watching myself.
I was Gordie. Jason was Chris. J.C. was Teddy, and Ben was Vern. Not all of the characteristics of the movie characters line up to my friends and life, but a lot do in many ways which is why this movie is such a big deal to me. Even J.C.’s death in 2007 has a minor connection as the character of Chris also died in a bar. J.C. may not have actually died in a bar, but his death started there when he collapsed.
And just as the end of the movie talks about how friends move apart over time, my friendships with these guys have changed as well. Like Gordie and Chris, me and Jason were very close for a very long time, and although he lives in BC, and I live in Moncton, when I visited him last year, it was like no time had passed at all. That’s what having friends who are like brothers is supposed to be like. I still see Ben from time to time as well.
The last time I watched this movie, I sat in bed, and cried when Gordie is telling the story of how Chris died in a bar trying to stop a fight. The tears rolled down my face and Tamara came in and just knew in an instant what I was upset about. I was remembering J.C. and the countless hours of Nintendo we played in my living room, and a hundred other memories of a great friend of mine who was taken way too early.
I connect to that movie more than anything else in pop culture. Sure, I see myself in characters from things like Friends, How I Met Your Mother, and especially The Big Bang Theory. But when it comes to a movie that really means more than just entertainment, Stand By Me is always going to be far above the rest as I see myself in so many ways as the character of Gordie. I may not be a professional writer, but I have been writing now for almost 30 years.
Robotech fanfiction in the 80’s; countless music and movie reviews, plus all kinds of weird content for VAJ Magazine in the 90’s, I started blogging in 2000/2001 and have been going strong with that; plus half of the content of Cache Up NB; plus my writing for my day job have kept me writing for all this time.
Gordie is a character that was written by Stephen King, but you (Wil) brought that character to life, and much of that movie as a well, with your own take on what Gordie was experiencing. As an adult, I can appreciate what you did to accomplish that. I know it’s just a role for an actor, but when a role truly connects with a person on a “real” level, I can’t imagine how that must feel to an actor to know how they connected to their audience through their character.
I’ve watched you portray a range of different characters over the years and enjoy your work in all mediums, but Gordie and Stand By Me will always stay at the top of my list for it’s personal connection to me. I really hope I get the opportunity to thank you in person next week. Either way, thank you for bringing such a meaningful story to life through your acting career.
My discovery of your work came much later in life. In fact, my first exposure to your acting was through the show Eureka (which was AWESOME and I wish it was still on the air). A friend of mine told me about a web series that you were on and sure enough, after a Youtube search I found The Guild and from that point I was hooked. I binge watched the entire course of the show, as well as many an episode of The Flog.
Watching The Guild, there was a lot of stuff in there that I found myself connected to. Years ago, it was never online gaming for me, but IRC. I spent countless hours interacting with people on an IRC channel like they were my real friends. In watching your show, a lot of the characteristics of Codex really reminded me of myself. I’m not a woman, but I can definitely understand the feeling of wanting to hide behind a computer monitor where things can feel safer.
I grew up in a time period much like you and Wil where the whole geek/nerd thing wasn’t cool. But I did manage, in my own way, to find a group of like-minded individuals who just “got me”. Watching The Guild, it’s clear that others out there “get it’ as well. I tried to get my wife to watch it with me but she didn’t really get it like I did. Much in the same way I don’t get her cross-stitching or scrapbooking. It’s foreign to me.
Then I read your book.
Now, I should make it clear that I am not really a reader. In fact, in the last 30 years, I could probably count on both hands how many actual books I have bought to read. There’s a Star Trek novel in there, a couple of X-Files books, Ender’s Game, a weird and excessively boring book on forbidden archaeology (it was like reading the ingredients on a prescription bottle), and You’re Never Weird On The Internet.
I bought the book because after watching countless hours of The Guild, Flog, and other videos of yours, and reading your tweets, it really seemed like you were the type of person who understood those of us who have a hard time coming out of our shell. For someone who’s spent a bunch of time on TV, you also didn’t seem like you had your head up your ass either. This is something I find incredibly awesome about you and Wil. Despite the notoriety you guys have, you seem quite grounded which I’m guessing isn’t as common as we’d like it to be in Hollywood.
The book was awesome and it really made me feel like if you do have some kind of passion, that you just have to go for it and not let others push you down. I have things I want to do in my life but I am scared to try them. Reading your novel has helped push me a bit further towards something I really want to do. I love writing and am hoping I can make use of it for something other than 16 years worth of blog entries. I have so many ideas that I want to get out, but I always feel like I should hold back and just do my day job because it’s safe. I’m slowly working my way out of that and part of what’s getting me there has been inspiration from your book.
Plus, when I saw that you were a fan of Anne of Green Gables, I smiled as I live in Moncton, New Brunswick which is literally only about 2 hours by car away from Prince Edward Island. Hearing someone famous actually know what PEI is sounded pretty damn cool.
So for you, I want to thank you for continuing to be true to yourself and sharing that experience with the rest of us. It’s extremely vulnerable to put yourself out there and let the world know about what you have experienced. But in sharing that, it makes it easier for the rest of us who are trying to do the same thing.
So a week from now, I’ll get to see these two great folks talk to an audience and see more of what they’re really like. I’m pretty excited.