I’ve seen a lot of talk about Zach Braff and Garden State lately. At first, I was excited. Garden State is my favorite movie, no contest. Like many my age, the music from the film served as the soundtrack for my adolescence. I remember sitting in my bedroom on rainy Saturday afternoons viscerally feeling the character’s angst. New Slang whispered in our ears as my friends and I examined the swirling universe of new emotions that lived inside all of us. I curled up on the couch with a new boyfriend, watching the movie over and over as he told me I’m “the only thing he’s ever been sure of”. It struck a chord. It meant something to us at a time when all we were trying to do was find meaning.
More importantly, the film lit a fire in me to pursue writing. It inspired me to be more introspective. To write with honesty and authenticity. As a young writer, I write to share my story, nothing else. And I hope that at least one other person can relate to my words and feel a little less alone. That’s what Garden State did. It illustrated this time in our lives where everything seems so enormous. It offered words to things that we couldn’t find words to describe. “The infinite abyss”. “The ellipses”. It painted the picture we needed to see in order to feel like we weren’t the only ones experiencing this heightened sense of existentialism. Because that’s what you need when you’re young. You need to be indulged. You crave that affirmation. And just because we get older and don’t feel that way anymore doesn’t mean we never did.
Like I said, at first I was excited to see all this talk about Garden State, almost ten years after it was written. But a lot of these talks weren’t as enthusiastic about the film as I am. One in particular left me very concerned. It wasn’t criticism, it was straight up bashing. And the writer of the article was bashing Zach Braff, the writer of the movie. That’s disheartening, to see one writer tear down another. I understand the nature of criticism, but I prefer it to be a bit more constructive. It seemed like the article was written solely to talk trash.
Zach Braff wrote this movie over 10 years ago. He was in his mid-20s, just like the characters. And he was writing to convey his own interpretation of the human experience, at that time in his life. And the author of the article admits, Braff perfectly illustrated the self-indulged, angsty, whine-fest that is our twenties. Just because time passes and we can no longer relate to the film as much, why should we deny we ever did? It’s still a perfect portrayal of that slice of life. Sure, maybe we grow up and we have less conversations about the meaning of life and start to notice the world outside of ourselves and the enormity of life suddenly seems smaller. But, does that mean we never felt that way? No.
To bash the movie now, 10 years later, just seems counterproductive. I mean he wasn’t even thirty and he created a film that gained cult acclaim and an award winning soundtrack to accompany it. That’s an enormous accomplishment. And as a young writer I look up to that. I have to maintain the nerve to continue writing despite articles like this. Fine, you’ve realized the nature of millennials. It’s a self-indulgent time, we’re coddled adult babies, we get that already. Write an article about that. Don’t try and take away from this man’s talent.
I’m concerned about the message this sends to young writers. As if our stories don’t matter right now because we’re young and haven’t experienced enough yet to be taken seriously. We can’t think that way. I can’t wait until I’m ready to tell a more important story, I have to start sharing the stories I have and hope that the more I write the better the stories will get. The more I live, the more I’ll have to write about.
So I write. Regardless of how overly sensitive, naive or archetypal it may come off. Because that’s what I have to do as a writer. I need to keep writing. I can’t get better if I don’t keep writing. And I can only write what I know. I shouldn’t feel encouraged to manipulate my story so it sounds like I’m ten years older. I’m not. I’m in my mid-twenties. I still have a lot of life to live. And maybe my writing won’t appeal to someone 10 years older than me. And maybe it’ll seem whiny, self-involved and trite. But I can’t care. And I want to remind young writers everywhere to not care. Don’t care about articles like this. He’s bashing the wrong thing here. He’s meaning to bash a generation of millennial “self-indulged adult babies” but instead he bashes the writer who successfully depicted them on screen. Wrong target. That’s an unfortunate message to send to young writers.
Please keep writing.