the ch!cktionary

I'm Lena Chen, a writer, activist, and media producer who's been called a "skank" (by Bill O'Reilly) and "a small Asian woman" (by The New York Times). My favorite part of my workday is the hate mail.

For the unlikely story that is my life, read on.

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irregular features
Ask Lena: Reader Questions Answered
Anatomy of an Outfit
Bad Feminist Confessions
Freelance Friday: Career Advice for Young Writers
Hate Mail
Gratuitous Photos Of My Bulldog
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On Natural Born Killers & My Quarter Life Crisis

Basically, I’m Mallory Knox.

I watched Natural Born Killers a couple weeks ago. I’m generally queasy when it comes to anything gory and graphic, and I raised my eyebrows at the Rotten Tomatoes ranking (48%), but Natural Born Killers turned out to be much tamer than its reputation and more intellectual than I expected. So, I should really stop being such a snob about movies.

I’m surprised that the movie was received so poorly, because the gratuitous violence aside, it offers some remarkable commentary on media sensationalism, the modern family, and the prison industrial complex. Serial killers as social critics? This might be the most genius bait-and-switch in cinematic history. In the scene that most resonated with me, Mickey Knox (Woody Harrelson’s character) says the following:

It’s just murder. All God’s creatures do it. You look in the forests and you see species killing other species, our species killing all species including the forests, and we just call it industry, not murder. .. A lot of people walking around out there already dead. They just need to be put out of their misery. That’s where I come in. Fate’s messenger.

While I’m pretty sure I don’t share her more sociopathic tendencies*, Mallory Knox, in particular, resonated with me much more than any movie character in recent memory. Knox uses violence as an outlet for her own anger; I use the written word. And in doing so, we jolt people out of complacency, even though they claim to think we’re nuts. Hateable but fully relatable - why don’t they make more female characters like this?

I’ve been thinking about transgressive movies quite a bit. Just rewatched Fear and Loathing the other night, after which I couldn’t stop playing Jefferson Airplane to the German’s chagrin. He thought it would be fitting to see V for Vendetta after we listened to the 1812 Overture as we sat bone-drenched through the thunderous downpour that met Boston’s July 4th fireworks display. I haven’t had time or much desire to read fiction lately, but I’m also trying to focus on squaring away some projects before the month’s end. I’m not yet moving to Berlin (!!), and it’d be nice to fit in a trip to California to see my family before the school year starts. I’m no more enamored with Boston now than before, but for my final six months here, I’m determined to experience the city in a wholly different manner, less as a consumer or resident, more as witness and observer. It sounds like a strange life philosophy, but it’s the only thing that’s made the Back Bay liveable for me these past few months. (And even if I’m not flying the coop on New England, a new neighborhood is definitely in order.)

My Internet sabbatical has thankfully been productive - I’m finding all kinds of ways to write in a less hurried and plotted pace, to move beyond text entirely, to always be thinking about my book without actually thinking about it. I’m not where I was supposed to be length-wise, but then again, I’m also not where I was supposed to be geographically. And yet! This has been the most transformative summer I can remember. I’ve been spending a lot of time with friends, connecting people who I really enjoy with other people who I really enjoy, and despite the general air of uncertainty that has been permeating for god-knows-how-long, there’s also a palpable sense of “Well, aren’t we the lucky ones? At least we’ve got degrees”. In other words, we best stop complaining about the lack of signing bonuses. The recession is not going away but holy fuck, we are in such positions of privilege compared to people with actual mortgages and families and material possessions under siege. They’re the ones with just cause for concern, but for me and most of my friends, this is a blank check, an opportunity to be whoever we would’ve become without the certainty of a charted career. It’s hard to imagine opportunity where there is none, but I guess that’s what I see the next year as: a rare opportunity to start anew, to abandon past custom and to rush toward the unknowable.

No more parents, no more school, no jobs in sight. We’re going to have to figure out alternatives to the promised glory of our twenties. It almost feels like the summer after graduation, if, on the summer after my actual college graduation, I’d spent it hanging out with directionless friends rather than getting ridiculed in a foreign country. Which is a long story I’ll have to save for the book. Maybe it simply took us the intervening years to come to our senses and realize that the nowhere space we currently occupy is exactly where we were always meant to meet.

* In the movie, a psychologist actually remarks that the Knoxes are psychotic, but not insane. He defines the distinction as follows: “Mickey and Mallory know the difference between right and wrong. They just don’t give a damn.”

  1. master-of-evil reblogged this from camned
  2. lenachen reblogged this from camned and added:
    On Natural Born Killers & My Quarter Life Crisis Basically, I’m Mallory Knox. I watched Natural Born Killers a couple...
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    Watching this now
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    Greatest movie ever
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