Thoughts on Owen Wilson

I was shook up when I heard that Owen Wilson tried to kill himself. It surprised me that I could not be blase about it. I'm not sure there are many other celebrities who would have that impact on me. (but let's not test it.) In any case, the story now seems to be that Wilson was abusing drugs, which forced his break-up with Kate Hudson. The claim is that British actor/comedian Steve Coogan of 24 Hour Party People fame is the one to blame -- but that is a tangential point, as it seems beyond dispute that Wilson was doing heavy drugs heavily, and because it's hard to trust Courtney Love as a primary source.

The truly innovative thing that the Wilsons and Wes Anderson brought to movies was male narcissism as a desirable quality. Of course, female narcissism is not just encouraged but assumed, because we men stare at them all the time. But men are supposed to be interested in things -- women, football, cars -- not themselves. In Bottle Rocket, Luke Wilson's character charms the pants off a hotel housekeeper without ever telling her that he loves her...in fact, in the pivotal scene, he asks her if she loves him. Owen Wilson's subsequent roles perfected this idea of the man so infatuated with himself that you can't help but be too -- witness the ending church scene in Wedding Crashers, where Wilson's only argument for getting together with Rachel McAdams is to not get together with her fiance, while also mentioning that he crashed a funeral, leaving deliberately unsaid whether it was successful.

This narcissism is a reaction to an assumption of nihilism on the part of Wilson and Anderson, that there's nothing in this world but yourself, so go with it. Tragedy doesn't play well in this world, because there can be no noble flaws or true passion if there's nothing to anything. (and thus why the Life Aquatic didn't work). Rather, comedy is king, and secondary only to comedy is the fetishization of idiosyncrasy, the demonstration of total commitment to any object or endeavor, no matter how seemingly trivial or immoral, because it is ultimately and supremely distracting.

And narcissism, if projected outward, can harm (and, as amply demonstated by Wilson, give pleasure to) others but keep the self from harm (mostly), but when turned inward, can result in severe depressive episodes as the depths of the self, long unexplored or ignored, pull down and paralyze.

Whether Wilson truly embodies this narcissistic ethos is unclear, but I hope that he makes a full recovery and comes to whatever decision he need to make to best help himself. Right now he doesn't need any more distractions, like trying to entertain us.

1 comment:

dave said...

I had the same reaction, but for different, much more stupid reasons. I thought, shit, if that guy, who really seems to have it made -- like, totally, completely made, like the way you thought you would have it made when you were twelve and thinking about how awesome a pro football player/private detective/rock star you were going to be when you were grown-up, kind of made -- if that guy wants to kill himself, then what the fuck am I waiting for?