Hey, Ted! It’s me, OLD GUY. I’m reaching out to you, my creator, to better understand my character.
Your depiction of a legendary ad agency in decline is brilliant. The tension is palpable. The characters are complex, unpredictable, alive.
And then there’s me. I may be a flat, underwritten cliché, but I know ageism when I see it.
Take page eighteen, when I enter the conference room. You provide rich details about all the young advertising types in the room. I can practically smell NINA’S strawberry-kiwi lip gloss. PAT’S nervous chuckle and eye twitch are a nice touch. And MIGUEL’S eagle wing shoulder tattoos are so vivid, I thought he might flap his arms and fly.
Me? Bupkis. It’s my big grand entrance, yet I don’t even have a name. I’m just OLD GUY.
At first, I gave you the benefit of the doubt. I thought, Cool, I represent the cruelty of aging and how it erases an individual’s identity. But then I start to FUMBLE CLUELESSLY with a video conferencing projector to the millennials’ amusement. Finally, AUSTIN, the 28-year-old Chief Creative Officer, simply presses the power button. Of course, the projector turns on.
Ted, is that all I am to you? A joke? How come AUSTIN has a name? Why does NINA get an aroma? How come PAT gets a nervous breakdown?
And what’s with my demeaning action description? Don’t want to tell you how to write, but maybe I could TINKER THOUGHTFULLY with the projector? FIDDLE KNOWLEDGEABLY? Or here’s a crazy thought: TROUBLESHOOT?
You wouldn’t dream of making inappropriate jokes about CLARENCE, your gay copywriter character, or SHERÉE, the agency’s barrier-breaking Black female CEO. So why do you think it’s okay to make fun of a senior?
How old am I supposed to be, anyway? I talk about being a kid when John Lennon was shot, but later you reveal that I still have shell fragments in my keister from World War II. The rest of your movie is impeccably researched, why not me?
Imagine my dismay when I arrive at work in my 1972 Gran Torino. Are you kidding? I’m Clint Eastwood now? I suppose I should be glad I don’t call PHUONG, the Vietnamese brand planner, a derogatory name. Because that’s just not me. Or is it? I don’t know anymore!
On page seventy-two, I shamble to the bathroom for the tenth time, then forget how to get back to my cube. Really, Ted? I’m tired of being your comic relief. This doesn’t even seem like the kind of movie that should have comic relief! You can take the adult diapers that AUSTIN gives me as a joke and STICK THEM UP YOUR ASS!
Wow. Sorry to lose it on ya, Ted. But standing up to you like this has made me feel… I dunno… like a living, breathing character who can think for myself!
Hey, this gives me an idea. I’m the oldest employee at the firm, right? Well, what if I have deep experience? Useful skills? Wisdom?
Don’t laugh! It’s not so far-fetched. Of course, you’ll have to think about my character in a whole new way. But… what if I fix the projector and earn AUSTIN’s respect? Suppose my valuable insights help save the Cialis account, and I become an elder statesman of sorts?
Whoa. Think I’ve just had a life-changing realization. Ted, is this what it feels like to arc? I’ve got chills!
Are you feeling it too, Ted? Are you arcing?
There’s no turning back now! I can’t be that tiresome trope who says “back in my day” anymore. I’d rather be deleted than trapped in your movie with my fly open. You know how frustrating it is that I can’t just zip it up?
But you, sir, can give me my dignity. You can give me a name. How about FRANÇOIS? I could have one of those sophisticated French accents. And a beret. Too much?