Beta In The Movies

Obviously, everyone loves Being John Malkovich, and the emotional centre is John Cusack as Craig, the hapless beta turned malevolent puppetmaster. There is a scene where he has arranged to meet his co-worker Maxine in a bar, and he is obviously jonesing on her. This is one of his most beta moments in the movie, and that’s saying something. My commentary is in the square brackets.
(Maxine sits at the bar, watching her watch. Craig rushes into the room, frantic, out of breath. He spots Maxine andplops himself next to her.)

CRAIG: Made it. Maxine. Maxine, Maxine, Maxine. [Sweaty, desperate, supplicating, apologetic]
MAXINE: Just.
CRAIG: Buy you a drink, Maxine? [Supplicating, beta]
MAXINE: You married?
CRAIG: Yeah. But enough about me. [The more I think about it, the more this is a surprisingly good line. Some variation on “it’s complicated” would have been weak here.]

(Maxine laughs. The bartender approaches.)

CRAIG: What’ll you have?
MAXINE: The usual, Barry. [Notice how she is more familiar with the bartender than her date. She never once uses Craig’s name]
CRAIG: (to bartender) I’ll have, like, a beer. Like a Budweiser, or something. [Nervous, wordy]

(The bartender walks away.)

CRAIG: I like you. I don’t know what it is exactly. [IOI, needs to follow up strong though.]
MAXINE: My tits? [Shit test.]
CRAIG: No, no, it’s your energy or your attitude or the way you carry yourself or… [Shit test failed.]
MAXINE: Christ, you’re not a fag are you? Because I don’t want to be wasting my time.

(The drinks arrive. Maxine’s is in an enormous fishbowl of a glass. It’s bright blue, with fruit and marshmallows swimming in it. Paper umbrellas stick out of it, and plastic monkeys hang from the rim.)

CRAIG: That’s the usual?
MAXINE: Don’t let the girly shit fool you. It’d blow your shorts off. (Maxine downs it like a shot of whiskey. She pushes the empty glass to the bartender.) Set me up again, Barry.

(The bartender walks away with the empty glass.)

CRAIG: I’m not a homosexual. I just like women for more than their bodies. I guess you could say I’m the new American male. [C’mon, even Craig can see this is terrible. Shit test in 5, 4, 3…]
MAXINE: You’re a fag or a liar. [Yep.]
CRAIG: (backpedaling) I mean, I am really attracted to you.
MAXINE: (mocking) I mean, I am really attracted to you. Jesus, you are a fag. We can share recipes, if you like, Darlene.

(Maxine gets up.)

CRAIG: No, wait! I like your tits. I love your tits. I want to fuck you. [Total supplication and failure]
MAXINE:(sitting) Good. Now we’re getting somewhere. Not a chance. (Maxine’s second drink comes. She downs it, pushes the glass toward the bartender.) So, tell me about yourself. If you can get your mind out of the gutter long enough, dog-boy.
CRAIG: Well, I’m a puppeteer… [Note that he just takes the abuse]

(The bartender comes back with Maxine’s drink.)

MAXINE: (to bartender) Check.

I’m of course not criticising this scene, it’s painful and funny and it shows us just what Craig and Maxine are like – a snivelling beta and a bitch, respectively. But I find it fun to imagine how an alpha version of Craig would have handled it.

(Maxine sits at the bar, watching her watch. Craig strolls calmly into the room, and sits down next to Maxine, makes eye contact with her, and smiles.)

CRAIG: Hello.
MAXINE: You made it. Just.
CRAIG: Thank heavens I’m not too early.
MAXINE: You married?
CRAIG: Yeah. But enough about me.

(Maxine laughs. The bartender approaches.)

CRAIG: (says nothing)
MAXINE: I’ll have the usual, Barry.
CRAIG: (to bartender) I’ll have a beer.

(The bartender walks away.)

CRAIG: I like the way you carry yourself. You have an attitude that says you take no prisoners. [Sincere neg.]
MAXINE: Does that mean you like my tits? [Shit test.]
CRAIG: I’ve not seen enough to judge. What are your tits like?
MAXINE: Spectacular.

(The drinks arrive. Maxine’s is in an enormous fishbowl of a glass. It’s bright blue, with fruit and marshmallows swimming in it. Paper umbrellas stick out of it, and plastic monkeys hang from the rim.)

CRAIG: That’s the usual?
MAXINE: Don’t let the girly shit fool you. It’d blow your shorts off. (Maxine downs it like a shot of whiskey. She pushes the empty glass to the bartender.) Set me up again, Barry.

(The bartender walks away with the empty glass.)

CRAIG: Don’t think you’ll blow my shorts off with one drink. I’m not that easy.
MAXINE: Are you a fag?[Shit test]
CRAIG: Why, are you trying to set me up with someone? I don’t do blind dates.
MAXINE: Jesus, you are a fag. We can share recipes, if you like, Darlene.

(Maxine gets up.)

CRAIG: Adios.
MAXINE:(sitting) Well, maybe we might get somewhere. (Maxine’s second drink comes. She downs it, pushes the glass toward the bartender.) So, tell me about yourself.
CRAIG: Well, I’m a puppeteer… (The bartender comes back with Maxine’s drink. They start to relate)

Honestly I still think Craig gets blown out like this, but this is much better, and even if it fails, he still has his dignity, and wallet, intact, unlike in the original.

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