“I’m not a concept. Too many guys think I’m a concept or I complete them or I’m going to make them alive, but I’m just a fucked up girl who is looking for my own peace of mind. Don’t assign me yours.” – Clementine Kruczynski, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
For nearly eight years, I’ve considered Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to be one of my favorite — if not my most favorite — movies. And for many years, I never really thought about exactly what it means for this movie to have resonated with me so much. At first, I thought I was just drawn into the pretty colors, the visual effects of things gradually disappearing from Joel’s memory as he goes through the Lacuna process, Jim Carrey in a serious role. However, as I’ve grown older and started to view the film from a different lens, I’ve started to view things more in the way Clementine sees her everything: jaded, with a bit of resentment tinting the picture.
See, Joel — Carrey’s character — doesn’t really know what he wants from life, except an escape from the monotony of adulthood. Once he meets Clementine, he knows immediately that she’s his way out of the average and mundane. The thing is, though, with him putting her high upon this pedestal, he’s comparing her to the expectations that he sets for her and ultimately becomes disappointed when she doesn’t meet these arbitrarily lofty goals for a partner. She becomes frustrated. She becomes angry. She completely clears him from her memory. And, as a result, he clears her from his.
Joel is what we in the business call a “Nice Guy.” Granted, he’s not actually nice, because he does some sneaky, underhanded and manipulative shit — like a lot of “Nice Guys” — but he operates under the assumption that he’s, at least, nicer than the other guys around him.
I used to think that Joel was completely in the right in his decisions to want to make sure he clung tight as much as possible to the love that he and Clementine once had, that he was entitled to make sure he found his happiness through the one thing that made him unique. But as I’ve grown older and had similar situations happen to me, I realize now that it’s an entirely fucked up mindset to have; furthermore, it’s especially fucked up to project something ultimately unattainable toward someone you claim to love and want to share a life with. A person isn’t a concept that needs to be actualized. A person isn’t some kind of puzzle that needs to be solved, and then admired upon completion. A person, a woman, a partner is someone who’s just going through the same personal life struggles as you and has just so happened to want to share their life and struggles with you. It’s completely unfair to anyone — be it Clementine in Eternal Sunshine or even the living, breathing person beside you — to force this kind of pressure upon them.
It’s hard enough being yourself. The last thing other people need is to worry about being someone else’s idea of yourself.