June 17, 2010
You can always find Sixteen Candles playing in its perpetual cable rotation –- except when you need to.And because I need to as I write up my interview with Ernessa T. Carter, I have to resort to a YouTube clip of the ending.In it, the view tilts with the bootleg videographer’s head as Jake jogs across the street to Sam descending the church steps with the netting of her bridesmaid’s dress in her hand.You can see tchotchkes on a shelf beside the television, hear the offscreen squeak of the leather camera strap nestled around fingers and a sigh when the onscreen couple finally kisses.It’s like some kind of out-of-body experience, watching through this person’s lens watching the end of Sixteen Candles.It’s like I’m not me at all right now.Instead, I’m everybody who has ever seen this film.
It’s Carter’s all-time favorite movie scene, the one she’ll cue up, she tells me, whenever she’s feeling down.It’s also integral to the plot of her first novel, Essence Magazine‘s July book club selection 32 Candles, which grafts a Hughes-like tale of an outcast teen named Davie Jones striving for a glorious ending onto an Alice Walker-like landscape of poverty and abuse. Whenever Davie obsessively plays back Sixteen Candles, Davie herself might be abstractly united with everyone who’d ever dreamily slunk down at the promise of that kiss over the candles.Davie might be everybody. Or nobody.But in Glass, Mississippi she most certainly isn’t Molly Ringwald.And that realization comes about the time she’s running away alone in a muddied dress with the laughter of what seems like her entire school behind her.
Carter does more than twist a familiar story into the parameters of the real world in 32 Candles.She gives it a sequel, in a sense, so we can see how Davie’s early experiences motivate her like an “invitation to crazy” some fifteen years later.In doing so, Carter takes Hughes’ pinhole focus on white suburbia and widens it to finally fill a void for all the Davies of the world. On the verge of 32 Candles’ release I spoke with Carter about the novel, the Ringwald effect, Fierce and Nerdy, Derby Dolls, impromptu clothing design, and all things movie geek.