I hate you, Kevin Smith. I’ve hated you ever since Dogma. While I didn’t hate Dogma initially (the movie caught me at a particularly weird time wherein I was just awakening to my lifelong, yet at that point latent, atheism and the movie’s freewheeling religious message left me feeling uplifted and secure in a tepid belief in god), in retrospect I think the movie was a cop out, an attempt to please both believer and unbeliever alike. Conversely, Red State, Smith’s latest and hopefully last film, failed for the opposite reason.

On the island they talk about everything, but they don’t talk about love. Conversation is constant, even after the day’s tasks are done, goals achieved, challenges met. Once they’ve banked the fire, posted a sentry, checked the stars once last time for messages, they collapse into a makeshift yurt, crawl beneath a ledge or igloo or shelter of hardened mud, huddle together for warmth – that’s when the whispers arise: Did you hear something? Do you think they’ve forgotten? I’m cold. How did this happen? What in God’s name is that smell?

Your new novel, Deus Ex Machina, is set behind the scenes of a reality television show. Are you a reality-tv addict?

No. Reality TV completely and irrationally terrifies me.

 

Irrationally?

Okay, it’s totally rational. Have you watched any of these shows? These are not human people.

Message #1 – Saturday, 10:14PM: Robbie, Robbie. Darryl. Everyone’s here… Lame that you couldn’t make it. All I have to say is fuck fucking law school. Um, anyway, Rachel says hi and that Janet girl’s been asking about you. Oh, and ha! Some old guy in a cardigan just showed up saying he knows you and—

Message #2 – Saturday, 11:02PM: Okay, Rob? You need to come down here and get Mr. Belvedere or whoever the fuck… How do you know this guy? He’s, like, fifty? Gray hair? He said his name. Sounds Spanish, but he doesn’t look Spanish. I can’t say “Spanish,” because I’m drunk. Anyway, he broke the knob on my stereo and he’s bumming everyone out with his stories. This is Darryl.

Message #3 – Sunday, 12:40AM: Hey. Darryl again. I suppose you’re sleeping or whatever, but if you get this message tonight, call me back… I’m freaking out. One of John’s friends. Aaron or Allen or somebody. He was all drunkenly hitting on Rachel. Just drooling all over her and like touching her shoulders, right? Fucking… And she was just trying not to be mean but, like, shooting looks at John and me. Like, “Help!” And then, all of a sudden there were, like, these horse sounds and this guy with long, curly hair and Shakespeare clothes… Eric! That’s right. The guy’s name was Eric. But anyway, the Shakespeare Guy just…appeared and, like, made some kind of proclamation reading from this old-timey looking paper. And then some other Shakespeare guys came and carried him off! Everyone thought it was a prank until they chained him up and put him in the horsecart with the bars. I mean, yeah, that Eric guy was annoying, but what the fuck? Rachel was pretty upset, but then we did some shots in his honor and— You feel better, right Rachel?! She feels better. Oh, and Cardigan Guy puked on the couch. This is some Twilight Zone shit.

Message #4 – Sunday, 1:11AM: Darryl again. I can’t believe you’re missing this. Do you remember that guy from high school, Jimmy Fetterly? You remember, the guy with the really big overbite and the bald spot on the side of his head… Well, he was just here! Fetterly, in the flesh! He just came in and walked right up to Rachel and went into this long speech, like, basically proclaiming his love for her. And the music stopped and everyone was watching. And she just totally… I don’t know how or why, but she just wrapped her arms around him and started crying, saying, like, she’d always felt the same way about him and everything. I was just fucking floored. Everyone started clapping. Well, first, it was just one guy clapping, that asshole Billy Crispin. The guy who used to like, dip kids’ heads in the rancid puddle water? Yeah, clapping all slow and dramatic-like, with his bottom lip all quivery. And then, one by one, everyone else did too, until they were all cheering. Fetterly! Fetterly! Fucking unreal. I have to admit I was really pretty caught up in it, until I looked over and that Spanish Guy was doing some kind of freaky rain-dance off by himself. All shirtless, and, like thrusting his body around. I don’t think any music was playing either. People started to notice him and stopped clapping one by one. His grunting was pretty loud. Like, moment over! This is the best party EVER.

Message #5 – Sunday, 2:52AM: Well, Operation Fuck Everything Up is apparently all systems go. Pretty much everyone just bailed, because this bearded guy with glasses decided it was time to pop up out of nowhere and tell some girl she’s got…are you ready? Cancer! Yeah, step one: Talk to a random girl. Check. Step two: “Hi, you’ve got brain cancer.” Had her medical records and everything. Then her parents are somehow standing there. Like, what? I mean, when the fuck did I get a fucking underground railroad for old people leading into my living room? Right? But anyway, so everyone’s all crying and shit. “Tonya, tonya. I’m so sorry you got cancer!” That’s the girl’s name. Tonya. And all I can think is, too bad for Tonya that she’s in front of her parents wearing a tee shirt smaller than a handkerchief. Oh…and she’s got fucking cancer! Yeah, then that song “Wind Beneath my Wings” starts playing from my stereo… Rob, I don’t own that song in any form, okay? If I sound lucid, it’s only because fear has sobered me. I’m deeply, deeply horrified right now… Oh, Jesus. Cardigan Guy’s talking to Rachel. I gotta go.

Message #6 – Sunday 4:02: Hey, it’s me again. So I’m stranded in the laundry room. Rachel and Cardigan Guy are making out on the couch. They’re the only ones still here. Anyone still around left after the cops showed up, I guess. Oh, right. The office building across the street exploded a bunch of times. I may have to crash at your place tomorrow night, because it looks like the F.B.I’s cordoning off the neighborhood. Fuck the poliiiiiccceee!

Message #7 – Sunday, 11:43AM: Hey, Man. This is Darryl. Sorry about all those calls last night. Just disregard. John texted me, and I guess someone put some weird shit in my drink. Like, Portugese acid or something? So I guess all that was just a dream or in my head or whatever. I know, right? See you at work tomorrow.