Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Kayla Rae Whitaker's "The Animators"

Kayla Rae Whitaker’s work has appeared in Smokelong Quarterly, Split Lip Magazine, BODY, Bodega, Joyland, The Switchback, Five Quarterly, American Microreviews and Interviews, and others. She has a BA from the University of Kentucky and an MFA from New York University. After many years of living in Brooklyn, she returned to Kentucky, her home state, in 2016 with her husband and their geriatric tomcat, Breece D’J Pancake.

Here Whitaker dreamcasts an adaptation of her new book, her debut novel, The Animators:
Casting The Animators as a movie: I have this reoccurring, impossible fantasy of placing Bette Davis and Joan Crawford as the cartoonists Sharon and Mel, respectively. Can you imagine Bette smoking a joint in her bathrobe and cramming Cheetos into her mouth, or Joan doing the Axl Rose dance, pointing to someone, cigarette clamped in her mouth, yelling, “Because it’s rad, that’s why”? I can. And it’s awesome.

Sharon’s a weird mix of misanthropy and deep vulnerability – she is a difficult character to come to know, but you are glad to know her once you have. Rocky-era Talia Shire would be a good fit. The obvious, golden choice, however: Janeane Garofalo, the 90s-era, thinking-woman’s heroine. Younger Millennials may not realize the extent to which Janeane was our woman, back in the day. Today, if you want to cast a sharp, smartassed brunette with wit and pathos, you have more than one option. For about a decade, Janeane was all we had. The Truth About Cats and Dogs would be a far better movie if it just featured her, and no one else, for ninety minutes.

In the book, several people tell the rowdy, outgoing Mel that she reminds them of Lori Petty in Tank Girl – blonde, wiry, with soft, girlish features in the face. Good casting, but for the fact of Mel’s voice which, as Sharon notes when they first meet, is “like broken glass.”

The cartoons, though – this is the important part. What would Sharon and Mel’s cartoons look like in a film adaptation? In a perfect world, Sharon and Mel’s cartoons would be a bright, chaotic cross between the girls’ heroes: John K (of Ren and Stimpy fame) and 70s alt-cartoon legend Ralph Bakshi (Fritz the Cat, Heavy Traffic, Wizards). The work should have an edge of throwback. It’s been said that Millennials are excessively preoccupied with nostalgia, and that this preoccupation denotes self-absorption, which I find to be an unfair conclusion. Our generation has witnessed a faster technological progression than perhaps any other. The act of looking back is, I think, an attempt to understand our placement in this history.
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--Marshal Zeringue