THIS WEEK IN NYC 
 
 
MANHATTAN CHRONICLES EDITORIAL
The JUNO Effect Vs. The MOONSTRUCK Affect
How the MBAs have influenced our souls, values and bedrooms
 
by ALEXANDRA ARES
 
Published: March 20, 2010 
 
 

I am walking down Fifth Avenue on the sidewalk facing Central Park. It’s the first day of spring and I gaze happily around at how the city comes back to life from the dead winter and morphs into the city that I love. I am having a moment when everything seems in harmony like a slow motion movie:  the pastel view of the Manhattan Skyline; the city sounds -- horns, cars, buses, taxis, bicycle bells, the clank of red-soled Christian Louboutin shoes on the asphalt, the muffled, flapping noise of sneakers whizzing by -- which all seem to merge into a harmonious melody.  A fresh scent of grass leaves rises up to my delighted nostrils.  A passer-by smiles and looks straight into my eyes. This is it. This is the payoff for all the years of our lives; for all of us New Yorkers united from wherever we came from; the payoff for enduring winter, for going to school, grad school, night classes, for moving here and finding a job, an apartment, for surviving all the work stresses, love dramas and dry spells, and all the dark moments that life has thrown at us. 

We are a lucky bunch, at least in the eyes of the outsiders.  There are a few cities in the world where people dream to live in, and New York is one of them. And in terms of glamour, image, culture, density of interesting people, cool vibe, and readiness to do whatever works, Manhattan tops them all.  

Or does it not anymore? Today, this ‘efficient’, ‘fun’, ‘commercial’ Manhattan lifestyle and American culture have been exported everywhere, globalizing millions of brains, colonizing souls.

It’s a reassuring idea: I can just lounge on the grass, doze off in the sun, or watch some kids running around their parents, empty my mind, rest my body, and know that somewhere in Romania bands of young musicians are composing songs in English, rap or dance, that sound  American and perfectly fit for Manhattan; that in China women are giving birth to kids for me, or people like me, and will later bring them here; that in India or other countries students are working at their PhDs in science to create the new breakthroughs for IBM or Apple apps.

Meanwhile, I get a phone call from a friend and hear that somewhere in South Africa two British newly minted lovers have a fight that comes not from passion, or betrayal, but from the clash between the old fashioned  ‘raw instinct’ and the modern American concept of ‘cautious life management.’

Do you want to have babies as a ‘passion fruit’ in the 21 century? In Manhattan, or in the Manhattan-like parts of the world?

Good luck.  If you’re a teenager, let’s start with the movie JUNO.  I don’t know about you my dear reader, but one of the things that struck me was the language that seemed so overly mature for a teenager. Her first night of sex with her helpless high-school boyfriend is both expert and devoid of feeling, like an item on a today’s teenage girl to-do- list. The way Juno handles the news of her teen pregnancy, the daily goings to school in her condition, her hunt for the perfect couple to adopt the baby, and the total support of all the parties involved is strikingly smooth.  Juno knows the entire drill.  She’s well prepared and googled, mature, and matter-of-fact about everything. There’s little sense of wonder left, or disturbing untidy emotions, but plenty of ‘adjustment’.  Everyone is adjusted.

If you are in your twenties, let’s think of my friends Maria and John both 28, who flew to South Africa for a romantic jaunt.  They are both in love and the sex is great. Maria wants a kid, John suffers from the “Juno effect.” He says that he would only agree to give the sperm to her in a bottle with a legal agreement that would qualify him as a sperm donor, not a ‘traditional’ dad, thus absolving him of any responsibility.  John knows the drill expertly, and he’s being an efficient life manager.

If you are in your thirties, let’s think of Connie, a woman in LA who is running from one fabulous boyfriend who has it all, to the next fabulous boyfriend who has it all: the appealing convertible Jaguar, the cool job, the tanned, thin bod, the good brains, and muscled wallet. But there is a catch, because however grand the love and sex is, this Juno type of accomplished man had a vasectomy, and wants no children at all.     

Meet the modern love control freak.  It’s a trend.

Good luck talking about spontaneity and heartfelt impulse to a believer in strict life management who goes to a shrink or a life coach once a week, buys only self help and technical books,  has a stack of internet bookmarks for dating advice sites and dating sites and for all the questions about life and risks that could be asked; who is efficiently and impersonally fucking several people at the same time not before giving the prep talk — “Honey let’s be clear about this, it’s just FUN” -  and rotating them like the New York restaurants. Some call this “CASUAL DATING”.  Hedging the bets to ensure no lonely weekend nights, no broken hearts; but no real passion either; just quick little sex castles, expertly built on sand.     

Twenty years ago, modern love was brilliantly scripted by John Patrick Shanley and played by Nicholas Cage and Cher in MOONSTRUCK: “Why sell your life short? Playing it safe is the most dangerous thing you can do.”  

Today’s love is efficiently managed and emotionally sanitized, like in JUNO.

“I am pregnant…But, uh ah, I'm going to give it up for adoption and I already found the perfect couple, they're going to pay for the medical expenses and everything… And what ah 30 or odd weeks we can just pretend that this never happened.” (Juno, JUNO).

Kids behave like adults, and adults like kids, terrified of taking risks.

We are a becoming a country of managers, all experts at efficiency of our mental, emotional, sexual, and financial resources.

The MBAs have ultimately affected everything, including our souls and values; not only the boardrooms but also the bedrooms.  Sarah Gray, an MBA holder from an Ivy League school who asked to change her real name for this article, commented: “Not sure the MBA’s themselves have anything to do with it at all. The truth is 99% of MBAs and successful men in general are married with more than one kid. Their life is so stressful that they need that family to balance it out. And they marry early too. It's the screw ups and losers who keep pushing the envelope waiting for somebody better to come along. Perhaps it is different among creative people, but in the business world, virtually everyone I know is married or engaged with a few exceptions.”

It is a valid point. Yet it is not the MBAs direct contribution I am arguing, but the indirect contribution to the culture as a whole and the Peter Pan Generation

We are all playing it cool and playing it safe. There is little sense of wonder, although many of us love to behave like kids, and no buyers market for the ‘genuine’ article. There are many practical, tangible advantages to this approach, which make the good old days seems so quaint.   

Loretta, I love you. Not like they told you love is, and I didn't know this either, but love don't make things nice - it ruins everything. It breaks your heart. It makes things a mess. We aren't here to make things perfect. The snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect. Not us. Not us! We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and *die*. The storybooks are *bullshit*. Now I want you to come upstairs with me and *get* in me. (Ronnie Castorini, MOONSTRUCK)

Imagine Ronnie Castorini handing his sperm in a bottle, treating his manhood with a vasectomy, giving the prep talk, and managing his emotions, risks, marriage proposal, and romantic impulses with the caution of an MBA picking the optimal stocks.

It would have ruined all the beauty of this classic New York movie, and turned it up side down into a farcical comedy.  For the movie is our life. SLO MO or SPEED MO.  For the entire world of facebook, myspace,  youtube, twitter,  torrent,  and so on;  to see and ultimately to copy.     

                         Alexandra Ares is a writer, novelist and screenwriter living in New York City, publisher of Manhattan Chronicles.