I saw Bridesmaids last night, and I didn’t handle it well.
You see, for most people in the movie theater, I think their post-film thoughts went something like, “That was a funny movie for laughs” or “I like seeing a movie with my significant other because it keeps us from having to talk.”
My thoughts, as always, went like this: I want to be Kristen Wiig.
I shouldn’t be surprised. Most things make me want to be Kristen Wiig. I wake up; I want to be Kristen Wiig. I watch Saturday Night Live, and I want to be Kristen Wiig. I think about beached whales; I want to be Kristen Wiig.
It was a very upsetting experience. Because it’s not that I want to be more like Kristen Wiig. It’s that I want to BE her.
And that’s where it gets difficult. Because “being” someone entails more than mimicking her mannerisms: it involves capturing–literally capturing–that person’s essence. And forget Bridesmaids–I’d never thought much about the idea of essence until I saw that classic mind-bending cinematic masterpiece of the early 2000s: Zoolander. In that film–hailed by critics as, “I actually meant to go to Monster’s Ball”–Derek Zoolander, who I believe was quite obviously modeled, in look and manner, after Sir Francis Bacon, says something that has stuck with me ever since. He says, “Moisture is the essence of wetness. And wetness is the essence of beauty.”
Talk about depth! I thought I had been confused by the movie before–I used to think that “male models” were USPS employees with killer smiles–but once they got into this idea of “essence,” that’s when it was over for me. Of course, I’m not going to spend time trying to figure out what the “meaning” of Zoolander is–it’s always going to be one of those movies that everyone pretends to “get” just so that they’re well-respected in academic circles.
When it comes to grammar, though, the whole idea of essence is ironed into one little, multi-facted verb: to be. I realized that a lot of discussions (passive vs. active voice, for example) hinge on the assumption that you know all parts of this lovely verb. So rather than assume, I decided to make sure that you knew. Because you know what they say about assume–the only thing worse than assuming is saying that whole little “you know what they say about assume” ditty.
Here are the basics.
The root verb is to be. Then, depending on the person and the tense, to be morphs into is, am, was, were, are, been, and being. Each one of these words is a verb
English teachers often say that a verb is a “action” word, and this is generally true. However, this can be confusing, because there is not much action involved with the words was or am, for example. But these verbs are still verbs, and they’re necessary for a variety of sentences to function: it’s just that that in these sentences, the action is a bit more existential, a bit more concerned existence with over action.
By itself, this information may not give you much. But you should be able to recognize and use the all forms of the to be verb–they come into play when constructing (or, more often, destroying) passive sentences, when creating linking verbs, and when conducting an impassioned discussion about how much you want to be Kristen Wiig.
For now, though, I’ll leave that strange dream alone. I do this with the encouragement of my boyfriend, who, after hearing me lament for hours over the fact that I was not Kristen Wiig, took my hand, looked me lovingly in the eyes, and said–with a voice full of comfort and reassurance–”I wish you were Kristen Wiig, too.”