The Endless, Effortless Search for "Sam"

This is an open indictment of all guys who think "Sam," Natalie Portman’s character in Garden State, is a real person waiting in a shrink’s office listening to the Shins’ “New Slang” through oversized headphones who will actually make the effort to get with some guy simultanously coming down from a night on ecstasy and years of anti-depressants. After he blows her off, this girl will still get on his retro motorbike, wear a garbage bag, and be a tireless good listener while he empties his tortured soul. She’ll even bawl her eyes out when he’s about to leave her for Hollywood dreams of fame and fortune…and of course she’ll immediately forgive him for being an insensitive asshole by making out with him when he decides not to get on the plane. She doesn’t care; she’ll marry him at any moment following the roll of the credits. She’ll do anything for him. She loves him. They’re soul mates. Isn't "Sam" the greatest? Maybe there's a "Sam" out there for me...

Okay, wake up. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news and reality, but "Sam" is not real. She’s a figment of Zach Braff’s imagination, his fantasy girl, and apparently yours, too. The chances of you finding a girl like her to stroke your ego are slim-to-none. You might as well get with Queen Amadala [or whatever the hell the last name of the queen Miss Natalie plays in those disappointing Star Wars prequels], prepubescent “Marty” from Beautiful Girls, or the prostitute she plays in Closer.

There’s something that bothers me about “Sam,” about how she plays off the fantasy of the script to single-handedly make the relationship work without the slightest bit of help from “Andrew” (Zach Braff’s character). On his own, he’s a fucked up ball of emotions. That much is established right away, in the opening Coldplay-aided montage. But lucky for him, she intervenes. From the moment “Andrew” first interacts with “Sam,” she makes every action and he makes every reaction (okay, I’ll give him the kiss on the canyon, but damn, he sure waited a long fucking time to kiss her. “What the hell is wrong with him?” I could almost hear her thinking, “This script sucks. Why doesn’t he kiss me in the pool, or by the fire, or at least while my mother is screening my character’s home movies?”).

But back at the doctor’s office. She notices him. She goes over to sit with him, bugs him with her “New Slang” (which came out back in 2001 or something and was featured in a McDonald’s commercial in 2002, but apparently it can still change your life). She openly shares herself with him, trusts him without expecting trust in return. She showers him with her life insights and helps him realize his own. This is exactly what an unhappy shy guy with trouble meeting girls and an empty love life is looking to find. He doesn’t have to do anything but sit there (remind you of anything?). It’s just like a male fantasy relationship. The female makes every move on the shy male, in the emotional sense. Guys are lazy. They think they can just sit there thinking a girl is hot, or interesting, or maybe someone they could actually see themselves with (and we’re not talking marriage here…stop jumping to conclusions. Most of us are well aware that over 60% [whatever the newest stats] of marriages end in divorce) and she’ll turn into “Sam,” who will turn your pussy shyness into a convenient relationship wherein you do all the taking and she does all the giving. Not going to happen. So keep sitting there, doing nothing.

These guys who are searching for “Sam” may be smart. They may be shy. They may even be successful, maybe somewhat good-looking, with everything going for them—except, obviously a girl like “Sam.” Keep on looking, but don’t expect her to come to you, unless you want to buy the Garden State DVD and fanaticize every night…but “Andrew” will still be getting all the action. You need to make an effort, because if "Sam" does exist in the real world, she may be just as shy and unsure of herself as you are.


And while she may not be quite as idealized, Kate Winslet's "Clementine" in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is made of the same proactive romantic character DNA as "Sam." Remember the first train scene? She makes the first movie, the second move, third, fourth, and so on...she bugs him until he can't help but relent. Yes, this may happen in real life, but it's also kind of a social fantasy for the shy guy...because I don't know a lot of girls who would keep going after someone if he told me to leave him alone...


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