[Tribeca] The Adderall Diaries and the Problem with the Brilliant Male Writer Cliche

I think it was Harlan Ellison who said that most people believe they’re a better writer and a better fuck than everyone else. That succinctly describes the absurd narcissism at the heart of the male writer trope: he’s ruggedly masculine and yet aesthetically sensitive, he’s smart in a way that’s worldly rather than academic—brilliant, really—he constantly struggles with writer’s block until a divine spark of inspiration leads to the rapid production of undeniable genius, and everyone wants to have sex with him because he’s really good at it—no, the best, actually.

The brilliant male writer cliche is ridiculous yet persistent, and these tropes make the adaptation of The Adderall Diaries starring James Franco feel so uninspired. I haven’t read Stephen Elliott’s memoir of the same name, though excerpts from the book strike such a different tone from the film. It’s not just because the story’s been moved from San Francisco to New York. While the source material seems like a genuine exploration of strained father-son relationships and the ways people remember and misremember, writer/director Pamela Romanowsky’s movie comes across as sycophantic genuflection to the idea of the brilliant male writer.

Hubert Vigilla

Hubert Vigilla is a writer living in Brooklyn, which makes him completely indistinguishable from four-fifths of people living in Brooklyn.

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