Ask The Author: Adrienne Gunn

In regards to Adrienne Gunn and this piece she wrote for us, published in March, “Girl in America.”

1. How does one summon the whore within?

In the case of Girl in America, it’s as easy as the addition of some hair and makeup for Pippa to release the whore within. Her whore is attracted to adoration, attention, and is aggressive in her pursuit of it. For “real women” it seems that same look-at-me impulse exists, or I wouldn’t see so many educated women uploading photos of themselves in bikinis onto Facebook. In what world do you want three hundred and fifty of your closest friends examining a picture of your body in a bikini? And commenting on it? Sexualization of women is nothing new, but the willingness of everyday women to publicly project this persona seems to be a new phenomenon.

What I’m really interested in is how and why that whore exists in the first place. And my thesis, if there is one, is that it isn’t an instinctive aspect of womanhood, but instead is a reaction to a certain place and time. A reaction to new technology, the Internet, social networking and YouTube, the rise of reality television and characters who regularly say “blowjob” on Sunday nights on HBO. All of this has made the creation of a whore within remarkably commonplace. And she’s not so secret anymore.

I mean this country literally applauds women for fucking Hugh Hefner. For being nineteen-years-old and having sex (or at least purporting to) with an eighty-six-year-old man in a bathrobe. Now that girl has got to summon the whore within to get there. But once she does, the payoff can be huge. Look at Kendra Wilkinson. She has no other talents other than she was able to get her inner whore to fuck Hugh Hefner. And now she has her own television show and a basketball star husband. Pretty sweet. So Pippa too is a product of this society and hopes for a similar outcome.

2. Do you create backstories for your characters for flash fiction?

I definitely think of my characters as having lives before they step onto the page in one of my stories. I like to think that I do the work necessary with their backstories to create the verisimilitude that they need. I think the emphasis on backstory changes from story to story though. For Pippa, snapshots of her childhood and adolescence were essential to creating meaning in the present time action of the story.

3. Have you ever seen yourself on television? How did you like it?

Now that you mention it, I have, and either consciously or unconsciously that moment surely became part of Girl in America. Picture it – Spring Break, Panama City Beach, Florida, the year 2000. I’m staying with a group of sorority sisters in a really dire hotel. There’s a video camera and we’re constantly filming each other, fascinated by our own fabulosity.

Back in the Midwest, we put the tapes in a VCR and I remember the very unique sensation of being both captivated and horrified by this version of myself. There we were, portraying ourselves as giggling, half-drunk twenty-year-olds, flouncing around in backless shirts and pleather pants (mine were white with fetching off-white zebra stripes), flirting with boys, doing keg stands (!), and saying the most ridiculous things. The guy I was dating at the time had the habit of saying “She’s going to get the hurts; she’s going to get punished,” which I adopted and am on camera saying constantly for no explicable reason or insight into what a jackass it made me look like.

Spring Break itself is essentially a form of irreality. One is encouraged to act in ways that you wouldn’t in “real life”. So compound that with watching yourself on television – it’s own irreality – and now you’ve got a confusing mixture of “who is this person that is me?” While I was horrified by my apparent idiocy, I also thought I appeared funny and fun and – shockingly – sort of beautiful. Obviously, it wasn’t a classy or sophisticated kind of beauty. I had the mouth of a trucker and was frequently wearing a blue Adidas visor (why?), but still there was a moment of detachment where I saw this person and thought, wow, she’s pretty, as if it weren’t me – just an objective judgment on whether someone was hot or, sadly, not. So I was hot. Yay!

That observation of course made me want to press my face closer to the TV and watch the tape over and over again, because a moment of objectivity about yourself is like magic. I wanted to examine whatever the elements were that created this pretty so I could harness them in the future. I wanted to analyze what I saw about myself, what others saw about me, and the space between. (I experience a similar feeling when I stare at my Facebook page today.) Of course I didn’t – I save those kinds of obsessions for Pippa – but I wanted to, and I think that desire to consume representations of yourself when gone unchecked is what is really dangerous. As if a photo of yourself or a moment in time captured on video could encompass something truer about yourself than what is going on in your mind right this second.

4. How is fame like blood?

I have a very serious love/hate relationship with pop culture. I am critical of it and it’s affect on people – especially women and young girls – but I continue to consume it rabidly. Case in point, I’m currently obsessed with RuPaul’s Drag Race. (Pandora Boxx forever!)

But I think one of the effects of a pop culture like ours is that everyone thinks there is something in them that deserves to be made famous or applauded. Reality TV shows perpetuate that myth. Last season’s X Factor didn’t work because they turned the contestants into stars too soon – they had them performing in full stage productions with fireworks and thousands of backup dancers from the first live shows. American Idol, however, allows for a slow transition, allows us to feel like we are watching a regular person, someone who could be our neighbor, become a star right before our eyes. This allows us to think, that could be me! Regular person today – guest on The View tomorrow!

This feeling, that anyone could become a star given the right set of circumstances (remember Rebecca Black?), engenders a sort of entitlement. This is why social networking has been so successful. We all get to create a “self” and put it on display for others to consume. For me, blood was an appropriate metaphor for both this desire to be seen and the assumption that we deserve to be seen because we have something fundamentally inside of us waiting to be exposed. For Pippa, it may be inside all of us, but not everyone will spill it out and risk a sort of death to get what they want.

5. Have you worked with a director like the director in “Girl in America”?

I have not. My one shot at fame was derailed by the onslaught of strep throat. In 5th grade I was slated to be Amelia Bedelia in a PBS production and sadly my mother was a lackadaisical stage mom and thought it best that I recuperate rather than start on my road to stardom. She also never allowed me to get a perm.

6. Do we belong in a movie?

You and I? Or everyone? I don’t think I do. Though I absolutely adore movies, am fascinated by Los Angeles and the construction of celebrity, and would love to see one of my scripts made one day. But I don’t think you’ll see me making the Stephen King-esque cameo were that to happen. I’m still too thankful I never followed through with an audition for The Real World.


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