Thursday, 1 March 2012

Jenny Ringo Saved My Life: How I Met Jenny Ringo

 This is the second blog in a series about the inside story of our short films featuring Jenny Ringo.  To find out more about the projects, read the prologue here.

I said this story was sad in places, luckily, this bit isn't one of them.  Meeting Jenny Ringo coincided, not at all coincidentally, with getting involved with a young writer called Chris Regan, which is an almost exclusively happy story.  I apologise for the lack of pretty pictures to distract you from the block of text, but this all happened in the days before digital cameras, and it feels kind of wrong to write about that Jenny with pictures of Jenny Ringo as she is now.

 I first encountered Jenny in November 2000.  Chris and I were in that stage of a new relationship when you have just realised this could be something special and want to know everything about the other person immediately.  We were swapping favourite books, films and music (on mix tapes, it really was that long ago).  I asked for some of Chris's stories, and he gave me a handful.

I had never read anything like them; he had such an easy, casual style completely different from the kind of modern fiction I was used to.  He blended humour and horror that bordered on surreal in a way that appeared to be effortless.  To me it seemed utterly daring and original.  Sure, it wasn't perfect, he was a 20 year-old student and still had a lot to learn, but I don't think I had ever read something by one of my peers that displayed such natural talent and confidence.  I have been scouring the flat for one of them to share a snippet with you, but I haven't unearthed one yet.

And in with that handful of stories must have been one or two early outings of Jenny Ringo; dyed black hair, goth clothes and style, an enormouse sense of adventure and capable of real magic.  As a character, I loved her immediately.  As the fictional creation of my new boyfriend, I found her extremely intimidating.  Surely this was, on some level, his ideal woman.  The bad news was, she was nothing like me.  She was way cooler.

We next met in a story Chris wrote for me during the Christmas holiday; giving you a rundown of the plot would probably make you throw up so I'll spare you too many details (there is also a talking, smoking cat called Ted) but Chris meets Jenny for a drink in the ideal pub in his head, and she gives him some really good relationship advice.  I loved the story, but reading this, I realised Jenny wasn't his perfect woman, she was his female best friend.  This was even worse news.  I'd had boyfriends with a female best friend before.  This never turns out well.  As the girlfriend, you are the one who causes all the problems while the female best friend is there giving great advice and creating hassle-free fun times.  Before you know it, they are more in love with their female best friend than they are with you.  And Jenny, being fictional, was never going to ditch Chris for a boyfriend or mess things up by turning into a stalker.  I began to resent Jenny just a little bit.

Chris had to explain to me the real roots of Jenny Ringo.  She was really aspects of himself, and if she was his ideal, it was who he wanted to be rather than fall in love with.  She isn't perfect, in fact, she's highly flawed, but this never deters her from trying to do the right thing; fight evil, help people, make awesome music.  She's the part of him that loves goth culture, that would really like to tell evil people to fuck off, that wants to exist outside of what everyone else thinks.  I had been blind to it for the most basic of reasons, that Jenny's a girl and he's a boy, but once we'd talked about it, it was glaringly obvious to me.  From then on, my insecurities disappeared and I loved Jenny Ringo unconditionally.

Over the years, she has put in sporadic appearances in stories written for me, and for Chris, and occasionally for the rest of the world.  She's had her own feature, she's joined forces with some of Chris's other characters that I can't tell you too much about but you may get to meet in the not-too-distant future, and even had a cameo in a computer game once.  Recently its been a bit like status updates from an old friend on facebook; you are briefly reminded how much they mean to you and you wish you could hang out more.  I can't pretend I wouldn't have produced any film which Chris asked me to, but I'm really glad it was a Jenny Ringo film.

After drafting this blog post, and asking Chris if he minded me blogging about him, he told me he'd written a blog about Women in Horror Month which also covered the origins of Jenny; as well as why we shouldn't get upset with Zach Snyder over Sucker Punch.  You can read it here.