Dirty Talk in the Room Where it Happens — the writer’s room.

The room. It’s Valhalla for most aspiring writers. It was for me. You work your ass off. You write and write and, if you’re tenacious and a little bit lucky, you get a job on a writing staff.

When I got my first job on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I was petrified at first — fuck, I was petrified the whole time I was on that show. Happy. Challenged. Amazed. And petrified almost every single day. I’m prone to anxiety — shocker — a lot of writers are. So I was petrified of Joss and David Greenwalt, of the other writers, the actors, the set… Even ordering lunch was a taxing chore in the nest of bees that is my busy brain.

But most of all, I was petrified of the room. Sticking your neck in a room full of smart people? With ideas that mostly got rejected — and at worse mocked…? Fuck that. But the room became my happy place. My safe place. One of the few places I wasn’t petrified. Because Joss and David made it okay to say anything. Literally ANYTHING. For the first time in my life, I could reveal the darkest, most politically un-correct thoughts that tend to run through my head on a blacklisted ticker tape, and it was okay. It was encouraged. I have never laughed as hard as I did in that room. Sometimes I cried. And sometimes I was ashamed of the black, poisonous honey my brain bees were spewing. The only times it got dicey were when goodnatured teasing cut too close to the bone, and somebody started to feel like a target. I’ve learned that’s the limit in a room. Everyone has to understand that they are, at base level, there because they are appreciated and respected. If that starts to change, things go bad and fast. So it’s a case of constant monitoring — are we so far into the weeds that somebody is getting hurt?

Why play that hard? Why risk it? The reason to cut that close to emotional wounds is evident in the work. That’s where the good stuff is — in those hurt places and weird secrets we thought nobody else could hear or relate to. That’s the stuff of great writing. But getting there can be scary and everyone in a writer’s room is at risk of feeling too exposed. So the job of policing that space becomes whoever is the person with the most power. If the showrunner is in the room, it’s them. If the headwriter is in charge — they’re up. For sure, I don’t always get it right. And in some cases, like on UnReal and now on Girlfriend’s Guide, I’m balancing multiple projects. I work remotely a lot of the time. That makes it harder to know what the dynamics are. But everyone knows the value of digging into the dark stuff.

What made me think about this today? How many times I have had to stop myself from tweeting a “grab her by the pussy” joke. If I were in a room today, it would be a race to see who could deploy it first and most effectively. The smart, patient one will wait until folks have got the obvious jokes out of their system, and then drop it like a bomb at the perfect, most unexpected moment. Because that shit is almost as funny as it is teriffying. Donald Trump is a Santa Claus for comedy writers, drama writers, grocery list writers — “Milk, Eggs, Kale, Handful of Pussy, salt…”  See?  Irresistible. I had people over to watch the debate the other night, and one of the invitees replied to the inevitable “what can I bring” question with “I’ll grab a handful of pussy on the way over.” I laughed out loud. Then the floodgates were open and it was on. And there were men making these jokes along with the ladies. It was okay because we’re a close group and I know these folks to be profoundly dedicated to equal rights for all. Like, “put your money where your mouth is” type of dedicated. These are some badass justice fighters, sans capes.

But now I’m wondering… Donald was partially joking with another human dumpster fire when he said what he did. He was trying to get another man to laugh. He was bragging. He was serious, but only half. If we didn’t know that the things he said are just the tip of a fetid, hateberg floating in a sea of crazy — would policing the awful things people say when they think they’re in private be crossing a line?  I mean, obviously, the man is running for the highest office in the country, possibly the entire world — and he’s policing the fuck out of Hilary with the help of the KREMLIN so I think the answer in this case is obvious. But what about the rest of us? It’s a slippery slope and it scares me a little bit. I don’t know the answer. I’d love to know what you, my perhaps nonexistent readers, think.

(Pussy, pussy, pussy. PUSSY. Jesus, it’s gonna be a while before this one is out of my system.)



This Election Needs a Trigger Warning

That was my tweet after the great Pussy Grab Leak of 2016. I was kind of joking. Now, after speaking to my psychiatrist – an actual medical doctor who knows about “medical medical” (as we used to write in scripts on Grey’s Anatomy because we were fake doctors and real doctors did that stuff) — I learned a lot about my reaction over the last few weeks to Donald Trump’s words and actions. And I learned that “this election needs a trigger warning” is no joke.

I’ve been sleepless, I’ve had trouble eating, I’ve been anxious and distracted, I’ve had moments of hopelessness. And I’m not alone. I’ve spoken to many other women and a lot of men who are having similar symptoms.

My shrink explained the biochemical element of what’s been happening. She says Donald Trump fits the classic definition of a narcissist. Narcissists see the world simply as a reflections of themselves. It’s as if everyone and everything they see is labeled “ME” or “MINE” (or “NO!” or “WRONG!” — sound familiar?) They are relentless about getting what they want and will charm or cajole to get it. And if that doesn’t work, they bully. They lie. They name call. They physically intimidate. Which triggers a reaction in the brain of the bullied person. It lights the limbic system up like a Christmas tree. It “moves on it like a bitch”, if you will.

The limbic system is responsible for “fight or flight” — a primal instinct hardwired into our brains which overrides our logical mind. Say an actual vicious Liger is about to pounce, what we don’t want is a lot of reasoning. We want our feet moving or that spear flying before we have time to think “wow, a liger is a fictional beast from Napoleon Dynamite! What’s it doing — gaaaaaaa!” (You were thinking. Liger got you. You’re dead.)

And Donald Trump is a world class, primal-style bully. He’s not bound by reason or facts or the social contract. He lives to dominate the weak. He was taught by his own father that life was a zero sum game. You win — or you’re a loser. And he’s made a fortune living by that code.

For months, we’ve been listening to Trump attack and belittle people he believes are lesser humans than him. Which is basically everyone. But he seems to have special contempt for people of color and women. He can barely go a day without tweeting or saying a racist or sexist slur.

Unless you’ve opted for a complete media blackout — for folks who’ve lived their lives dealing with men like this, it’s as if we’re being dogged everyday by the most pervasive, media-savvy bully in history. Last night, during the town hall debate, a female friend and I held out our hands to compare how hard we were shaking. My brother was moaning “she’s losing, she’s not punching back hard enough… She’s losing.” I said: “She’s not losing. Not with women.” I was sure of it.

Why was I sure? Because, in admittedly much lower stake situations, I’ve been in her shoes. Again and again, I’ve attempted to keep my head while a man tried to belittle me, tried to intimidate me, tried to manipulate me, tried to touch or fondle me — or literally tried to convince me that reality wasn’t real or that my thoughts and feelings were wrong. I would imagine a lot of women, LGBT folks and people of color know what this is like. As the “lesser” classes in America, we are the low hanging fruit of the bully world. We are told in a myriad of ways that we matter, just not as much. If a bully wants something we don’t want to give, or to simply  dominate us because it’s fun — they won’t hesitate to pull out their bag of tricks.

Earlier this week, I wrote an Instagram about fat-shaming and how, as a recovering anorexic, is enflames me. I got an incredible amount of support and received many heartfelt stories from others who struggle with their size or disordered eating. I never imagined that a few days I’d be writing about being a rape survivor — one who was afraid to talk about what happened because I knew I wouldn’t be believed, or worse I’d be blamed because I “asked for it” in any number of ways. But here I am.

I’m not ashamed of any of the things I’ve been through. It has informed my writing, enhanced my empathy and encouraged me to fight for a better world. A lot of what drove me to work on UnReal and Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce — and now my first feature To The Bone, as well as upcoming shows Dietland and Sharp Objects — was my desire to start conversation about sexual politics, body image, sexual abuse, media and recovery… 

But The Donald triggers the fuck out of me. My brain screams LIGER!! LEAVE THE COUNTRY, PACK UP THE KIDS AND GO! My body shakes, my stomach closes, my head aches and I struggle to maintain reason in the face of a limbic assault. It’s as if he’s in the room, screaming and looming over me with his sniffing, hulking body.

So if you’re experiencing any of those nasty symptoms I mentioned, you’re not alone. Be good to yourself. Take long walks on a beach at sunset. Light a candle — preferably one that smells like sweet, sweet pussy. And tell yourself, it’s going to be okay.

Because this time, the bad guy isn’t in the room. He’s running for president of the United States of America. And we all have power. To use our vote. Do it no matter what. Because it’s not just your duty to your country. It’s your duty to yourself and your beautiful self-protective brain — to stand up as a full human, a human who matters.

There’s a lot of good stuff in here

There’s  a lot of good stuff in here

That’s what people (an executive, a friend — a soon to be former lover) says right before they tell you what they think sucks about your work.

I’m a writer in hollywood and have been since starting as a staff writer on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” 2o years ago.

I’m here to share tales about writing and directing, drinking and not drinking, eating and not eating, dating and not dating, being a single working mom — and pie.

You know, all the good stuff.


Marti Noxon