Title: Keep the Flaws
Word Count: ~9,000
Spoilers: Entire movie.
Word Count: ~9,000
Spoilers: Entire movie.
- Some manifestos try to convince you that two people who are not together would make a good pairing. Other manifestos try to show you why you should care about two people who already are together. And some manifestos try to prove to you that, subtextually, the relationship was there all along.
This manifesto is one of the latter. More than that, I'm going to attempt to prove to you that, without acknowledging the relationship between Eric and Linus, the movie loses much of its impact and, in fact, the only way to get the full effect of the movie is to recognize their relationship.
Fanboys is a movie that, at first glance, seems like yet another stupid comedy, but with a geek twist. And honestly, that's what it could've been. It's very easy for me to imagine, under different hands, the idea devolving into fart jokes and mocking its main characters. But, miraculously, Fanboys rises above all of that.
Most good comedies have a heart, a center premise that grounds everything you see, something that makes you invest in the characters and the journey they're on. In Fanboys, it's the relationship between Eric and Linus. Textually, it's their friendship: best friends since first grade, they had plans to be "the next big thing in comics" after high school. But sometime after graduation, Eric went to work for his father selling cars and the two lost touch. Three years later, two of their friends, Hutch and Windows, show up at the car lot to drop an atomic bomb on Eric's head: Linus has terminal cancer, and has asked them not to tell Eric, but they feel Eric has the right to seek Linus out and make his peace.
From that moment on, Eric and Linus are on a journey. Not just the journey from rural Ohio to Skywalker Ranch, but a journey to repair their relationship and forgive each other. It's this that proves to be the heart of the movie. Their relationship and Linus's illness grounds everything else that happens in the film. Instead of being four fanboys (and one fangirl) committing a felony by breaking and entering into a famous filmmaker's home, they are friends on a mission to grant their comrade's dying wish.
That's the beauty—and the bitch—of Fanboys. As tempted as we all might be to take the tragedy out of the tragedy, without Linus's cancer and the impact it has on him, Eric, and their relationship, the film loses its heart, its motivation, and its impact.
- A Brief History
- I don't like Star Wars. In fact, I am—gasp—a Kirk-loving Spock sucker. I'm telling you now to save you the trouble of sussing out this Trekkie bitch for yourself. But despite this, I first saw Fanboys on May 4, 2009—Star Wars Day.
My best friend had already seen it and was totally in love with Eric/Linus. To be honest, while I agreed that they were very slashy, I didn't really care. I think I went into it saying, "Well, Linus is dying. There's no point in shipping something that's going to be over so soon." It was a bad outlook to have, both in my ships and in my reality, but I didn't think I should waste my time investing in something that was so doomed to tragedy.
Sometime later, I saw it again. By this time, I was more open to seeing the truth of the matter: that Eric/Linus isn't really about two people who are going to grow old together and raise a family. They're just not. But if you can go into the ship seeing it for what it really is, rather than what you think it should be, you're going to find something that happens so rarely, both in fiction and real life: a love that actually makes someone better for having experienced it.
I identify with Eric, or at least Eric as I perceive him. I indentify with being forced to abandon a friend due to one's family. I get the post-high school isolation and that weird in-between place where a person has matured in a lot of ways but emotionally, he or she is stunted because they were too busy trying to deny that they had feelings to begin with. Frankly, I currently am Eric. I wanted to be the next big thing in television and instead, I'm going on job interviews to work as a secretary for various departments within the state government. I gave up on my dream just like Eric did: I "grew up" because the alternative of trying and failing was just too damn scary. Everything about Eric's current situation rings true for me:
He loved Linus in high school and he let his family pressure him into being someone they wanted him to be rather than who he really was. So he made a huge mistake and he's regretted it ever since, and you can see it in the way his currently life is portrayed: he used to fit in with this merry band of fanboys and now he's alone, cynical, and pathetic. Without Linus's influence in his life, Eric reverted to being a terrible person. But once he has Linus back in his life, first just as a friend and then as a lover, Eric finds that joy he once had. He finds the ability to dream, and the ability to follow his heart, both in love and in his career. And by the time we see him at the end of the movie, he's a better person for having loved Linus, even if Linus is no longer around to share his life with him.
And that is so rare, and so beautiful—love actually making someone better rather than bringing them down—that how could I not celebrate it? How could I not throw my heart and soul into this tiny canoe of a ship and try to drag others onto the dark side, too?
So practically over night, I went from not caring about Eric and Linus at all to shipping them so much that they became the only thing I wanted to talk about.
- The Characters
Eric Bottler is played by Sam Huntington. He is twenty-four years old and the lead character of the film. When we first meet Eric, he is working at his father's car lot and is extremely unhappy about it. He has no friends, he hates his job, and his father and brother run his life. His mother passed away some time before the film begins, and he is utterly alienated and alone.
Eric's life was not always quite this sad, however. He used to have friends in the form of Hutch, Windows, and Zoe, and a best friend in Linus. He and Linus had been best friends since first grade and intended to be friends long after: they had plans to be "the next big thing" in comics together after graduation, but Eric abandoned that plan—and Linus—in favor of
selling out"growing up" by taking a job at his father's car lot and cutting his friends out of his life.
So this is where we first meet Eric Bottler: lonely, miserable, and for lack of a better term, "whipped" by his family.
It's really important to understand this, because Eric's headspace is the biggest informant I'm going by as I take you on this journey to explain what's not being said. Actor Sam Huntington describes Eric's journey as, "Coming to grips with the fact that he really is a dork at heart." I agree and add, "…and the fact that he's kind of been in love with his best friend from the word go." Eric is both literally and figuratively the guy who stays in the closet his whole life by marrying a woman he doesn't love and working a job he hates. At least, that's who he is when we first meet him, but it's not who he's going to turn out to be. The journey to Skywalker Ranch and his relationship with Linus is going to change the course of his life for the better.
Linus is played by Chris Marquette. He is twenty-four years old, is dying of terminal cancer, and has asked his friends not to tell Eric. Linus is the right brain to Eric's left: he is a dreamer and wears his emotions on his sleeve. If he's happy with you, you'll know it, and if he's pissed at you…well, you'll know that, too. He is still hurt over Eric's departure from the group and tells him so multiple times. He has no qualms with letting Eric know just how badly Eric hurt him or with openly showing affection once Eric is forgiven.
We never meet his family, so his relationships with them are unknown—however, considering the fact that Linus seems to be at peace with dying in every aspect save for his relationship with Eric when the movie begins, it can be reasonably assumed that they are on good terms and have been supportive of him during his illness.
It's important to stress that Linus is the right half of Eric's brain both because it re-enforces that they really are two halves of one whole, but also because it goes miles to explain why Eric's life has turned out the way it has without Linus's influence and why he grows the way he does once Linus is back in his life—and how he copes with life after Linus's death.
Linus is that wonderful mixture of bravery and openness, the kind of guy who throws his heart into something without reservation. He looks before he leaps, he indulges his passions because he can't imagine life without them, and he loves with all his heart, damn the consequences and potential hurt. This makes him Eric's polar opposite when the movie first begins, but things won't stay that way for long.
Windows, played by Jay Baruchel, owns a comic book store and works with Zoe, who seems to be the only woman he is able to speak to face-to-face. When the film begins, he is carrying on a relationship with a woman (or a man, or…?) over the internet. He is the geekiest of the five friends, has no idea where a woman's G-spot might be, and has only ever "copulated with one woman." He eventually realizes that Zoe has been in love with him for quite some time and falls for her in return.
Harold "Hutch" Hutchinson, played by Dan Fogler, delivers pizza, owns a tricked-out van, and is deeply committed to his Rush tape collection. He is something of the comic relief of the group, has no love interest in the film other than a brief attempt at hooking up with a hooker in Vegas, and it is hinted that he is likely a virgin. He lives in his mother's
garagecarriage house and wants to open up his own car detailing business called The Hutch Touch. His journey, unlike the other four characters', is not about love, but rather about responsibility.
Zoe, played by Kristen Bell, is the only girl of the group, but she's kick ass enough for twelve women. She works at the comic book store with Windows and is in love with him, even going so far as to take two taxis, an airplane, and an all night bus ride next to an old man with a full diaper all the way across the country in order to bail him and the others out of jail when they have a run in with the law on their journey—a journey they did not originally think to include her on. When they try to drop her off at an airport after they're released from jail, she insists she be allowed to come, too, even going so far as to physically dominate Hutch as a means of proving to the boys that she may be a girl, but she's woman enough to handle any kind of shenanigans the four of them might get up to. She and Windows become a couple before the film's conclusion and seem quite happy together. She also seems quite knowledgeable about sex, and is the first person of the group to speak to Eric at the party in the beginning of the film, hinting that she was perhaps the person Eric was closest to (after Linus) before his departure from the group.
- There's more than enough of Eric and Linus's relationship textually in the film to make me ship them, but what really helps is the way the actors, Sam Huntington and Chris Marquette, play Eric and Linus. Even more than that, the other characters—Hutch and Windows more so than Zoe, but she does it, too—treat Eric and Linus as though they were the "mommy and daddy" of the group, and now they've gotten a divorce. Hutch and Windows especially seem to treat the two of them as though they themselves are the children who really want their mommy and daddy to get back together so they can all be a family again. There are moments, like the confrontation at Hutch's that ends with Linus driving off and calling Eric a "sick bastard" that feel almost…Parent Trap-ish.
But as I said, I intend to go deeper than that and prove to you my own personal theory of what's not being said: Eric and Linus were together in high school and after graduation, Eric took a job at his dad's car lot to make some money while he figured out what to do about their comic. His father used this situation to pressure him into dedicating himself to the family business and cut his friends out of his life. Three years later, Eric still has never really made peace with the fact that he has been in love with his best friend since as long as he can remember, and finding out that Linus is going to die pulls him in two different directions: part of him is heartbroken and the other…the other just wants to get back on friendly terms before Linus's death so that then he can go back to the car lot and stop being so conflicted about his life.
But his love for Linus is stronger than that—more than that, Linus is stronger than that, and he's not letting Eric off that easy. He's not settling for less than what he knows they both deserve, even when he has only months left to live.
With that in mind, I'm going to walk you step-by-step through the important moments in the Eric/Linus storyline and point out what I believe is really going on, given the evidence. As Albus Dumbledore might say, we're leaving the land of canonical fact and venturing into the realm of speculation. But I firmly believe my guesses are right, and hopefully, you will, too.
- The Set Up
- When we first meet Eric and Linus, Eric is attending a Halloween party, seemingly alone. He isn't talking to anyone and doesn't look particularly friendly with any of the other attendees. Enter Darth Vader and two storm troopers. Or, rather, Linus, Windows, and Hutch enter dressed as such, much to the mockery of the other partygoers. The three remove their helmets and Eric gapes in disbelief. He's staring so hard at Linus that he doesn't even realize his cup of beer has started to overflow.
A woman approaches him and it quickly becomes clear that the two of them are on friendly terms. This is Zoe, resident fangirl, and she offers Eric a rather astute piece of advice.
ZOE: So...are you here for a reunion with the boys?
ERIC: Nope. That's just a…pleasant surprise.
ZOE: Well...enter at your own risk.
Despite his clearly conflicting emotions upon realizing that the boys are at the same party he is at the beginning of the film, Eric actively seeks his former friends out as the night wears on. At first, Linus can't take his eyes off of Eric, just as Eric couldn't take his eyes off of Linus. But once the shock wears off, Linus does his best to avoid so much as looking at Eric; whereas Eric is ready to reach out to Linus for friendship, Linus still carries the hurt of their break up. Unlike Eric, he refuses to hide his feelings and barely speaks to Eric, if he can avoid it.
WINDOWS: Jesus. Is that Bottler?
ERIC: Hey, guys.
HUTCH: You got a lot of nerve, showing your face around here.
A beat. Hutch grins.
HUTCH: Give daddy a huggy!
He hugs Eric.
HUTCH: You little bastard. I missed you.
ERIC: Oh, I hope that's just your blaster poking me.
WINDOWS: Eric, God. It's been parsecs.
ERIC: Yeah. It's good to see you, too, man. ...Linus?
Linus doesn't speak or even look at Eric directly.
ERIC: It's been like...what? Like a year now, right?
Linus pretends he needs to think about it, but it couldn't be more obvious that he doesn't need to.
The other three may be willing to welcome Eric back to the group with open arms, but Linus isn't. Starting from Hutch hugging Eric on, he barely spares Eric a second glance. It's the kind of not-looking that seems as meaningful as a look because it's purposeful. He doesn't want to acknowledge Eric in his life again, still too hurt from their past to let Eric come back in and mess with his head again when he's so close to death.
If these two are supposed to just be friends, someone forgot to tell Chris Marquette that.
In the scene immediately afterwards, Hutch, Windows, Linus, and Zoe are talking about their countdown until Star Wars: The Phantom Menace comes out in theatres. Eric sits on the edge of the group, not really integrated, but at least there. As they all talk about what they'd do in order to see the film right away rather than wait six months, Linus reminds them all of a long-standing plan to storm Skywalker Ranch.
LINUS: Imagine, okay? We drive across the country in one night. We break into the Skywalker Ranch and steal ourselves a print!
ERIC: You guys have been talking about this since the fifth grade, okay? It's not going to happen.
LINUS: Why the hell not?
ERIC: Well, first of all, it's two thousand miles away. Second of all, even if you could get there, you'd be arrested.
LINUS: It's been a blast, Bottler.
Linus walks away angrily.
LINUS: Way to douche up the party.
HUTCH: Nothing is impossible.
Eric is left looking conflicted.
The next time we see Eric, he is sitting through a meeting at the car lot where he works. He is visibly uncomfortable being there, and this is important: he is subservient to his family's whims, doing what they expect of him because he feels (incorrectly), that it's the only thing he can do. In his mind, he has no options: be the man they want him to be, or be nothing at all.
Outside, Hutch and Windows are waiting for him.
WINDOWS: We came to talk about Linus.
ERIC: Oh, well, he just needs to realize that people lose touch. That's just kind of the way things work.
WINDOWS: He's dying, Eric.
HUTCH: He's got cancer, man.
WINDOWS: He's tried...everything. Uh, to get better. But nothing seems to work. Odds say three, four months, maybe.
ERIC: And you guys are telling me this now?
WINDOWS: We wanted to tell you months ago. Honestly. But Linus made us promise not to say anything.
HUTCH: The way we see it, you guys have been best friends since like, first grade, so...we figured you got the right to know. You got the right to make your peace.
ERIC: Yeah? Well how am I supposed to make my peace when, you know, the guy doesn't even want me to know, right?
WINDOWS: Well, with all due respect, Eric, this isn't about you.
Eric's brother, Chaz, interrupts his response—"I—you know what? I can't."—and Eric's entire body language changes. His head droops, his shoulders slump, and he becomes positively twitchy. We also learn that Chaz has convinced their father to let him re-cut the commercial Eric made for the car lot, which further reinforces that Eric's life is his father and brother versus himself. Even their names reinforce this fact—Chuck and Chaz are both nicknames for Charles and then there is Eric.
With a parting invite to come over to Hutch's garage that night to patch things up with Linus, his former friends leave and Eric is left to sit with his life: a job he hates, a father and brother who put pressure on him to be like them, no friends, and Linus's illness.
Essentially, Eric's life is sucks, he made a lot of bad decisions, and now not only does he have to live with those bad decisions, but the one person who could make it all better won't be around much longer.
Sucks to be Eric Bottler, amirite?
Unfortunately, things are going to get worse before they get any better.
That night, Eric arrives at Hutch's place, and Linus is not happy to see him.
LINUS: (to Windows) What the hell is he doing here, man?
WINDOWS: It was Hutch's idea!
HUTCH: (to Eric) Grab a controller. We're ganging up on Windows in Mario Kart.
ERIC: I can't. I came to talk to uh, Linus, actually. (to Linus) Can I talk to you alone, man?
Linus storms out of the garage, leaving Eric to chase after him.
ERIC: Linus? Linus! Hey, stop walking. Linus, hold up, man. Stop.
Linus stops, and turns, resigned.
ERIC: What the hell, man? I did nothing to you.
LINUS: Exactly. You did nothing. Absolutely nothing. Eric Bottler graduates high school and then never looks back! You bailed on our plan, Bottler!
ERIC: What plan? To be the next big thing in comics? Come on, man. That was never gonna happen. I did what I had to do, dude. I grew up. I'm the only one who did.
He gestures to where Hutch and Windows are peering over the fence, watching the fight, like two children whimpering about mommy and daddy fighting again.
ERIC: Look at you guys.
LINUS: You know, you can fool everybody with this cheap suit and salesman of the year pitch, but I know you better than anybody and deep down, you are one miserable son of a bitch.
ERIC: Miserable, huh?
LINUS: Yeah. Miserable.
ERIC: Miserable. 'Cause if you ask me, miserable is wasting your life in Hutch's garage playing video games, arguing whether or not Luke really had a thing for Leia.
LINUS: You know as well as anybody that as soon soon as Luke knew Leia was his sister, it was hands off.
ERIC: They still kissed.
LINUS: That was Leia kissing Luke to make Han jealous!
ERIC: Yeah, that was the second time! The first time—
LINUS: The first time, they're about to die!
ERIC: They were not, you liar!
LINUS: They were swinging thirty thousand feet in the air!
ERIC: You know when you're a sibling, okay? There's something innate!
LINUS: It doesn't matter! There's no telepathy between Luke and Leia until episode six! It was romance in a sci-fi opera!
ERIC: Who cares about this shit, man? Who cares about—
LINUS: I do. I care!
He gestures to the fact that he's wearing a Star Wars t-shirt. Eric chuckles humorlessly. He's screwed this up again. He rubs awkwardly at the back of his neck while Linus walks away and gets into his car. It squeaks when it starts.
ERIC: You need a new car.
LINUS: They were siblings! They were siblings, you sick bastard!
Linus drives away, leaving Eric standing there alone.
Chris continues to read his lines like a jilted ex lover. Sam continues to stare at Linus like he doesn't quite now how to deal with the way Linus makes him feel.
Later that same night, we find Eric in his office drawing comics and making up stories about the drawings. I honestly don't know if this was intentional or not, but this is the very first line uttered after the fight and it's so damn fitting for exactly what is going on in Eric's life: "You are trapped now. You've made your last mistake," he pretends the monster he's drawing is saying to its victims, and that's it exactly: Eric made a bad decision when he was younger, to let himself be molded by his father and brother rather than who he really was. Even if you don't believe in the relationship I'm trying to explain here, it still fits: he gave up his interests and hobbies in order to live a life he never wanted. If you do believe in the relationship I'm trying to prove here, then he gave up those things and, more importantly, he gave up Linus. He made the choice to abandon everything and everyone he loved to be his father's pet project and now here he sits, drawing comics covertly under the dark of night—completely, utterly, and miserably trapped because he made a mistake.
And almost as if he knew, Eric's father knocks on his door. This is the scene that my assumptions about their relationship and how Eric came to be in this situation is most based on. The subtext of what is not being said is so loud that it cannot be ignored.
He immediately begins to straighten and tighten his tie, instinctively making himself more like his father without even a second thought. He's not a tie man, as we'll see later on in the film, but the second his father is around, he has to be back on his game. He has to get back into character of who his dad wants him to be.
DAD: Okay, here's the deal. It's time for the world to see the new face of this company, and his name's Big Eric.
ERIC: Big Eric who?
DAD: Big Eric you. It's all yours, kiddo. The entire shebang. All fifteen locations from here to Seattle.
ERIC: I mean, uh, yeah. Yes, yeah. I mean—wow.
DAD: Take the hat.
ERIC: I can't take your hat.
DAD: Go ahead.
ERIC: No, really. It looks good on you, but I can't—
DAD: Take the hat.
ERIC: But it's really—
DAD: Take the damn hat.
ERIC: Yeah, okay. I'll wear it. I'll wear it for a little while.
DAD: My God, your mom would be so proud to see you in that hat.
ERIC: I know, pop.
I don't about you, but this is not the face I'd be making if someone gave me a car lot, unless my heart really wanted something else.
In this one scene, we learn nearly everything we need to know about the their relationship: by calling Eric "Big Eric" (his own nick name being "Big Chuck") and forcing him to wear his hat, he is both figuratively (the name) and literally (the hat) remaking Eric in his image. And by dropping Eric's dead mother into the conversation, it points the way to how he has gotten Eric to go along with it this far: by using the promise that Eric's dead mother would be proud if he were like his father, he has lead his son to the car lot and now to be like him. Whether this is intentionally manipulative or something Chuck has never thought about, I'm not going to speculate. It's possible that he doesn't realize what kind of power a late mother's pride can have on a son, and is just trying to make Eric feel good about things. But it's also entirely possible that he's been doing this for years, on purpose, using that power to bend and shape Eric to his will subtly so that Eric won't pick up on just how much he's being manipulated.
Either way, this sets up the conflict Eric will now be facing until the midpoint of the film: to be the man his father wants him to be, or to be who he really is. It's not a huge leap to figure out that part of who his father wants him to be is a man not in love with Linus. And it's even less difficult to figure out that that's exactly who he is.
There's almost a subtext to the scene that Chuck knows Eric has been seeing his old friends in the past two days and is determined to nip that in the bud by giving him the car lot—it cements his control over Eric and slams shut the door on Eric being who he really wants to be.
So now the pressure is on, the gauntlet is thrown—however you want to phrase it, it's on like Donkey Kong because Eric is forced to make the same choice he made three years ago all over again. His father, the car lot, and stability, or Linus and uncertainty.
I think you know where this is going.
Eric arrives at the comic book store and, after giving Hutch and Windows a copy of a comic he drew, he pulls out a map and lays it on the counter. It details the route from Ohio to Skywalker Ranch, complete with Star Wars drawings along the way. It's crafted with so much care that you know it was a labor of love.
WINDOWS: Is this what I think it is?
ERIC: Linus laid the whole thing out in fifth grade.
I'm going to stop right there to drive this point home: this is a map of a route to Skywalker Ranch that Linus drew in fifth grade. They were roughly ten. Eric still has it. More than that, remember the party scene where he shot this down? Eric has never believed in this idea. He's doing it now because he's desperate to escape his father and to make amends with Linus before Linus dies. But despite that, despite not believing in the plan, Eric has kept this for fourteen years.
Just think about that. Fourteen years of keeping a map for a plan he didn't believe in. Three of those years, they weren't even speaking. Even when he forced himself to give up Linus to appease his dad, he never gave him up completely.
On the off chance that you don't speak Slash Subtext, let me translate for you: "omg, Eric is so in love with Linus that it's a little insane."
HUTCH: Dude, this is a suicide mission, man. Why would we even try anything like this?
ERIC: For Linus.
But the trouble with that is that Linus has to agree. And while Eric might be eager to repair their friendship, Linus isn't. ("I just don't wanna go with Opie over there.")
But when they show Linus that they have inside information into the Ranch, thanks to Windows's online girlfriend RogueLeader, he reluctantly changes his mind.
LINUS: If I do this, it doesn't change anything.
Eric nods. Linus considers him for a moment.
So here's your second lesson in Subtext 101. When two characters exchange a look like this, look at their eyes. Eric's eyes are just a little sad, and a whole lot of knowing. "I messed up," they say. "I know. I'm sorry. I know you won't forgive me. But I need to do this anyway."
"You hurt me," Linus's say, and the set of his mouth says, "And I know you know it and regret it." And see that deep breath he takes right at the end? That's loin-girding. That's, "And I know I'm going to forgive you anyway."
This is the first step on their journey, taken before they ever set out on the actual road. This is the first time Eric has been open with Linus in years, and Linus is reluctantly accepting, for himself if not out loud, that this is going to happen whether he's ready to go back there again or not.
So they set out on their journey, and away we go.
- The In Between
- Despite the fact that our boys are on a tight schedule, Hutch decides to take a pit stop in Riverside, Iowa to crack some Trekkie skulls. Eric, who is still trying to be "the responsible adult," tells them to leave him out of it and stays behind in the van. But when the boys get into an altercation with some Trekkers, Eric drives into the rescue and saves them. The Trekkers chase the van and at Linus's laughing suggestion, Eric moons them. The boys all laugh and joke about the incident, and suddenly, we get to see who Eric used to be. This guy—this funny, laughing guy who does crazy, impulsive things because Linus told him to, who makes nerd references and who adores these guys—this is what he's been trying to hide.
This is the first stage in repairing Eric and Linus. They're laughing and joking and getting along. They're back on friendly terms. It's step one of many, but it's so important because it reminds them both of who they used to be, both as individuals, and together.
Unfortunately, Hutch's van gets a flat tire and the boys set off walking through the dark to find a replacement. They find a bar in the middle of nowhere filled with muscled, tattooed, motorcycle riders.
Linus begins coughing, causing Eric to make this face and ask the bartender for a glass of water. After drinking out of it before he hands it over, rendering it undrinkable, the bartender requests payment of $100.00 for the water. Eric refuses to pay that much and Hutch steps in to try to intimidate the bartender into backing down. This backfires when, just as he begins detailing how he'll "pound the bartender's ass," the other boys realize that they have, in fact, stumbled into a gay bar. And since their midnight entertainment bailed, the patrons know just the way the boys can work off that debt.
After awkwardly stripping down to their underwear to the dulcet tones of Menudo, the boys are rescued by the arrival of what seems to be the leader of the bar patrons. He says The Chief (actually the stranger himself) can fix their van and the next thing you know, the boys are sitting around a campfire while the stranger plays a drum and they eat guacamole.
But this is not your every day, garden-variety guacamole, and soon the boys are hallucinating due to the peyote the guacamole has been laced with.
THE CHIEF: Death is but a path of life. A passage to the stars. To the universe.
LINUS: I know what you mean. You mean The Force.
While Linus is hallucinating and ruminating on his life and illness, Eric panics and says he has to get back to work on Monday. His hallucinations are not nearly as Zen as Linus's are: he envisions his father as Darth Vader and we smash cut to him waking up, checking to ensure his hand is still in its proper place.
As they leave, Eric very seriously shakes the stranger's hand and says, "It's been interesting." Following in his wake, Linus smiles and says, "Thanks."
So. I told you all of that because this night is a turning point.
Remember a few scenes ago when Linus didn't even want to come on the trip because Eric would be there? Remember how he insisted nothing would change between them? And remember what I told you that shared look meant?
Well after this night, Linus starts touching Eric. Nothing outrageous, nothing too blatant, but subtle, casual, comfortable touches that hint at so many years of touching Eric whenever he felt like it in the most intimate of ways.
And Eric doesn't look at him.
No, really, I have watched this movie far too many times for my own good and if you don't believe me, pull out your copy of the movie and check. After this night, Eric barely looks at Linus directly, and he certainly doesn't reach out to him physically anymore.
So once again, I stop to introduce my theory.
Linus was the one who didn't want to go there again, remember? And Eric was trying so hard. He was reaching out even though he knew Linus wasn't likely to forgive him, but he was trying anyway. And after this night, when they're all so very high on peyote, it's the exact opposite. So why?
I believe that while they were high on peyote, one of three things happened. Either they had sex, they said I love you, or worse: both.
I already explained the look to you, how Linus's body language said he knew he was going to forgive Eric despite all his anger to the contrary. And he did. After this night, he carries no more resentment towards Eric. They're not back to their old selves yet, but that's on Eric's part, not Linus's. Linus is now reaching out and making the effort, and the only explanation I can think of that would change it literally overnight is sex or an emotional confession.
Add in that the same event has to make Eric go the opposite direction, and that narrows it down to I love you.
See, here's the thing: I don't think, at this point, Eric wanted to make up and go back to the way they were. I think he wanted to repair their friendship so that he could move on into owning the car lot after Linus died with some sense of resolution. I think he said to himself that since Linus was dying, the relationship didn't matter, only the friendship. And I think he knew how disastrous it would be to everything he spent the last three years building if he gave in and let himself love Linus again. So while he wanted to fix things, he wanted them kept at a distance. Protecting himself, if you will, from the pain of losing Linus.
But he made yet another mistake. He let the drugs get to his head and he said something he couldn't take back or touched what he'd sworn he never would again. And now he's freaked because he didn't want to go there and somehow he's falling into this all over again.
Even the way they address The Chief as they leave speaks volumes as to how they view the previous night. Eric seriously remarks that it was "interesting" while Linus smiles and says, "Thanks." They have two totally different opinions about what happened that night, and it's written all over their faces.
Their next stop is a coffee shop to meet Windows's girlfriend RogueLeader. When she turns out to be a ten year old, the other guys start trying to formulate a new plan to get into the ranch, but all Eric wants to go is go back home. He has to be back by Monday because his dad is giving him the company. He hasn't told them yet and when he does, Linus makes this face.
I stop once again to pose the question: why wouldn't Eric tell them? Because he's ashamed. Because he doesn't want anyone to know. Because this is the final nail in the coffin for him and he's embarrassed because he knows what Linus will think. Linus knows this isn't what he wants, that he's "one miserable son of a bitch," and Linus judges him for giving up the dream. And Eric can't bear to have Linus judging him again.
The trip to the coffee shop leads to a confrontation with Harry Knowles, owner of Ain't It Cool News (not played by himself, sadly), during which Harry attacks Windows and Eric. He eventually lets them go in order to test their fanboy trivia knowledge; after calling Eric the weakest link, he asks him what Chewie's home planet is. Eric hesitates but just before he answers, Linus says, "Come on, man. Say it." Windows is too busy on the ground from the assault to have much of a reaction to Eric's hesitation, but here's what I'd like to point out. Hutch is busy trying to send the answer to Eric telepathically, Harry's just called Eric the weakest link, and Linus…Linus has faith in him. Linus just tells him to spit it out already.
Because that's who Linus is to Eric: the guy who always believed in him beyond all logic or reason. He's the dreamer, the right half to Eric's practical left brain. And I honestly don't think Eric has ever known quite how to handle someone believing in him so unconditionally.
Harry sets them up with a friend of his in Las Vegas so they can get the information about how to get into the Ranch. But in the van, an already tense situation ("I'm sorry, but I don't speak jack off,") becomes worse when not only does a cop try to pull them over for Hutch's speeding, but Linus reveals that The Chief gave him a bag of peyote as they parted, saying Linus needed it more than he did. Afraid to be pulled over with the peyote, Hutch tries to outrun the cop, which results in him crashing the van, and soon our boys are headed off to jail.
And here comes the turning point, the moment I promised you earlier. We're at the midpoint of the film and Eric is finally forced to confront the issue at hand: be the man his father wants him to be, or let himself be who he really is. To let himself love Linus all over again, or to not. I told you earlier that this is the conflict he'd be dealing with, and the turning point it took during the night they were high on peyote. And now here comes the crux where Eric can't ignore it any longer.
After being bailed out by Zoe, the boys are taken to see a judge, who says he's letting them go because he spoke with Eric's father, who has asked him to give Eric a message.
So there it is. Come home, abandon his friends, and give up Linus, or he's fired. Is it really a huge stretch to think that if he fires Eric, he also won't exactly be including him in the family anymore?
So Eric must choose between who his father wants him to be and who he really is.
The next time we see Eric, he is sitting on a cliff over looking a gorge, staring into space in quiet contemplation. The other four consider what to do to snap him out of it and after a brief scuffle in which Zoe earns the right to stay with them on their mission, the boys head over to talk to Eric.
LINUS: Yo, Botts, you okay?
ERIC: You know, I could do this. Start a life here. Clean slate. Fresh air, no pressure, no responsibility.
LINUS: Yeah, it seems nice, man.
ERIC: I just figured that if I worked hard, sold enough cars, and impressed my dad enough times, I'd—I'd feel something.
And there it is: Eric wants to feel and he never will with the life he chose. And I think that for the first time, Linus actually gets why Eric did what he did. Doesn't like it, doesn't agree with it, but gets it. And this is the next turning point in their relationship. This is the moment Eric makes the decision to just give himself over to this, to love Linus with everything he has, damn the consequences and damn his dad.
Remember how I just showed you Eric was avoiding looking at Linus directly at all costs, not touching him, etc? Well, guess what? Now he is.
And so the boys arrive in Vegas. I'd like to draw your attention back to what I said earlier, about Eric's tie being a symbol of how his father was remaking him in his image. Eric's not a tie man, but in case you haven't been paying attention, go back and look at the caps of the boys on this trip. Notice something about their clothes? Even when they're on the road, Eric has been wearing plain, solid colors. The other three have been wearing various fan t-shirts along the way.
So now Eric has decided, once and for all, to fuck who he's supposed to be and just be.
LINUS: Look who's back in uniform.
I ask you: where did Eric get those clothes? He didn't pack them, not given the way he's been dressing thus far.
Here's a little hint for you: who else is roughly Eric's same shirt size and has been wearing fandom t-shirts over long-sleeved shirts the whole movie? Oh, right, Linus, as seen above. They're sharing clothes now. I'm just saying.
Linus jumps up to join Eric to go meet Harry's contact, but the other three let them go alone and opt instead to hit the tables. And Eric and Linus can not stop touching each other.
If Eric and Linus are actually supposed to be completely platonic friends, someone forgot to inform Chris and Sam.
- The Forgiveness
- After Eric and Linus get the needed information from William Shatner, the Trekkies our boys beat up back in Iowa begin to chase Eric and Linus through the hotel. They make a break for it after grabbing Hutch, Windows, and Zoe, driving wildly through the hotel's parking garage. In their escape, Linus is thrown from the open van door and the reality of the situation hits them square in the face: at the hospital, Linus's doctor insists they end the road trip and head home due to Linus's illness.
LINUS: No. Guys, we can't, we can't, we can't do this now. We can't give up now. Not when we're so close.
WINDOWS: Linus, it's just a movie.
ERIC: Yeah, maybe it is. Maybe it is, you know what? To most people, Star Wars is just a movie, right? Not to us.
WINDOWS: We just spoke to the doctor.
ERIC: Man, screw that doctor! Screw all those people!
ERIC: Did they ever get their head stuck in a bucket trying to be Darth Vader? I mean, I don't think so!
ERIC: No! Did they ever singe their eyebrows trying to make a lightsaber? No way! Did they name their right hand Leia? Who knows? Yes, maybe, they could've. But you know who did?
ERIC: Yes, you did! So did I! (to Linus) So did you! We all did.
HUTCH: You guys are freaking sick, you know that?
ERIC: This is our Death Star, man. And I don't know about you guys, but I'm not running away from this one.
WINDOWS: Me neither.
HUTCH: Screw it, I named both my hands Leia.
The boys proceed to break Linus out of the hospital and head to San Francisco.
So why is this scene so important to Eric and Linus? I've been talking about how Eric is practical, the left brain, about how he's never dared to just do what feels right. Reason dictates they take Linus home. He's dying and this much activity isn't helping matters. Eric has always been the responsible one and its his job in this situation to say, "Star Wars is just a movie." But the Eric we first met is not the Eric we see here. Eric has grown, has learned to embrace the unknown. He's getting ready for life without Linus once Linus passes away, by allowing himself to be the dreamer, too.
Up until this moment, even once they're together and Eric's back in uniform and all that touching, I don't think Eric had dealt with the knowledge that Linus was going to be gone soon. I think he knew, but I don't think it really hit him until this. And when it does, he steps up to the plate, allows himself to dream for the both of them, and is finally ready to accept the reality of their situation.
Don't believe me? In the next scene, the boys break into Skywalker Ranch and come across The Archive Room, where George Lucas keeps his collection of memorabilia from his films. While the others run around the room touching and playing with the objects, Eric just stares at Darth Vader thoughtfully until Linus joins him and gently tells Eric something he needs to hear.
LINUS: You know, no matter how you felt about the guy, Vader embraced his fate. He faced death head on.
But before they can discuss it further, guards show up and they flee through the Ranch in search of the film. Eventually, they find themselves in George Lucas's office and there, on the computer, is the film.
Unfortunately, before they can get past the opening crawl, guards barge into the room and the boys are taken into custody. However, George Lucas is "touched and mildly flattered" by their efforts, and agrees to let Linus—and only Linus—see the film since he isn't likely to survive until the film is officially released.
That night, they are camping and Eric sits apart, working on the comic he was drawing back in his office. Linus approaches, looking at the drawing over his shoulder.
LINUS: That's not bad.
ERIC: Thanks, man.
Linus sits down next to him.
ERIC: There's something I need to—I should probably tell you before, uh—
LINUS: Before I'm gone?
Eric looks up, pained, but resigned.
LINUS: You can say it. I won't hold it against you.
ERIC: I just—I wish I could…change these last three years, you know?
LINUS: You know, I wouldn't want you to. You gotta keep the flaws, crappy effects, real puppets. That's what makes it so good, you know?
LINUS: This was never about the movie, you know? This was uh, this was about all of us.
Eric looks away. Linus touches his arm.
LINUS: Hey. I mean, look at us. We're together again.
And they are. I've shown you the stages of their road to repairing their relationship step by step. Trying for friendship but succumbing to what was always inevitable under the influence of peyote. Eric trying to fight it until forced to make a choice. That crazy-happy stage where they can't stop touching each other because finally they're allowed to again and Linus is so damn alive under Eric's hands. Accepting the truth and making peace with it. And now, finally, the absolution. Not only Linus's forgiveness, but I wouldn't have it any other way.
They're together again, just like they used to be. They've made their peace. And they're going to love each other until Linus loses his battle, and Eric will keep on loving him after.
We then jump forward in time to the night Phantom Menace opens in theatres. Eric has just put out the first issue of his comic, Rush: An Intergalactic Journey, and when two readers approach to tell him they don't approve of his comic, his older brother Chaz steps in and intimidates them into asking Eric for an autograph—which he signs, "You are a douchebag. Love, Eric Bottler."
ERIC: Chaz, what the hell are you doing here, man?
CHAZ: Oh, come on, bro! It's the Wars!
ERIC: I love that about you.
They high five. They're on the same team now. The confidence Eric gained on their mission to Skywalker Ranch helped him get out from under his father's thumb and his brother has come to accept Eric for who he really is.
In the theatre, the gang each takes a beer that Hutch snuck in and Eric proposes a toast. To Linus. Even Chaz joins in.
Phantom Menace begins and on that note, Fanboys ends.
- As far as I'm concerned, simple friendship does not explain the amount of pain these boys feel. It doesn't explain the way they look at each other. It doesn't explain their chemistry. And it doesn't explain the utter heartbreak I feel every time I watch the film's ending.
The only way this movie makes sense to me is if I understand it as I've just outlined to you here. A boy who didn't want to be in love because his father could never let him be fell in love anyway. He finally ended it and gave in to the pressure and regretted it every second after. He found it again and gave in to it, and for better or for worse, he loved Linus in the time they had left. And then he picked the pieces of himself back up and lived the dream that Linus now couldn't.
This movie is beautifully bittersweet, at once hilarious and hurtful. And it wouldn't have the same impact on me if I didn't see it this way, if I didn't truly believe that what's not being said is louder than any conversation they actually have.
Is it possible they're really just best friends? Sure. Is it likely? Not even a little.
- Fandom Guide
- Fic Recs
- There is nothing here for me now | Eric/Linus | NC-17
Linus is in the ground and Eric is so drunk he can barely see.
- There is nothing here for me now | Eric/Linus | NC-17
- Vid Recs
- Fake It | Eric/Linus | R
Eric, as Linus sees him post-high school.
(You're going to have to forgive me for rec'cing myself—as far as I know, I'm the only person who's vidded them. If you have links, though, share with the class!)
- Fake It | Eric/Linus | R