JUNK FOOD: Rosebud by Proxy

November 2021

I had a nickname as a kid that resurfaced in college: Stuff Girl. My love for my things was evident, it seems, and only slightly less obvious was my compulsion to be prepared. Even as a young kid I would invariably be dragging a bag of stuff—books, blankets, toy horses, my rock collection: the essentials—because carrying the things seemed to keep the anxiety over being unprepared (and, by extension, irresponsible) at arm’s length. I would have rather cried in pain because my bag was too heavy than rage with self-loathing because I’d forgotten something I’d really needed.

room full of gold and treasure; Baron Munchausen

I’m half tempted to unpack this. I don’t think of my childhood being financially insecure so whence this fixation on preparedness? But, like, fantasy preparedness; to this day my sisters make fun of me for, at one time, carrying both a lime and a golf ball in my purse. I don’t feel quite as silly, or quite as burdened these days, but I still wonder about Stuff Girl’s origin story.

man on horse and pile of boxes and treasure; Baron Munchausen

I suspect it involves two famous acquisitors: Charles Foster Kane, and Baron Munchausen. I’m tempted to whisper “Rosebud” while carefully dusting a snow globe and call it a day, though the keyword in the Savage Stuff Girl version would be closer to “Baron.” I have held a deep fascination with the Baron and his Adventures for as long as I can remember but, unlike my other junk food movies, I do not regularly engage with the 1988 Terry Gilliam version these days (especially since learning about Gilliam’s case of foot-in-mouth disease). My memories of watching the tape and thinking about the story have supplanted the need for the physical VHS which, one could argue, is an appropriately meta response to the Munchausen stories about confabulation, misremembering, and not-so-subtle co-opting. In the basement of my mental Xanadu lays an aged videotape with a fading, handwritten label curling at the edges that reads, “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.” Tucked invisibly inside the tape is Stuff Girl’s central worry that her needs will be a burden to others

posters for Baron Munchausen and Citizen Kane

But Stuff Girl’s mental Xanadu is still standing and fire-free, thank you very much, and I’m finally comfortable with the number of physical things I own to help me feel prepared.

snowy sled with ROSEBUD painted; Citizen Kane

And, yes, that includes the Munchausen tape that I don’t even watch anymore.