The Spectacular Now
by Tim Tharp
Aimee and Sutter have a lot in common. They both like old music. They both like to drink.
They both want to be loved.
Wipe Your Feet
While wanting to be loved makes Sutter alternately selfish and selfless, it just makes Aimee into a doormat. She lets her mom take advantage of her easygoing nature, doing the 5 am paper route for her while her mom's out gambling. In fact, she's so worried about keeping a connection with her mother that she's postponing her dreams of college, just so she can keep doing the job—she doesn't want the same kind of "humongous blowup" that her sister Ambith had with her mom, when Ambith moved off to college (32.58). That's right: Aimee would actually rather watch her future fall apart than get her mom mad at her.
Aimee also lets her only friend, Krystal, boss her around. Check out this interaction:
"Hurry up. The meeting starts in like five minutes." […]
"Why don't you go ahead, Krystal? I can be a little late."
"Don't be stupid," says Krystal. "The whole meeting won't last but like five or ten minutes."
Aimee looks a little stung, but you can tell she's used to Krystal calling her stupid. "I guess that's right." (22.29-34)
Before you start rolling your eyes and think that Aimee should really grow a pair, consider this: Krystal is Aimee's only friend. If Aimee stands up to her, she might lose her only friend. She ends up suppresses her own personality, needs, and desires so she can do what other people want her to do—just to get them to like her.
For some reason, this quality actually makes Sutter attracted to Aimee—but not because he wants to walk all over her. Nope; he actually wants to encourage her to stand up for herself. Maybe he realizes, deep down, that they're both looking for the same thing: love.
Of course, Aimee doesn't experience a total makeover just because Sutter takes an interest in her. In fact, Sutter plays on exactly the same doormat qualities that Krystal does. Aimee only gains confidence because Sutter tells her to—literally. As in, he literally tells her to say, "Get off my g-d back, Krystal f-ing Krittenbrink." (32.66).
It's the same Aimee all over again, she's just doing what Sutter wants her to do, so he'll like her. How can we tell she's not ready to stand up for herself against him? The drinking. It's true, Sutter doesn't force her to drink, but it's pretty clear that's what he wants her to do. And so she does. A lot:
"I told you it was stout."
"I'll be careful next time."
"Next time? That's what I like to hear." (32.44-46)
We get the feeling that, if it were up to her, there'd be no next time. When he starts cutting back on the drinking, she's relieved. Even Sutter notices: "Being on the wagon doesn't seem to bother Aimee a bit. She actually appears a little relieved about it." (64.1). We'll say. If he's not drinking, then she doesn't need to, either. Apparently, it's never occurred to her that she could stop on her own.
In the end, she's still willing to rearrange her life and plans to revolve around Sutter, offering to postpone moving. The only way he can get her to leave is to tell her to go and get things set up for him there—and Sutter knows it. He tells her, "if you go up there first, you can get everything squared away, make all the plans. I'd appreciate it to no end if you'd do that for me" (64.37); she eats it up, all excited to obey and make him like her. Sure, she may be more confident on the outside, but down deep, she hasn't really changed at all.
So now the question is, will Aimee change once she's on her own in St. Louis? Without her mom or her old friends around, will she finally start making her own decisions? Or will she find someone else to center her life around? Did Sutter's plan to make her more confident work at all? What do you think?