‘Reality Bites’ 20 years later: Troy Dyer was a terrible decision

“Reality Bites” came out 20 years ago yesterday. It was, for years, my favorite movie ever and the model for how I imagined my life was going to be. It was the model for how all our lives were going to be.

We were all going to be impossibly clever artsy-fartsy slackers with principles. We were going to have amazing dance parties in convenience stores. We were all going to fall madly in love with Troy Dyer instead of some dumb square. In my case, I was going be like Vicki Miner and have super-cool bangs and super-cool vintage dresses and make super-cool culturally literate jokes totally casually all the time. We were going to chain smoke in diners and talk about really deep shit. And we were never, ever going to “sell out.”

Yep. There we are, being AWESOME.

Things have changed. And not just because we can’t get coffee and a pack of smokes for five bucks anymore. Not just because there’s barely even such a thing as “selling out” any more. But because we all grew up and realized…


And yes, I’ll still cry at the end of the movie during that whole U2 montage, because it’s sad and cathartic and OMG true love and stuff. But seriously? Troy Dyer was a fucking douche, and you would never, ever want to date him in real life. Even though you probably already have, which is why you know that Troy Dyer was a bad idea.

First of all, Troy Dyer was TOO COOL to have a job

Have you ever dated a guy who was too cool, too deep or too punk rock to have a job? I have. It is a poor time. It is exhausting. Not just because a percentage of your paycheck goes to his PBR fund, but because 90% of the time, those dudes are nowhere near as smart or as talented as they are claiming to be. So while he’s drinking away your paycheck from your day job and telling you all about how much like Bukowski he is, you are sitting there thinking “Whatever dude, your band sucks and I am smarter than you are. I hope you choke.” Then, things tend to fall apart.

Also, no one needs this kind of shit.

“Oh, instead of telling my friend that I am romantically interested in her, I am just going to be a pretentious ass to any dude that she’s trying to date and pout like a child about the whole thing and insult everybody.” That seems like an emotionally healthy thing to do.

Seriously, if this was real life, you would not want to be friends with this dude, nevermind fall madly in love with him at the end of the movie.

He was vindictive as fuck.

So, he sleeps with Lelaina, disappears and then shows up and is all “AREN’T YOU GOING TO TELL THIS DUDE YOU’RE SEEING THAT WE BANGED AND THAT HE CAN LEAVE NOW?” Then, when she’s appropriately horrified by his behavior, he gets up on stage and sings a bitchy song at her. What the hell?

As much as I love this movie, it’s hard to watch it now and not think “Oh, girl. This shit is not going to end well for you. It gets old real fast.”

Given the choice, I would totally pick Ben Stiller over Troy Dyer. Making a crappy edit of a documentary because you didn’t get how super poignant it was supposed to be is way less offensive, in the grand scheme of things, than anything Troy Dyer does throughout the entire movie. At least he’s mostly nice and a normal person and not like, an emotionally abusive and hysterical baby who loses his very mind and all his faculties whenever things don’t go exactly his way.

The “reality” of “Reality Bites” is that it’s not reality. Even though it would be awesome if it were. It would be awesome if we all never had to “sell out” and could have our dream jobs straight out of college. It would be awesome if relationships with moody, self-centered artists worked out as well in real life as they do in movies. It would be awesome if we could all live in the early ’90s forever and pretend like Britney Spears never happened. But even though I once wished all of this was my reality, now that I’m a grown-up, I’m glad it’s not.

Except for the part about being able to get a pack of smokes and a coffee for five bucks. Because that would be amazing.