In a nutshell (pardon the pun) Toni Collette deftly dances between her central character, named Tara, and that woman’s other personalities, or ‘alters’: T, a petulant, hypersexed teenager; Alice, a prudish but alluring homemaker cut from Donna Reed’s cloth; Buck, her male alter who lives at the intersection of trailer trash biker and delusional Vietnam vet. And then: there’s Gimme, the feral child, an alter that screeches, cowers, destroys and even pees on sleeping relatives in the middle of the night.
The show has led me to draw an unlikely parallel between Tara and of all people, 50 Cent. Now, I am not a shrink, and I don’t think 50 Cent has multiple personality disorder. On the contrary: I think he’s got a firm grasp on who he is. But the Showtime series, executive produced by Diablo Cody, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Juno, got me to thinking about all the personalities 50 has revealed to us thus far.
For the show’s central character Tara, there is Curtis Jackson. He listens more than he talks, is a brilliant creative (like Tara, who is a muralist—only his mediums are movies, music, books and apparel). Low-key and perceptive, Curtis is probably the least exciting of all the personalities, but loveable for the same reasons.
Then there’s Tara’s polar opposite, T. Less than half Tara’s age with twice the sex drive, and no regard for consequences. T’s attitude is ‘all me all the time’, period. And while the only way to dial T back is to banish her to the shed in the family’s back yard, sometimes it’s cool having T around because she knows how to have a good time. In 50’s amusement park, this character is the irrepressible Pimpin’ Curly. A newly revealed personality, Curly rocks plush furs, a red sistercurl ‘do (okay, it’s a wig cocked to the side, but roll with me here), fresh kicks, and a mouth as foul as his attitude. And it works for him. His bitches love it. And the money they bring him is all that matters; he’s a legend in his own mind.
Even among Tara’s alters, there is a voice of reason. The same holds true for Curtis. In Tara’s world, there is Alice, perfectly coiffed with clipped speech. Alice’s work is in the home, but make no mistake—she’s all business. You better have it together around Alice, and if you don’t she’ll help you with that. Even the show’s subway posters for Alice read ‘She’s One Tough Mother’. Enter Earl, the equivalent personality for Curtis. Straight-laced and accomplished in the corporate world, he’s one tough brother. He’s even shared co-consciousness with Curly and faced him down, telling Curly, “I’m not afraid of you. You’re goin’ to hell. Hell, hell, hell, hell, HELL!”
Who among the United States of 50 measures up to Buck, Tara’s chain-smoking, crotch adjusting male alter? Well, that’s easy. 50 Cent. He’s as male as male gets. Swagger and shit-talking beyond belief, right down to the monogram pistol holster. To let this guy tell it, he’s invincible. And he has a point: he survived Southside Jamaica, Queens, the drug trade and being served a dishonorable discharge from the rap game after being shot 9 times. Exacting revenge on the same industry that left him for dead says he’s right.
I was 50’s advertising writer for “How To Rob” and Power of The Dollar. Our bond goes back to 1999 B.B. (Before the Bullets). He even generously blessed the back cover of my book with a quote.
“There are only a couple people I still keep in touch with from my days at Columbia, people who totally focused on my project and did their best for me. Thembisa is one of them.”
—50 Cent, Shady/Aftermath recording artist and G-Unit branding phenomenon
I’ve been in the presence of both Curtis and 50 Cent. I have witnessed the warm smile of one soul transition into the sneer of another at close range. More recently, I have been thoroughly entertained from afar by Curly and Earl, who prove that Curtis hasn’t lost his sense of humor, and may have even found some self-deprecation after all the success he’s achieved in music, business, film, and fashion.
When an alter overtakes Tara, she transitions as a result of a word, action or behavior that triggers their appearance. Unlike Curtis, Tara is still wondering what cataclysmic event brought on her mental state. Curtis’ near-death experience answered that question for him. See, I believe he knows why these personalities are manifesting, and more than that, wields them in a way Tara can’t. All this shrink talk from The United States of Tara begs a few questions.
What do you think triggers Curtis? Is there a Gimme in his arsenal of personalities? If so, when will we get to meet him? Or is he holding that one back before he self-destructs?
I for one can’t wait to find out.
Showtime’s The United States of Tara finale premieres Sunday, April 5 at 10pm. My book Put Your Dreams First: Handle Your [entertainment] Business streets April 23. The new album from 50 Cent, Before I Self Destruct is slated for release later this year.