You Know You’re Better Than This

I haven’t devoted a Friday Lounge post to an article I’ve read in a while, and today seemed like as good a day as any to do this.  Once again, I’m using an article from my favorite online magazine, Slate.

The article is called “What’s So Bad About Likable Women?”  It was written by Willa Paskin and posted on Friday, 01/10/2014.

If you’d like to read the article on your own, here is the link:  http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2014/01/likeable_versus_unlikable_women_the_great_debate.html.

This particular article drew my attention because it’s something I’ve been noticing more and more in TV, movies, and literature.  There are often “good guy” male characters, the type that come with some flaws (though nothing too noteworthy) … And then there are the female characters who we want to like but can’t because they’re too brash, too crazy, too cruel, too something.

I’m currently reading Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl (yeah, I know I’m late to the game on this one!), and Amy Dunne, one of the main characters, was specifically mentioned in this article.  I’ll be writing a more in-depth review of my thoughts on the book once I’m finished, but she’s a character that I find really interesting.  She starts off as incredibly likable.  I was literally thinking, “Wow, I can really relate to a lot of the things she says, does, and thinks,” as I was reading.  And then … She changes.  She isn’t really this likable woman at all, but someone who wants to appear likable.  I’ve read so many reviews (minus spoilers, of course) of the book in which people mention that they really didn’t like any of the characters.  But here’s the thing … I still do kind of like Amy.  (Granted, I still have about 80 or 90 pages left to read so I guess I could change my mind.)

I found it interesting that Willa Paskin points out at the end of this article that some people are actually drawn to unlikable characters.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.  In fact, I’m one of those people.

When I was a kid, I often seemed to like the bad guys.  I wanted, just once, to see a kid’s TV show, movie, or book in which the bad guy (or girl!) won.  Of course, in the world of “happily ever after,” that generally didn’t happen.

As an adult, I’m still not really a fan of “happily ever after” endings.  That’s not real life (at least not most of the time).  And while I don’t always need my entertainment to be super realistic, I like that the option is there.  The good guy might not triumph over all.

The thing that bothers me about female characters in particular, though, is something Paskin also discusses in her article.  On the one hand, you may have a likable female character.  Unfortunately, she’s likable for all the wrong reasons.  She’s either a poorly developed cardboard cutout of a “good” woman without any “real” flaws or, if the character actually has some depth, she’s perfect in every possible way.  She may have had to work hard to get to that level of perfection, but dammit, she’s perfect!  On the other hand, we have the blatantly awful female characters, the psychotic bitches, the smug know-it-alls, the brash women who will say and do whatever they like, no matter the cost.  These characters are usually well developed, but unfortunately many audiences can’t connect with them.  It’s as though a woman can only be one of two types: she can have no personality and be likable or have depth and be unlikable … There isn’t a lot in-between (at least not in much of what is produced these days).

As someone who loves to write, it’s definitely something to consider when creating female characters.  Yes, there are some awesome female characters out there that are strong, intelligent, and likable (Katniss Everdeen is an example Paskin used that I have to agree with) … But too often writers want to make likable characters without having to think much about why they should be likable.  Sure, she’s pretty, likes to have fun, and doesn’t have any real flaws to speak of (except that maybe she’s a disaster in the kitchen or some other easily overlooked issue) … But why should I, as a reader/viewer, like this woman?

Since I’m often a fan of the unlikable characters, I may not have to place too much emphasis on finding the balance in creating a likable female character with real depth in my own work.  But still … I don’t want any audience I may have to dislike each and every character (female or male).  The thing is, sometimes a character doesn’t have to be obviously likable for you to like them.  You may like them because they do the things you know you could never do.  You may like them because, even though they’re obviously mean, they always say exactly what they think no matter the consequence.  Or you may even like them because you see a glimmer of yourself inside them, which may be both thrilling and terrifying.  Whatever the case, I think that in general female characters just need to be more developed.  Real women have depth.  And real women want to read about and watch TV shows and movies about women with depth.

At least I do.

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Things Are Not Always, Things Are Not Always How They Seem

When I started this blog a few months ago, I thought I’d probably feature quite a few articles (and my reactions and opinions) in my Friday Lounge posts.  So far I’ve done this only once.  

I decided to change that today.  A word of warning: if you’re expecting a political rant (or controversy of any kind), you’re going to be disappointed.  Sorry.  I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again … I’m not against sharing my thoughts and opinions on most topics, but there are some things I just have no interest in discussing on a public blog.  That’s just me.  

The article I’ll be discussing today is one that caught my eye while reading my favorite online magazine, Slate, yesterday evening. 

The article is called “What Do You Call the Person You Are Probably Never Going to Marry?  Your Fiancé.”  It was written by Hanna Rosin and posted on Thursday, 10/03/2013.

If you’re interested in reading the article yourself, here is the link: http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2013/10/fianc_s_today_when_boyfriend_doesn_t_cut_it_but_husband_isn_t_accurate.html.

Reading this article, I kept thinking, “I definitely know people just like this.”  It’s weird, though … Years ago, I was so sure I’d never get married.  I just didn’t have any desire to do so.  Even after being in a happy, healthy relationship with Eric for a considerable amount of time, I wasn’t completely sold on the idea of marriage.  I thought about what it might be like to share a life with him, but marriage wasn’t really a priority for me. (This sort of thinking is actually mentioned in this article when writer Hanna Rosin states: “College-educated women flirt with not getting married, provide fodder for lots of movies about the glories of single life, but eventually they get married (even in the movies) …”

Fast forward a few years … Marriage still wasn’t something I thought a lot about.  When I thought about moving our relationship forward, I mostly thought about moving in together.  After a little over 4.5 years, Eric and I finally took the plunge and got an apartment together.  I was incredibly excited to take this step with him, and was happy with our arrangement.

Then, after living together for a while, the topic of marriage inevitably came up.  We’d talked about it before, but never like this … Never so seriously.  

Here’s the thing, though.  When Eric proposed to me, he wasn’t just trying to “take it to the next level” or make our relationship seem more “official.”  He wanted me to say that I would promise to love him and be faithful to him for the rest of our lives, regardless of what life may throw at us.  He didn’t want to just “put a ring on it.”  He wanted me to commit to actually marrying him.  And that’s okay.  For me, that was expected.  If he didn’t really want to get married, he could have saved a lot of money and gotten me a promise ring (if he really wanted me to have a ring) or he could have not gotten me a ring of any kind (which would be the more likely scenario if he wasn’t into getting married).  But we also wouldn’t call each other fiancé/fiancée.  

This article hits on some of the concerns people have regarding relationship titles or labels.  And, despite the fact that I was never overly bothered by the terms “boyfriend” and “girlfriend,” I do understand why some people are.  I mean, I even started to feel a little weird referring to Eric as my “boyfriend” as we got older.  There’s nothing wrong with those titles, of course.  But in the back of my mind I kept thinking, “My boyfriend?  I’m almost 30!”  “Boyfriend” and “girlfriend” unfortunately can sound juvenile to some … And even if you’re not personally bothered by it, other people may take your relationship a little less seriously (even if you’ve been living together for a considerable amount of time).  And, to be perfectly honest, that really sucks.

A ring (or even a title) doesn’t make a relationship better or more valid.  I know people who have been engaged (in some cases multiple times) who ended things before they went through with the wedding and subsequent marriage.  I know plenty of people who have been divorced (again, sometimes multiple times).  On the other hand, I know several couples who have been living together for years … And they’re happy.  Some of these couples are engaged, but some are not.  The point here is that it doesn’t matter what stage your relationship is in … If you genuinely love and respect each other, why is it anyone else’s business if you’re a “boyfriend/girlfriend,” “fiancé/fiancée,” or “husband/wife?”  They’re all just titles or labels.

One of the most interesting things about this article was Rosin’s mention of sociologist Andrew Cherlin’s description of the dysfunctional relationship many Americans have with marriage.  She writes: “Americans have unusually high marriage and divorce rates, because we are culturally attached to both old-fashioned commitment and to individual freedom.”  This really rang true for me in so many ways.  I was so resistant to the idea of marriage for so long, and the fear of giving up my individual freedoms was one of the biggest reasons why.  I think the important thing to remember here, though, is that agreeing to marry someone doesn’t mean you have to give up all individual freedom (unless maybe you’re marrying a controlling asshole).  You can still do most of the things you did when you were single … You just can’t date or sleep around.  And, really, if you’re in a committed relationship you’re probably not doing that anyway (unless you’re an asshole).

If you’re reading this and feel like commenting, what do you think about labels or titles in a relationship?  Are they important to you?  Do you think they actually matter to other people?  How do you view people who are indefinitely in the “engaged” stage?  

As They Slid In, The Rest Of Them Continued Their Talking And Drinking (They’ll Never Notice Us)

I love the online magazine Slate.  There are usually quite a few interesting articles, and the Dear Prudence column is great.  Some of the things people write in are just … Shocking.  I often wonder if some of the questions are “real,” but I have to think they are … Who would make up such fucked up things and pass them off as reality?  I mean, if you’re going to make up fucked up shit, at least try to sell it to a publishing house or movie producer or … Something.

Anyway, this post isn’t about Dear Prudence (I can feel the disappointment!), but it is about an article I read on Slate about a week ago.

The article is called “If You’ve Ever Posted Anything Embarrassing on Facebook, Now Is the Time to Hide It.”  It was written by Will Oremus and posted on Monday, 07/08/2013.

If you’re interested in reading the article yourself, here is the link: http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2013/07/08/facebook_graph_search_privacy_nightmare_is_preventable_if_you_change_your.html.

I still don’t know much about the new “Graph Search” feature.  To be honest, I don’t really use Facebook a lot.  I check it periodically, like a few things now and then, comment even less, and post updates/pictures even less than that.  I do try to keep “embarrassing” stuff to a minimum, though I’m obviously not obsessed with privacy.  I mean, I’m writing a public blog post right now.  I’ve posted personal photos that include my face, my fiancé’s face, and parts of our apartment.  

Would I want just anyone to find this blog?  Well, probably not.  I do swear a lot, after all.  

However, I consider myself to be a pretty open person.  I don’t think I would ever write something in my blog that would cause me to be mortified if someone I knew came across it.  I love Eric, my friends, my family, my coworkers, and my job … So I’m not going to write awful things about any of them (or my job) for the world to see.  There’s no need to, since I don’t have those negative feelings.

That being said, my Facebook (which does contain my full name and some other personal details that I’d likely leave off my public blog) is friends only.  My privacy settings are pretty hardcore … People actually can’t find me unless they are a friend of a friend.  I prefer this because I hate getting weird friend requests from people I don’t know.  I’m like, “Who is Petunia Cunningham?  Her profile picture is an image of Kate Moss and her information indicates that she lives in Belize.  I’ve never been to Belize, and I’m pretty sure she is not Kate Moss.”  Friend request DENIED!  

But seriously, I don’t want random friend requests.

I also don’t like the idea of random people seeing the things I post.  I may post infrequently, but I still don’t want a complete stranger reading a funny conversation I had with Eric or seeing a picture I took at the last concert I went to.  I’m sharing these things because I enjoy sharing funny and/or interesting stuff with others … But only if those “others” are friends/acquaintances.  (Or, in the case of this blog, people who at least don’t know my last name, which college I went to, the year I graduated from high school, etc.)

I think it’s important to realize that everything you put on the internet is most likely out there forever (unless you somehow figure out a way to delete everything) … But you can definitely be smart about it.  And even if you’re not (hey, we’ve all been young and stupid), you can at least do everything you can to ensure that only certain people can see the images, view the posts, etc.

I know the easy answer here is “Don’t post shit on Facebook.”  But people use social media.  Even if they’re not into Facebook, they may use Twitter, post on an online forum, blog … There are so many possibilities (and thus so many opportunities for people to come across things you’ve said or done online).  No one’s perfect, so there’s always the potential for embarrassment (or worse).

If anyone reading this has any thoughts on this topic, I’d love to hear them.  Do you use Facebook?  Why or why not?  What do you personally do to ensure random people (or important people, like your boss or a potential employer) don’t come across something that could paint you in a negative light?