Tropes: The Best Day Of My Life (and Hollywood's Assumptions about Women)

[Content Note: Body Acceptance, Domestic Violence, Violence, Sexism]

So today -- November 4th, for those of you who wonder how far in advance I write these things -- is the best day of my life. Not because it's a Friday, although that's part of it. But because I woke up this morning and realized that in addition to being behind schedule in NaNoWriMo, I also needed to come up with a Thursday one-off deconstruction for next week (and yes, that is "behind schedule" in Ana's mind).

You know what? Let's talk about NaNoWriMo. This is hard. Seriously hard. I mean, you people who do this every year, how do you do this? And November?? November I-have-to-get-a-turkey-on-the-table-or-my-year-is-ruined-and-oh-yeah-I've-got-to-embroider-the-Christmas-presents-that-I've-been-putting-off-since-May that November are you kidding me? And you are going to say, "But, Ana, NaNo is only 1,700 words a day and your blog posts are longer than that," to which I will laugh bitterly and say, "Kind Reader, you are kind to say so, but I feel compelled to point out that my blog posts would make crap books." Seriously, this right here is stream of consciousness stuff. This is not book stuff. Book stuff is hard.

NaNoWriMo Novelists: My personal heroes. Seriously, just... wow.

So anyway, today is an awesome day because do you know why? I will tell you why. I am now so famous on the internet that my readers are doing my job for me. This is the happiest day of my life.

A reader named Justin (a.k.a. The Mad Latinist) was awesome enough to send me this Cracked.com article: 6 Obnoxious Assumptions Hollywood Makes About Women. It's awesome, go read it.

Okay, Thursday post done! See you in the comments!

No, wait. Sorry. I promised myself I wouldn't be a talentless hack about this. I'm instead going to be a semi-talentless hack and talk about the awesome article that is awesome in the hopes that I might add more awesome to it. And since I'm running entirely on caffeine and NaNo-related guilt, this is going to be largely stream of consciousness gibberish. So let's look at the Cracked run-down:

#6. Worrying About Being Fat When You're Not
#5. Getting Angry For No Reason
#4. Conflicts Between Family And Six-Figure Job
#3. Cattiness
#2. A Token Weakness
#1. Women Be Shopping

Now let's take the awesome Cracked article that Justin was kind enough to email to me and talk about it in more depth because if there's anything I like more than trying to eke out 1,700 words a day for a novel, it's hearing myself talk about other artists' fictional people, because I am living the English major dream, folks.

6. Body Acceptance and Associated Struggles With.  

Body acceptance is hard. I've been a proud member of the Health At Every Size community for over a year now, I fully understand the pitfalls of the Fantasy Of Being Thin and why it's fallacious and damaging, and I completely 100% understand that beauty is not dependent on dress size.

Do I still think I would look prettier as a smaller woman? Unfortunately, yes. My intellectual embracing of body acceptance in the last almost-two-years has not yet undone cultural training that bombards me constantly with the message that Thinner Is Better. Heck, even the Cracked.com article is guilty -- it says at least twice that nobody wants to go see fat people in movies. Hey, Cracked? I do.

I freaking loved Hairspray for having a fat protagonist who doesn't "learn a valuable lesson" or otherwise have a big deal made out of her weight. She starts the movie loving herself and nothing in the movie changes her mind from being 100% "I love my sexy self" love-fest. That is freaking awesome. More, please.

So the problem here to me is not so much that we need less "OMG FAT" in movies (although we do need less, because the aggregate effect normalizes the idea that all women do and should worry about this all the time) but more that if a character is going to worry about her weight then in addition to the "you're beautiful as yourself" message, she also needs to hear a "the cultural standards of beauty are deliberately unreachable because otherwise the diet and beauty industries would dry up entirely, so why spend your life miserably chasing an unattainable fantasy" message. Well, I'd like to hear more of that in movies, anyway.

Also, we need more women (and men) of all sizes enjoying food in movies without being demonized for it. Enjoying food is a good thing.

5. Violent People Should Not Be Idolized.  

Thank you Cracked, for taking on a film scene that made me want to scream -- the Jennifer-Garner-attacks-a-blind-man-because-she's-a-Strong-Woman-natch scene in Daredevil. This, thank you, this. This is not something that I idolize. This is not something that makes feminists pump their fist in the air and go yeeaaaaahhhhhhwwwwOOOOooooohhh! This is something that makes me cringe because are you kidding me Jennifer Garner is attacking a blind man.

And then the next time the subject of domestic violence comes up, someone will say, "Oh, but no one complains when women hit men for no reason, like in Daredevil." DO YOU HEAR ME, INTERNET? I AM COMPLAINING. I do not like it when women hit men for no reason. I do not like it when anyone hits anyone for no reason. I do not like the glorification of violence-for-violence's-sake in our culture.

I do like a beautifully choreographed fight scene, but for goodness sake, let it have some kind of justified meaning behind it besides Strong Wimmins Kick Peoples. The Matrix had Carrie-Anne Moss kicking butt and taking names and I don't think I ever once thought my god this woman is a danger to society someone stop her. I'm pretty sure I've thought that about every Jennifer Garner character ever. (No, wait, I just looked her up on IMDB to refresh my memory and I liked her in Juno. So really, I just think that about her Elektra character. Phew.)

4. Competing Cultural Expectations a.k.a. Heads-I-Win-Tails-You-Lose.

Sweet googly-moogly, has Cracked.com always been progressive and I just never noticed? They're bringing up the taboo topic of the working poor and how hard it is to make a living wage in an article about female stereotypes? THANK YOU. In addition to the women who need to learn how to Find A Man in spite of their six-figure dream job, there's the flip side of the single working mom who is tired and impoverished... and it's a tragedy for her children.

I don't want to be insensitive here. It probably is hard on a child to grow up in an environment where their parents aren't around as much as they need them to be. (I say "probably" because I do believe this, but I don't have any studies handy, so I don't want to present this as Unvarnished Fact when it's really just my unsupported opinion, but now I'm worried that the "probably" will water it down and make me sound like a terrible person.) I fully support high-income, low-hour weeks for everyone so that parents of all genders can spend more time with their families and can nurture and emotionally support themselves and their loved ones. This seems like a hallmark of a healthy society, and I continue to be surprised that anyone would find this view controversial in any way.

However, there's that aggregate effect we're always talking about in terms of women and how their lives are portrayed in the media. If a woman's crappy, demanding, wearisome job keeps being shown solely in terms of how it's taking a toll on her child, and we only ever see the situation from the child's point of view, we run the risk of obscuring the woman's pain from the equation. And every time she manages to drag herself through a sleepless night to miraculously sew that Halloween costume or bake those classroom cupcakes or help on that important science fair project, we're seeing the child's happiness and triumph without considering that oh my god that woman needs a rest break and society has failed her. And the unfortunate implication is that women need to be superhuman or their children will suffer. Bootstraps!

And god forbid that a loving, caring mother might not see the Vital Importance of staying up all night sewing the magic Halloween costume.

3. Women Fighting Women.

Dear Hollywood: I really don't want to go back to the classic days when James Bond beat up girls on his own while grinning like it was the funnest thing since they invented water slides, but there must be a better solution than having the Bond Good Girl and the Bond Bad Girl tear each other's hair out. Please hire Jessica Valenti and Melissa McEwan to solve this problem.

1. Materialism, see also Diet and and Beauty Industries above.

Yes! We just skipped out of order!

I really wanted to like "Sex in the City" but I couldn't get on board with all the shopping. I love that the Cracked article makes the Playstation comparison and in doing so eschews the children starving in China argument, because as much as I'm sympathetic to the argument I also recognize that it tends to be pulled out to justify why women can't have nice things far more often than it's used to justify why men can't have them. So avoiding the obvious charity high horse, I'll say that I can totally get behind a story with a woman who loves brand names and enjoys shopping and has a lovely time lavishing gifts on herself... but I had a hard time when it seemed like all the characters were that way. 

I don't know if the stereotype was that all women should and do love those expensive designer shoes and handbags or just that all women in The City should and do love those expensive designer shoes and handbags, but it just wasn't doing it for me. I hate shopping and my purse brand is eBags because they have a nice pouch for my eReader. So, long story short, if we must talk about shopping in a movie, TV show, or other forms of entertainment, let's have more diverse interests represented than just Shoes and Handbags. How about a gal who shops for video games or likes imported cheeses?

2. They Tip Over.

This is the best one, and it's the reason Justin-who-is-awesome sent me this awesome article.

But if you make your lady character too perfect, nobody in the audience can identify with her. You can't compromise on the looks or the weight, obviously. You can't compromise by giving her a realistic job. She can't be a jerk, or the audience won't root for her. If you're doing one of those career vs. personal life plots, then her flaw is that she loves her career too much, so you got that cut out for you. Any other plot, the only option you've got left is to make her clumsy.

That's why pretty much all romantic comedy women are clumsy. Like Jessica Alba in Good Luck Chuck, Amy Adams in Leap Year, Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality... oh hell here's a montage.


I had never realized this before, but it's not just Bella Swan.

The clumsy thing? The she-falls-over-and-it's-hilarious thing? The informed flaw that lets Edward and Co. pick Bella up and carry her around like a toy doggie and additionally acts up to put her in implausible danger as needed? This thing is a trope. 

It's a perfect-pretty-women-need-something-wrong-with-them trope. It's a trope to make them less perfect, more flawed, more accessible. It's a trope to make them more likeable by the women in the audience and more attainable by the men. It's a trope to make them less competent, less frightening, less intimidating.

Let me just repeat that. In order for a woman to be more likeable and less intimidating, she has to hurt herself a lot. She has to nearly die because of her clumsiness, as with Jennifer Lopez and the shoe and Random Actress I Don't Recognize in the tree. The on-screen shorthand for "approachable woman" is someone who falls over frequently to the point of seriously injuring herself or even dying.

Stephenie Meyer didn't come up with this. Society did.

I don't know what else to add to this. I'm not sure I can. I really can't believe I hadn't noticed this before, that all the times I was railing against ableism and Unfortunate Implications and everything else in Twilight over Bella's chronic clumsiness, I never realized that I've seen this a hundred times before. I was just noticing it in Twilight because it's taken up to 11, like so much else that is problematic in that series. I'm not sure what else to say except to thank Justin for pointing this out to me.

Wait. I can think of something else. Cracked.com missed something. There's a seventh obnoxious assumption that Hollywood keeps making about women, and you can see it in the montage above in addition to all the falling over: we're not all white, thin, cis-gendered, and white. You might want to work on that, Hollywood.

100 comments:

Charleen Merced said...

O.o

That's a wonderful montage. Really drove the point home.

Sarah Weber said...

I freaking love Christina H's articles. (And, of course, a huge chunk of the Cracked.com readership hates her because she's a woman and the ladies can't possibly write articles that are both funny and insightful, amirite?) I mean, everything she's said, and everything you've added, is a big part of the reason I can't stand romantic comedies. The other part, of course, is the focus on how women need a man! to complete their lives.

I also never noticed the clumsiness until I saw that video, and I'm not sure how I managed that, because it's everywhere.

Hyperio said...

It was an interesting article, and it was one of better things I read on Cracked.com.

Ana Mardoll said...

I also never noticed the clumsiness until I saw that video, and I'm not sure how I managed that, because it's everywhere.

Thank goodness it wasn't just me, then, because I was stunned. Like "sit in my chair and stare at the screen for ten minutes wondering how I could have missed this and feeling my worldview change in a not-at-all-good-way" stunned.

Ana Mardoll said...

So they haven't been a liberal haven of progressiveness all this time? I was thinking they weren't, but I was suddenly afraid that I'd missed a lot of really cool stuff.

Steph said...

The clumsiness thing is a stock trope in shojo manga too -- the cliched beginning for a romantic school comedy is the heroine barreling out of her house at top speed, carrying a slice of toast in her mouth, and slamming into the male lead. Who will then proceed to be a rude jerk to her, which is also like Twilight, but at least Generic Future Boyfriend has a better reason to be peeved, I guess.
I wonder if there's a common origin to these tropes or if 'clumsiness' is really just the easiest thing for people to settle on when they've rejected all the other possible flaws?

Nathaniel said...

Cracked aint 100% progressive, but they are better than just about any other humor site out there.

Clumsiness is the perfect thing to "humanize" your protagonist. Its a flaw that's not a flaw, simultaneously declaring imperfection and vulnerability without any of that you know, character growth thing being needed.

Libby said...

No, references to porn and boobs are pretty standard "humorous" interjections in many, many Cracked articles. Female writers are definitely in the minority. I like most of Christina H's stuff, but she is not on board the HAES train, so not all of her writing is accessible to me. But she adopted Sisko! (Black cats are less likely to be chosen.) So yay.

Hyperio said...

As far as I know (I am not a regular reader of that site, just occassional), their articles' quality and political stance vary. They often do lists - such as the one mentioned in the OP. There are some very nice things to read but it would be rather hard for me to do my own "top 5 cracked.com articles" list.

Will Wildman said...

I think Cracked is so much of everything that it would be weird if they weren't enormously insightful and progressive on occasion. It would be harder not to, and they just don't coordinate that much.

The Women Falling Over Montage really was startling. I just discovered "No, Seriously, What About The Menz" - fascinating blog, predictable pitfalls in the commenter population, but one of them pointed out that English really needs a word to describe something that is so appallingly wrong that it becomes its own twisted kind of funny. I ended up laughing at the montage simply because I don't have any coherent reaction prepared for video evidence that 'Injuriously Clumsy Female Lead' is a hive-thought on that scale. Not laughing at the women being injured, but laughing in deep embarrassment at the writers.

I'm feeling much better about the younger FMC (Female Main Character - now I'm even thinking in NaNo jargon) in my NaNovel having her powers first manifest as inordinate proprioception and coordination. I was worried that it was a little bit the Buffy/River/etc 'superhero girls are graceful and never misstep or take a punch', but it's a hell of a lot better than the other extreme.

Speaking of which, I am 250 words behind on said NaNovel and thus A Worthless Parasite Of A Being, but last night I had completely forgotten what was supposed to happen next, whereas this morning the next dozen plot points got back into formation for me, so perhaps it is not too late to regain my value as a person.

chris the cynic said...

How about a gal who shops for video games or likes imported cheeses?

Probably don't know enough about cheese to make it work, but I can definitely see Erin having a sizable video game collection. Mind you I got enough good advice in the asking for hobbies thread that I'm not sure where she finds the time to play Jedi Academy while listening to the Brandenburg concertos (played LOUD if she can get away with it) if she's also going to be making model cities, painting miniature figures, creating jewelry, dating Ryan, and ... lets say watching Toho movies* (subtitled, not dubbed) in her spare time. The construction parts alone would take a sizable chunk of time.

-

*Almost certainly not what the person meant by "foreign films" but she's already making model cities for her iguana to crawl on, if she didn't watch Godzilla movies, what would be the point? Plus I think I've had Ryan use Mothra as an analogy so that would be something they have in common. (Though Ryan would watch them dubbed.)

Will Wildman said...

I wonder if there's a common origin to these tropes or if 'clumsiness' is really just the easiest thing for people to settle on when they've rejected all the other possible flaws?

It's come up so much in Twilight that I don't remember if we've ever specifically discussed this, but I would imagine it's got two major points. First, clumsiness is a blameless 'flaw' - in my NaNovel, the younger FMC is a bit presumptuous/naive, and has a complicated relationship with authority, so when she does questionable things related to those flaws, she could presumably choose not to, and she might legitimately be blamed for blowing off a summons to go stock the library. The older FMC had a lot emotionally/intellectually invested in the status quo that blew up a few months earlier and is hesitating about things she normally wouldn't, because she's still wondering how much else she might have been wrong to believe in. Strictly speaking that's something she could control, but being a person instead of an automaton, she doesn't.

Whereas if you tell someone 'stop falling over', people are more likely to conclude that you're kind of a jerk, because a lot of people (I think) have that experience of being told 'stop doing that thing you're involuntarily doing and wish you weren't doing anyway', whether it's a damaging habit or just being told 'stop crying!' as a child.

The second thing, of course, is that Women Who Fall Over are obviously not fully capable of taking care of themselves. The montage also nicely highlights how often the Woman Falling Over lands in a dude's arms. (Yes, I'm sure it's a lovely metaphor for the ecstatic freedom of 'falling in love'. Now let's see several hundred dudes do the same thing.)

The counter-argument that I fully expect to hear at some point is that romantic comedies in general often have slapstick humour, and it will also target guys (perhaps even in greater number), but I'm willing to bet that in an enormous number of cases it will be externally forced on them. Guys will take sporting equipment to soft regions and get thrown off the balcony into the pool or step on a rake or whatever; women will just fall over like Atlas sneezed.

(I'm not sure what Atlas Sneezed would be about, but I want it to be written now.)

Ana Mardoll said...

Black cats are less likely to be chosen.

Seriously? When I went cat shopping "Must be black" was the highest thing on my priority list.

Of course, I ended up with a white calico and a tuxedo cat because those were the first two we looked at and I have no self-control with cats. How sad about black cats, though. :(

Ana Mardoll said...

but one of them pointed out that English really needs a word to describe something that is so appallingly wrong that it becomes its own twisted kind of funny. I ended up laughing at the montage simply because I don't have any coherent reaction prepared for video evidence that 'Injuriously Clumsy Female Lead' is a hive-thought on that scale.

This is my main logic behind not condemning people for finding trigger jokes funny. There's a fair body of humor based on "this horrible thing will make you laugh because of an ingrained fear/shock/stun response".

Plus, Grissom says humor is ultimately rooted in many cases in fear, and if C.S.I. is wrong I don't want to be right.*

*Note: C.S.I. is frequently wrong.

Ana Mardoll said...

I have ADD, so I'll weigh in and say that you can paint models while playing some games if they have one-click combat (MMOs like LOTRO or possibly WoW) or if they're cut-scene heavy like FFX.

Games are actually great for multi-tasking -- I wrote my novel while playing LOTRO. *shame*

Izzy said...

I do not like it when women hit men for no reason. I do not like it when anyone hits anyone for no reason.

Yes. This.

It's why I don't like a lot of anime, particularly the more comedic stuff. "Guy says something mildly pervy/looks at another woman/whatever" + "girl goes superdeformed and hits him, sometimes with a hammer" != anything approaching good times for me. Comes off as "oh, those women are wacky and irrational", which is not doing anybody one single favor, so...could we not?

This list is awesome. I would add to it:

"Women Want Commitment"--covers the "women never want casual sex" thing, the Why Doesn't He Call Girl, the Why Doesn't He Propose Girl, and so on.

"Women Want Kids"

Because some of us do want both of these things, just like some guys do, but...the stereotype is obnoxious.

depizan said...

I have been known to watch TV shows while playing WoW and looking for good recipes in cookbooks. Gotta use all that wasted travel time somehow. WoW's combat is a little more than one click, unless you want to just beat things up on auto-attack, but the travel, oy, the travel.

Will Wildman said...

I have ADD, so I'll weigh in and say that you can paint models while playing some games if they have one-click combat (MMOs like LOTRO or possibly WoW) or if they're cut-scene heavy like FFX.

Warcraftwise, I wrote my first several blog posts in bursts while my magnificient blood elf mage hovered in the city waiting for his turn to come up in the dungeon-adventuring queue, or while my druid flapped from one end of the continent to the other in search of a good archaeological dig site. I'm not sure Erin would put up with that playerbase, but possibly, in addition to having superheroes, chris' bookworld has a drastically reduced saturation of jerks on the internet (in which case I would like to move there, even if it does mean half the city gets demolished every month).

Black cats are less likely to be chosen.

I have also heard this, and vowed to get black cats when next I have cause to get cats. (The last two were adoption from a friend-of-a-friend and a stray rescued from the backyard, and thus shopping around was not really an option.)

TheSquirrel said...

Not that I disagree with your first point, but I'd rather not encourage movie makers to make more message movies assuring people. I think the result of such good intentions tends to be condescending.

Like I remember this episode of Bones where Bones and her sidekick Booth head to LA to investigate a murder that was complicated by the fact that the victim had so many plastic surgeries that it was hard to identify her. In the middle of the episode there's this long rant about how women should stop cutting away the parts of them that make them unique.

Now I didn't disagree with the words. However, I'm a woman with a large, roman nose that I spent most of my life HATING. I have been teased for it by classmates, and offered helpful advice from adults (when I went to an optometrist and first learned I needed glasses, the doctor told me that glasses were great for making noses look smaller :P ) I spent a lot of time wishing I had cash to burn so that I could "fix" it (and a number of other features.) Older and wiser now, I don't wish that anymore because that's sick. But hearing this rant come from people that look like Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz just made me want to throw a brick at the screen.

Brin Bellway said...

Games are actually great for multi-tasking -- I wrote my novel while playing LOTRO.

Don't I know it. I can hear the sound of Runescape fish cooking right now. (Cooking fish is good for that sort of thing. It takes a decent amount of time per batch and when the sound stops, you know it's time to go do more clicking.)

Rowen said...

*sigh* I played a white mage in Final Fantasy XI. I've been tempted to go back, but . . I had NO spare time. If we were traveling, I had to constantly recast invisible and sneak. If we were partying, I had to go through my list of buffs, which wore off by the time I got through the list, and heal everyone. The only time we had downtime was whenever we were waiting for other members to join.

Of course, I once played a warrior and, DAMN that was a lot easier.

Kit Whitfield said...

*salutes Ana's excellent blog*

Nicholas Kapur said...

Since we're on the subject, Guild Wars has always been my MMO of choice. One-time payment with no monthly fees, no "freemium" model so I wasn't constantly harassed for cash in-game. Haven't played in well over a year (school and stuff, you know), but if anyone else expects to be playing Guild Wars 2 when it's (eventually) released, you should totally let me know.

Inquisitive Raven said...

Not only is the "clumsy woman' thing not funny, but in the case of Bullock's character in Miss Congeniality, it makes no sense. She's a) a cop, and b) displays martial arts skills and you expect me to believe she's clumsy. Abrasive and has trouble relating to non-cops I'll buy. Clumsy, no.

Will Wildman said...

in the case of Bullock's character in Miss Congeniality, it makes no sense. She's a) a cop, and b) displays martial arts skills and you expect me to believe she's clumsy. Abrasive and has trouble relating to non-cops I'll buy. Clumsy, no.

This is also interesting because, as you point out, the character is already clearly 'flawed' in normal persony ways, and the clumsiness gets thrown on top of that - so it's not being used as a replacement for personality issues that might result in the character being less than a perfect pedestal-dweller. It's even more gratuitous.

Rowen said...

With Miss Congeniality, I actually didn't mind the clumsiness. In the opening scene, she's not shown as clumsy. It's only when Michael Caine starts to adjust her walk and then when she puts on the pointed, spiky instruments of torture that she starts falling down everywhere.

Will Wildman said...

Ah, missing context. That does help, I think.

Ana Mardoll said...

Ah, thank you Kit. :)

The Miss Congeniality one baffles me, too. Rowen is right that the tripping doesn't happen until heels show up, but I wonder if there's not more to it than that. The other flaws are "fixed" by the end of the movie (she likes being feminine now! Because not wearing makeup is a Very Bad Thing! *sigh*), but she never gets used to the heels, so it seems like the One Flaw To Rule Them All to keep her accessible and non-perfect?

Rowen said...

Which is then completely destroyed in about 5 minutes by the sequel.

I thought there were only two scenes where she falls? Once, when she's just been made over and hasn't slept in 2 days, and then again, when she's on stage.

Nina said...

When we adopted our black cat, the shelter person said, "Oh I'm so glad you picked him, no one adopts black cats!" We were so sad that people would discriminate against cats based on fur color. When we told my mom about it, she was really surprised to hear it because all her cats when she was growing up were black.

Bayley G said...

I was told Bridesmaids was a funny film! And I should watch it because it's funny!

SPOILER WARNING

Maybe it's because I went by myself when I was feeling lonely and looking for a romcom to cheer me up, but I ended up disliking it. It just made me want to give the main character a hug and a big box of chocolate. The movie's point is that her life sucks, but wait there's more, it continues to suck, she loses everything, hits rock bottom, then is even more mocked, has a mental breakdown (played for laughs of course), and then.... then it kind of ends. I guess it was supposed to be funny when she had to spend hundreds on a plane ticket only to get kicked off the plane because someone drugged her, or when the ladies end up shitting themselves all over expensive dresses, or when she loses her job that barely paid her bills in the first place, but I wasn't laughing.

There was plenty of falling down, though. I just found myself thinking come on, we can do better.

Nina said...

Ana, your posts about clumsiness in Twilight have made me all sensitive to it now. I just finished "The False Princess," by Eilis O'Neal, a YA book that I really enjoyed - good plot and characters, nice character growth, great twists - but one of the main character's flaws was clumsiness and it really grated on me! Characters would make jokes about how she couldn't walk without hurting herself, and I would twitch a little. I mean, the author never forgot the character was clumsy - it came up every few scenes at times when you would expect it to - but I also didn't feel like it was really crucial to the plot. It was really irritating in an otherwise great book. And I don't think I would have noticed without you!

Silver Adept said...

Goodness, yes. Hollywood its stuck at least in the Ronald Reagan era (as SAG president, not as politician) when it comes to women and stereotype. It would also be nice if we could have a movie where at least one of the female main characters doesn't fall into the "old flame, current flame, future flame"department for any of the main characters, and isn't a villain.

And the falling down thing? Is part of why I insist that those women are not clumsy, but unlucky. (even though they end up with what they want after their falls) Maybe that's another stereotype to go after - we need a movie where the competent female is not forced to rely on a male because of bad or convenient circumstances.

Ana Mardoll said...

Ana, your posts about clumsiness in Twilight have made me all sensitive to it now.

We can't un-see it now!

There's a TV Trope called "TV Tropes will ruin your life". I want one that says "Deconstructions will ruin your innocence." :)

Makabit said...

I think it's not at all true that people don't want to see fat people in movies, or on TV. Hairspray is a good example, so is the popularity of Melissa McCarthy and Camryn Manheim, and all those many chubby male comedians. Kathy Najimy, Kathy Bates...people even liked Renee Zellweger at a 'Hollywood fat' weight in the Bridget Jones movies (although there's so much weirdness going on with how that was handled). Jennifer Hudson, before she got so skinny. Oprah, at all her various weights--everyone's loved her all along.

What is true is that we've been told not to want it, and there's a strong ideological fear that goes with it, on the part of media producers and media critics. There seems to be a real terror of what might happen to society if people accepted that a lot of us are fat, and that's far from the worst problem facing society today. There's a real anger toward people who accept their bodies.

It's complicated stuff. We're almost as crazed about weight as the Victorians were about sex.

Makabit said...

About black cats, yes, I've been told that both dogs and cats with black fur are hard to place. There's different theories about why, ranging from the idea that this has to do with human racism, or cultural associations of black with evil, to the practical--they're harder to photograph well, and blend into shadows at the shelter.

It always surprises me. When you say 'black dog', I see a black labrador retriever, which I consider to be a damn near ideal family pet. My grandmother always had a black lab or two for decades on end.

Ana Mardoll said...

Skyline! I saw that! It was so disappointing! And the one guy who seemed genre-savvy (Nameless Intelligent Guy halfway through the movie) was presented as a Bad Person for being... well... right! :(

I thought something similar, only I didn't know if it might go in a more "Devil's Advocate" direction of "you take the job for the money, but the CEO-friend-guy corrupts you anyway" kind of message. Except I'm not sure how I feel about that message because the "corruption" usually seems to be conveyed by fast cars and sexy women, and I have to think that (a) corruption is more complicated than that and (b) different people have different temptations.

Which I guess "Devil's Advocate" kind of played to, but... I haven't seen it in a long time.

Makabit said...

Of course, I fell over my own feet and skinned my knee and elbow like a little kid about a month ago. At the age of thirty-eight.

So I don't know who I'm criticizing for clumsy characters.

My husband was with me at the time. He said it was like the Rapture. He turned his head, and when he turned back, I was gone.

Except then he realized that instead of having ascended to heaven, I was on the asphalt, muttering obscenities.

Silver Adept said...

@Makabit

Well, as Ana noted above, there are several industries that hinge on women being told they're fat/ugly/unattractive (and conversely, tell men they're fat/weak/unattractive) and them believing it to the core of their being so that they try dieting/cosmetics/dangerous things in an attempt to conform to the media message. True acceptance of bodies, no matter what they are, would mean that several industries that are heavily invested in fantasies about bodies would collapse into dust. There would probably be a knock-on effect about our pleasure-based pastimes as well, some that might invoke the irritation of our Stern Moralists that believe we're already doing too many things to excess.

As for that anger, well, it's the anger of seeing someone who has decided to live outside of societal norms doing well, instead of suffering immediate and disastrous consequences for daring to buck the trend. Once you see someone else living outside the box you've built for yourself, it seems like an invalidation of everything you've done to obtain your status inside the box. Which leads to anger about all the wasted time and effort building yourself up over something that is unappreciated or turns out to be mostly trivial.

depizan said...

Well, as Ana noted above, there are several industries that hinge on women being told they're fat/ugly/unattractive (and conversely, tell men they're fat/weak/unattractive)

And other industries merrily help them out. I've always found it both interesting and annoying that romance novels sell a particular body type of men as attractive, despite most readers being women. I suppose it's possible that most women want tall, broad, muscular men, but I've known plenty of women who'd be happy to find Orlando Bloom or Elijah Wood under their Christmas trees (wearing nothing but a bow, as one joked about putting on her Christmas wish list). Odd that no romance novels cash in on that. Now, I know most romance publishers hand out pretty specific requirements, but why specify what the guy looks like, especially when women aren't a hive mind and have varied taste in men? To make the few guys who read them feel inadequate? To try to make all women have the same taste in men? Of course, it's even weirder that the women of romance novels are all beautiful and also of rather limited types. You'd expect them to be rather like the male oriented romantic comedies, except reversed - average looking woman gets super hot guy.

Granted, I struggle with how one conveys that a character is average looking, but attractive to another character. You know, the way it works in real life - you like someone, they're hotter than they would be if you didn't. (This does happen to other people, right?) It's easy for it to come off like the character is mistaken about their attractiveness, rather than that they happen to be attractive to that specific person.

Brandi said...

Re point 5:

I'll just leave this here.

Ana Mardoll said...

I should probably put a retro-active NSFW note on that. So, here is it: NSFW.

Izzy said...

As a reader, I like to know what the guy looks like in detail, so that I can imagine him better. I like lush descriptions of most things, and that includes men.

I'd be fine with more varied types--the Orlando Bloom/David Bowie sort is honestly more my thing than the uber-muscular--and, indeed, most of the more lately-published novels I've read have not dwelt so much on the hero being big and strong. In shape, yes, but not steroidal or anything.

The thing is...well, first of all, there are certain characteristics which a majority of your audience is going to like or be okay with. I'm into slimmer, more elfy guys, but I won't put a book down if the hero's broad-shouldered or has rippling muscles; I like me some Loki, but I wouldn't kick Thor out of bed for eating crackers either. There are qualities that will make me go "meh, no," but as long as the guy's on one end of various spectrums, I'm good.

Second, if you're focusing on romantic plot, you almost have to detail the characters' appearance. Otherwise you wind up with something like the Chloe/Buck romance from LB: why are these people into each other? Yes, yes, personality's great, and some people are into that to the exclusion of physical attributes...but not that many. I have never discussed a guy's great moral fiber in lecherously appreciative tones; I have often lamented that such-and-so was such a great guy, shame he did nothing for me physically. (Shorter version: My *mom's* a great person who I can talk to for hours. I still don't want to fuck her. )

Basically, for every reader you lose because she doesn't dig broad shoulders or muscular thighs or whatever, you gain ten more who do like men like that (or some approximation of that) and want to get a better mental picture of them.

As far as women go, there's been talk of having more unconventionally attractive heroines, and there are books featuring same. From what I've heard on blogs, though, both audiences and authors are split between "I want an average woman with whom I can identify" and "I want a super-hot badass through whom I can live vicariously." Sort of like the difference between John LeCarre novels and James Bond movies--there's a place for each type.

/long explanation.

Izzy said...

You know, the way it works in real life - you like someone, they're hotter than they would be if you didn't.

Sure. But at least for me, there has to be a baseline level of "ooh, cute" to build on. It's like RPGs: personality can give you at least a +10 bonus, but I'm still rather hard to, um, hit.

My dating life would've been way easier if not for that requirement, let me tell you.

Cupcakedoll said...

Black cats! In an entirely unscientific anecdotal memory of ten years of fostering, I think I saw more black kittens than any other color. So maybe it's genetic and black is a dominant gene, or maybe it's societal and people are more likely to unload black kittens on the shelter and keep the colored ones.

Also: talk to your locak shelter about fostering and you too could come home to one of these on your knees!

Will Wildman said...

Granted, I struggle with how one conveys that a character is average looking, but attractive to another character. You know, the way it works in real life - you like someone, they're hotter than they would be if you didn't. (This does happen to other people, right?)

This very much happens to me and I am also kind of fumbling with how to express it in writing. I have a younger couple and on a superficial level they're both pretty into each other, plus they're (unwillingly) getting songs written about how awesome they are, but I don't want it to actually come across as AND ALSO ALL OF THESE PEOPLE ARE GORGEOUS. Because there's no particular reason they should be - they weren't chosen for their jobs on looks or whatever. I'm not sure how to elegantly indicate 'when I say he's way hot I mean for that to be a subjective statement from her perspective'.

Rowen said...

I'd like to put on the record that I'm a tall burly guy who plays rugby. And I've never been "petite." In just about EVERY fantasy novel I read growing up, the male characters, especially any whom the audience was supposed to swoon over or identify with was "lithe" or had "a dancer's body" or a "swimmer's frame" or a "gymnast's build." (I'm looking at you, Mercedes Lackey.) I think one thing I liked about the Dark is Rising series is that Will was described as being kinda husky, and that was ok (Despite all the cover art). Even Bastian in the Neverending Story was described as stocky, but that wasn't a good thing. Halfway through he becomes, basically, the prince from Temple of Doom, and is happier for it. O_O

That, plus the gay community and the ballet community (yup., studied at a pre professional level) gave me SO many body image complexes that I'm just NOW getting over.

hapax said...

she's also going to be making model cities, painting miniature figures, creating jewelry, dating Ryan, and ... lets say watching Toho movies* (subtitled, not dubbed) in her spare time.

In the only out and out romance I've ever written, the Meet Cute was at a double feature of MECHAGODZILLA II and DESTROY ALL MONSTERS. Also, bonding (and many double entendres) occurred in an argument over the relative merits of Pilsner Urquell and Taddy Porter.

I've committed many grave literary sins in my life (including Oddly Coloured Hair and Eyes, Secret Royal Birth, Cute Telepathic Pet, Soul-Mating Makes Dating Unnecessary, Whiter Is Prettier, and even the ghastly Child Abuse As Backstory, but I'm proud to say I have NEVER done Adorably Clumsy.

I did have a Clothes Shopping RAWR! scene, but since both characters were guys, I think I'm okay.

Ana Mardoll said...

Check out THAT moral fiber! *wink, wink, nudge, nudge*

No, you're right, it doesn't really flow off the tongue.

Ana Mardoll said...

Will, I'm similar, and I'm running into the same problems in text. (The first guy I ever dated, when I met him I thought he was the homeliest person I'd ever met. This changed. Drastically. My brain, I cannot explain it.)

Maybe a conversation with another person? The other person could express "meh, not interested" and protag could indicate that, "once you get to know him, he's HAWT". Maybe? Not sure.

Ana Mardoll said...

In just about EVERY fantasy novel I read growing up, the male characters, especially any whom the audience was supposed to swoon over or identify with was "lithe" or had "a dancer's body" or a "swimmer's frame" or a "gymnast's build."

I read this today elsewhere in another context, and I'd really never noticed it before. Now I'm going to be looking for it everywhere, I just know it. My first thought was "what about the burly super heroes!" but on reflection the REALLY big ones (like Thing) are usually support characters with a token girlfriend, not the main character with the Team Wife. I can't think of any really big guys in fiction who get the girl, expect maybe The Hulk and that's only a part-time thing.

I've committed many grave literary sins in my life (including Oddly Coloured Hair and Eyes, Secret Royal Birth, Cute Telepathic Pet, Soul-Mating Makes Dating Unnecessary, Whiter Is Prettier, and even the ghastly Child Abuse As Backstory, but I'm proud to say I have NEVER done Adorably Clumsy.

This should be an open thread topic, I swear. I have so much to confess. :D

Will Wildman said...

I read this today elsewhere in another context, and I'd really never noticed it before. Now I'm going to be looking for it everywhere, I just know it. My first thought was "what about the burly super heroes!" but on reflection the REALLY big ones (like Thing) are usually support characters with a token girlfriend, not the main character with the Team Wife.

There's been enormous variation of Superman even in recent years - he's either the lithe dancer (at last, a justification for his obsession with tights) or he's the most spectacularly barrel-chested individual one could ever hope to be. Barrel-Superman seems weird to me conceptually, because his strength is very much SF-based and not actually derived from gigantomuscles, but I can see why someone would do that just for the variation next to all the other gymnasts in spandex. (Batman varies as well, but not as extensively, I think?)

This should be an open thread topic, I swear. I have so much to confess.

I have done... let's see... Strong Female Characters Are Gratuitously Violent, First Crush Is The Truest Love, Mysterious Amnesiac Mystic Waif (male variant), and various forms of classism such as Everyone Important Is Secretly Royalty. I'm kind of surprised more painfully wrong stuff isn't leaping to mind... maybe I've blocked it out.

brjun said...

Incidentally, where ARE some good tv shows that have women who are real characters, real protagonists, and not spinny-kill-bot/Angelina Jolie style sex symbol "strong woman" characters?

Ooh! I can help with this! (I watch a fair bit of television in disjointed chunks.). As main characters, my parents and I have enjoyed: Buffy, True Blood, Veronica Mars. Revenge, which is a new series out now, seems to be in a similar vein -- of all of those listed, I think Emily Thorne is much more like Admiral Cain (who I love!) than the other ones. It is like the Count Of Monte Christo, only the protagonist is not Dante, but his daughter. She is ... not a very nice person, but in a competent and sort-of-justified-if-you-believe-in-revenge sort of sense. At least so far in the series.

Also, I haven't watched all of it, but I am told that on Sanctuary, the female protagonist, who is played by Amanda Tapping is actually really really competent and good.

My parents also like the first couple of seasons of Grey's Anatomy and Mad Men, but those might not be what you are looking for. They also tell me that Pam Am is actually not terrible and about spies.

As far as women as protagonists, but not main characters per se-- Dexter has been good about its female characters in the seasons that I watched before I got bored. Which reminds me of Daybreak, in which I liked some of the side characters, but which is short and mostly-male centric.

I have to go to sleep (I am super excited about being able to finally use this information in my brain) but I can add more if I think of anything.

depizan said...

My first thought was "what about the burly super heroes!" but on reflection the REALLY big ones (like Thing) are usually support characters with a token girlfriend, not the main character with the Team Wife.

You're right. I'd never noticed. (Probably because the only superhero comic characters who weren't always* drawn well past my preference in the muscles department are Nightcrawler and Pete Wisdom.) Of course, superhero art generally appears intended to induce complexes in its readers. The men are impossibly buff and good looking and the women are just plain impossible. I like comics, but I'm not sure the art is good for one's self esteem.



*Okay, almost always. I think a few artists have drawn Spider-man and Nightwing as something besides giganto-muscle-dude. And possibly others. Or the base problem here is that my taste in guys leans more toward the Michael J. Fox end of things than, er, anything else. (Which would also explain why I see the men of romance fiction as far more giganto-muscle than Izzy does. It doesn't take much to get out of my attraction range.)

depizan said...

This should be an open thread topic, I swear. I have so much to confess. :D

I'm mostly guilty of basing characters of myself, only awesome. Though, until recently, all of my characters were white. I am fixing this! Stupid cultural brainwashing. *mutter*

I am very fond of cliches and happy endings, but I have no intention of fixing those sins.

Brandi said...

Oh, sorry. I thought they were covered enough (about as much clothes as your average Dark Age/Modern Age comic book female hero).

Silver Adept said...

@The Confessors -

Remember: Tropes Are Not Bad. (Tropes Are Not Good, either.)

Sanctuary is square on for competent female lead, as is Warehouse 13 (several competent female characters), Eureka (although they're probably the closest to the trope of the Sci-Fi series) and Fringe. Agent Dunham does do a lot of shooting, but she does just as much deduction. And then there's Red Astrid.

Inquisitive Raven said...

Getting back to Miss Congeniality, I will take people's word for it that she didn't start falling down until they started training her for the undercover op, but when I watched the movie, it didn't feel to me like "not used to the heels" or at least not entirely. I would've been less irritated if it had.

SoaringTurtle said...

I wonder if it isn't a lot easier to find well written women in tv-series and books because those have a lot more room than movies.
A movie is a very short and compressed narrative and as such they're generally told in a very focused manner. Everything is about one or a couple of main characters and every other character exists to somehow support or contrast the main characters. It seems to me that when having to work that way a lot of writers drop the whole 'well written women' thing as if it wasn't really very important.

The trope of the clumsy female lead was rather amusingly parodied in an extra of Fullmetal Alchemist which featured Izumi Curtis in that role. That said, that particular show, much as I love it, is very guilty of using the female lead abusing male lead trope for comedy.

chris the cynic said...

I'm surprised by the Admiral Cain love in this thread. Discussion of spoilers, rape, and murder follows.

When you first meet her in Battlestar Galactica she's basically a rape and murder machine. You only learn about one person she took matters into her own hands with (she murdered one of her best friends as an example to everyone else) but you know that, for example, in her spare time she has ordered that someone be raped, over and over again, by a crew of 1,752. Having someone raped into a catatonic state is something that she's proud of.

She doesn't always focus on destroying a single person though, her other major act as commander was what she did to the civilian fleet. The kidnapping and forced labor should probably be mentioned, but what stands in my memory is what she did to the people she considered not worth ... are we calling that enslaving or indenturing? Anyway, to the rest she stranded them. They were already defenseless, but she decided to make it so they couldn't even run, leaving them stuck in empty space. It's not clear whether they were all slaughtered by the Cylons or if they died of starvation, but Cain made sure they would die somehow, the only question being how drawn out it would be.

She seemed, to me, to be the second most one dimensionaly evil character in the entire show. She was only topped by Cavil and he had the excuse of having reprogrammed himself.

Hell, Cain was the only non-Cylon who was actively working towards the extinction of humanity. If Cain had had her way the entire human population of the universe would be 1,752 and falling. When she found out there were more people out there, the Pegasus civilian fleet, she did everything in her power to make sure that they would die in ways uncertain but certainly unpleasant.

And then when we get to see the backstory we learn that the whole rape into catatonia thing was because she didn't like her ex-girlfriend and the whole slaughter your own species thing wasn't a result of having to make hard choices, it was her default option. A one dimensional force of purest evil could still have an interesting (if completely depressing) story if that story were about how they got that way, starting as a normal human being, but in Razor we discover that the truth is Cain was always evil. There's nothing else there, she's just evil.

Kit Whitfield said...

when I watched the movie, it didn't feel to me like "not used to the heels" or at least not entirely

My impression was that it was a shorthand for 'is no good at being a Proper Woman'. It had moments of reasonable treatment - she does well in the talent section by demonstrating self-defence moves, for instance - but the basic message is that it's only okay to be an 'unfeminine' woman if you're also prepared to scrub up and do the feminine-woman thing on demand, and that a woman who doesn't primp is letting herself down.

Fluffy_goddess said...

Criminal Minds, despite its horrendously problematic treatment of female side-characters (as either victim or monster of the week), has a relatively strong set of female characters, and it is an ensemble show. It's not perfect, but within the constraints of the genre (ex. all! cops! must! shoot! people!) it's pretty good.

Thirding the Sanctuary love. And Buffy, icon of my teenage years.

Another Chris said...

The Cracked article is brilliant. Pretty much everything I hate about Hollywood's depiction of women.

I hear a lot of people complaining about cutely clumsy heroines, and while I agree that it's annoyingly common (especially in animé), I don't see so much of a problem with it if it's done *well*. Sure, clumsiness isn't a personality flaw, but it can be a problem. It makes you see yourself as weak and stupid and unattractive, and that doesn't do wonders for your security. (I think Aerin in "The Hero and the Crown" is an example of it being handled well. I was pretty clumsy when I hit puberty, too...)

@Rowen: I think Bastian in "The Neverending Story" is a *good* example of how to treat body image problems in a kids/YA book. Apart from one mention of how Bastian is bad at sports, the reason his pudginess hurts him is because the other kids bully him for it, not because fat is bad in itself. His becoming slim and handsome when he enters Phantasia is the start of his descent from a sympathetic, bookish guy into an arrogant Gary-Stu jerk - which is completely intentional on the author's part. The message is definitely not "being fat is horrible and becoming fit and good-looking is a good thing".

Ana Mardoll said...

Ha, no worries. Some of the "concept art" at the end looked nipple-y and as much as I hate the cultural belief that nipples = bad, I know a lot of work places still hew to that belief, so I thought I'd throw up a quick NSFW notice. No harm done. :)

Ana Mardoll said...

Of course, superhero art generally appears intended to induce complexes in its readers. The men are impossibly buff and good looking and the women are just plain impossible. I like comics, but I'm not sure the art is good for one's self esteem.

I pretty much had to stop visiting a local comic/game store for this reason -- I'd always feel depressed after looking at the female body images on display. :/

I wonder if some of the lithe/slender emphasis in literature does tie back in to our culture's worship of youth and the growing trend to maximize the teen market. Twilight has an example of a Hot Beefy Guy in Emmett, but he's not the hero because the Beefy part sort of clues in that he's an older big brother figure. The slenderest one, Edward, is also the youngest one -- and therefore the protagonist, despite Emmett and Jasper being far more interesting in many ways, imho.

Young people CAN be big and beefy, bodies vary widely, but frequently that body type takes time and growth (and sometimes effort, if we're talking about the "rippling with obvious muscles" beefy). If you're trying to write a "step into his skin" protagonist, you're probably going to minimize his bench-pressing hobbies in the same way that Bella has no hobbies whatsoever -- it conflicts with reader insertion. Maybe?

Will Wildman said...

My initial reaction to Sanctuary was 'Okay, a heavy-CGI hodgepodge science fantasy, standard fare', and a lot of the stuff they do is pretty obvious trope-collage, but I heard they had Vampire Tesla as a major character, so I checked it out - and slowly noticed that Magnus is actually an excellent character who happens to be a woman. I mean, I also like the new Nikita, but that show is 100% about how she is a Deadly Sexy Woman(hyphenate as needed) whereas Sanctuary's approach is almost conscientiously avoiding that type of AND ALSO WE HAVE STRONG WOMEN thing. Magnus is much more in the Ripley category of 'hero (female)', rather than Female Hero. It's good. (All of the characters populate a broad range of personas independent of gender, really.)

---

I'm also in the camp of 'Cain would have been a really fascinating character if she wasn't also the soulless avatar of hatred and cruelty, ia ia ph’nglui mglw’nafh'. Normally I'm intrigued by people with villainous tendencies who are fighting on the side of good, but Cain appeared to be fighting on the side of WTF, and I am not going to get past her giving the order for a prisoner to be raped until further notice.

Pthalo said...

hmm, i seem to be the opposite of you here. I'm not interested in what the characters look like and I when I fantasize about people I like I don't focus on what they look like at all. The way I can tell I'm in love with someone is when I start imagining that they're walking down the street next to me and I start imagining all the really cool conversations we're having and I fantasize about showing them my favourite tree in the city. Or I might fantasize about playing with their hair. And I'll keep thinking of books to recommend them. If I fantasize about the kissing stuff then I mostly focus on the sensation of what it is like to kiss them, not what their body looks like.

As a reader, I get really bored with physical descriptions of characters and tend to skim past them as irrelevant. I want to know what the characters are thinking, how they think, and about their individual quirks and preferences.

As a movie watcher, I cannot recognise any actors by sight, will not notice if the star of the movie I'm watching right now was also the star of the movie we saw yesterday. I remember the character names, and I can tell the characters apart for the duration of the movie, but that's about it. I have trouble discussing movies with other people because they will say things like "the part where John Travolta did x was really neat" and I'll have no idea what they mean, because I knew that character as Harry* and I don't know what John Travolta looks like, beyond guessing that he was probably one of the male characters.

and as a movie watching lesbian who likes BBW** none of the women in movies are really eye candy for me, so I don't watch movies for the eye candy. My girlfriend isn't a BBW -- I've never actually dated one despite having this preference, but she her mind is very sexy and I love watching her thought processes and I like the way she words things and how she uses language, and that's all very appealing to me.

For me, sexual attraction is very much something that happens after I fall love. First I fall in love with a mind and then I fall in love with the body the mind is attached to and think it's the nicest looking body on the planet.

*no idea if Mr. Travolta has ever played a character named Harry.

**Big Beautiful Woman

Will Wildman said...

The way I can tell I'm in love with someone is when I start imagining that they're walking down the street next to me and I start imagining all the really cool conversations we're having and I fantasize about showing them my favourite tree in the city. Or I might fantasize about playing with their hair. And I'll keep thinking of books to recommend them.

This is so me. (More vexingly, this is still me long after the person has ceased to be a romantic partner/prospect. Then I abruptly curse at myself, startling nearby pets and/or woodland creatures.) Though I'm not entirely to the extreme you are, either*. After the first time Izzy and I had this discussion about our completely different patterns of attraction, I started to hypothesise that there's a broad and unexplored spectrum of how it works for different people (further proving the uselessness of any protip that Doing Thing X Will Make You Attractive To The Person(s) You're Into).

*Last person I asked out, I thought was average-looking until I got to know her, and without changing her appearance in any apparent way she transfigured into something magnificent. Whereas, with the person prior, I had admired her superficially and at a distance for some weeks before we ever spoke, and I still ended up in the same 'I wish we were oddball-bantering right now' place and occasionally had trouble remembering what she looked like.

Izzy said...

Makes sense. I know a couple people who are the same way.

Me? I'm attracted to people physically*, and I'm friends with them, and then falling in love is sort of the unpleasant aftermath of same. For me, the "I love him" moment has always been a bit like realizing I have gum in my hair: I was having fun and now here we are, and this is going to be a pain to get out, goddammit.

I think most people are somewhere between us on the spectrum: there's a combination of physical traits, mental traits, and weirdo chemistry stuff going on. Alas, there's no way to replicate the third in books. ;)

*Oh yes. I've said both "I wish he were my type, because he's my best friend" and the unhealthy-relationship obverse, "Dude, he either needs to stop being an asshole or stop going to the gym regularly, because GODDAMMIT." Heh.

Izzy said...

Yeah, pretty much.

There is a range of Things X which will make you more attractive to more people, I'd say, and thus increase your abstract chances with Specific Person Y, but...well, you never know. Even with the basics, you never know. The odds are pretty bad that Person Y will hate the smell of deodorant and go crazy for people who spit when they talk, but...it's possible. There are weirder fetishes.

The best you can do is increase the general odds. Specific people are a crapshoot.

Izzy said...

Drat. Please replace "go crazy" with "fall hard"--damn speech tics.

Ana Mardoll said...

Any Sims 2 players here? I liked the Attraction traits they added - your Sims would have 2 traits they especially liked and 1 trait they very much didn't.

You could still have them fall in love with anyone, but the attraction traits greased the wheels at the beginning of some romances. I liked it as a nice touch.

Rowen said...

I . . really wanted to like Cain, but couldn't. They went too far with her and her moral event horizen was SO far in the rear view mirror that . . . yeah. I just couldn't. I also didn't get her crew. I mean, I'm sure they got that way because they were serving under her, but still. It was like all the bad parts of A Few Good Men turned up to 11.

I also don't remember her being a lesbian.

Nor do I remember Felix being gay (though. . I did think he was rather cute. Up until he did his Heel Face Turn and dove off the deep end.)

chris the cynic said...

I also don't remember her being a lesbian.

It was in the movie/stand alone two part episode Razor. Turns out that the Cylon she ordered raped was her girlfriend right up until she was outed as a Cylon. Said Cylon had a chance to kill Cain but couldn't do it (presumably because she was in love with Cain) Cain had no such reservations about dealing with the Cylon.

I get the sense that the universe would have been a better place for everyone if the Cylon had pulled the trigger then. Instead she had to wait until Baltar managed to nurse her back to some semblance of health.

Nor do I remember Felix being gay

Felix was bi, though I couldn't cite sources for that. I think his only male-female relationship was in a series of web episodes I never saw. Those web episodes I never saw are also, apparently, where Felix's turn to the dark side was set up.

I think that Hoshi was his only male lover, which would also make Hoshi the only not-evil gay or bi character human I can think of on the entire show.

Rowen said...

I remember Razor, but don't remember that scene. I think. Maybe. I'm sorta remembering, but can't tell if that was the pain meds (I watched it when I was in recovery from knee surgery).

Felix. .. Well, that's cool. I think. Did they ever show him having male/male relationships in the web stuff? or is this just word of God? (I swear, I just watched all this . . .)

Rowen said...

I see that according to the Battlestar Wiki, it was. . .

I can't tell if I'm upset or confused or what.

chris the cynic said...

It looks to me like the relationship was revealed in the web episodes and ended in the same. I haven't seen the web episodes, so this could be wrong, but I think that Hoshi and Gaeta are apart for pretty much the entire thing, so it seems to me that probably the only thing of the relationship that showed up on screen was Felix dumping his boyfriend.

Rowen said...

Now that I think about it, I *vaguely* remember the two of them arguing. I think this was one of the episodes where I was paying more attention to my crocheting.

Pthalo said...

I agree it's a spectrum and that I'm on the extreme end of it. :)

Though from my perspective of course it seems to me that my end is the easiest to write. ;) I suppose that's because I live it. But... for the "bodies are pretty" end you have to keep going on about how yellow the protagonist's hair is without veering into purple prose and without your readers going "okay! he's blonde! i got it already!" You also have the difficulty of trying to represent an image in words. On the "minds are pretty" side, you could just show the cool conversation they were having verbatim, which is easier because you just have to write down the words everyone is saying.

in the beginning of our relationship, before there was a relationship to speak of, when we were just starting to fall in love, one of the big moments was an irc debate we had over whether there were two types of people (robots and aliens) or not (my position). We disagreed splendidly, with lots of vigorous typing in a public chatroom (others chimed in now and then, and no one told us to stop, but the bulk of the argument was between the two of us.) And we impressed each other enough in this debate with our debating skills and abilities to examine the other person's viewpoints and bolster our own with various examples -- I don't remember what all the examples given were and I don't have the chatlog anymore, but she might, or one of our friends who was there might, but if we did have the chatlog we could edit it into a slightly different format (using quotation marks and "Kate said" and "PJH* said" instead of our nicks, and maybe paring it down so it doesn't go on as long as it did), and people could see how we couldn't help but fall in love.

*Pthalo, Joshua, and Hannah

Will Wildman said...

probably the only thing of the relationship that showed up on screen was Felix dumping his boyfriend.

There was also a mildly sweet farewell between them prior to the ill-fated mission, offset somewhat by Hoshi also taking the opportunity to secretly pass additional morphine to Gaeta.

I loved so many things about BSG, but wow they were terrible with anything outside of monogamous heteronormativity. The prequel series is almost worse, as it's supposed to be showing us a society drowning in decadence, which as near as I can tell primarily consists of 1) more legalised/regulated narcotics, 2) official recognition of polyamory, 3) Second Life.

Libby said...

@Ana Mardoll, dezipan, Will Wildman, Nina, Cupcakedoll, Makabit:
Yeah, the low adoption rate for black cats is both sad and baffling. They can be such wonderful companions, just like every other color of cat.

I feel a little guilty for the circumstances surrounding the adoption of my first cat. I bought him on a whim from a woman with a cardboard box who I realized in hindsight was probably running a kitten mill. Everyone on the street was poking at him, though, and he looked like he just wanted to be left alone. He's a tuxedo cat, but he had a pure black sibling who I worry might have been left to fend for himself when he grew up. Our second cat was a starving street rescue tabby. My husband and I agreed on a two-cat limit after we got him, so I wasn't able to help another black cat that came up for adoption a few weeks later. I hope she's okay. We were living in a city with a major feral cat problem where most people looked upon cat ownership about as fondly as owning a descented pet skunk. I hope she found a happy second home.


@Makabit: I love labs! The first dog I ever knew as a child was a lab, and he was lovely. If I ever have place in my life for a dog, that is what it shall be.

@Brandi: Thank you for sharing more Kate Beaton with the world.

@ SoaringTurtle: Even though movies are compressed, there should still be a tiny bit of room in there to hint at other interests or cast women as some supporting characters with useful things to say. There could be, easily, but that stuff is either not thought of or intentionally weeded out on the long road through production. I found this screenwriting article really interesting: http://thehathorlegacy.com/why-film-schools-teach-screenwriters-not-to-pass-the-bechdel-test/

@ Kit Whitfield: (May I just call you Kit?) the basic message is that it's only okay to be an 'unfeminine' woman if you're also prepared to scrub up and do the feminine-woman thing on demand
I'm definitely feeling this with job interviewing right now. I dress like a particularly tidy version of myself -- I am not called back. I carry a purse and put on make-up -- I suddenly become a viable candidate for at least Stage Two of the hiring process.

@Pthalo: I love your story of how you met Kate. :)

Libby said...

I guess I should say "is" about my cats. They are still with me on the other side of the ocean, sleeping away.

Ana Mardoll said...

I feel your pain on cat adoption. We're a two-cat house, and one of the cats is aggressive enough that it really needs to stay that way, but I feel dreadful that I can't keep more.

Also, a million hugs on the job interview process.

Brin Bellway said...

Will Wildman: The prequel series is almost worse, as it's supposed to be showing us a society drowning in decadence, which as near as I can tell primarily consists of 1) more legalised/regulated narcotics, 2) official recognition of polyamory, 3) Second Life.

So...where's the downside here?

Libby: where most people looked upon cat ownership about as fondly as owning a descented pet skunk.

Positively? At least, that's my first reaction to the idea of a pet descented skunk. It's possible further research on the subject would show that the descenting process is horrifically painful/has bad repercussions on the skunk's health, or that skunks tend to be rather aggressive, or something else to make it a bad idea. But at first glance, pet skunks sound pretty good.

Rikalous said...

The Bastion of All Knowledge has an article on pet skunks, in turns out. It claims they aren't aggressive, but they may be too curious for their own good. The UK's Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons classes descenting as an unnecessary cosmetic change a la docking dog tails, but I didn't see anything about the procedure being more horrific than the next surgery.

Kit Whitfield said...

Kit Whitfield: (May I just call you Kit?)

Go right ahead. :-)

--

I'm kind of clumsy. And I don't find it funny; it's embarassing, and I spill things and then have to clean them up, or I break things that I liked. I do not like the trope.

Libby said...

@Brin:
My cousin had a skunk. It was cute and fluffy, but most people think of skunk-ownership as a weird eccentricity that they want no part of. When I adopted my cats, I was living in an area that had entire stores dedicated to dog care, or half-a-dozen aisles for canines in larger stores, and then a little corner with two brands of litter, three types of cat food, and maybe, if you were lucky, litter boxes. If I mentioned I had cats, the reaction was usually something along the lines of (translated), "Um, that's... nice.... Why?" The selection of cat supplies was starting to improve a bit when I left, though, so maybe attitudes are starting to change.

@Rikalous:
Yeah, my cousin's skunk got into something under the kitchen sink and that was the end of it. Said cousin is really bad at keeping pets healthy and at home for long, however, so I'm not sure how much that says about skunky curiosity. My little tabby seems determined not to live until babies enter our domestic picture, and yet I've managed, with effort, to keep him alive so far.

@Kit: Thanks. :)

Ana Mardoll said...

I would totally love a pet skunk. :D

I think attitudes towards cats are changing slowly. I work as a software engineer at a company where 9-12 hour days are not uncommon. Most of the people there who have pets seem to have cats. They're sort of the "go-to" for low maintenance in terms of being alone for long stretches of time.

When we had a dog, I constantly felt guilty because it was either outside and hot/cold or in it's crate for hours.

Silver Adept said...

@Kit: I'm clumsy as well, and I don't find it paricularly endearing, either. It's kind of like being absent-minded (which I can be, too) - when it happens, there's a lot of negative self-talk associated with it and a desire to just get rid of such a disadvantage. It's possibly cute to others, but only if they don't hear what I say afterward.

chris the cynic said...

For the record, and completely off topic, I whenever I read the title of this thread I get Summer of '69 stuck in head.

This is a common thing for me. The depression thread I made kept getting Sister Golden Hair in my head, though in that case it was because the title was actual lyrics. This time it's just similar (singular instead of plural.)

Ana Mardoll said...

Sister Golden Hair gets stuck in my head A LOT.

depizan said...

I'd like to put on the record that I'm a tall burly guy who plays rugby. And I've never been "petite." In just about EVERY fantasy novel I read growing up, the male characters, especially any whom the audience was supposed to swoon over or identify with was "lithe" or had "a dancer's body" or a "swimmer's frame" or a "gymnast's build."

Largely because of you, my NaNo WIP has sprouted a tall, burly guy hero. I wonder how many heroes I'll have by the time the thing is finished. Ah, well, it was always going to end up in the quest fantasy realm, and those generally have teams of heroes.

Er, just in case that wasn't clear... Thank you. :)

Soaring Turtle said...

@Libby
I didn't mean to offer that as a defence. What I meant to say was that when writers are forced to compromise or compress, well written women seem to be one of the first things they get rid of. Or rather, that's what I'd assumed to be going on. Reading the essay you linked things seem to be even worse than I'd supposed.

I've of course noticed that movies generally focus on white men to the exclusion of everyone else. After all, when one starts seeing that trend one quickly realizes how depressingly ubiquitous it is. But I hadn't expected it to actually be officially enforced policy.

I very much hope that their assumptions of "the average viewer" doesn't turn out to be a self-fullfilling prophecy.

Rowen said...

dezipan, is there going to be a link to said NaNoWriMo thingy? (I've. . .never really heard of this before, though you'd think I have, but I'm intrigued, and kinda flattered ^_^)

Sister Golden Hair . . . I'm not sure if this was a modegreen, but when I was a kid, I thought that song was about a guy who was in love with a blonde (how would he know?) nun, but depressed cause he couldn't be with her, since she wouldn't forsake his vows for him. . .

Gelliebean said...

Re. black cats:

When we went to the shelter back in June, we were looking for someone to keep the cat we already had company after his sister disappeared into the wild.... We ended up bringing home the most gorgeous black-and-white male, 7 years old, along with a tiny black female kitten with a few peach-calico markings. Both of them picked us out and were most insistent that we take them home immediately.

Chaos, the kitten, is now about 9 months old and has developed a little more peach/brown splotchiness to her coloration, but is still mostly black, and she is the absolute sweetest kitty I've ever met. For me, picking a pet has nothing to do with their appearance, and everything to do with the personality they show during that 5-10 minutes you're allowed to play with them at the shelter.

And since I love showing off my baby kitties.... :-D

Silver Adept said...

Cat adoption stories are definitely about the cat that picks you and not the other way around. All of mine made that choice...the first two when they were kittens, the one that came after to replace the one we lost to the Summerland insistently chose me, and the one that we eventually passed onward to our vet (digestion and intestinal issues with us after adoption became a quality of life problem - but she's doing wonderful with the vet, so happy ending there) was one that warmed up to my girlfriend pretty quickly.

depizan said...

@Rowen

We'll see what comes of my meandering writing thingy. Whether the damned thing ends up coherent or just a mess would be step one as to whether it would end up on the net or with me trying to publish it or whatever.

As to the cat stuff:

If we're showing off our kitties... meet Max

DavidCheatham said...

I don't know what else to add to this. I'm not sure I can. I really can't believe I hadn't noticed this before, that all the times I was railing against ableism and Unfortunate Implications and everything else in Twilight over Bella's chronic clumsiness, I never realized that I've seen this a hundred times before. I was just noticing it in Twilight because it's taken up to 11, like so much else that is problematic in that series. I'm not sure what else to say except to thank Justin for pointing this out to me.

Heh, well now I feel dumb having read your Twilight stuff this entire time and _not_ having mentioned the other examples. I assumed you were against this idiotic trope in general, and simply not talking about other examples because that was a bit off topic. (And Twilight does take it up to 11 with outright lethally dangerous levels of clumsiness. In Harry Potter, Tonks is clumsy...and she just drops plates and knocks over umbrella stands.)

Sometimes I assume everyone discussing any sort of fiction has read TV Tropes from top to bottom. And, of course, TVTropes has a page about the concept.

And under Real Life, they point out that there's possibly a psychological basis for this called the 'pratfall effect', in which you can rate people better after they do a minor screwup, especially if they are so competent they threaten your self-esteem. Sadly the internet seems unwilling to provide much direct information on this, it's all second- and third-hand, and I'm not sure it actually has any thing to do with _attractiveness_ per se.

That might answer the question: Is this an attempt to make the clumsy women relate-able for the female viewers...or an attempt to make the clumsy woman more attractive for the male viewers?

Scylla Kat said...

Wow, I'm so late. I just wanted to point out that the minute I read the Cracked article, I thought of Bella. And what everyone else said. I was a stocky, nerdy, near-sighted kid carrying around 20 pounds of books and a horn case everywhere I went, and so I went through a lot of holding people up because my stuff was everywhere (and it's why I carried that bookbag that was so obviously homemade) and being awkward through doors and things, and the whole "clumsy" thing baffles me, especially in 110-pound, obviously clear-sighted women who move like a gazelle until they're throwing a whole bowl of guacamole onto your head. Like someone said above about "messages," it just seemed condescending to me. We don't want to make her TOO perfect, we'll just make her imperfect in a way that is only endearing and never actually works that way for anyone who is actually awkward or physically uncoordinated. GAG. GAG. GAG.

(I'm pissy today, so if I seem reactive, well, I am.)

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