Tag Archives: heroes

Villains and Heroes

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Good morning, you marvellous creature.  How’s your Friday going?  

Our society is obsessed with the concepts of heroism and villainy.  Specifically in terms of celebrity culture, we like to be told who to admire and who to abhor.  I have a massive problem with celebrity culture in general, because I think that it’s pointless at best and incredibly offensive at worst to speculate on the lives of people we’ll never know.  It makes far more sense to look closer to home to find things that we can aspire to or avoid, and to surround ourselves with people who make our heroes list.  Here are a few examples of the goodies and baddies we are most likely to come across in life:

Villains

  • The git who doesn’t give up their seat for a pregnant woman on public transport.  How is that even a thing that happens?  It’s ludicrous.
  • The person who doesn’t care who they hurt.  I’ve known a guy to cheat on one of my closest friends with one of my other closest friends, and the audacity of that still makes me livid, even years later.  Seriously, don’t poo where you eat.  Or where you socialise, I guess.  In fact, pooing anywhere other than the traditionally designated facilities is just not cool.
  • The person who never says please or thank you.  That drives me up the flipping wall.  Someone bring me a stepladder, please; my rage is preventing me from getting back down to the floor.
  • The person who just doesn’t give a flying fig about you.  Why do we put up with people who never listen to what we say, ask us questions about ourselves or show any concern for our welfare?  This covers a whole spectrum of asshats from story-toppers to emotionally abusive partners.  People who only want you around as an audience do not deserve you.  You are not just a spectator.
  • The moron who likes to shit-stir.  Why would anyone get a kick out of inventing harmful computer viruses, upsetting their friends or creating vicious rumours?  I don’t understand.  Incidental Schadenfreude is one thing, but intentionally creating distress for absolutely no reason is just evil.  Villainous, you might say.

Heroes

  • Single parents.  Those guys are hands down the bravest, most hard-working and incredible people we will ever meet.  Whenever I get depressed about my responsibilities and worries I think about how much my single parent friends have to deal with, and feel a bit ashamed of myself.
  • People who fight their fears.  Like lots of people, my way of dealing with stuff that I’m afraid of is to simply run away from it and refuse to fix the issue.  When I climbed Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh I went with a friend who, as far as I knew, simply loved climbing and always had.  However, I found out that he only took up climbing to confront his fear of heights, which is pretty incredible to me.  People who can challenge themselves like that are definitely to be respected.
  • People who always care.  One of my friends is the loveliest, gentlest and most compassionate person I know.  She also has absolutely no luck when it comes to health and family problems, but that never stops her from caring about what’s going on with me.  Isn’t it amazing to have someone in your life who doesn’t let their problems prevent them from loving you?
  • People who pursue their passion.  A lot of my friends are creative types, and I am bowled over every day by how hard they work and how much they sacrifice in order to achieve their dreams.
  • People who can get over a heartbreak.  If you’ve ever had your heart broken and have recovered from it, you are an undisputed hero.  Go get yourself a cape.

Have a brilliant weekend.

Disney Princes are Normal Blokes

Hello, lovely reader!  How are you?

Today’s blog concerns that trickiest of childhood tragedies: Disney movies do not represent modern life.  I know.  You spend years watching princesses get swept off their feet, and as an adult there isn’t so much as a dustpan and brush in sight.  How unfair is that?

I’ve had a bit of a think about this, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the kind of mistakes that modern men tend to make (and modern women tend to despair of them because of) are actually pretty similar to the ones made by Disney heroes.  True, there tends to be less at stake: it is unlikely, for example, that a chap you’re enamoured with will accidentally provoke the wrath of an evil sorceress, get his own dad murdered or get the whole of China wiped out.  But go with me on this, because I’ve got some examples up my sleeve:

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1) Simba – the Disappearing Act

Simba is a troubled lad.  Obviously he has very good reasons for disappearing after Jeremy Irons throws his dad into the path of a stampede, but how is Nala supposed to know that?  Did he call?  Did he send her a postcard (or leaf or whatever they use in the jungle)?  No.  As far as Nala was concerned, he pulled a classic disappearing act on her; something that lots of non-cartoon, non-leonine women bemoan happening to them.

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2) Eric – the Can’t Quite Seal the Deal

Eric my lad, you are being serenaded by a crustacean and his motley band of fish, birds, etc.  JUST KISS HER.  I know she hasn’t said a word since you found her bedraggled on a beach, but she CLEARLY likes you.  Man up and seal the deal.  The apparent unwillingness or inability of a guy to make the first move is something that many girls I know get very frustrated with.  There are all sorts of gender roles at play here, but even in our enlightened twenty-first century dating world, the majority ruling still seems to be that guys are ‘supposed’ to make the first move.

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3) Aladdin – the Compulsive Liar

Aladdin is in a bizarre conundrum from the second Robin Williams starts granting him wishes, and although the viewers completely understand why he feels the need to conceal the truth from his lady-love, he lies at a rate that would put most politicians to shame.  Jasmine is clearly a smart cookie, and she works out that something’s up with her new boyfriend pretty sharpish, but does Aladdin confess all and beg for forgiveness?  Nope.  He KEEPS LYING.  I completely understand that being honest when you know it will spell trouble is scary, but I’ve been in Jasmine’s shoes, and I can tell you for a fact that covering lies up with more lies is just not cool.  If I were her, I would have fed him to my pet tiger.

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4) Shang – the Just Won’t Listen

I still can’t quite believe that Disney got away with this one: he refuses to listen to Mulan because she’s a GIRL.  Yeah ok, she made some mistakes too, but this guy basically chooses his culture’s expectations of women over his actual experience of a woman’s abilities, including staying calm under fire, rescuing her entire troop and burying the bad guy under an avalanche.  What an idiot.  This is by no means a gender-specific habit, but it is infuriating when your other half is too stubborn to listen to you, especially if their reasoning is so patently ridiculous.

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5) Beast – the Emotionally Unavailable

Ok, this one is a classic: guy likes girl.  Guy doesn’t think that girl will like him back.  Instant grumpy bastard.  Girl has no way of knowing that this is the problem, so she leaves feeling confused (and a bit chilly in all that snow, I should think).  In fairness, Beast (whose human name is Adam, did you know?) is having a massive confidence crisis, what with being an undefined species of animal, as well having a pretty tight schedule to stick to.  But you get the idea.  I hear a lot of my male friends complaining about the fact that their girlfriends and partners expect them to be mind-readers, but it does work both ways.  When a guy pulls the hot-and-cold behaviour on you, or retreats without warning into complete emotional unavailability, girls tend to panic.  Guys have no idea how fast our brains can work when we think that they don’t like us anymore.

It’s pretty reassuring to look at these Disney classics and discover that at least some aspects of the stories are salvageable as relevant to contemporary life.  I’m slightly upset that I’ll never have a castle or the ability to heal people with my hair, but the essential point of this blog was to demonstrate that even the men we are taught to idolise as knights in shining armour are not perfect.  They do sort themselves out eventually: apologies, explanations and good old-fashioned dashes to the rescue all feature heavily in the climactic endings of Disney movies.  This is relevant to real life too: ladies, we need to accept that men are not perfect, but that the one who is right for us will slay a dragon/storm a castle/run across a magically frozen lake if they have to.

Lessons from Literary Ladies

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman in possession of a chick lit novel must be in want of a life.

That is absolute nonsense, of course, but it does raise an interesting point about why people (not just women) read romantic novels.  It would be easy to dismiss romantic stories as wish fulfilment for lonely readers, and to a certain extent it is.  HOWEVER (and as you can see from the capitals, this is a massive ‘however’), the wish being fulfilled is NOT necessarily what people think it is, i.e., “Oh, I wish I had a Mr. Darcy!”.   More often it’s “I wish I could be as witty as Lizzie Bennett.”

Good romantic novels (as opposed to whiny claptrap) are the ones that show heroes and heroines behaving the way we would like to behave, not just how we want our prospective partners to behave.  People who get swept up in the story of Pride and Prejudice are just as invested in Lizzie Bennett’s decisions as they are in Fitzwilliam Darcy’s smouldering glances.  (I know.  Fitzwilliam.  Try to make your peace with it; it happened.)

Don’t believe me?  Let’s take a closer look at some literary ladies:

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1) Hermione Granger
I have a huge soft spot for this particular heroine, because like me she has uncontrollable hair and she sometimes loses her temper when men are being a bit thick.   J K Rowling has recently said that she regrets pairing Ron and Hermione as a romantic couple in the last Harry Potter book, which to be honest I think is neither here nor there.  (Also, Rowling, move on.  Seriously.  You’ve made your millions and the story is over.  Stop trying to edit it when it’s been published for years.)  Women like Hermione who are clever, sensitive, loyal and a bit prone to climbing on high horses DO fall in love with funny, grumpy, bloke-ish guys like Ron Weasley.  The best thing about reading the Harry Potter books with Hermione in mind is that you realise that it’s not up to you who you fall in love with.  If the cleverest witch in a generation (who for some reason has been able to conjure up portable fire since the age of eleven) can fall for a fairly clueless chap who takes SEVEN YEARS to do something about his feelings, then it doesn’t make you an idiot if it happens to you.

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2) Bella Swan
A lot of people hate the Twilight series, or at least hate that they love them so much.  Why?  Because you cannot get onside with the heroine.  She is SO ANNOYING.  Yeah ok, her two love interests are a freakishly strong teen werewolf and a bloodthirsty statue with a Byron complex, but nothing she says or does in the novels makes you feel like you can relate to her or feel sympathy for her.  The Twilight series is a bad set of books, not because the romance is so drippy, but because the girl at the centre of this incredibly disturbing love triangle is so fundamentally unlovable.

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3) Margaret Hale
Putting aside my absolute fury that North and South is basically a crap version of Pride and Prejudice,  the heroine is the most irritating creature ever to walk the earth (or page, I suppose).  It’s not entirely her fault, though: Gaskell is one of those writers who doesn’t trust her readers to understand anything about her characters purely by describing what they say and do, so she CONSTANTLY reminds the readers in her descriptions how beautiful and wonderful Miss Hale is.  Every other paragraph, Gaskell essentially says “In case you hadn’t noticed, my heroine is really pretty and popular, so you HAVE TO LOVE HER.”  No, Gaskell, I bloody do not.  If your writing were better, you would be able to SHOW your readers what Margaret Hale is like, rather than ramming it down our throats.  Being told a million times how wonderful somebody is without ever seeing any proof just makes you like them less.

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4) Rose Highly-Robinson
The name doesn’t sound too promising, but this girl is one of my favourite literary heroines.  The protagonist of Michelle Magorian’s beautiful A Little Love Song, Rose is a seventeen year-old evacuee who wants to write, but is being pushed into a scientific education by her over-protective mother and her dead father’s wishes.  Michelle Magorian is the woman who wrote Goodnight Mister Tom, and this story is just as heart-warming (and breaking).  If you haven’t read it, I strongly recommend it to you.  Rose is the kind of girl that makes mistakes, but they are exactly the mistakes that you would have made in her position, and you love her for them.  She gets a happy ending, but she gets it by being a real person who puts up a bit of a fight, not by being swept up by a knight in shining armour (although there is a man involved somewhere.  I’ll stop with the spoilers now).

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5) Katniss Everdeen
Jury’s out on this one: I like the concept of Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy, but her heroine is a bit off, in my opinion.  I understand how she could appeal to people: a physically strong, independent young woman who provides for her family and protects her little sister at all costs.  These are all good things.  But for me personally, the way she behaves with the two men who love her (WHAT is with the spate of love triangles in young adult fiction, by the way?) is pretty off-putting.  I like the books a lot, but I need to pick and choose which bits of Katniss’ character I aspire to.  I would love to be able to shoot a bow and arrow the way she can, but I’d rather not lead a guy on (on TELEVISION, no less) when I know he has feelings for me.  Also, her name is Katniss.  I just…why?  That’s not a name!

There are a lot of other literary heroines who deserved a mention in this blog, but I picked these five because I think they get my point across most clearly.  I could have written the whole thing based on Austen novels, but I think that there is a much wider tendency in all sorts of novels for readers to want to be the hero/heroine rather than ensnare the love interest.  And I think that that’s a good thing.  I might quite like a Dan Stevens-esque Edward Ferrers to rock up at my door, but I’ve just not got the patience of Elinor Dashwood.

Have a cracking Saturday everyone.