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The Sheldon-Spock Expansion - Part 2 of 2

(continued from Part 1)

 Spock is different from Everyone Else. EVERYONE.

 During Star Trek: The Original Series, Spock is the only Vulcan serving amidst humans on the Enterprise, making him a literal "alien." But his estrangement goes deeper than that. From all indications, he is the only half-Human, half-Vulcan in existence.

 In other words, Spock has no real home. On Vulcan, he is an outsider. On Earth, he is an outsider. And this, we can see, often works against him. In the Star Trek: The Animated Series episode, "The Ambergris Element," he notes the truth that "many people fear beings different from themselves."

 Sheldon, even more than the rest of us geeks, likely recognizes that alienation. He has experienced it. Sometimes he gets positive responses to his differences, as when Penny says, in the Pilot, "So you’re like, one of those, beautiful mind genius guys." Even after Penny has gotten to know Sheldon better, she often softens her jests with acceptance: "Boy, I love him, but he is one serious wackadoodle" ("The Cushion Saturation").

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chalice well

The Sheldon-Spock Expansion - Part 1 of 2


We are what we worship. At least, we try to be.

Christians ask themselves What Would Jesus Do? Goddess worship appeals especially to empowered women. Satanists (the stereotype) appear powerful and evil. Xena, who worshipped a delicious Ares-God-of-War, added Warrior to the title Princess.

 And Dr. Sheldon Cooper, on TBBT, pretty much worships Leonard Nimoy's Spock from Star Trek.

 Even the casual viewer must've caught on. Sure, all the guys tend to choose "Spock" when playing "Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock," resulting in multiple ties ("The Lizard-Spock Expansion"). But Sheldon's the one who always chooses Spock when playing 20 Questions, enabling Raj to win in one turn ("The Vegas Renormalization"). Sheldon finds wearing a Spock costume to a Renaissance Faire--pretending it's a pseudo-Renaissance planet--less anachronistic than the Faire itself ("The Codpiece Topology"). Sheldon's favorite gift ever is a napkin with Leonard Nimoy's autograph--and DNA ("The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis").

 Maybe this reflects only the obvious. Sheldon has a higher intelligence than the others and doesn't wholly "get" emotions--just like Spock. Actor Jim Parsons is tall, dark-haired, and slim. Actor Leonard Nimoy (and now Zachary Quinto), aka Spock, is tall, dark-haired, and slim. Hey, suggests a writer early on, let's say Sheldon's really into Spock, 'kay? /Rationalization.

 If so--short essay.

 Or maybe, like everyone else, Sheldon's choice of role model goes deeper. It may give us greater insight about Sheldon....

 Perhaps moreso than even Sheldon, who believes "the social sciences are largely hokum," realizes ("The Friendship Algorhythm").

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chalice well

Canon Schmanon -- the Joy of Non-Canon Pairings

 

Some of it's made up, and some of it can't be quantified, and there's secrets... - River Tam, "Safe," Firefly

I adore fan fiction. I could write a book on the stuff (though not, you know, a definitive book). Ever wonder if fanfic pushes romance ('ships) because of the mainly female base? I have. Or does the romance maybe come from fiction giving us a more intimate point of view than do works of drama? That's worth exploring.

O
r, today: why do Non-Canon Pairings rule?

Oh, I've 'shipped many a canon pairing: Doug/Carol (ER), and Buffy/Angel (BTVS), and Alice/Jasper (Twilight), to name so very few.

But lately, my favorite couples are not "original flavor": Sheldon & Penny from The Big Bang Theory, River & Jayne from Firefly, and Robin & Barney (before they became canon, briefly and badly) from How I Met Your Mother.

Even discounting slash (for the purpose of this piece, not in general) I am so not alone. In fact, as jl in the lane discovered recently, the LiveJournal Leonard/Penny community has 185 members, while the Sheldon/Penny community has 2468. Food for thought, huh?

It's fascinating, because NCP fans fly in the face of the creators' wishes. Chuck Lorre (TBBT) rejects romance for Sheldon. Bays/Thomas (HIMYM) insist that viewers prefer Manwhore!Barney to Relationship!Barney. Heck, Joss Whedon (Firefly) gave us three solid couples on a ship of nine people! But as Jayne says to his captain in the movie Serenity, "Yeah, well, what you plan and what takes place ain't ever exactly been similar."

Because here we multitudes are, 'shipping unofficial or even fantasy matches. We find and feed each other our imaginings at sites like Copper for a Kiss (R/J), and Paradox (S/P), and the self-explanatory Barney/Robin Shippers .

And we apparently confuse the hell out of many other fans. So--how to explain ourselves?

Of course, each pairing carries its own specific, if subjective, logic. River is a human weapon, and Jayne loves weapons. Sheldon and Penny challenge each other, and she's quickly become one of his "closest friends" (his words), despite him being something of a misanthrope. Both Barney and Robin are relationship non-conformists, so if any pair could redefine and modernize the concept of "couple," they could (and it would be "Legen--wait for it--dary!"). But the general draw must go deeper than the individual 'ships. So I've plopped my imaginary thinking hat on (it looks a lot like Jayne's hat on Firefly) and stared intently at my screen (to the imaginary notes of "Eye of the Tiger") and I've hit on a couple of "awesome" possibilities. Care to contribute more?

Non-Canon Pairings Are More Participatory

How much work does it take to recognize a traditional pairing? Zoe says, "Captain was looking for a pilot. I found a husband" (Firefly, "Bushwhacked"). Aaand we're good. We might examine why the relationship works so well (Marshall and Lily on HIMYM). We may protest that it doesn't work well at all (Leonard and Penny on TBBT). We might explore the couples' downtime in very enjoyable fics, videos, or works of art (Wash & Zoe). But that's about as interactive as it gets.

The very nature of the NCP, however, demands constant participation. In each episode, fans read between the lines, trying to differentiate deliberate foreshadowing from throw-away comments (sitcoms are particularly problematic this way, because the "Rule of Funny" often flies in the face of consistency).

We note patterns (you know the guideline: if something happens once, it could be throwaway; twice, look harder; three times, and it's deliberate? Penny and Sheldon have hugged twice). We collect details (Sheldon can shoot a rifle, and Penny can skin a deer). We note commonalities (Jayne and River become the two toughest fighters on Serenity). We question motivations (is Barney's man-whore relapse a cry for help?)

It's an intellectual and artistic exercise, little different from the Literary Analysis I teach in my college classrooms, just focused on a different medium. For example: "Heathcliff may be Mr. Earnshaw's illegitimate son, making his attraction to Cathy incestuous" is a valid (if arguable) literary insight. How is "As a mind reader, River may find a certain peace through intimacy with a a simple-thinking man," though equally arguable, any less valid?

Subtext can be so blatant it's clearly deliberate--Xena and Gabrielle's increasingly Sapphic double-entendres during the run of Xena: Warrior Princess, or Howard and Raj's "ersatz homosexual marriage" in TBBT. Sometimes it's wholly self-created--few within the "Rayne" fandom believe Firefly meant us to go there. Sometimes it taunts us with mixed messages (Sheldon/Penny). And sometimes initial subtext proves out--Fans who saw the Barney/Robin spark as far back as "Zip, Zip, Zip" were rewarded for their insights with the hook-up in "Sandcastles in the Sand" and Barney's case of "feelings" throughout Season 4. But at some point, all of it is hypothetical.

Where's the line? (And does it matter?)

 
Is it with the story screenplay writers? And if so, which ones? In "The Middle Earth Paradigm" episode of TBBT, pick-up artist Howard explains what body language studies call "synchrony" -- "I'm going to use the mirror technique. She brushes her hair back, I brush my hair back. She shrugs, I shrug. Subconsciously she's thinking we're in sync, we belong together." So the idea cannot be foreign to the show-runners. Are they still accidentally showing countless examples of Penny and Sheldon synchrony? They each try to blow up someone's head, ala Scanners, in "The Cooper-Hofstadter Polarization." Penny echoes much of Sheldon's explanation about his "spot," from the pilot, to Bernadette in "The Gorilla Experiment." They look up and say "Yes?" in unison during "The Work Song Nanocluster." They wheel away from each other at the exact same time in "The Panty Piñata Polarization." She repeats his explanation of Schrödinger's cat to a date in "The Codpiece Topography," etc.

And if the writers/show-runners are doing this accidentally--and yet consistently--can the analysts be blamed for noticing?

Television shows need audiences for ratings, for survival. And of any audience, fans bring the best business. Fans buy DVDs, watch them until they wear out, and buy more DVDs. Fans spread the word about a new show on Facebook, on Twitter, or F2F. This is NOT a negative (if you're one of those "get a life" cretins, see this).

Fans create the all-important  "buzz."

But we don't do it from the kindness of our hearts. We do it because of our connection to a series and, more importantly, its characters. Our involvement with those characters, whom we see on a weekly basis. A Non-Canon Pairing, even more than a Canon Couple, brings out the strongest sense of ownership in the fans.

Metaphorically speaking, I mean. Not legally, as all the many fanfic disclaimers should clarify.

But that may not even be the biggest draw.

Non-Canon Pairings Give Us More Control

You'd think the opposite would be true, but consider: When a pairing is canon, the show's creators/writers are in charge. And, frankly? They sometimes screw the pooch. Consider how the Leonard/Penny relationship, in Season 3 of TBBT, has minimized Penny and disaffected Leonard? Look at the travesty that Barney/Robin quickly became once Bays/Thomas took it canon--they became fat and/or ugly, stopped caring about appearance (despite their high-status jobs), and gave up sex? Seriously?

Was that organic unity, or plot manipulation? Or is it just that unresolved sexual tension (UST) is exponentially easier to write than an interesting relationship? Heck, even in the hands of an amazingly skilled writer like Joss Whedon, a relationship can easily break the fans' hearts (see: Serenity).

Check out the UST problem first -- it's bigger than any of my three current examples. Show-runners apparently dread the (mislabeled) Moonlighting Curse. They start this "we cannot let them hook up or we'll lose all tension" mantra, sometimes pushing avoidance even as the show gasps its last breaths anyway. Characters get engaged or married (to a romantic foil, mind you) on a business trip (Friends), over the summer (That 70's Show), or even on a train ride (I'm looking at you, Moonlighting!) Characters dump each other at the altar for seemingly stupid reasons (Bones, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Cheers... what, Diane, you can't write a novel while married?). Sometimes they turn gay (Ellen, Buffy, Grey's Anatomy), after having a satisfying heterosexual love life. Characters freakin' die! (see again: Buffy, as well as the OC, as well as Beauty and the Beast).

Some shows play the will-they/won't they card for so long that, like an overused rubber band, it loses all tension and viewers stop giving a crap. Ross and Rachel on Friends became an afterthought. I hear Scully/Mulder may have gotten romantic by one of the movies, but I gave them up around Season 3. Even Remington Steel and Laura Holt only hooked up in a badly written, little-watched finale, with the camera focus on a ringing, unanswered phone--one of the most annoying sounds in the modern world to represent what's supposed to be a romantic consummation? Yech!

Or consider how well the Doug/Carol finale(s) on ER played. When Clooney left, the show wanted Margulies' Carol Hathaway to date the new Dr. Kovac (Goran Visnjic). Largely because of the actors (Margulies decided not to re-up her contract, and Clooney returned briefly to TV) we got a happy ending and even a sequel as the series wound down, years later. I've yet to meet a fan who wasn't delighted.

But that was the exception. Not the rule.

As Wash's dinosaur puts it on Firefly, "Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!" We fans know disappointment. Shows get cancelled prematurely (Firefly). Actors move on to new gigs (BTVS). Writers create new series, leaving the original show in subpar hands (Wings).

But with Non-Canon Pairings, the fanfiction writers hold all power. In BBT Penny/Sheldon fiction, Leonard sometimes moves on (back to Stephanie, back to Leslie, off to an Original Character). Sometimes Penny and Sheldon break Leonard's heart, and sometimes he cheers them on, all as one's vision dictates. The stories can be humorous, or dark, or sexy, or sweet, or apocalyptic, or revisionary--all of it neatly labeled, so readers can choose or ignore alternate universes as their tastes demand. People, there can be zombies!

All worlds are possible (and in none of them, so far, is Sheldon a clown made out of candy)--until the pairing becomes canonical, which shrinks those limitless ideas to one solid treatment. Oh, it doesn't destroy the alternate universes but it does diminish them.

Follow: As far as fictitious worlds can have a single truth, that truth is their canon. Canon is what we analyze to find the motives, the commonalities, the patterns. Despite stereotypes, fans know how to navigate multiple realities. We recognize instinctively that What Happens On-Screen (Barney gazes at Robin, and we all see it) has more validity than What Characters Say Happened Off-Screen (Barney and Robin became "Fatman and the Old Lady," supposedly over months, but shown in just one episode). That still has more validity than what the actors or writers say will probably happen, which still overpowers what we simply think might happen.

What happens on the series itself has real words, real background music, real sets. It can be double-checked and confirmed to win bets or trivia contests. It stars real actors creating the characters we love. It's closer to our own reality. That makes it most powerful.

And yet fallible

No series can satisfy anyone, especially viewers who get their hopes up. Some fans will find the actualization of our beloved pairing (should it happen) too slapstick, or too dark. Some will find it too sex-focused, and too innocent.

Some will miss the zombies.

No Lemon Law exists for disappointing television. But we can always find a piece of well-written fan fiction to make us feel better.

In the End...

Barney and Robin on HIMYM may eventually reunite, hopefully with better writing--in fact, I would put odds on it. Why should the show waste all of the Barney-pining subplots from Season 4?

Call a Sheldon/Penny pairing on TBBT a long-shot, but not without hope, because this is television (the Smallville creators swore "No flights, no tights," then kept finding loopholes to let Clark fly, at least a little).

Any River/Jayne pairing will likely exist only in the Rayne communities, and not only because Firefly was canceled and the actors have moved on.

But in the end, with Non-Canon Pairings, that doesn't matter. We can be on the losing side and "still not convinced it was the wrong one" (Firefly, "Bushwhacked") -- and why should we be? Just Google concepts like "participatory culture," "transmedia storytelling," and "Affinity spaces," and you might accept that we only seem "downright unsettlin'" because we're on the cutting edge of a still-newish entertainment paradigm.

I look forward to hearing what everyone else has to say about Non-Canon Pairings. I only ask that you try not to spit on other people's realities... because really, there are enough for everybody. As Sheldon Cooper tells us TBBT's "The Gothowitz Deviation," "I subscribe to the many worlds theory which posits the existence of an infinite number of Sheldons in an infinite number of universes [and] I assure you that in none of them am I dancing."

And yet in episode 3 of the entire series, "The Fuzzy Boots Corollary," Sheldon dances (in a salsa class, with his friends).

There really are no absolutes in the worlds of creativity.

That's why I, for one, like it.

chalice well

Sheldon Cooper: Mah Hero


Children and college Lit students love this next bit.*

 Accordion-fold a piece of paper. Pinch it in the middle to make a bow shape. Then move the bow from the your head (using a high-pitched, Penelope Pittstop drawl) to your upper lip (adopting a menacing, Snidely Whiplash hiss) and finally to your throat (booming out a heroic, Dudley Do-right baritone), as indicated:

 

          Bow-to-Lip: You must pay the rent!

          Bow-to-Hair: Ah cain't pay the rent!

          Bow-to-Lip: You MUST pay the rent!

          Bow-to-Hair: Ah CAIN'T pay the rent!

          Bow-to-Throat: I'LL pay the rent!

          Bow-to-Hair: Mah hero!

          Bow-to-Lip: Curses! Foiled again!  

Tah-dum! This insta-melodrama illustrates the simplified character types of damsels, villains, and heroes. Ah, heroes!

 Heroes like... Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory?! 

 Yep.

Over the last year, I've become a serious fan of TBBT in general and Jim Parsons' Sheldon Cooper in specific. And--yes--I'm one of those fans who hopes for an eventual Sheldon/Penny romance. This has led to fascinating discussions, which I love--and to declarations of stunned horror and people questioning my sanity, which... not so much.

The time has come take a stand for my sanity and that of my fellow 'shippers, and counter a few of the more pernicious naysayers. Not about Sheldon/Penny. Not yet. But about the stronger foundation of disbelief I've hit: the idea of Sheldon/anybody.

 I may not convince you. But at least I can validate that we have a point. So here goes:

 CLAIM: If any of the guys on The Big Bang Theory fits the classic romantic hero mold (if, perhaps accidentally), it's Sheldon.

 Let us proceed....

 

Nay-Sayers: But he's such a geek and he looks like a praying mantis! Who would want him? 

 Er... first off? The show's called The Big Bang Theory. All four male protagonists are geeks. Fellow physicist, Kripke, lisps in "The Killer Robot Instability": "We're all pathetic and creepy and can't get girls. That's why we fight robots."

 But "get girls" they do.

 Raj has hooked up at least twice ("The Middle Earth Paradigm" and "The Hofstadter Isotope"). Howard had a brief fling with Penny's cousin's ex-fiancee, Christy ("The Dumpling Paradox") and since early in Season 3 ("The Creepy Candy Coating Corollary") has maintained a surprisingly healthy relationship*** with Penny's co-worker, Bernadette. Leonard himself has been sleeping with Penny all season, and before that he had relationships with Leslie Winkle (Sarah Gilbert) and Dr. Stephanie (Sara Rue).

 Geeks can't get girls? Hardly! And, as fanfic writer CHEZZLES.ZE.GREAT recently put it, if TBBT's four nerds were the Beatles, Sheldon would be Paul McCartney (for you young 'uns, Paul had the reputation of being, just as this Beatles-themed CBS ad to launch TBBT calls Sheldon, the "cute one").

Sheldon's attracted more pretty girls than any of them. Penny flirted with him in the pilot, responding to Sheldon's now classic "that's where I sit" with a little pat on the cushion, "Sit next to me!" Grad students Ramona and Kathy already knew his home address when setting up dinner dates in "The Cooper-Nowitzki Theorem." Martha came to his bedroom door in "The Psychic Vortex." He stole Raj's date, Lalita Gupta, without even realizing it in "The Grasshopper Experiment." Leonard's mom drunkenly kissed Sheldon in "The Maternal Congruence." Sheldon even easily and accidentally picked up a handsome gay man at Cal-Tech while trying to find Penny a date, in "The Barbarian Sublimation!" True, Sheldon has never been receptive, but more on that momentarily.

 My point? He can certainly attract women, and if Howard Wolowitz can keep someone as sweet as Bernadette, surely Sheldon--if he wished--could make a go of it as well.

 Second off--Jim Parsons generally plays Sheldon as stiff and awkward, with a hasn't-caught-up-to-his-growth-spurt discomfort, part Pee-wee Herman and part C-3PO. The wardrobe, haircut, and squeaky voice do him no favors either--as a romantic hero. For a comic hero, they work fine! TBBT is, above all, a comedy. As such it relies on broad physical humor. So the show cast Parsons against four actors who measure just over five and a half feet, ostracizing Sheldon's six-foot-two frame through contrast (which leads to far too many annoying shots of Sheldon's chest and chin, the rest of him cut off to better center someone else in the frame).

But as a romantic hero,
Sheldon cleans up--or should I say, scruffs up--quite nicely as well (see: "The Einstein Approximation"). The fangirls who've noticed his forearms and jaw line aren't imagining that. In some scenes where he owns his height, like during his frequent glare-offs with Penny, he's downright sexy. Clark Gable? Maybe not. But he's not that far from Cary Grant (especially in Bringing Up Baby), and at times he particularly resembles a young Jimmy Stewart.

 What are those three adjectives that women use to describe a romantic hero? Tall, dark, and handsome?

 Especially in the world of The Big Bang Theory: Dr. Sheldon Cooper, for the win.

 

Nay-Sayers: But Sheldon is assexual. Chuck Lorre said so!

 Actually, although co-executive producer Chuck Lorre claims no plans to explore Sheldon's sexuality, he's deliberately avoided labels: "If touching other human beings of any gender is irrelevant to him, why label the thing? Why can't there be a third gender--male, female, and Sheldon?" (Ausiello

 Lorre's also noted that Sheldon "has chosen not to play in the relationship game... heterosexual, homesexual, bisexual, whatever" and is interested only in science. And George Lucas. (eonline)

 I put before you that ONE: These comments concern sex, not romance (TBBT tends to confuse those. True, they tend to go together, but for romantics, sequence can be everything). But to focus on the sex: nobody's ruled out all possibility, only the likelihood.

 And TWO: Scroll up and check out my claim again, folks.

 I'm not saying Sheldon will find love (though, as Parsons has noted, "People want to see him cared for"). I'm not predicting he'll get busy with anyone, even Penny, the only girl not related to him whom he ever seems to touch, if awkwardly.

 My claim? That Sheldon fits the classic hero mold.

 Let's assume, via Occam's Razor, that Sheldon's quite possibly heterosexual (in chemistry, if not behavior). He's just too busy, too disinterested, to single-minded in science to pursue that. Got it. It flies in the face of the number of Nobel Prize-winning physicist who are married, but still. Let's say Sheldon is Just Not Interested.

 Well guess what? Classic heroes often aren't looking for love. Oh sure, Prince Charming goes door to door with that glass slipper until he finds Cinderella. But in contrast, the Beast just wants to be left alone and only ends up with Beauty because of her trespassing father.

 Does Beast really interest you less than Prince Charming? Seriously?

 The classic hero doesn't regularly date. He's above romance, like Darcy in Pride & Prejudice or estranged from it, like The Scarlet Pimpernel. He's too busy protecting the settlers, or running his bar in Morocco, or trying to score that next big business deal, or planning a life of adventure. That's exactly when, to paraphrase the standard Noir: She walks in. Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into his. He doesn't want any plastics, and he doesn't want any ground floors, and he doesn't want to get married -- ever -- to anyone!

 Which apparently sends up a flare directing the Fates to send the exact right dame in his direction.**** And somehow, he changes.

 For her.

 Not because he's into girls. Or guys. Or both. Or neither.

 Because he's into that one person, and only that one person, and without her he'll gladly go back to being alone, because nobody else could ever measure up.

 That, my friends, is a classic, swoon-worthy romantic hero.

  

Also? Sheldon is the Alpha. 

 I have no idea if the creators/writers of TBBT ever consciously thought this one through. But they're aware of the concept. See: "The White Asparagus Triangulation."

 Sheldon, hoping to preserve Leonard's relationship with Dr. Stephanie, pretends he needs Leonard's help in the kitchen. "When I fail to open this jar and you succeed it will establish you as the alpha male. You see, when a female witnesses an exhibition of physical domination she produces the hormone oxytocin... which lay people naively interpret as falling in love." And then he says, "Go ahead, it's pre-loosened."

 Leonard still can't open the jar, breaks it, cuts his hand on the glass, and needs stitches. Later, Sheldon notes, "Just for the record, my efforts to establish you as the alpha male were not aided by you bursting into tears."

 So... Sheldon's efforts aside, Leonard is not the Alpha. Sheldon pre-loosened the lid (though apparently not enough). And despite Sheldon noting in "The Big Bran Hypothesis" that "we don't have a dolly, or lifting belts, or any measurable upper body strength," he may underestimate himself. When Leonard finds himself trapped beneath the furniture they mean to carry up the stairs ("I don't have this, I don't have this!"), Sheldon's the one who pulls it off him. Sheldon does, in fact, own a lifting belt ("The Dead Hooker Juxtaposition").

 "The Peanut Reaction" shows Sheldon and Raj "Trestling" which, as Howard explains, "combines the physical strength of arm wrestling with the mental agility of Tetris into the ultimate sport." Sheldon notes that they might as well stop: "You're beating me in Tetris, but you've got the upper body strength of a Keebler Elf." Raj, insulted, doubles his arm-wrestling efforts, then tries it two handed--and can't budge Sheldon's hand.

 Sheldon may not be actively strong. But as far as the population of the show goes, he's Hercules.

 As seen in "The Cornhusker Vortex," Sheldon knows football ("I grew up in Texas. Football is ubiquitous in Texas"). If he speaks the truth (and does Sheldon lie?) he can also "shoot close enough to a raccoon that it craps itself." Sheldon's the smartest. Sheldon's the proudest of himself. Sheldon tells the others what to do. And most of the time? 

 They let him.

 Oh, they whine about it. They avoid like crazy, and even stoop to sabotage (as in "The Electric Can Opener Fluctuation"). But when the other three want to take a plane to a conference, and Sheldon wants to ride the train, the train wins. In "The Bat Jar Conjecture," when Sheldon wants to name their team in the Physics Bowl the Army Ants, the others again buckle under. They only kick him off the team--which they'd begged him to join despite his initial disdain for the "tawdry competition"--after having a secret meeting, as if the only way they can stand up to him is to avoid him completely.

 Penny, in fact, is the only regular who has consistently stood up to Sheldon. And as she's not male, that doesn't threaten his position as alpha at all.

 Why is this important, beyond the role of oxytocin?  

 The term "Alpha Heroes" for romance heroes from Heathcliff to Darcy to Rhett Butler has been common parlance since before 1992's definitive Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women: Romance Writers on the Appeal of the Romance.

 Certainly since that study, romance writers and readers have been defining the heroes as Alphas (the pack leaders), Betas (the nice guys), and even lesser known variants such as Gammas (morally ambiguous) and Warrior Poets (tough on the outside, sweet on the inside). The most common romance hero remains the Alpha. He's successful, prideful, competent... and he tells the other guys what to do.

 AKA: Sheldon.

 

 Finally? Sheldon is a good guy. A white hat. A hero. 

 Yes, Sheldon's words often condescend, no matter whom he's addressing. Penny. Leonard. His boss. His sister. His mother, whom he presumably loves. But why assume malice, especially when he's shown no ability to read people and seems an equal-opportunity know-it-all? Nobody else (with the likely exception of young Dennis Kim in "The Jerusalem Duality") is as intelligent as Sheldon.

 True, he would do well to accept his mother's teaching: "It's okay to be smarter than everybody but you can't go around pointing it out.... People don't like it!" ("The Luminous Fish Effect"). But his intelligence is his identity, and knowledge is his religion. So when he has information to offer, or hears someone misstate a fact, Sheldon cannot stop himself from sharing or correcting that data. As he notes in "The Euclid Alternative" about the DMV: "How else are they going to learn?"

 Can we be certain he isn't (in his mind) helping?

 Sheldon has in fact proven himself the most ethical of his friends. He has difficulty lying ("The Loobenfeld Decay") and keeping a secret ("The Bad Fish Paradigm"), going so far as to move out rather than betray Penny's trust. When Leonard taunts Penny's ex-boyfriend, Kurt, in "The Middle Earth Paradigm," Sheldon stands by him. Later, despite his lack of social skills, Sheldon brings Leonard tea: "When people are upset, the cultural convention is to bring them hot beverages. There there."

 When Howard tries to pick up Summer Glau, in "The Terminator Decoupling," it's Sheldon who reminds him that he's in "some sort of socially intimate pairing with Leslie Winkle." (Howard's counter argument? "That's Summer Glau.") When Raj admits to having spent half a year at work just playing on the Internet, in "The Pirate Solution," Sheldon notes, "And you've continued to take the university's money under false pretences? Highly unethical for an astrophysicist... although practically mandatory for a pirate."

 He also creates a job to keep Raj from being deported.

 And then there's Penny.

 Sheldon invites Penny in when she locks herself out of her apartment, in "The Barbarian Sublimation." He brings her to the hospital--even drives!--when she dislocates her shoulder in "The Adhesive Duck Deficiency." Sheldon's not just generous with his knowledge and opinions, but with his time ("The Work Song Nanocluster") and his money ("The Financial Permeability") As Leonard points out, "Sheldon really doesn't care when he gets the money back. It's actually one of the few idiosyncrasies that doesn't make you want to, you know, kill him."

 Oh, and that money?

 It was to help Penny pay her rent.

  

Conclusion:

So, did the creators of TBBT deliberately set out to make Sheldon fit the role of classic romance hero? I would love to think so. I long for them to have planned some long arc with an endgame that, as the series winds toward its inevitable conclusion seasons from now, will pay off for its more sentimental fans.

 But Chuck Lorre himself has noted: "We have no idea where we're going.... We really are learning as we go, and we make decisions based on the best choices and information we have at any given moment."

 So all I can argue for now is that, the next time someone implies the very idea of Sheldon Cooper as a romance hero flies in the face of sanity?

 They may need to revisit their understanding of the word "insanity."

 

 FOOTNOTES:

*taught to me by my New England cousins (thanks, Colleen, Tracy, & Jennifer!)

** 'shippers is short for "relationshippers" -- see Wikipedia if I've confused you.

*** Healthy for Howard Wolowitz... and for sitcom world.

**** As far as I'm concerned, a hero's One True Love could as easily be another guy, but I'm defaulting to the Noir and fairy tale standard. Until we get a gender-neutral third-person pronoun, please forgive me.

 ALSO: Huge thanks to:

  •  "Big Bang Theory Transcripts" for speeding up my cross-referencing of episodes!
  • jessicajason on LiveJournal for her suggestions, in the comments (especially the "Geniusmania" promo)
  • SpaceAnJL for giving me extra incentive to muse on Sheldon's more manly possibilities in her excellent fanfic, "The Paladin Protocol." 
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TBBT: A Romantic Argument Against Leonard & Penny


Television Without Pity posted a "10 Worst Romantic Relationships on TV" list, using Leonard and Penny from The Big Bang Theory as their front-page shot.

The accompanying discussion itself turned fairly pitiless, both sides tossing about terms like "are you kidding?" "seek help," "sucks!" and, about Leonard's coolness factor, "in what universe?" (oh, wait--that one was mine. In my marginal defense, it's a TBBT quote). The more I think/read on it, the more I've got to say, but that shouldn't be TWOP's problem, so: I'm takin' it to my blog.

Speaking as just a fan? I HATE THEM TOGETHER.

But there's no reason anyone should find that kind of statement persuasive.

Speaking as a college instructor, romance novelist/scholar, and television enthusiast/essayist?

The Leonard/Penny relationship lacks essential components to satisfy many (by no means all) of its female viewers, and thus can be seen as flawed.

Before we go on, Big Qualifier: For the purpose of this piece, I'm avoiding all "Penny should be with Sheldon" claims. For one thing, I'd rather not degenerate into a rowdy, competitive soccer fan atmosphere, mentally or verbally (today). For another, co-creator/executive producer Chuck Lorre has stated Sheldon's unlikely to ever discover romance, making such an argument hypothetical at best.

Finally and most importantly: The presence or removal of a Sheldon obstacle doesn't affect the heart of Penny and Leonard's relationship. In the end, it's all subjective. But while many viewers clearly enjoy the current pairing (Lenny? Peonard?) a great many do not. So let's look at why....

The Argument That Isn't Mine - Foils Need Something to Reflect

The best argument against Leonard/Penny that I've come across comes from Lord Seth on in the Television Without Pity forums:

"The problem with Leonard/Penny is that they're both by far the most normal of the main characters. Sheldon is Sheldon, Howard is socially awkward, and Raj can't talk to women. So Leonard or Penny usually play the comic foils to those three. The problem is that while a comic foil can have hilarious interactions with a quirky character, two comic foils together just don't work that well for comedy." (original post)

So smart. I do enjoy smart. And it's an argument that the writers of TBBT might find especially compelling since, at its heart, the show is a sitcom. Funny is its raison d'etre. The purpose of a straight man is to respond to/highlight the wackiness around them. Neither Penny nor Leonard are crazy. In order to show contrast, the show must emphasize unpalatable traits: Make Penny seem more stupid and Leonard more judgmental ("The Psychic Vortex"). Or, worse, dwell on how little they fit in each other's worlds. Penny complaining that she was embarrassed to be seen leaving the roller rink with Leonard, in "The Einstein Approximation?" Not romantic, and "funny" only to people who think pointing at someone else and mocking their (perceived) shortcomings is funny.

You've heard the generalized but largely true argument that women are less likely to enjoy The Three Stooges than men are? A majority of us react similarly to mocking humor. This is a lesson TBBT learned with their first, failed pilot for the show. The original neighbor, called Katie, was a "street-hardened, tough-as-nails" woman but, as co-creator/executive producer Bill Prady noted in Variety, "What we didn’t anticipate, though, is how protective the audience would feel about our guys. Early screenings of that version of the pilot led audiences to beg that the 'mean lady' would stay away from the 'sweet guys.'"

Which brings us to....

The Emotional Argument - Leonard's Turning Mean

"I'm a perfectly nice guy," insists Leonard in "The Fuzzy Boots Corollary." He asks "What about me?" after Penny says, "Just once, I would like to go out with someone who is nice, and honest, and who actually cares about me" ("The Tangerine Factor"). But now that he's got his relationship with Penny, Leonard's niceness quotient has taken a nosedive.

He's jealous (see "The Guitarist Amplification" and, for what its worth, all the time before they even dated, starting with "The Fuzzy Boots Corollary"). He aggressively dismisses Penny's beliefs ("The Psychic Vortex"). In "The Large Hadron Collision," when Leonard joins a conversation in progress, he ask the guys to clarify, "Who's miserable and alone?" Raj answers, "Me." Leonard's reply? He grins. "I used to be like that. Then I got a girlfriend."

Consider his dismissal of Sheldon's heartbreak over the guys' faking his initial findings in the 3rd Season opener, "The Electric Can Opener Fluctuation." Leonard's deception reduced his roommate to a fetal position, sobs, then to quitting his job in shame. Leonard's consistent reaction--when Penny insists on postponing homecoming sex to make sure their friend was all right--is to moan, "I can't catch a break!"

Ask any woman: If her apartment is broken into, would she go to spend that night with her boyfriend and give no thought to leaving her roommate behind, alone at the scene of the crime? But that's what Leonard does in "The Bozeman Reaction." Even when socially awkward Sheldon comes to them and admits, "It's scary over there," Leonard's reaction is a quip: "It's getting scary here, too."

And when Sheldon then decides to leave the state, Leonard shows no more distress than to call it "A bit of an overreaction," then to joke that Sheldon's coworkers are "really excited" about Sheldon merely telecommuting, and that he'll forward Sheldon's mail to the "Bozeman Loony Bin." Howard tries to talk Sheldon out of leaving. Penny notes that she'll miss him. But nothing from his roommate and onetime best friend, Leonard.

Leonard's hurtful tendencies come and go, thank goodness. He shows real concern for Sheldon in "The Einstein Approximation" and for Raj in "The Pirate Solution." But for every example of Nice!Leonard, we've gotten a Heartless!Leonard. And many in the audience still feel protective about "our guys."

Penny, thank goodness, has stayed the same Penny she was--whoever that was. Which moves us to...

The Feminist Argument - Objectifying Penny 

For what it's worth, Penny may also be objectifying Leonard as simply the opposite of her usual dates: "Am I just an idiot who picks giant losers [or do I] pick good guys, but turn them into losers?" ("The Tangerine Factor").

But is his an active or a passive niceness? He hasn't cheated, blogged about their sex lives, or bullied people smaller than him. But what is he  doing that defines him as a nice guy in his own right?

I'm not saying he can't be one--but it would certainly help for us to see more of it.

Instead, more often than this viewer finds comfortable, we've seen Leonard objectifying Penny in return. He seems more drawn to her position as a trophy than he is drawn to her as uniquely Penny.

Leonard never bothered with their previous neighbor (Louie/Louise, the cross-dressing cop with a skin condition). But as soon as he lays eyes on Penny, Leonard is smitten. At that point, he knows nothing about her except that she's blond, tanned, has a pretty smile--and, he thinks, better than him. "She's out of my league," he mourns in the pilot, despite Penny having proved herself to be perfectly friendly/ approachable to all four geeks and of no better than average intelligence. In "The Fuzzy Boots Corollary" he momentarily decides to "go after someone my own speed," as in, not her. In "The Dumpling Paradox," when Penny turns down Leonard's offer to enter Halo tournaments with him by saying "Or we could just have a life," Leonard answers, "I guess for you, that's an option." In "The Cornhusker Vortex," he automatically assumes Penny doesn't invite him to watch football because he embarrasses her. "What else could it be?" He consistently sees Penny as better than him and his friends, usually with an edge of resentment, but why?

Because she's cute.

It's worth noting that he has the same initial reaction to another sexy new neighbor--deliberately paralleled from the pilot for its exactness—as he did to Penny, in "The Dead Hooker Juxtaposition." Does he not love Penny's kind heart, her sense of humor, or her folksy charm as well? If so, he's not talking much about it--but he talks about her looks. In the pilot he sums up his opinion of their separate strengths by noting that "Our children will be smart AND beautiful." nce in a relationship, he argues with an imaginary Penny by mewling, as her, "I'm pretty and can do whatever I want."

This season his objectification has progressed. "Then I got a girlfriend," he says--not, "Then I found Penny." In "The Psychic Vortex" he crows: "Look at us! Getting ready for a double date with actual women who publicly acknowledge they're our girlfriends!" In "The Large Hadron Collision," Leonard notes that he's been wanting to spend Valentine's Day with a girl since he was six, which implies that any girl, not necessarily Penny, might have fit the bill.

And then there's....

The Romantic Argument - Sex isn't Love 

Yes. Of course a guy in his late twenties wants a love life. But a focus on sex above all else moves us into early-series-Howard creepy.

Leonard focuses largely on sex, with and without Penny.

In the pilot he protests Sheldon's suspicions of such ("not to say that if a carnal relationship were to develop that I wouldn't participate.") But by twenty minutes in, he confesses the truth: "You were right about my motives. I was hoping to establish a relationship with Penny that might have someday led to sex." As if sex, not the relationship, is the end game.

In "The Cornhusker Vortex," Sheldon asks flat out if Leonard is trying to learn football "to ensure your continuing mating privileges with her?" At first Leonard waffles that "I wouldn't put it that way," then admits, "Yeah, okay, like you said" (thank you, t0ra chan, for your reminder in the comments!) M
ore recently, in this season's "Psychic Vortex," Leonard complains to Howard that "In order to keep having a sexual relationship with Penny I have to give up everything I believe in?" A sexual relationship. No worries about her feelings, her respect, or her good will. He could lose the sex.

Wow. How... romantic?

Leonard was happy for sex with Leslie Winkle, too, and with Dr. Stephanie Barnett (despite his protest of going too fast—by her moving in, mind you, not by her sleeping with him within hours of them meeting). How, other than in the endurance of the relationship, is sex with Penny any different to him?

I wonder how many guys think Penny/Leonard are a great combination, and how many women cringe over it (comments welcome!) The show is, after all, created, produced, and written mainly by men, with a general 4-to-1 ratio of male-to-female protagonists. If guys are their main audience, then maybe they are, indeed, just skillfully satisfying a guy fantasy.

That doesn't make it any more romantic to the average female. Real romance is being half of a whole: "You complete me." Real romance is acceptance: "I like you very much. Just as you are." Real romance is that spark: "It was like... magic." Real romance is paradoxical: "But mostly I hate the way I don't hate you." And real romance, at its ideal, is forever: "I came across time for you Sarah. I love you; I always have."

Sure, sex has its place in the enjoyment and expression of romantic love. Sometimes a really wild, deliciously obsessive place. And it works well as a metaphor for feelings, in TV shows. But for sex to be the end game? That's not romance. That's erotica.

In Conclusion

This may sounds like I hate The Big Bang Theory now that Leonard and Penny have hooked up. Au contraire! If I hated it, I simply would not watch it. Were it not for the imaginations, hard work, and experience of the show's brilliant creators, writers, and actors (including Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco), I would never have gotten so caught up in the lives of these fictitious characters that I would spend this amount of time and effort (and, I'll admit, ego) arguing about them.

Despite my concerns about the Leonard/Penny pairing, The Big Bang Theory is obviously doing far more right than it is doing wrong. But if those of us who fear it's less than its best don't share our opinions and insights?

That, I think, would be a real pity.

(So if you've stumbled across this, please chime in)


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Creative Concerns about RPF

One of my favorite fanfiction communities just announced a new RPF site. I said, "Huh?" Then I did a search. Google gave me a lot of "Renal Plasma Flow," which seemed unlikely. But Wikipedia came through: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Real_person_fiction.

Apparently RPF = Real Person Fiction, fanfiction about the actors as opposed to the characters.

On the one hand? I am, as ever, amazed by the variety and creativity of the fanfiction world. Creativity = Good! Who's got the right to complain about people who enjoy writing or reading a story about Brad Pitt at a shopping mall or Elijah Wood having a bad day (other than, perhaps, Brad Pitt or Elijah Wood--according to Wikipedia, Wood has praised the creativity of fans involved in these endeavors).

Erotica doesn't bug me (nor even the occasional well-written porn). I might not enjoy Mal/Jayne slash, based on Firefly, but it's not even a blip on my emotional/moral/whatever radar. Others don't like my fave pairing of Jayne and (adult) River, and I don't begrudge them that. To each their own, right?

But we're not talking Mal/Jayne. We're talking Nathan Fillion/Adam Baldwin. Not necessarily having a bad day (wink wink, nudge nudge).

When RPF turns into erotic fiction or even slash, I discover a surprisingly prim old lady residing in me. Said sourpuss wants to lecture about how wrong, WRONG it is to show a real person in a situation about which said real person had no say. This may just be my own personal button. I hate being put into any situation without having agreed to it. I hate surprise parties. I still resent getting braces because "it would be good for me." To me, consent is everything.

Almost everything. (Occasionally, someone actually knows better than me).

Then again, the actor isn't being put into those situations. A fictionalized avatar of the actor is... and here it gets metaphysically complicated.

So what sacred cows of mine may be mooing in distress about this?

1) Characters are not Actors, and Actors are not Characters

I firmly, FIRMLY believe this, which is why I don't care much about getting celebrity autographs. I even avoid most celebrity interviews. I have no problem with gay actors playing straight characters, and vice versa. I smirk in bemusement when fangirls wail about their favorite actor getting engaged or married (as if you had a chance?)

Characters exists in a Fictional World. Fictional World is a rich and wonderful place where I have not only a summer home but a private island, a ski chalet, a small castle, and an understated but elegant temple for relaxation and personal worship. It goes by many names--Neverland, Wonderland, Faerieland, Dreamworld, etc. It permeates our own world, so to say it's "not here" isn't quite correct, but it doesn't physically exist in our dimension, and nor do the characters. I love Doug Ross, not George Clooney. I want to see Sheldon & Penny together, not Jim Parsons and Kaley Cuoco. Jon Erik Hexum may have tragically died in the 1980s, but my relationship to Phineas Bogg is still going strong.

I've come to realize, over the years, that the actor owns a character almost as much as the writer who created said character. When a TV or movie character springs to life, they do so using the life force--the essence--of the actor. So their pairing is symbiotic, to say the least.

But they are different beings.

We fans know the characters very well, spend time with them weekly, get to know their foibles and relatives and favorite foods. We don't know the actor, only what essence that actor puts into his or her characters.

Is my hesitation because RPF could be seen as confusing the two?

2) Names (and Thought Forms) Have Power 

Maybe it's just my years of research into magickal theory--which I think is strongly metaphorical of scientific truthes we just can't explain as simply (or at all). "Psychic Vampires" may sound wild, but we've all been around drama queen crazymakers who thrive off of attention and leave their companions exhausted, so neither are they unrealistic. And the idea of a "Thought Form" as a magical being who must do the magic-user's bidding sounds right out of Faust, but you've got to admit, there's something to be said about the power of joint belief.

I mean--if one person makes up a character named Jimmy and decides the guy is a risk-taker, it's not a blip on the universal radar. On the other hand, if millions of people watch movies and TV and cartoons and read books about a guy named Captain James T. Kirk, then that character takes on a reality beyond his initial writers or actors. Joint belief empowers Santa Claus and Harry Potter, rendering them not just "characters" but "thought forms" with the power to excite, dismay, engage, and soothe countless real life, real-world individuals.

Or look at the magical belief that names have power. Some cultures don't give a child a name until s/he reaches puberty, because of this. Some don't name a child after a relative who still lives, as if sharing a name will weaken the life force. In the Harry Potter universe, there's a reason only the bravest people say Voldemort's name out loud. The idea that you could hurt someone by burning their name may be far fetched, but I wonder if there's any effect--any at all--to creating a fictional representation of them, with their likeness and their name, and bending said representation to your will?

Besides, the people writing RPF rarely if ever wish their subjects any ill will.

So is my problem with RPF merely my superstitions?

My Inconclusive Conclusion:

Again--I'm not saying there's anything wrong with writing or enjoying RPF. I won't protest unless and until someone starts writing RPF about me, which exists in an unlikely universe indeed. May everyone involved get hours of creativity and enjoyment from it.

I'm just trying to figure out....

Why is THIS where I draw the line?


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Spoiled Isn't Bad: Ghost Whisperer, Thinkers, Feelers, & Heartbreak

Warning: The following includes spoilers for The Empire Strikes Back, Sixth Sense, and the following TV series: Beauty and the Beast, M*A*S*H, Cheers, Soap, That 70's Show, Xena, Forever Knight, Quantum Leap, Sopranos, St. Elsewhere, Angel, and The Ghost Whisperer (through this season).

 

Anyone else here remember the dark-ages? I'm talking that barbaric period before the late 70's, when you could only save a television show with an audio-cassette recorder and a good imagination. To quote Jeff Foxworthy: "We didn't have 700 channels growing up, we had three channels when I was a kid, and if the president was on, your night was shot."

 

It's funny because it's true. And because we now have 700 channels. We survived.

 

But for all the TV-watching wonders that have come along since then—cable and then satellite television, videos and then DVDs, remote controls! For all of them, a wonder that doesn't get enough credit is our access to the plot spoiler.Collapse )

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True: I'm Looking for a Word, here

I've been struggling with this gaping hole in my vocabulary for a long time--maybe someone here can help. I want a word that means "absolutely, positively true," and applies to fictitious worlds, characters, and events.

Does the actual word, "true," work for that?  
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  • Current Mood
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I've Got a Life, Thanks: Why Entertainment Snobs Can S(tf)U

It's usually sneered at an enthusiastic fandom. Sometimes it's the romance readers, who are quite capable of reading a book a day while working a fulltime job. Other times, it's the people who dress up to watch movies or buy new release books. Twilighters. Browncoats. Potterites. Leapers.

  

"Get a life," someone trolls.

 

Heaven help the next person who utters those words in my hearing… unless they're a student, in which case they can plead ignorance (once) and must merely withstand a gentle lecture. Otherwise? Release the Attack Academic!

 

Get a LIFE? I suggest several comebacks to this line.

 

Comeback #1 - "I've got a life, thanks. Get some original material."

 

Some folks don't even realize that "Get a life" is derivative. It was funny when William Shatner said it to faux Trekkies on a Saturday Night Live skit on Dec. 20, 1986.  John Lovitz was in this skit, and Dana Carvey (the one who did such a good job mimicking the first President Bush) and the late, lamented Phil Hartman.

 

Snobs may parrot the comment, but they're no William Shatner (unless Bill himself is reading, in which case—WHOA! Captain Kirk's actor-surrogate is reading my blog? Seriously? SQUEE!!!) And even Shatner has since written a book—by the title Get a Life--in which he embraces Trek fandom. 
 

So quoting Shatner's mockery of fandom is like quoting young Aurelius Augustinus Hipponensis' mockery of the Catholic Church. The later conversion (in the latter's case, to become Saint Augustine) kinda weakens the power of his earlier words.

 

Comeback #2 - "I've got a life, thanks. So what's with the imperative?" 

I like this one for two reasons. First, it's a smarmy way of saying, "Oh, you think you're so smart!" (WARNING: Only use it if you know the difference between
the four standard sentence types, or it'll come back and burn you.)  Second, because it points out one of the biggest problems with the "Get a life," statement, which is that it is an imperative instead of a declarative sentence type--and who is the other person to start acting all imperious around you? Is this entertainment snob your king? Your boss? Your father? Your Orion slave owner (you being the slave)? No? Then s/he can damn well drop the implied "should" (You should get a life) and retreat to the less argumentative declarative sentence types, preferrably leading with an "I" statement -- "I do not understand why you love that show," or even "I think you're weird." 

In short, "What's with the imperative?" is the more mature way of saying, "Who do you think you are, telling me what to do?" The question is valid, but it sounds stronger without the connotation of foot stomping or fist shaking.

Comeback #3 – "I've got a life, thanks. Who says I don't…? YOU?!" Then laugh your best, most derisive laugh.

 

The laugh shouldn't be hard to pull off, once you consider the contrast between you, the Loyal Fan, and the trollish snob who's peeing on your parade.

 

On the one hand, we fans care about something and share our interests with others, whether leaving feedback on fanfiction.net or camping in line for a first showing of Indiana Jones, or Twilight, or Return of the Jedi (yes, I am that old). Are we a little silly about it? Sometimes, but when was that a crime? Fans of the Green Bay Packers sometimes paint themselves green and wear plastic cheese wedges on their head—are they told to get a life? People who sell Amway or Mary Kay Cosmetics carry around merchandise in their bumper-stickered cars, wear pins to mark their status, attend conventions and, in the case of the latter, wear an unnerving amount of pink. Are they told to get a life?

 

By the way, I'm not dissing either group. Anyone who thinks I am doing so, just by comparing them to fans, merely highlights the double-standard. The individuals in all these examples are actively embracing something in their life and sharing that enjoyment with others. As long as they can do so without becoming a burden on or danger to society, more power to them!

 

On the other hand, the snobs who say "Get a life" apparently have so few of their own interests that they have to seek out others and criticize them. Seriously? They have nothing to read, nothing to watch, nothing to write, nothing to do that they find more satisfying than mocking someone else? Doesn't that sound a little energy-vampiric?

 

It would be sad, if they weren't so obnoxious. So very, very obnoxious.

 

The best possible comeback, however? (IMNSHO)

 

Comeback #4– Simply, "I've got a life, thanks." And then ignore them! Absolutely. Completely.

Because like most trolls and rabble rousers, the snobs who ridicule our interests are after attention. Yes, sometimes their attitude begs too loudly for a slap-down, so go for it--you're only human (I assume). But if you've got the self control, you really do the most damage by acknowledging they spoke (so that they can't pull the "too scared to answer?" silliness) but afterward, dismissing them as the annoying gnats of insignificance that they are.

 

These are people who do not know any of the Dr. Who's. Who do not understand the joy of exploring strange new worlds and seeking out new lives and new civilizations. Who have never 'shipped a single TV pairing or, apparently, screamed at the end of a really well-done cliffhanger and dove for their computer to connect with others to discuss the magic of that experience and what might happen next! If they choose not to assimilate, it's hardly our job to entertain them.

 

For they are mundane. In more ways than one. And we, thank heavens, are not.

 

By the way, I came up with a few shorter, sillier comebacks to "Get a Life"

  • "And exactly whose life should I take? Heh, heh."
  • "Jealous, much?" 
  • "Get an imagination."
  • "Wow—and you took time from your heart-surgery, international diplomacy, Fortune 500 company management just to tell me that? Or… did you?"
  • "I've got so many of them—but there's always room for more!"

 Please suggest more!

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At a Creative Crossroads: An Introduction

Some subjects just have to be talked about. They eat at you until you put them out there, in words. In my case, that subject is creativity and its most popular fruits. Addictive movie/book series like Twilight or Harry Potter. TV shows making arguable plot choices like Ghost Whisperer or or Grey's Anatomy.

Am I the only one fascinated by how we interact with, absorb, and regurgitate all this?

I know you can read about TV shows, movies, and books anywhere, right? But how many blogs focus on why and how we love said shows, books, and sundry? (Probably a lot more than I know about, but still, go with me here, 'kay?)

Hi, I'm Vaughn (aka Von) and I'm at a creative crossroads in more ways than one. One way is that, although I'm supposedly a novelist, my last book came out in January '07 and I've barely managed to write a second, and am way behind on the third, and wow this isn't good. Like you want to hear more about that. (I didn't think so). But another and more interesting form of creative crossroads is the idea of being betwixt and between (which any good witch or folklorist could tell you is a magical place to be, hence the power of leaving midnight, when one is both in two days at once and in no day at all).

I'm betwixt and between: a writer and a reader. Into academia (college instructor) and pop (romance writer/couch potato). And I don't think I'm alone, here. Am I? Feel free to chime in anytime--but I'll keep talking either way.

So. Let's look at this here place where we find ourselves. As I continue to post, let's look at the why of our cultural love of such wonderful worlds as Twilight (my current heroin), Harry Potter, Star Trek, anything Joss Whedon, etc. Some topics I'm considering for future entries? 
  • I've Got a Life, Thanks: Why Entertainment Snobs Can Just S(TF)U
  • When "Spoiled" is Good: Thinkers, Feelers, Spoilers, and The Ghost Whisperer
  • Actor Surrogates: Why the Actors Aren't the Characters. Usually
If you're actually still reading this (!) please please please feel free to suggest other topics. You don't necessarily have to use the colon-followed-by-subtitle-technique, but doesn't it look all nice and academic? 

And welcome to my journal. I'll try to get better.