Saturday, August 10, 2013

Unreal Expectations

This morning, as is typical, I checked my email and Facebook page while eating breakfast.  I hadn't had my coffee yet, and my brain wasn't functioning correctly, so I misunderstood a comment made by my friend Lori.  First thing, we had a great discussion about the expectations the world has for girls and the expectations we have for ourselves.  We talked about how media shapes our expectations.

My mom loves to tell the story about how when I was little I wanted to grow up and be Barbie.  At first, I would get defensive about it and try to justify that I've grown up since then.  But as I think about it, why would being Barbie be so bad?  As the saying goes, "The b*tch has everything."  And she does.  Mansions, cars, jewelry, clothes.  She even has professions.  She has careers.  She's an engineer, a dentist, a vet.  When I was younger, she was an astronaut and she can also be a computer engineer.  Ken is an accessory.  She is the ultimate independent woman.

Now, don't get me wrong, I know there are issues with how these career choices are portrayed and the excessive use of pink.  They can be debated up and down, but that's not the point I'm trying to make.  At least Barbie is making an attempt to show that women can have careers and be successful.  That's more than can be said about Disney and their princesses.

One of the things my friend Lori and I talked about was the unrealistic expectations Disney puts on love.  Her biggest issue was that a prince has to be present to make the princess feel whole.  The only princess that doesn't end up with a prince is Merida.  The expectation that this sets up is that a happy ending can't occur unless you have a prince.  You are nothing without a man present.

In reality, that's not the case.  We all figure that out when we grow up and look for love.  Now, don't get me wrong, I like Disney movies.  They are usually very funny and entertaining.  But I'm also old enough to roll my eyes at the stereotypes and unattainable goals.  And, really, what movie, TV show, or book doesn't set up false expectations?  What medium actually shows human life as it really is?  None.  And you know why?  Because that's boring.  We live real life everyday.  When we read a book or watch a show, we want to be entertained.  We want to escape.

As humans, we're very social creatures, so that means we're going to interact with other humans.  Most of us grow up and have relationships.  Sometimes we get married and have kids.  Sometimes things don't work out.  Sometimes it's nice to have these romantic notions of love to let us forget for a moment how awful it can really be or maybe just to remind us about the fun parts.  That's why Romance novels are so popular.

I'm fascinated with the notion of love and how women perceive it.  As a young girl, I totally believed the fairy tale story and looked for my prince charming.  By the time I was a teenager, it didn't take me long to figure out he wasn't going to show up, but that didn't stop me from looking for love.  I just changed my expectations.  Now that I'm older, I look back on those days and what kinds of expectations I had.  I examine the types of boys I was interested in and wonder about how other teens went about finding their significant other.  I look at stereotypes of what women are supposed to want and what we find attractive.  I look at how absurd it all is now, but at the time, it wasn't silly at all.

The Appeal of Evil is my attempt at looking how a teenage girl finds love.  Is it reality?  Of course not.  Like I said, that's boring, but it does hit on some real issues that girls face.  The most important of those is falling for the bad boy.  The one thought that kept nagging my mind was why do girls go for the bad boy?  Is it because we're conditioned to do that because of what we watch and see?  What is so appealing about being treated like dirt?  Do we think we can change them?  Is it the notion that they may just be misunderstood and the love of a good woman is going to change them?  And what would happen if the bad boy they fell for was really bad?  I mean demon-from-hell bad.  What would happen?

The funny thing is that my spouse, who is also my beta reader, couldn't stand reading The Appeal of Evil.  He has read all of my other stories without any issues, but this one drove him crazy!  He thought my character whined too much.  He thought she was self-centered and ridiculous.  And he should have.  He doesn't know what it's like to be a teenage girl!  He can't relate to her.  My other beta readers, who are both women, really enjoyed the story.  Yes, Katie is a little whiny and creates a lot of drama, but she's a teenage girl.  She has to grow up.  And she will.  Life will have a way of forcing her to do that.

I don't claim to have all the answers.  If I did, I could be making a lot of money right now.  But I find it interesting to examine certain aspects of human behavior and try to figure it out through my writing.  We all have certain expectations in life and love, and many of them are shaped by the world around us and experience.  We feed into the stereotypes and lies that are told us through media, but until we experience things for ourselves, we don't know how wrong they are.  The most important thing to remember is that you have to do what is right for you.  And keep "real" in perspective!

No comments: