Thursday, June 20, 2013

What do we have against nice guys?

Nice guys: the ones that care for the people around them and do everything they can to help in tough situations.  The ones who have their heart in the right place.

Currently rewatching a bit of Stargate Universe and, yes, I'm a geek.  So Eli is mt favorite character.  And his dismissal into the "friend zone" with Chloe, and then the death of Gin pissed me off.  And I think it comes down to the perpetuation of the idea that all the Sh*** happens to the "nice guy."

"Nice guys finish last." & "Good girls like bad boys."  A bunch of crap.

The storylines depict the more jaded, edging characters getting into relationships easier.  Not that Eli doesn't have his own baggage, but they treat his as if it were the concerns of the stereotypical "Mamma's Boy."   But in real life?  If you're in college and you mom has no one but you and she is diagnosed with some serious chronic illness and you *don't* go home to help out--that's not just "bad boy," that's downright amoral.

That's not just "nice guy," that's a moral individual.

What does the perpetuation of these classifications say about our society?

I will acknowledge first that every character must have flaws and that moral uncertainty makes for good storytelling.  But characters can face moral uncertainty, and have flaws, without being "bad guys." Geez--a villian doesn't need to be a "bad guy." He/She just needs to have an idea of the world that wrecks havoc on our protagonist and creates an adversarial relationship.

The perception I would gather is that if your hero and villain are both "good guys," that tension would be hard to create.  I would disagree.  If both had moral compases that led them down what they thought were the "right path" but were in actual opposition, the moral uncertainty can lead to more complicated questions of human nature than a simple explanation of some people being bad, having bad traits/characteristics or negative aspects to personality.

But it seems to me that our reliance on this idea and glorification of outlaws in American society presents evidence of a society that not only likes breaking the rules, but would rather see villains triumph, see vileness win over "good."

What does this teach kids?

I always come back to this because kids soak up and sort everything in their experience to create an understanding of their place in the world and proper interactions with the people around them.  As the most impactful aspect of the "Nice Guy" stereotype deals with relationships. What model are we giving young men?  The guy who treats the girl with respect fails to earn her love?  Or he is doomed to lose her because a nice guy can't keep her interest? He's boring?  So it is better to act contrary the rules and not treat girls respectfully, or play down the fact that you do respect girls when in the company of other guys?

Small wonder we're having issues with  teens committing sexual violence and media self-blaming victims.  We think girls should like this sort of thing as it smacks of "Bad Boy."

Seriously disturbing, IMO.

But this issue is connected to something else I've seen/heard lately.  The idea that feminism is no longer relevant.  If women are being raped, subjugated, objectified, and told they should like guys that will hurt them in one way or another--you tell me, do women have equality in a society that paints that picture of relationships? If there is any power-play in a relationship there is no equality.

Furthermore, if we think that girl/women should choose more darkly complex, morally ambiguous boys/men then we are arguing the 1950's idea that women are emotionally driven and incapable of choosing a path that is in their own interest.  No logic, all feeling.

Does that sound like a post-feminist world to you?

Granted, I'm a woman, and I'll relate this issue back to women's rights and abilities and I know there is a whole facet to male identity construction in the United States that is undergoing a major transition.  It's shaky and acting very threatened atm.  I understand this-- intellectually--but do not have the experience or knowledge on that element to do more than mention it.

Have you seen any nice guys get the girl?  Triumph over their foes in a recent movie/show/book?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Growing Phase and Accompanying Pains

It's the first Wednesday of the month!  Time to share goals, progress and insecurities about writing as part of Insecure Writer's Support Group. There's a lot of really awesome and inspiring entries, so go check out the list at Alex Cavanaugh's blog here.

So what's getting me this month? Well, there are a few things.  They can be boiled down to Growth.  Yes, I'm capitalizing it.  It shall be personified--just for right now.

The aspects of Growth are personal-writing related and related to the industry at a large--my opinions here being formed as the lone 20-something working in Sacramento's only exclusively new book Independent Bookstore.  Isn't that something?  That there's only one of us in a state capitol?

Personal Growth

It has me in it's grasp.  Growth has come to be welcome on some days and pulling me heels-dragging-screaming at other days.  It has overturned long held assumptions and now it has oozed into my writing.  I spotted it awhile ago, and was thankful for the depth and improvement in my writing.

Now Growth has altered my reading habits, which can only serve to hone my writing further.  I have been obsessed with non-fiction.  I have read two books (at least) possibly three in the past month.  It has been a long time since I managed these rates of completion.  And I owe a device to half of the reason.  I was given a Paperwhite, which was the only e-reader that had ever peaked my interest sufficiently.

Yes, I devoured a ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) called Foodist, by Darya Pina Rose--now available in hardback, followed by Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food, and Gary Taub's Good Calories, Bad Calories-- all in book form.  But then, on the Paperwhite, I (started) "Fast Food Nation", read "Omnivore's Dilemma," and am most of the way through "Cooked."  I will switch back to fiction and complete "American Gods" next. But I also can't wait to get my hands (or eyes) on Lisa See's "Snow Flower and the Secret fan," and "Dragonbones."

How will all of this non-fiction change my fantasy writing?  I have a few ideas.  I think I'll share in a future blog post :)

Book Growth

Devices, Online shopping and bookstores -- a recurrent theme where I work.  Also, the big glaring question of where are the 20something and 30something readers represented in the store's layout and displays?

I have been asked this, point blank.  I did a touch of research and realized book shopping is driven by individuals over 35, and primarily over 65. Amazon had these trends as did websites representing brick and mortar independants.

My customers think that "Young people," -- a term I once thought only applied to teens, but now seems to encapsulate anyone under 40--  read on devices.  And man, that idea is conveyed with a dose of contempt! I protest that "Print isn't going anywhere!  But our reason for buying it is changing."  Growth hit my work-sphere.

But I feel that my voice is small.  The change is starting, but how to be heard?  How to get the store to benefit from this change?  How to pull young people in the store?

You want to see young people's book-buying preferences?  Check out the Book section on  funny thing?  Some of their cookbooks are exactly one's I've eyed at work, but which the store, overall, has had trouble moving.  Last I searched the page, driven by curiosity, I was excited by the collections they had of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells.  Classics.

The Bookstore is driven to shelve new releases. But if they aren't on the NYTimes bestseller lists, they have a 1 in 5 chance of selling in any given month. So, in the mix of new books, all of us who work at the store slip in our favorites.  I have sold Eddings' "Pawn of Prophecy," repeatedly, sold Sanderson's "Mistborn," sold Keyes' "Briar King," and on numerous occasions sent mom's home with Wrede's "Dealing with Dragons," --partially because it's one of my all time favorites and partially because I see it as an appropriate counter to the pink-laden Princess Culture.  Hey, it has a princess, she's just a lot more fun than Cinderella.




Books and ownership of physical--non-digital items--as a statement of identity to be shared with the community you permit into your home.  For this reason, I think that buying habits will continue to change.  But declaring the direction I see it going because of how I see people shopping in the store and how I know my community of various aged individuals consumes books, plus the impact of the economy and so forth on "young people"-- I feel that my voice is small.  Ineffectual.

I think I could write more on this topic... another post!