Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Fractured Fairy Tales

I’ve been sitting on this post for almost a month, and remembering that tomorrow is Valentine’s Day gave me a big enough kick in the ass to finish it...

My friend told me about a horrible movie she caught on TV recently - "Trust the Man." I haven't seen it, but apparently, these two couples are in miserable relationships (one guy is cheating on his wife, the other acts like a 15-year-old), yet at the end of the movie, all is forgiven and right in the world.

Sounds like every romantic comedy ever made (gag). Come to think of it, sounds like most sitcoms, too. No matter how intense the fights or how hurtful the actions, everything's hunky-dory in the end because someone magically changed between the Verizon and Tide commercials.

I started to think about all the crap I’ve seen on TV throughout my formative years – and I came to the conclusion that exposing yourself to enough of these scenarios eventually starts to erode any amount of common sense you may or may not have. Sure, I know it's only entertainment. After a stressful day at work, few would argue with watching a show/movie where the nice guys always win, love is always requited (even if not at first), and the bad guys always get what’s coming to them. Karma is alive and well on the screen. We talk to the characters, screaming, "What’s the matter with him?!" as we wait for the "tough guy" to crumble at the sight of his love interest – because she's such a "good" woman. He professes his emotions, maybe even sheds a tear. They embrace, share a perfect kiss, and the credits roll.

My friend and I talked about how damaging this can be for, particularly, the female psyche. Come on, we all know women (maybe even ourselves) who have at one time or another made excuses for absolutely horrible relationships because of such iron-clad excuses, like:

"Oh, he'll change because I'm a supportive girlfriend and I'm so good to him!"

Or the ever-famous:

"He was so wonderful before - I'm sure that side of him is still in there somewhere…"

We women are pretty good at internalizing and taking responsibility for other people’s bullshit. Popular media has this underlying rule that no matter how fucked up a guy is, if the woman is "good" enough or sacrifices enough, this will be his cure and will make him a decent human being. His life is in her hands, so to speak. If she can’t change him, well then she must not have tried hard enough – or she just wasn’t "good" enough.

Wow, I didn’t realize how fucked up that sounds when it’s written out. Seriously though, if someone has serious mental or social problems that were there before you and during you, they’re going to be there after you. It’s their deficiency, not yours. Stories like "Trust the Man" take the responsibility away from the man and put it completely on the woman. Now, it’s up to her to help him overcome his abusiveness/neglectfulness/immaturity/coldness...which is straight-up bullshit.

Banking on the other person to see the err of his or her ways just because you are a loving, supportive partner is not only a never-ending battle - it's a terrible way to live. As much as chick-flicks and sappy sitcoms like to show how people change, really they don't. And in the rare occasion where a person does a 180, it’s because they themselves felt the need/will/whathaveyou to change – not because they put you on a pedestal.

Of course, I don’t sit around and watch educational programming all freakin’ day – I like my crap-shows just as much as everyone else. Now, I’m just more of a cynical bitch while I watch ‘em. :)

On that note, Happy Valentine’s Day, and make sure your valentine is one that truly makes you happy – why would you want or deal with anything less?