Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Bart Simpson was half right

It turns out that TV Guide also sucks.

Dig that Pauley Perrette, they say: a tattooed "non-goth" who nonetheless wears Doc Martens and dyes her hair black; and, like, totally doesn't make lots of friends (since most crimes are committed by people the victim knows), and is in a band. The band is "also a complete rebellion against those ridiculous social-networking Internet sites." [Her words this time.]

Well, bless her stereotype-destroying heart.

You might not believe this, but my snark isn't directed against Ms. Perrette. I couldn't care less that she dresses how she pleases, or that she's picky about friends, or is in a rock band, or believes that the Internet is mostly crap. She says she's happy, and that's the main thing, so I don't give a rat's patoot if she partially fits some half-assed template people use in leiu of their brains. No, my snark is square dead-against the preposterous TV Guide article. Why are they telling me that Ms. Perrette defies stereotypes, as if that was the only reason to read about her? Would she somehow be less interesting if she wore Buster Browns and a blouse from LL Bean? If she secretly dug sudoku, it wouldn't make her acting suck. So why should it be desirable to pitch this story as "She defies stereotypes!" instead of simply describing her likes and interests without any sort of pre-judgment at all? Let us make up our own minds.

Besides, at this point "defying stereotypes" is itself such a dumb cliché that it's meaningless. Why should anyone defy a stereotype?

Seems like there's two reasons. One is a very good reason - the stereotype is overwhelmingly negative or stifling, such as (off the top of my head) "Minorities are latent criminals." That's a stereotype. More importantly, it's dumb-ass racist shlock, and the sort of thing that no intelligent person ought to fall for, ever. But even so... should a young minority teenager decide to be a lawful citizen only because some idiots don't expect him to? Is "Surprise morons!" the only good thing we can say about being a decent human being?

Then there's the second, incredibly foolish reason: the lamebrained concept that it's more "real" to intentionally make one's choices against what other people think. Oh, so you say that all chess players are nerdy? Well, I'm going to the Bruce Springsteen concert, so there! Well... what if, deep down, you like chess AND poetry? What if you far prefer Chopin to American Idol? Are you going to ignore certain things you enjoy just because some people assume that you enjoy them? That sounds kinda dumb. In fact, it sounds exactly like the end of thinking for yourself. You won't be happier that way, and I guarantee that the stereotypes will hum along undeterred by your bold stand.

So, the bad reason isn't really a reason at all, and may well lead people away from their natural interests and strengths; and the good reason turns out to be unnecessary, since it would exist even if the stereotype didn't. It's a great idea to be a lawful citizen, no matter who you are, no matter where you're from. It's a good idea to like what you honestly enjoy, and enjoy whatever friends you honestly make, even if other people dismiss you for it. If the only things others can dislike about you are their own miserable pre-conceptions, then phooey on them.

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