Due to the stuff discussed in part 1, I've been thinking about escapism a lot today. After seeing The Hobbit and dreading leaving the theater at its end, I've been appreciating the power a text can have to carry me of into another world. At the same time, I'm realizing how necessary it is at times. Before I logged off Twitter, I was fighting the urge to either curl up in a little ball of sadness or bolt off to the movie theater to escape the worsening news that was coming for a little while. I didn't do either, but, in the midst of mulling over my anger at current events and last night's mishap, I was trying to find a quote about fandoms for a paper I was writing, hopefully from a cast member of The Avengers (as The Avengers is an example used in the paper). Instead, I found this:
Honestly... I just about cried when I read this. Really, Mr. Hiddleston, you're beginning to scare me a little bit. Not because he as a person is fear-inducing but because... well, it sometimes feels as if people like Mr. Hiddleston doesn't exist. Society on one half exudes that everyone has their perfect match, their soul mate, out there who will be perfect and charming, and then simultaneously promotes sexist behavior - utterly un-charming, to say the least. Perfection is touted as absolutely essential and yet people are viewed (especially by advertisers) as full of imperfections that need remedied. We're supposed to find someone perfect and yet we're all told that no one is perfect. And then, if you have interactions like I had on the drive to see The Hobbit, you start to feel pretty doubtful about people in general. So when things like this about Mr. Hiddleston comes across the internet, it's pretty shocking to find that wow, guess what, "perfect people" exist.
Note the scare quotes. "Perfect people" are not people who are, by hegemonic and dictionary definitions, perfect. Rather, they are people who have flaws (because people have flaws; well, maybe people really just have differences but sometimes we don't like those differences and so we call them flaws) but they are aware they have flaws and manage to act like super awesome human being in spite of it all. It's not really surprising that people like exist; I personally think all my friends fit this criteria (you go guys). However, it's a bit different when applying it to potential romantic partners. Suddenly "perfect people" to date seem a lot harder to come by. Why? You know the drill... I have no idea. I've got thoughts, but no answers.
I was discussing with my friend Kevin on the phone how it seems like cooperation in relationships for our generation is kind of... not happening. Not to say everyone between the ages of 18-25 or whatever are in crap relationships. That's not true. It's just that the majority of my friends are single and/or have had bad dating experiences. Part of my musing went like this: much like the lack of cooperation going in Congress with Reps and Dems reaching across party lines and putting important issues before their party politics, there's just a lot of arguing and miscommunication and mishaps in relationships because there's no give and take. Many want to take but not give something in return. People are looking for perfection, hegemonically, not... whatever the heck you want to call my redefinition of it...hedgehog-imonic, let's say (still going on 4 1/2 hours sleep here; let my silliness slide for now) and may be unwilling to put up with other people's faults, or change our own behavior to make a relationship work.
I would like to bring back the awesomeness of Susan Bordo to highlight the issue of how media represents love and relationships from her book Twilight Zones. She discusses how not paying attention to the effects of media representation and the messages they portray can be dangerous, and I find this immensely relevant. Cue Bordo: "The consequence of remaining in the dark, intoxicated by the illusions cast on the wall, are beginning to become apparent:...the inability to sustain love relationships (we expect them to be like the movies, where 'love' is visually coded by playful romps on the beach, photogenic sex, dinners in chic restaurants, and where all human beings have great clothes and live in terrific apartments)" (Bordo 15).
I readily admit that at least half of my daydreams about relationships come from movies or TV shows. But I also think that there is a sort of resistance on many people's parts to revamp dating and relationships and make it less... staged is the only word that comes to mind. You know, do things based on what the relationship allows instead of "well, dating norms say we must go to an Italian restaurant and eat ravioli and talk about our feelings" - basically the first date in Twilight, by the way, which at the age of sixteen I found super romantic and now see as probably a terrible idea because if you've ever seen me try to eat pasta without getting sauce everywhere, you would never recommend going to an Italian restaurant for a first date.
Anyway, aside from the media screwing with our interpretations of relationships, there's also the general issues of worldsuck and sexism and things of that nature causing people to be less than pleasant at times. These are all general reasons why dating seems to be having some issues.
What's interesting is my inclination to log onto Tumblr and scroll through images of my favorite celebs when confronted with these less than present issues in my own life. Worldsuck occurs and fansquees find refuge online. I'm going to try and steer away from trying to explain why this happens any further because, really, I'd be trying to explain and rationalize a form of love which would be an utter and spectacular fail. Love is beautiful and unexplainable. Moving on. What the focus is more of how it works. I will continue to use the ridiculously convenient example of Mr. Hiddleston because somehow my Tumblr dashboard became at least 50% Hiddleston and I don't even know how that happened because I didn't start following a ton of Hiddleston blogs. I think it just kind of happened and Tumblr's fandoms really love Hiddleston, for completely understandable reasons. I came across this post a week or so ago and was floored by how sweetly articulated this was:
(Trigger warning: this next gif may prove dangerous to Hiddlestoners. Just an FYI.)
The fact that kindhearted people like Mr. Hiddleston and Mr. Cumberbatch and others exist is vastly reassuring to someone like me who is surrounded by a lot of cynicism at home, in class, in the media, in my own brain at times. It's difficult to stay positive and upbeat and it's encouraging to see others who do it so successfully. It seems to go beyond just romanticism and believing that a Mr. Darcy-esque person exists out there, but that good, kindhearted people exist in general. Especially if, at the moment, we aren't surrounded by anyone like that.
Of course, this would be the opportune time to add in a dash of cynicism to this, because why not break a massive hole in my post here. Namely, it's back to that whole business of perfection. While we fans know that actors have faults, we don't personally know them and thus, it's easy to blur the idea of "flawless perfection" and "flawed perfection" together. Perhaps it kind of works like this John Green quote states: "We all romanticize the people we adore." It's we're back to that struggle of seeing celebrities as real people and pushing back against hegemony and... yeah, all of that.
And to crack another hole in all of this, this post I came across after people on Tumblr started posting about the Connecticut shooting comes to mind:
Sometimes, keeping up hope is really hard. But I agree with Hank Green on this:
This is going to get journal-like again for a moment, so bear with me. I never used to be much of an optimist - I'm still not entirely. I like to keep in mind the worst so that if it happens, I won't utterly fall apart. But I never used to think that good things could happen to me. I never felt that people really liked me or that I liked people at all. Part of this was due to the company I was keeping. But a lot of it had to do with my mental state as well, how I perceived and appraised things in my life. I don't exactly know when things exactly began to change or how or why. But they did. Suddenly it was easier to see the good in people rather than the bad, easier to empathize, easier to be patient. And I've realized I love people. Some of them suck, at times, and some of them drive me crazy. But in general, I really like people.
I don't know what exactly changed. But I can admit that I wasn't this way a year ago. Both the changes in my personal life and my interaction with people online, due to Tumblr, has really changed my perception of the world. For the better, I think. It had a great deal to do with finding like-minded people and seeing people react with genuine pleasure and empathy and consideration. And perhaps that's really what it comes down to in the appeal and amazement that people like Misters Cumberbatch and Hiddleston exist. Because they really honestly care. And sometimes, caring is hard.
More thoughts where this all came from, I'm sure, but this post could stretch on for the rest of forever. So I'll leave you all with a very charismatic, kindly-looking hedgehog.
All citations from:
Twilight Zones: The Hidden Life of Cultural Images from Plato to O.J. by Susan Bordo. University of California Press, 1997.