The Art of Being a Mooch

moochersTo all you moochers out there: send your favorite sucker a loving e-card of appreciation!

 

Ah, the mooch. All of us have met these individuals before. All of us probably know at least one such person at the present moment. You may even be one yourself (if so, don’t be too shy to raise your arms proudly and shout, “Woohoo! I ate well today, and none of that food was mine! Or paid for by me! W00t!”). Since I’m a part of the human race (I live in human society at any rate, so I guess that counts), I have the dishonor of knowing such an individual. Hence, just like everyone else reading this blog, I’m in the position of giving expert advice to inspiring mooches on how to get the most out of suckers–er, people–you know by obeying a few tried and simple rules we’ve all seen mooches expertly take advantage of. And taking advantage of others is what mooches do best, after all!

 

Disclaimer alert: As unpleasant as these people can be–except when we’re pointing them out and making fun of them–I don’t think I run the risk of creating too many new mooches with the advice I’m about to give on this blog entry. Let’s face it, if someone truly wants to be a mooch, we all know they will tend to learn the following rules via long periods of trial and error anyway. So what the hell, right?

 

Without further adieu, here is what you do to become a better mooch. Learn to follow these rules, and you will be well on your way to mastering the art of bilking others out of their time and food at no cost to yourself save your humility; and you can’t sustain yourself on humility, right?

 

1) Cater to your good judgment by identifying the best targets to mooch off of regularly. People who are overly generous to the point of being total suckers are among the best choices. So are caring family members, particularly parents, who feel a strong residual obligation to take care of you long past your childhood of forced dependence. Individuals who are too “polite” to say “no” can quickly be made to become putty in your hands, with their food ending up in your  hands (before it’s stuffed into your eager gullet).

 

2) How well you observe the regular times of the day when your chosen targets typically have their meals is crucial to the art of becoming an effective mooch. Before too long, you can make a habit of just happening to drop by during these moments of culinary consumption. If they’re already eating, easily moochable targets will feel obligated to offer you some of the meal. And you know that.

 

3) Responsibilities to keep plans with others who are not readily moochable must take a back seat to your priorities, which are to make sure your schedule is open to coincide with the meal times of your favored targets. If you have to cancel plans with someone, even at the last minute, do not hesitate to do that. Mooches are not known for consideration of others over themselves, and since you’re striving to be one, fuck those imbeciles you call friends.

 

4) Is your conscience getting the best of you at times? Don’t worry, mooches tend to be good at putting their conscience aside to do their thing. If you ever find your conscience gnawing at you, just think of all that awesome gnawing you can be doing on someone else’s food if you simply stop worrying so damn much about using others.

 

5) Something you can do to reinforce the above if your conscience ever becomes particularly strong is to resort to the time-tested method of all people that use others: rationalizations! Just keep telling yourself that the people you mooch on either owe you for this or that (use your imagination if you can’t actually think of something!), or that they “don’t mind,” or simply remind yourself they are too polite to complain. Remember this advice if you remember nothing else, moochers: when in doubt, rationalize!

 

6) To become an effective mooch, you need to get into the habit of thinking nothing of disappointing others on many levels. You need to be okay with breaking plans with others, eating food that you didn’t pay for, going to the same people’s houses unannounced over and over again, and always when they tend to be most likely trying to enjoy a meal. If you find it difficult to do this, and you’re overly concerned about being intrusive to others, then I’m sorry, but your conscience is just too strong to become an effective mooch. You’re just going to have to live with that and begin subsisting on your own food.

 

7) In regards to rationalizing, make note of a few of the most effective ones. You can tell yourself and others that you constantly go to your favored targets’ homes to “help” them. If you want to make this more convincing, just casually ask your targets if they need you to do some easily accomplished favor. Yanno, like washing any dishes you use, or throwing out paper plates if they use them. Don’t worry about doing this, because suckers with an overblown sense of generosity are not likely to take you up on the offer since they don’t want to inconvenience you. Keep in mind that inconveniencing others is something that moochers like you do, not  your preferred targets. It’s as simple as that!

 

8) Never worry about anyone calling you on your mooching, because your skill at rationalizing can also be put to work at countering such justifiable accusations. You can try loudly responding with “that’s not true!” so many times that even you  may eventually come to believe it. Or you can resort to guilt-tripping these annoying finger-pointers by accusing them of being cruel for using a continued set of “obvious coincidences” regarding your always arriving during meal times against you. Or, if all else fails, you can throw this common disingenuous refutation at them: “Fuck you! You don’t know me!” They actually know your type quite well, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to convince them otherwise.

 

9) Entering someone else’s house unawares is a good way to “catch” them in the midst of a meal without giving them any time to finish eating before you arrive. This is why family members who trust you with a key to their front door make ideal targets to mooch off of. To look innocent, try to act as surprised as you can to find them in the middle of a meal by saying, with mock astonishment, “Oh, you’re having eggs!” Then you know that they will feel obligated to follow that up with, “Um, yes, we are. Would you like some?” Also make a point to whine about not being able to buy enough food for yourself, but if the target in question is prone to lecturing you about managing your finances better in response, then you may want to instead consider making the following type of mewling complaint: “I’m soooooo busy lately, I never seem to have the time to have dinner…”

 

So there you go, some good advice on how to be the best type of mooch there is. Now all you have to do is find your ideal target to take advantage of, and get on with practicing your craft! You have nothing to lose but respect, and all the free food you could ever eat to gain!

Do Popular People In Real Life Really Tend To Be Mean-Spirited? Why This Is Actually Often True And Not Just A Movie Cliche’

 Bullying05“Face it, douche-bag… you’re the popular crowd’s equivalent of the communal prison bitch.”

This particular post concerns yet another topic often discussed with a great degree of acrimony amongst people on different sides of the issue’s fence: The common portrayal of popular kids in movies and TV shows as being mean-spirited jerks (think the appropriately titled Mean Girls and just about any TV show featuring high school and collage drama you can think of, e.g., Beverly Hills 90210 and Pretty Little Liars); and the equally common portrayal of the outcasts on the receiving end of the hate as being mild-mannered, kindly if eccentric souls who simply want to be liked (if “loved” isn’t an option).

This is another question that begs an analysis of human psychology in any type of system – economic, political, and social – where hierarchies exist, and where there cannot be winners unless there are at least an equal number of losers. Our socio-economic system thrives on a totem pole-ish system of hierarchies, so it’s no wonder at all that our social interactions as peers in various environments (the school setting, in this instance) take on similar dynamics. The social strata will always develop in ways that mimic and even form a strange sort of symbiosis with the prevailing economic and political system. But don’t worry, I won’t go off on a tangent about that system here, despite the ever-present temptation (*evil grin*).

I. So What’s Wrong With Hierarchies, Dewd?

The reason for making this post is two-fold.

The first is because I was one of those severely bullied children and adolescents. I grew up as a straight up outcast and iconoclast (and probably other types of “clast’s” too; pull out your thesaurus and find a preferred synonym). It’s no exaggeration to say that I was hated by many, and often disliked when not hated. Did I deserve it? That question would likely be answered differently by different people who were present at the time and place, as well as by others who weren’t present but happen to study the situation based on their individual experiences, perspective, and position within the hierarchy, both then and now. I’m certainly not blind to the fact that our own experiences and position in life will invariably color our perceptions and interpretations of these things. I will strive to keep that in mind as I deal with this topic. I ask all my readers to try and do the same (hey, it’s only fair, right?).

Secondly, this blog is intended as a response to this article by Diana Cook on Cracked.com (a fav site of mine!), “5 Unwritten Rules Hollywood Needs to Stop Following.” Specifically, scroll down to item #3 where Ms. Cook admonishes the following cinematic trope: “Popular People Need to be Portrayed as Mean-Spirited Evil-Doers.” Before beginning, I will say off the bird (why does it always have to be off the “bat”?) that I like Diana’s articles, and I agree with most of her points in this one, particularly #2! But that’s a whole other topic. It’s these words from her in decrying the popular trope of portraying popular students in films and TV shows as bad souls that are my concern here:

In the movie universe, popular, good-looking people may as well tattoo “sociopath” on their foreheads. More than any other group, they’re often to blame for all of the angst and heartache and acoustic indie rock songs in our hero or heroine’s world. We’ve seen it a million times: the high school queen bee struts through the halls leaving a legacy of damaged egos and emotionally scarred classmates in her wake. That is, of course, until she gets her much-deserved comeuppance by movie’s end. [Her male counterparts are generally no better, of course! Good examples: The Karate Kid (either version) and The O.C. TV series.]

In Hollywood’s version of the world, these evil, top-of-the-food-chain super-hotties spend all of their waking moments trying to figure out ways to make everyone else’s life a living hell, and they show up everywhere.

After providing a relevant cinematic example from Kick-Ass 2, Cook continues:

Sorry, there are good reasons why certain people are more popular than others, and it’s usually because they are likable and have good personalities. While there’s the occasional outlier who gained their position through unearned advantages, for the most part pro-social skills are what build friendships and lead to peer acceptance. In fact, having a good personality may even improve your physical attractiveness. What’s less likely to help are revenge fantasies. Sure, a montage of the outcast teen learning empathy and conflict resolution to gain a better social footing in high school would be a snooze-fest, even if it was set to a Giorgio Moroder soundtrack, but there has to be a better way to write teen characters without relying on the tired cliche that popular and attractive equals mean.

Okay, does Cook have a point here that should be listened to? Yes, definitely. Are all popular people bad people? Of course not. Do many outcasts bring a good deal of the “hate” down on themselves with their frequently annoying personality traits? Most certainly, and I’m most definitely among those who were (and sometimes, still are) guilty as charged. There is nothing simplistic about this situation, as nuance tends to be the rule in all situations and issues.

bullying02“Sorry, dewd, but I’m an athlete… and making your life miserable is one of my sports!”

But here is the problem with Cook’s analysis overall: IMO, it lacks a good deal of that nuance and operates on this simplistic premise:  Most popular people earn their popularity by having “likable” and “good” personalities. But what Cook doesn’t go into in any type of detail is what largely constitutes “good” and “likeable” according to our super-culture’s attitudes and social mores. The reader knows what she implies by these terms, of course. But I think, again, that she simplifies the matter greatly, and largely in favor of the popular.

I do not know Ms. Cook personally, or anything about her outside of her writings either, so I have no idea from where her perspective hails. Readers of this blog do know where mine originates, however. With that acknowledged and kept in mind, let me explain why my personal experiences tell me that being popular, and how to attain and maintain that treasured social status, in our specific culture oftentimes – not  always, but all too often – does our personal character and sense of integrity no favors whatsoever.

II. What Constitutes “Good” and “Likeable” in Our Culture?

 These are the proverbial $64,000 questions to ask (or should that metaphorical figure be adjusted to $640,000 for inflation?). Before I answer them, I will acknowledge that anyone can think of exceptions to the rules. We can all think of some charming weirdo or uber-eccentric prankster who was relatively well-liked, and certain mean-spirited “alpha” personalities who were avoided and even opposed rather than lauded by the crowd. But these unusual exceptions notwithstanding, what did we usually see constituting the general mindset of popular and likeable people in our heavily hierarchical social world, particularly in high school and (to some extent) in college?

bullying01“Have I told you how much I hate you yet today? If not, let me now correct that oversight…”

1. Their opinions on any given subject are most often whatever popular opinion  on any of those subjects happens to be. Our culture thrives on conformity, not diversity of opinion and thought. We like to read about controversy, but we don’t tend to look kindly upon controversial individuals in our social circle, let alone their opinions. Instead, we tend to use them as convenient targets to vent our own personal frustrations upon. Think of the punching bag that boxers use in the gym to let off steam, but composed of flesh and blood.

2. They have interests, hobbies, and preferences that are popular, and most often those which tend towards the physically visceral. For instance, popular boys will all tend to be athletically inclined and heavily into boy-centric sports like football and basketball, or (depending on where you live, eh?) hockey. The girls will be heavily into popular “girly” sports like volleyball and cheerleading, and into community service where they win awards and recognition… yanno, like organizing drives that get blankets for the poor or bring awareness to some disease or other; don’t get me wrong, these are noble and often helpful endeavors, but not always done for altruistic reasons so much as earning more popularity notches. I’m not  saying this is the case with all who devote their time to community service, as a great many people truly care about those in need; but no one can tell me this isn’t clearly the case with a good number in the popular crowd. Seeking brownie points, adulation, and approval from the greater community is a good way to receive it from the immediate social circle, as well as endearing themselves to the major authority figures in the hierarchy (in this case, teachers, the principal, the guidance counselor, the hall monitors who frisk you upon entering the school every morning, the pot salesman, etc.).

In contrast, those who are heavily into less visceral endeavors like writing, artistry, photography, the physical sciences, etc., tend to be marginalized and less popular, regardless of their own contributions to the public and the school itself (unless they are also  doing some of the popular, more visceral stuff in addition to this). Students who are musicians and form their own bands tend to be popular, because music and on-stage performances are very visceral and engaging, much as popular sports are. The same goes for actors, particularly those who go before the camera instead of the stage. Has anyone reading this seriously failed to notice the pattern here? Even if, honestly, you were part of that pattern rather than relegated to watching it from the social equivalent of the bleachers?

3. They tend to be physically attractive, or at least “doable” (to use popular social parlance). Those souls like me who are not conventionally attractive, and overweight to boot, can  be popular, but if they are natural iconoclasts, then lacking in the looks and/or fitness department greatly cements their position of unpopularity. Let’s be serious, people, and honest: how many attractive and physically fit people do we remember from school who were actually among the ranks of the unpopular? How many attractive males with good athletic skills and/or in local bands weren’t popular? How many attractive females with good standing in the cheerleading squad and/or in local bands weren’t popular? Yes, we had goth bands run by and catering to the misfits, but note that they tended to be on the lower popularity tiers compared to the rock, metal, hip hop, and pop musicians in much the same way that the kicker tends to be much less lower on the football team’s popularity tier than the quarterback and the defensive line backers. Get the analogy there, peeps?

4. They tend to come disproportionately from whatever group is economically predominant in whatever area they happen to live in. This is a major means of establishing social kinship and connection in a system based on economic disparity, which in turn breeds many social differences and values (yes, this was another underhanded but blatant blow against our exalted capitalist system, mwah-hah-hah!). You will notice that students who come from families of affluent means who attend inner city schools tend to be less popular and more “misunderstood” than the students from the more obviously working class families. The opposite is the case for students from families of modest means who happen to attend suburban schools in largely affluent communities, or private schools (a small number of students of modest economic status will sometimes attend wealthy private schools of high status if they win a scholarship).

III. Why Do So Many Popular People Tend to Become Mean-Spirited? Is This Even True, or Just a Cliche’?

??????????????????????????????????????“Ah ha! Look at him being himself!”

Okay, let’s be honest with ourselves and our observations as we break down the list…

1. Becoming popular, and constantly treated with adulation, can very quickly fatten the ego as if it were metaphorically binging on cake with high fructose frosting. Being liked and looked up to by everyone; given special deference whenever you do something wrong; or special consideration when running for any particular public office (yanno, like class president or treasurer, or assistant deputy treasurer, or whatever); and everyone of the opposite sex trying to get up your bra or down your pants, or usually quick to let you get up or down theirs (whatever the case may be), will all too often affect your perceptions and ego in very specific ways. Many individuals – again, not  all, but all too many – will develop a strong sense of entitlement, as well as an inflated perception of themselves. This privileged position does not encourage such individuals to see nuance in the world, or to view others who are not like them in positive ways. They will be encouraged to view some people as “measuring up,” and others who do not, and to greatly limit those of their peers whom they consider equals, or at least worthy of respect and/or acknowledgement.

2. The desire to become popular, or to maintain that status if you are not at the top of the tiers, or to work your way up the totem pole, does not incite you to develop enlightened thinking, or to deviate in opinion or interests from whatever happens to be popular opinion or “acceptable” interests. Quite the contrary, as would be logically expected. This encourages those aiming for the top to dismiss and even mistreat those whom they perceive as having little chance of “moving on up,” socially speaking. Let’s keep in mind that if popular opinion is that Person A is a disgraceful loser not worthy of being treated as a human being, or a total “slut,” or a total “nerd,” or a lover of the less trendy brand of cola, etc., those seeking to be popular themselves feel compelled to adopt that opinion, not to mention the attendant behavior that goes along with it.

“But Chris, what about what Cook said in her article about developing pro-social skills? Are you trying to say that counts for nothing at all?”

No, I’m not saying Ms. Cook has no points there (please keep the obvious nipple jokes to yourselves please, you pervs!). But consider this: If you are automatically accepted for being very attractive; plus admired for having good athletic skills in whatever sports are popular amongst your crowd; and are a naturally physically fit and tough individual (boys in particular are expected to be physically adept at fighting in our culture); or simply have a natural skill with talking and “working” other people in a verbal manner, then you’re obviously going to quickly learn to develop good pro-social skills. That is, if by pro-social, you mean knowing how to talk to others, and to say the right things at the right time, and in the right way. Or to be funny in a way that people laugh with  you rather than at  you. I think you get the gist.

Can anyone learn these skills? I think the jury is out on that. I believe that all of us can learn to improve our social skills whatever our inherent talent in this department, but it’s difficult to do that if you lack all of the above natural qualities and talents, as well as the advantaged social and economic position in any given area (or era). I think Cook is wrong to suggest that every student enters the school, or even the world, on a completely equal footing, and then some simply proceed to do the right things, while others do the opposite. This is a complex and heavily nuanced situation, and we live in a very complex and greatly unequal socio-economic system that does not favor or lean towards an equal playing field in the social realm.

 It’s true that some individuals do manage to circumvent and find ways around all of the above-mentioned limitations to become popular and “winners,” and again, I think all of us can think of real life examples we have personally known or seen. But not everyone possesses the natural talents or opportunities to take advantage of this, just like not everyone has talent in math, or the opportunities to pursue a career in mathematics if they are. Other individuals, as my respected friend Joe Pro has reminded me, are simply good at taking advantage of happenstance if it should come their way. Conversely, others can be hampered by matters of happenstance that do not work to their advantage.

“So, Chris, since you were a bullied outcast, are you trying to romanticize such individuals, and claim that you’re the social equivalent of the cliched’ ‘noble savage’ in literature and folklore? Do you think people like you do nothing to make your situation worse? Hell, I know you personally, and are you seriously trying to tell me that you  can’t get annoying and obnoxious with your personality traits at times?”

The short answers: No. No. And no. Which leads to…

IV. What Do Outcasts and Social Pariahs Oftentimes Do to Make Their Situation Worse?

I wager that many reading this – especially those who’ve had to deal with me on a regular basis (*snickers*) – are glad I asked this question. And even more glad that I’m going to follow up with answers.

1. Outcasts and “hated” individuals too often develop the opinion that sometimes negative  attention is better than receiving no attention at all. Even when this continually backfires on them in sometimes very bad ways, the desire to be acknowledged by your peers and/or family in some  way can lead one to develop personality traits that are, to say the least, not very endearing or easy to put up with. I don’t need to explain any further how this can exacerbate rather than provide an alleviation of social pariah-ship (if that’s not a word, it should be).

2. Being an outcast often leads to severe envy of even the moderately or “middle tier” popular crowd, as well as extreme bitterness towards the world in general. It further leads to heavy degrees of self-doubt and self-hatred, as one internalizes the negative feelings and reactions that the crowd has towards them. They will often begin to feel ashamed of who they are, what their interests happen to be, and even where they come from. This will cause them to act out in certain ways that get them into trouble at home and in school, and to become as unpopular in their family and amongst the teachers at their school as they are with their peers.

Let’s be honest here: our family members and teachers tend to like conformity as much as anyone else. They are by no means less prone to judging based on the prevailing cultural values. After all, the nuclear family unit and the administration of our current schooling systems are also very hierarchical in structure. And as I’ve noted repeatedly, hierarchies of every sort prefer conformity of thought and behavior.

Bullying04“One of the popular girls told me that she caught you looking at her this morning. Is that true, you little punk? I should make you shine and polish all of my sports trophies, and all of her gold stars for raising funds to research African night blindness! That would take you months  of hard labor!”

“So are you saying that the outcasts are never jerks themselves, and are always right in conflicts that arise with the popular?”

No, I’m not. Being in the position of an outcast doesn’t make you inherently noble or “good,” and the bitterness, anger, envy, and lack of a positive image of yourself also tends to do no favors for the type of personality and level of enlightenment that one develops under such circumstances. This is not a critique of popularity in and of itself, nor is it even a canonization of the outcast (especially when some of them “go Columbine” on occasion, which I do not  condone, even if I understand it).

It is more a critique on the type of dog-eat-dog system we live under, that has so many institutions designed to “weed out” and tend towards establishing such a strong demarcation between winners and losers in the first place. It’s not a conducive atmosphere towards breeding equality of opportunity to develop pro-social skills. Again, some people have the natural talent to develop pro-social skills, whereas others rely more on their environmental circumstances to develop them.

“So are you saying no one should take responsibility for their behavior, and at least try to develop these social skills despite the obstacles?”

No, certainly not. I’m a strong advocate of never giving up and plowing against whatever obstacles are in your way, no matter  how large, and to accomplish and develop as much as you can within whatever limitations you may have. I greatly admire many historical and personal examples of those who have accomplished this, and they are my inspirational idols. The same with many fictional characters who are archetypes for such positive character traits.

But I’m also saying that it’s not realistic to expect the majority of people with the odds stacked against them in the type of system that we currently live under to develop good pro-social skills en masse. We also cannot expect a system like the current global order to produce large numbers of popular people who possess this popularity simply because they are nice to, and considerate of, other people. That is every bit a cliche’ as the opposite trope Ms. Cook complained about in movies; we simply do not see the opposite extreme played up in films because, as she also noted, it’s less exciting and produces no drama. But it’s an equally simplistic cliche’/assumption/attitude nevertheless.

3. Outcasts tend to all too often gravitate towards movements and trends that purport to embrace the marginalized and encourage individuality… but in reality, have negative and generally grim sensibilities rather than uplifting or empowerment motifs. They ironically tend to encourage a different set of conformity. This only serves to further alienate and marginalize these outcasts from society, and make them come off all the more as “weirdos,” emotionally “tainted,” socially inept, and about as welcome in the crowd as a carrier of the Ebola virus.

Personally, I love the aesthetic of the goth movement, and I admittedly find goth chicks very attractive. Overall, I see the goth movement as a mixed bag, as it does have some interesting components, but I think it also has too strong a focus on overly “dark” elements like morbidity and death. I’m not saying that death in and of itself has to be horrible, but when tethered to an overabundance of suicidal thoughts, killings, accidents, violent imagery, and self-mutilation it veers towards death’s more depressing aspects. The emo cultural movement (if you can call it that) is IMO largely devoid of some of the more innovative and creative aspects of the goth sensibility, instead having a focus on negative emotions and a whiny pandering towards the perpetual victim mindset that is anything but positive.

bullied_girlI’m depressed and I feel sorry for myself, in case my expression didn’t make that obvious. Sorry, just having an emo moment here.

4. The over-idolization of anti-heroes and destructive & self-destructive individuals, characters in fiction, and memes. There is no doubt that many outcasts harbor strong and often brutal revenge fantasies. I must confess that my thoughts have wandered in that direction more often than I’d care to admit. As long as it doesn’t consume your thinking on a pervasive basis, or lead you into actual acts of harm against others or yourself, it can serve as a healthy and understandable means of private venting and “cleansing” of your emotions. But when taken too far, as can too often be the case with outcasts, well… think about the high suicide rate amongst our number, and the occasional Columbine-ish incidents, and you get my drift here.

The idols of some outcasts in popular fiction too often include horror characters like Jason Vorhees, or anti-heroes culled from the comic book medium like the Punisher, Deadpool, Deathstroke the Terminator, Lobo, Harley Quinn, and Wolverine (before he became less of an angry loner and more of a standard hero over the past two decades; or, more specifically, after other writers took over the character from Chris Claremont).

Now don’t get me wrong, I think all of these characters are cool for what archetypes they represent, and I’m not only a big fan of the horror genre, but it encompasses a large amount of my published work. And my love for and interest in the comic book medium is well known by all who know me.  Further, I like nuance, conflict, and moral ambiguity in both my real life heroes and fictional idols/inspirations.

But here is where I eventually learned to set myself apart from many of my fellow outcasts: I may think Jason Vorhees is cool, and I can appreciate the archetypal themes that he represents in our culture; but I do not identify with him, nor do I actually want to be him! The same with the likes of the Punisher, Deadpool, Deathstroke the Terminator, etc. I often admit to finding Harley Quinn darkly sexy and attractive with her quirky eccentricity and goth-like qualities, but would I actually want to be her male equivalent (hell no!), or have her as a significant other (hell yes! Well, erm, maybe for a few passionate nights, until she happens to kill half the people around me)?

Harley Quinn01“You know ya want me, Puddin’. Ohhhh, btw, was that your mom I just killed? Whoops, my bad! Tee hee!”

But it took me a long time to learn to choose my idols in both real life and fiction a lot more carefully, and to not let my previous bitterness towards the world and my desire for revenge against it have too much of an influence on who I was actually inspired by, and wanted to be more like in real life.

Deadpool01“Don’t’cha just wanna be me, dewd? I’m totally smokin’! Well, at least my pistols are after I use ’em! Bwa-hah-hah! I totally slay me! Not to mention every other schmuck in my vicinity too! And look where my last bullet just hit that mail man! Booyah!”

And why didn’t the idiot writer of this blog find a way to shade my dialogue in yellow?

For perhaps another good example: I consider the X-Men a nuanced and generally positive, uplifting fictional archetype to identify with; but as cool as I think the Suicide Squad are, I most definitely do not  consider them an inspiration to look up to or emulate! (Not that I don’t love reading about them, and writing characters similar to them, of course! Suicide Squad is one of the coolest and most bitchin’ team concepts in the history of fantastic fiction.)

 Suicide-Squad-01

Deadpool: “We’re very  accepting of outcasts. They make good target practice.”

Harley Quinn: “You know it, Puddin’!”

Black Spider: “Why do you so frequently call everyone you’re into ‘Puddin”?”

Harley Quinn: “‘Cause, I can,  bitch! Tee hee!”

King Shark: “Lemme eat the outcast!”

So yes, outcasts and social pariahs do need to take a strong, hard look at themselves, their behavior, and their allegiances. We have to take the blame for the things we honestly deserve to be blamed for. We simply do not deserve most or all of the blame. Moreover, we need to have an honest desire to stop finding “nobility” in being a  perpetual victim, or idolizing the victimizers who serve as proxies for us in both true crime stories and popular fantastic fiction.

We need to realize that we can’t expect anyone else to like us if we do not like ourselves. We have to learn to be kind and respectful to others, while at the same time seeing a positive purpose in the world for the likes of annoying rabble rousers and iconoclasts like ourselves. It’s no easy feat to learn to love and respect yourself in the face of extreme condemnation and hatred from others around you, but giving into bitterness, hatred, self-pity, revenge, and despair is all too easy, and is thus the wrong route to go.

Most of all, we need to learn that it’s an awesome gift to be different, but that depends on the specific way that your differences manifest. We can aspire to be unwavering critical thinkers who care far more about what’s right than what is popular and thereby provide an example for the world, but we should never find inspiration in the sociopath or their tendencies. We also need to relish our differences as serving a unique purpose in the world, but also to realize that we should never seek certain allegiances to be different just for the mere sake of being different, or to get attention that we receive no other way, or for mere shock value, etc.

V. So What Solution Do You Offer?

The solution I offer is simple, but not simplistic. And it’s the same one I offer for a huge number of problems in the world, barring acts of nature like earthquakes and tornadoes (usually, that is).

We need to take a long and hard look at the system we live under, the institutions and values it encourages us to develop, and the type of environment it creates for all of us. We need to always strive to not only make ourselves the best we can be as individuals, but to collectively and cooperatively work towards establishing the best possible system and world order we can live under. I do not believe that the current global system represents that by a long shot. The problems we suffer in this world are too pervasive to lie squarely on “human nature” or individual inadequacies.

In regards to the specific topic of this blog, we need to oppose any type of system or institution based on hierarchies, conformity of thinking, and values that encourage competition and weeding out over cooperation and equality of opportunity for everyone. If we can accomplish that, then and only then we can have a realistic expectation for everyone to possess an equal chance in developing pro-social skills.

Cyber-Bullying01You just gotta love how social media and online communications in the Internet age helps your fellow students keep in touch with you outside of the school walls.

Unseen is the Theme

First of all, before I begin the main subject of this post… I’m baaaaa-cckkkkk!!! (Sorry, but it’s hard to forget that movie line, no matter how long ago you may have heard it.)  Nevertheless, it’s suitable for the announcement of my new blog here on WordPress, which will continue everything from the old one. I own the domain on this one, so consider it the new and improved version of The Norse King blog, which you can access to read my prior posts on my Links section, or here. I will be re-posting some of the stuff from there with a few twists and updates, so stay tuned for that.

Image

Now, onto business, which is the promotion of the latest anthology to contain a short story of mine. That would be WE WALK INVISIBLE: A SHORT STORY ANTHOLOGY, which was produced as a commemoration of the 70th anniversary of Universal’s release of The Invisible Man, the first and arguably best celluloid adaptation of H.G. Wells’ classic horror novel. I’m proud to be among the roster of authors who contributed to this book, published by Chupa Cabra House. So proud, in fact, that I’m actually inclined to forgive owner and editor-in-chief Timm Tayshun for spelling my name wrong, both in the table of contests and with my story byline! (Yup, I’m actually that proud of being part of this.)

 

My particular story in this collection, “Madness is An Unseen Variable,” introduces the latest member of the infamous Griffin family to formulate a version of the invisibility serum, Maximilian “Max” Griffin. He administers his improved version of the serum to himself with the best of intentions: To use his reversible power of invisibility to become a crime-fighter in the grimy modern day urban locale in which he makes his home. Well, we all know how good intentions often turn out, right? Max finds out too, especially after he discovers–too late, mind you–that the side effect of escalating insanity which plagued the other recipients of this serum was not eliminated from the improved formulae.

 

Why did the novel from Wells, and the film series produced by Universal, and the subsequent TV series from both the 1970s (short-lived as it was) and 2000s, resonate so much with readers/viewers? Because like all successful horror and sci-fi tropes, it appeals to a potent fantasy in the collective human psyche to be able to move about undetected, to go wherever one pleases whenever one pleases, and to commit acts of mischief and personal gratification without anyone knowing it’s you. This thrill works side-by-side with two separate forms of deep-seated fears that the human subconscious is afflicted with: 1) Being watched and/or victimized by someone whom you cannot see, and who can violate your sense of privacy and security with impunity; and, 2) Becoming trapped in a state of perpetual invisibility, a theme played up in both Wells’ original novel and the Universal film adapted from it, which can be viewed as an elaborate metaphor for our fears of being ignored and our lives unnoticed by our peers and world itself, not to mention the emotional instability that can arise from this… a theme focused upon quite well in classic episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

 

So like all good horror tropes and themes, the invisibility motif plays on multiple power fantasies and deep-seated fears simultaneously. This is what made both the novel and the film big hits with readers/viewers, and why this theme has been repeated over and over again the annals of horror and/or adventure fiction, including more recent films like Memoirs of An Invisible Man and Hollow Man, even though those two quite different movies focused upon different aspects of the same theme: The power fantasy and fear-inducing aspects, respectively.

 

This anthology brings the trope into the literary medium, and allows several authors (including moi) to bring you their unique interpretations of this enduring theme. See if you can resist the hidden urge to buy this one! (Actually, don’t try to resist the urge, but yanno what I mean…) You can buy it here.