If you're anything like me, you had two parents: The Streets, and Pop Culture. When it comes to The Streets, I cannot give a higher recommendation, every kid should be so lucky to spend a few years in the school of hard knocks and so forth. As far as Pop Culture goes, however, there are a lot of irresponsible lessons being thrown around, especially when it comes to romance and dating. Lessons like ...
4Not Being Able to Function Socially Makes Someone Attractive and Interesting
The Thing: "If she's a wide-eyed, crazy, eccentric free spirit, then she's actually just the gal you need to straighten your entire life out, man! Bursting out in song in the middle of dinner and not knowing how things work makes a person attractive!"
Worst Offenders: New Girl, Garden State.
This trope has been around so long that it's actually been given a name. Film critic Nathan Rabin calls it the Manic Pixie Dream Girl character and describes it as "that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures." It's any chick in a movie who is more style than substance, and whose free-spiritedness and unconventional approach to life is meant to cover up for her general inability to function socially. And and it's insulting to both genders.
Zooey Deschanel's character in New Girl is probably the clearest example of this right now, as that entire show is based around how quirky and eccentric and, as a result, lovable, Zooey's character (I think her name is "Eyeface") is. Except she's not so much "eccentric" as much as she is "bad at being alive and functioning socially, in the present." One of her main conflicts in the pilot is that she has a date at a fancy restaurant, but doesn't know what to wear so she puts on overalls! Classic Eyeface! And one of the male characters on the show goes goofy-eyed and clearly starts falling in love with her instead of, say, yelling, "You're 27 years old, how do you not know how to dress and function yet? Get your shit together."
"Sometimes I poop in toasters! I'm incorrigible."
It needs to stop because guys shouldn't live their lives expecting a woman like this to exist. No guy should be waiting around for a quirky, blue-haired, horn-rimmed-glasses-wearing chick to show up and fix his entire life, because what woman would want to deal with that expectation and level of pressure?
It also needs to stop because I don't want wide-eyed gals to think they need to act like vapid morons to attract guys. Because I'm an average, twenty-something male in 2011 America, I've developed a pop-culture induced soft spot for pale chicks with giant eyes and bangs.
You! You did this to me!
And, unfortunately, Hollywood is trying to convince women who look like this that being brainless goofballs who don't understand how life works is an appealing personality type, and I just can't let that stand.
Hollywood is still teaching women that "dumb" is "attractive," they're just hipsterfying it. I don't know when it happened (maybe after Clueless?), but sometime after the '90s, "Quirky Eccentric Weird Chick" became the new Bimbo. She's just as insultingly one-dimensional as the archetypal Ditsy Blonde Bombshell Valley Girl character that was all over the place a decade ago, except now she wears vintage knee-socks and listens to The Smiths, and that's supposed to be better, for some reason.
3Being a Closed-Off Asshole Makes Someone Deep and Secretly Lovable
The Thing: "Who's that guy? The guy with all the tattoos who just punched that other guy in the gut and stole his car keys? The guy who called me a bitch and told me to stay out of his business? I want him to get me pregnant."
Worst Offenders:Wolverine from X-Men, Sawyer from Lost, Everyone True Blood (probably?).
As played-out as it is, this is a trope that I actually really love seeing (which is why it's so hard for me to push vehemently for its demise). I like this because, in movies and TV, the asshole character with a heart of gold is always the most interesting guy on screen. I can watch Cyclops objectively make the right choice, and fight for his woman, and help the school, and stand up as a reliable pillar of virtue and good intentions, but that doesn't matter, because Wolverine smokes, and smoking is cool.
"What's that, Cyclops, you saved an orphan? I can't hear you, because he's wearing a leather jacket look how cool!"
And there's the problem. We love those characters in movies because, in movies, a person can be a giant, manipulative, selfish asshole and also a sweet, deep, compassionate softie, because those people are actors, and most actors are capable of playing at least two different things.
If you're dealing with an asshole in real life, nine times out of 10, he's actually an asshole. And not "asshole" in the sense that he's confident and a little bit cocky, that's fine. "Asshole" here means a legitimate terrible person. Not every meth addict is Breaking Bad's Jesse -- an ultimately sweet kid struggling against his circumstances -- a lot of them are just, you know, meth addicts. In real life, the boyfriend who has been verbally abusive throughout your entire relationship won't suddenly wake up one day being kind and apologetic, because he doesn't have a screenwriter in the back of his mind writing empathy into his background.
And, yes, there are plenty of guys out there that are genuinely like Don Draper, they're legitimately kind people who are damaged enough that they throw up a wall and keep people away, but there are even more idiots out there who aren't Don Draper, they've just seen Mad Men and thought "Condescension and verbal abuse: that's what women want!" Hollywood keeps A) convincing women that every shithead is secretly poetic and amazing and beautiful, and B) convincing men that there's a lot of traction to gained in being an irredeemable prick. And there is. Right until you graduate high school, and everyone realizes how awful you are.