4 Things Movies Always Get Wrong About Awkward People

I don't want to brag, so I won't: I'm incredibly awkward. It mostly sucks, but it's also one of the only subjects I can write about with some degree of confidence because I am, through no choosing of my own, an expert. This means that, while I have no idea if Hollywood is accurate in its portrayal of doctors or lawyers or functioning human beings, I can say with total certainty that, when it comes to writing about awkward people, Hollywood is absolutely dogshit.

#4. Awkward Doesn't Mean Clumsy

If you're a Hollywood screenwriter and you want to demonstrate to the audience that your character is socially awkward, your job is simple: Just take a beautiful woman and have her trip!




That's all. The characters are all intelligent and attractive and capable and good at their jobs (which Hollywood displays by putting the woman in a pantsuit at some point), but they're also awkward, and nothing says awkward quite like tripping on a dress (or on 27 dresses, as the case may be).

Clumsiness and a general lack of coordination can be a part of awkwardness, but if you ask Hollywood, it's the only part. If falling down was the beginning and end of awkwardness, I'd be thrilled. I fall down a lot, certainly more than you'd expect from a person whose legs function, but I also turn bright red whenever I get nervous, which is always, and I will carry on a fake conversation on my cellphone if I'm at a party and don't know anyone for hours. I tell movie theater ushers "You too" when they tell me to enjoy the movie I'm about to see, and the other day when someone on the street asked me for directions to the beach, I said, "No thank you," because being awkward means finding new and exciting ways to say the wrong thing, always always always.

This is closer.

The "awkward" women trip and bump into things in their movies, but before and after they trip, they dance and smile and maintain healthy relationships and successfully navigate social situations that would be terrifying for a genuinely awkward person (re: all social situations).

#3. Awkwardness Isn't Just Any Vague Series of Accidents

We use "awkwardness" so incorrectly and so often that it's lost all meaning at this point. Today awkwardness is used as a catch-all to describe any amusing circumstance that's vaguely accidental. Someone in a movie shows up at a party wearing the same outfit as someone else, and so another character yells "aaaawkward" and everyone laughs and someone does a skateboard trick and the credits roll (it's been a long time since I've been to the movies).

It's raining right in the middle of their kiss! How awkward.

I'm an awkward guy. I'm really wonky tonk in social situations because it's hard to connect with people and because I say things like "wonky tonk." I sweat from places and in amounts that would really challenge your idea of how much water a human body can hold. These things are rough, but they're just garnishes to awkwardness; they're things that go hand in hand with being an awkward fella. Here's what being socially awkward is really like:

Think of a scene from one of those movies where a guy owes a lot of money to a bookie or the mob. He borrowed money at some point and then lost it, and now he's just trying to avoid the mob. Then one day he's out somewhere having fun and then, oh no, a representative of the mob catches up with him! He sees a thug wearing a suit and adjusting his pinky ring in a way that says "I'm very menacing indeed. And you owe me." And then our guy who borrowed the money is like "Oh fuck, that's right, I was having such a great day until I remembered that I don't have that money anymore and I have no clear way to get it back and I can't involve anyone else and I'm completely on my own with no way out oh God oh no!"


That's what being awkward is, except the thug with the pinky ring is your brain, and it shows up all the time. I was walking down the street the other day in a rare window of feeling not uncomfortable, and then my brain showed up out of nowhere with a pinky ring and whispered, "You're clearly having a good time and I don't want to get in the way of that, but I just thought I'd point out that the way you walk is super weird and everyone knows it. Like you've been walking wrong your whole life. Again, don't even think about it. Don't think about your hands. Don't think about how strange the position of your hands is. Don't sweat -- if you think about sweat, you'll sweat, don't sweat. Hey look, there's a pretty girl over there. When you smile your cheeks get dumb looking and you have a wink that is off-putting to everyone who knows you so don't wink or think about your wink or try to wink or do anything with your face in the direction of this pretty girl at all. Anyway, don't think about it, but it's true. Have fun!"


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Daniel O'Brien

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