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Flaws Only A Protagonist Could Have
April 30, 2014 4:38 AM   Subscribe

“I just want to be normal,” she said, even though she had amazing powers and a super-family and was mega-gorgeous and better than normal in every way and the entire book would be terrible if she were normal and she had no conception of what normal was to begin with.
posted by Ned G (63 comments total) 53 users marked this as a favorite

 
Nice. Funny stuff!
posted by Renoroc at 4:44 AM on April 30


Made me laugh with my mouth, thanks for posting.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:03 AM on April 30 [4 favorites]


Someone needs to turn this into a TV Tropes page, with a link from every phrase.
posted by OnceUponATime at 5:04 AM on April 30 [2 favorites]


I should really read The Toast more, because Mallory Ortberg is a treasure.
posted by Georgina at 5:16 AM on April 30 [4 favorites]


“I’m giving you the business,” the granite-voiced man said. “But you can quit whenever you want, because I love you.”

I thought this line was directed at the protagonist''s boss, and imagined that the story was going to take a very different turn.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:18 AM on April 30 [1 favorite]


This should be on every ff.net page. It's everyone's early writing mistakes, so very beautifully distilled.
posted by kalimac at 5:23 AM on April 30 [1 favorite]


It's everyone's early writing mistakes

Also easily half of the YA bestsellers out there, which is sort of the point.
posted by Sokka shot first at 5:32 AM on April 30 [19 favorites]


The "I just want to be normal!" is usually the author hitching their wagon to Jack Kirby and Stan Lee's star.

Kirby and Lee heroes were weird, and they had serious issues stemming from their powers and abilities that were actually alienating and kind of scary.

- You had the "Had it all, lost it, got something they really didn't want in its place they have to adjust to" characters of the Thing, Dr. Strange and Iron Man.
- You have the characters who are crushed by the innate goodness of their character. They have more and more and more hell and horror heaped upon them because they're not normal, and never will be again and they insist on addressing it from a deeply moral perspective - the X-Men, Spider-Man, Daredevil.
- Then you have the characters who are utterly confused and lost in modern American society, and a little lonely and ill-equipped to adjust because of it - Thor, the Hulk (as opposed to David Banner, who's more of a category-one character), Silver Surfer.

If any one of those characters says, "I just want to be normal" it's because they were just put through a physical and emotional thresher because they weren't normal, and you buy in where they're coming from.

Envisioning these kinds of characters is hard, hard work, tho, so lots of characters try to invoke cheap sympathy by expressing feelings of alienation without putting in the work to show the hows, the whys and the consequences of their alienation.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:38 AM on April 30 [20 favorites]


“No one will ever love me,” she told the guy who was older than her but not creepy older, just commandingly older, like maybe seven to nine years older and was also sort of her guardian or her teacher in some capacity, but again not in a gross way, like he wasn’t her teacher boss dad or anything, just a little more in charge than she was and also he had shoulder muscles.

This is beyond perfect.

The only thing missing is her taking off her glasses and suddenly becoming hot, a movie moment that has angered me since childhood (when, of course, I started wearing glasses myself).
posted by Dip Flash at 5:41 AM on April 30 [11 favorites]


Also, I don't know why so many characters think in italics. When I think in italics, I get a terrible headache.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:50 AM on April 30 [16 favorites]


The Trials and Tribulations of Mary Sue.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:55 AM on April 30 [2 favorites]


I lost my parents, but years ago, so I don't have so much of a sadness as a wistfulness, and they were perfect, in that way that parents you only remember in flashes, because you were maybe 2 or 3, but a precocious 2 or 3 could be. They loved each other, but they loved me more and their sacrifice was totally worth it because all the adventures I've had I couldn't have had if I had some type of guardian who cared for me, or was put into foster care, like I would in a civilized society.
posted by xingcat at 5:55 AM on April 30 [13 favorites]


Dammit Chocolate Pickle that's what I was going to say.

Oh, how embarrassing. I'm just going to go practice my awesome embarrassing lazer eye powers over there now. Sigh. If only I was normal.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 5:59 AM on April 30


“I’ve secretly loved you this whole time,” he said with his mouth, then went back to kissing her.

It's no fair using Tina Belcher's erotic friend fiction for this.
posted by Spatch at 6:00 AM on April 30 [4 favorites]


I lost my parents,

I get that people see this as a cliche (also the critiques of "dead mothers" in YA and Disney), but it's kind of unfair. If you are writing a story about children having adventures, you need to have absent parents because one of the main jobs of a parent is making sure their children don't have adventures. Well, or have strictly age-appropriate adventures, when generally rules out saving the world, running from the Goblin King, or learning Forbidden Magic to fight that One Really Bad Witch. Parents are inconveniently Responsible, in other words (unless they are Bad Parents, I suppose).


Now all these capitals have given me a Headache.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:02 AM on April 30 [13 favorites]


When the Gossip Girl books and the other mean-girl knockoffs were popular, I scorned them until I realized what they gave readers: all the pleasures of wealth but also the affirmation that it was better not to be wealthy because wealthy girls had uninvested parents and fair-weather friends. The affirmation that the middle-class reader was a better or happier person than the wealthy characters.

It's the same with powerful girls who want to be normal : all the pleasures of power, with the affirmation that it's really better to not have power, because it isolates you socially.

(I think it's interesting that we keep seeing these books in a society that's so deeply ambivalent about powerful women, but it's not like it's exclusively a teen girl thing, or "House, M.D." wouldn't have run as long as it did.)
posted by Jeanne at 6:03 AM on April 30 [1 favorite]


Maybe because books and animals are physically incapable of talking to me or having needs that supersede my own, so I can be in total control of them. Books can’t judge you or hurt you. They also can’t talk or eat or build a life with you, but whatever.
I laughed because it hurt, and then I drank some bourbon, because I'm not like other wussy lady protagonists.
posted by jetlagaddict at 6:04 AM on April 30 [21 favorites]


Also easily half of the YA bestsellers out there, which is sort of the point.

True dat - my recent forays back into fanfic are showing.


The comments are pretty golden themselves, definitely worth scrolling down!
posted by kalimac at 6:04 AM on April 30


Oh, so are we going to just make a front page post whenever Mallory Ortberg posts anything?

Because I would be completely okay with that.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 6:23 AM on April 30 [1 favorite]


No kidding, Ortberg's been killin' it for a while now. Sportsball captainback.
These conventions may have something to do with how much I'm enjoying Orphan Black.
posted by Iris Gambol at 6:26 AM on April 30 [2 favorites]


It's everyone's early writing mistakes, so very beautifully distilled.

I think many of these have been made into movies.
posted by corb at 6:52 AM on April 30 [4 favorites]


"I’ve always been different. I like books and animals better than people. Why, I don’t know. Maybe because books and animals are physically incapable of talking to me or having needs that supersede my own, so I can be in total control of them. Books can’t judge you or hurt you. They also can’t talk or eat or build a life with you, but whatever."

THIS.
posted by LMGM at 6:53 AM on April 30 [13 favorites]


The only thing missing is her taking off her glasses and suddenly becoming hot, a movie moment that has angered me since childhood (when, of course, I started wearing glasses myself).

Read further!
She worried the edge of her lab coat with her fingers and took off at least eight pairs of glasses.
OK, it doesn't specifically say that she became hot when she took them off, but I thought it was implied. Especially since it was immediately followed by a makeout session.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:05 AM on April 30 [2 favorites]


She haltingly descended the stairs, feeling awkward in her evening gown.

Her coworker looked up at her, his mouth agape.

"You look beautiful," he said.

"Stop. You know I don't," she said. "I excel in a male-dominated field. All my male coworkers respect me because I work hard and I drink whiskey with them. How can I possibly look beautiful in an evening gown?"

"You don't understand," he said, "All of your male coworkers think you're beautiful even when you are wearing the functional clothes required for our male-dominated field. They have just been too intimidated by your fierce intelligence and dedication to work to tell you."

"Really?" she quivered. "Is that true?" It was the first time in her life she had allowed herself to quiver, since she had always been so sure of herself, especially when it came to excelling in her male-dominated field.

"It's true," he said, and leaned in to kiss her mouth with his mouth.
posted by mcmile at 7:05 AM on April 30 [36 favorites]


She worried the edge of her lab coat with her fingers and took off at least eight pairs of glasses.

Oh man, I wish I was smart enough to wear that many glasses AND a lab coat!
posted by a fiendish thingy at 7:12 AM on April 30 [3 favorites]


Oh man, I wish I was smart enough to wear that many glasses AND a lab coat!

Or, possibly, she's the Eyeball Kid's sister.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:44 AM on April 30


I didn't interpret the "took off at least eight pairs of glasses" line as necessarily being about the that-nerd-is-suddenly-hot trope.

I think it's a (really funny) dig at how inexperienced writers are self-conscious about having dialogue stand alone on a page, so they give their characters little fiddly bits of business while they talk. In some books, that inevitably leads to protagonists taking off and putting on their glasses a few dozen times over the course of a novel.

It's not entirely their fault; you see dubious "give your characters something to do" advice often, and I think the root cause is that a lot of aspiring writers aren't really writing novels so much as they're writing prose storyboards or novelizations of movies that haven't been made yet, so they leave all the stage directions in. If you'd see it on a screen, they think you need to have it on a page.

But hey, everyone's bad at something when they start out; with practice (and a wider reading list), most of them realize that there's more to a novel than a series of described scenes.
posted by Ian A.T. at 7:51 AM on April 30


Read further!

I swear I read the whole thing!
posted by Dip Flash at 7:57 AM on April 30


Jeanne: When the Gossip Girl books and the other mean-girl knockoffs were popular, I scorned them until I realized what they gave readers: all the pleasures of wealth but also the affirmation that it was better not to be wealthy because wealthy girls had uninvested parents and fair-weather friends. The affirmation that the middle-class reader was a better or happier person than the wealthy characters.

Stories for young adults do seem to have a different attitude to wealth now than they did when I was growing up. The characters we were meant to relate to were upper middle class, like Brandon and Brenda Walsh or Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield, and the rich kids were to be envied and then, ultimately, pitied. Kelly and Dylan from Beverly Hills, 90210 and Lila and Bruce from Sweet Valley High had everything they ever desired except for parental love, and it always broke them in some way.

When it comes to modern series like the 90210 reboot, Gossip Girl and The OC, I would've said it was the opposite. It feels like the truly rich have moved from supporting characters to protagonists, and I think many of them are meant to be both aspirational and relatable. (Blair Waldorf is basically Jessica Wakefield with more money, no?) But I can see it from your perspective as well, and the idea that these stories are meant to be morality plays is a very interesting one.
posted by Georgina at 8:36 AM on April 30 [1 favorite]


I grew up poor, but not the bad kind of poor where my family had problems with substance abuse, or malnutrition or anything; just poor enough to be baffled by rich people and their world, but to still understand the nobility of hard work, and to have a naive goodness about me which others seem to find compelling.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:36 AM on April 30 [20 favorites]


Also, the only time I take off my glasses now is when I don't want to see young people doing something.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:39 AM on April 30 [8 favorites]


She was funny, charming, and prolific; she headlined a great website with her witty parodies of terrible commercial fiction, each one eagerly awaited by an Internet full of besotted readers. But sometimes it seemed as if she really ought to spend her time reading better books...
posted by RogerB at 9:34 AM on April 30


But sometimes it seemed as if she really ought to spend her time reading better books...

No! We love her YA fiction and protagonist takedowns. We agree with her Ronbledore theories.
posted by jeather at 9:47 AM on April 30 [1 favorite]


"You should wear short sleeves more often," he whispered commandingly.

She blanched and blushed with her right and left cheeks respectively. "I can't," she whispered helplessly. She raised her elbows to chin-level for his commanding inspection. "It's psoriasis," she whispered bleakly. "I've had it ever since I was a girl. It's why you've never seen my arms before. And now that you know-"

"I love you all the better for it," he whispered with forthright decision.

Her collarbone flushed. "Oh! I can't bear that you should mock me! You, of all people-"

"I do not mock," he whispered, as he maneuvered his face closer toward her elbows.

"Then don't pity me! My parents pitied me, and I hated them for it! And then they died saving my life, and I have a lot of conflicted feelings about that!"

"They should have died," he whispered fiercely, "if they could not appreciate the argent beauty of their daughter's elbow skin."

Her elbows colored now; warm ruby backlit cold silver. But she wept a single adamantine tear.

"Beauty!" she murmured sadly. "He calls it beautiful. Ah me! That this should happen now! You are too late, my love."

His face froze, millimeters away from the shining flesh over her olecranon. "Too late? How, too late?"

"I've begun a course of systemic antipsoriatics."

A savage light kindled in his gray eyes. "Systemic antipsoriatics! Did he put you up to it?"

"Well...he provided the money and recommended an autoimmune specialist-"

"He's conniving at murder," he whispered fiercely, savagely, ragingly. "Systemic chemical therapy massively increases your liver cancer risk."

"Really?"

"Really," he whispered. "That's how Dennis Potter died, you know."

"Then I guess I'll have to discontinue the treatment, won't I?" she whispered smilingly.

But he did not answer; he was too busy at her elbows, caressing her shining scales with his mouth.
posted by Iridic at 9:48 AM on April 30 [8 favorites]


If any one of those characters says, "I just want to be normal" it's because they were just put through a physical and emotional thresher because they weren't normal, and you buy in where they're coming from.

Slap*Happy, this is a great point that I hadn't ever considered in quite this way. I've generally rolled my eyes at how prevalent and boring "I just want to be normal!!!!" angst is, because as Mallory Ortberg so aptly points out, it frequently sounds hollow given the stories the tragically not-normal protagonists are in. But "I just want to be normal" angst is so prevalent because it has been effective for the kinds of characters you point out. "I just want to be normal" works best when what it really means is some variation on "I don't want to be in pain anymore," or "I want life to stop shitting on me."
posted by yasaman at 9:55 AM on April 30 [1 favorite]


-Read further!

--I swear I read the whole thing!


I apologize; after reading Ian A.T.'s comment about reading the glasses passage differently, I take back the "read further" comment.

I was picturing a mashup of the "takes off glasses to reveal she's hot" shot and the "takes off disguise to reveal another disguise underneath" gag.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:59 AM on April 30 [1 favorite]


“I just want to be normal,” he said, even though he had amazing powers and a super-family and was mega-gorgeous and better than normal in every way and the entire show would be terrible if he were normal and he had no conception of what normal was to begin with.

"Yes, Data, we know," replied Picard, an edge creeping into his voice. "Now give me the ETA to Starbase 52 at maximum warp, and divert necessary power from the secondary shields."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:11 AM on April 30 [11 favorites]


....

"But I love you just the way you are, Mr. Holmes," Geordi whispered from the Engineering console, his plaintive admission lost in the gentle hum of the engines.
posted by cmyk at 10:16 AM on April 30 [5 favorites]


The beautiful-girl-who-thinks-she's-ugly trope is a particularly maddening one. I think writers justify it with "All girls are beautiful if they just learn to appreciate themselves!" while at the same time describing thin graceful girls with dazzling red hair, flawless skin, and emerald eyes. No matter how well I thought of myself, I was never going to be that. I much preferred books where a girl's looks were not relevant to the plot at all.

Here is where I again recommend my current obsession, Castle Waiting, a graphic novel which has a rich variety of bodies and faces for its women characters that is closer to real life than anything I've seen in a long time. There are "pretty" ones but they stick out from the crowd of regular folk in exactly the same way that they would in real life; the regular folk meanwhile look like actual individual people and are interesting and varied. I never have the problem I sometimes do in comic books of mixing up characters because they are all so generically handsome/pretty. I wish I had read it when I was a teenager!
posted by emjaybee at 10:42 AM on April 30 [4 favorites]


She had grown up poor, but not too much. Not teen-pregnancy, semi-illiterate, fast-food-obese, crooked-teeth poor. Noble poor.
posted by gottabefunky at 11:22 AM on April 30 [9 favorites]


The beautiful-girl-who-thinks-she's-ugly trope is a particularly maddening one.

On a related note, I always thought the Ugly Duckling fairy tale was pretty weird. The other animals make fun of the ugly bird, but then the ugly bird turns out to be a beautiful swan.

The way I usually see this story framed is as being about not treating people badly based on their appearances. But the other animals didn't stop mocking the bird because they saw its inner beauty and learned that was what truly mattered. The bird became physically beautiful, and everything got better.

It seems like a weird mixed message, like a formerly "ugly" girl growing up to be a super model and all her old tormentors telling her they were really sorry they had treated her badly now that she's hot.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:26 AM on April 30 [5 favorites]


The way I usually see this story framed is as being about not treating people badly based on their appearances. But the other animals didn't stop mocking the bird because they saw its inner beauty and learned that was what truly mattered. The bird became physically beautiful, and everything got better.

I always took it to mean that she grew up to be a huge swan with a bad temper, and all the other animals were terrified that she would remember their mockery and break their limbs and drag them to the water and hold them underwater until they drown. Because. You. Do. Not. Mess. With. Swans.

They are like geese, only even bigger assholes.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:37 AM on April 30 [25 favorites]


The beautiful-girl-who-thinks-she's-ugly trope is a particularly maddening one.

Hoo-boy, yes. All kinds of literature and song and legend and story tells us that the beautiful person who doesn’t think he or she is beautiful is some kind of romantic ideal – that that’s the perfect sort of character, the kind of partner everybody is looking for.

And yet, just in Ask Metafilter alone, I’ve lost count of the number of people who complain, “She says she’s ugly even though she’s not and it’s so depressing,” or, “He’s handsome but he’s so dishonest he pretends he doesn’t know it.”

And you wonder, if their partners changed overnight, would those same people be complaining, “She says she’s beautiful and I hate how stuck-up it makes her sound,” or, “He’s handsome, but he’s so vain you can tell he knows it.”

CAN SOMEBODY JUST TELL US ALL THE *EXACT* DEGREE OF COMFORT WE’RE SUPPOSED TO HAVE ABOUT OUR OWN LOOKS AND HOW TO SIGNAL THAT SO WE CAN ALL JUST GET ON WITH OUR DAMN LIVES?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:43 AM on April 30 [2 favorites]


You. Do. Not. Mess. With. Swans.

They are like geese, only even bigger assholes.


Yep. Ducks -> Geese -> Swans is the progression of waterfowl assholery.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:45 AM on April 30 [3 favorites]


These are amazing. I would name this trope "Literary Humblebrag". The author wants the reader to flatter herself by identifying with the protagonist and the more she feels flattered the more books she buys. I don't fall for this because it's impossible for me to feel flattered, because I'm not aware of how hot I am.

Also these illustrate the impression I have about how other peoples' lives work, from the way people describe them.
She called and ordered a dinner that she ordered a lot from the same restaurant she always called for delivery. “I know who you are,” the voice on the line said. “I remember your order,” because that was his job.

“This is so embarrassing,” she said in her amazing apartment. “Someone remembers my order. I’m such a loser.”

“It’s just my job to remember orders,” the voice said, but it was too late. She was already booking an around-the-world trip with that guy from work she was always fighting with.

***

“It’s really hard for me to trust people,” she said.

“Me too,” he said. “It’s hard for me to trust people too.” He thought for a second. “Do you want to trust me, though?”

“Okay,” she said, and they did, and then they made out.

***
posted by bleep at 11:48 AM on April 30


We agree with her Ronbledore theories. - jeather

Yes, the compelling, impeccably-reasoned "Ron-is-a-time-travelling-Dumbledore" proposition!

Excerpt the first, evidence from the text:

Dumbledore tells Harry that he lost his taste for Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans after eating a vomit flavored bean in his youth. There is one problem with this… Bertie Bott was born in 1935. While Dumbledore is over 150 years old, and for him, ‘youth’ is a relative term, he could not have possibly eaten a Bertie Bott Every Flavor Bean until the 1950′s, most likely even later, making him well over a hundred years old.

***
Excerpt the second, anticipating resistance:

“But Ron Weasley is attracted to women,” I hear you say, “while Dumbledore is gay. How can you square that circle?” For the last time: time travel reverses your sexual orientation. This is why there are so many pure bisexuals on Torchwood.

***
Excerpt the third, addressing quibbles from "Ronbledore Deniers":

“okay but TOSHIKO AND IANTO NEVER TRAVEL IN TIME and they are still bisexuals.”

[Ed. note -- In a way, we are all traveling through time... right now.]

***
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:12 PM on April 30


> The "I just want to be normal!" is usually the author hitching their wagon to Jack Kirby and Stan Lee's star

You think? It's absolutely standard in teen girl YA novels, which don't have much to do with Jack Kirby and Stan Lee.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:27 PM on April 30


Yes, the compelling, impeccably-reasoned "Ron-is-a-time-travelling-Dumbledore" proposition!

I hope you're not being sarcastic here or I might have to glare at you a little through the computer.
posted by jeather at 12:29 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


On a related note, I always thought the Ugly Duckling fairy tale was pretty weird. The other animals make fun of the ugly bird, but then the ugly bird turns out to be a beautiful swan.

The way I usually see this story framed is as being about not treating people badly based on their appearances. But the other animals didn't stop mocking the bird because they saw its inner beauty and learned that was what truly mattered. The bird became physically beautiful, and everything got better.


I feel like The Ugly Duckling makes more sense in a pre-20th-century, non-American context-- as it's written, it's much less about physical beauty being deceiving than it is about your present social status not necessarily determining your future potential. So you may be a lowly, pimpled, rag-clad urchin today, but hey, get into the right business and maybe someday you'll find yourself all sleek and attractive-looking in lovely expensive plumage, and everyone will admire you. If it's a hard-to-find moral to us, that may be because we've so thoroughly internalized a meritocratic worldview that the possibility of advancing from rags to riches just seems kind of obvious and non-story-worthy, not something that needs driving home via a fable about ducks.
posted by Bardolph at 12:35 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


jeather, my first comment in this thread was No kidding, Ortberg's been killin' it for a while now.
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:35 PM on April 30


They are like geese, only even bigger assholes.

I think you mean cloacas.
posted by palomar at 1:54 PM on April 30 [4 favorites]


This is wonderful. I hope the comparison doesn't offend anyone, but this post reminds me of why I used to lurk on "thefourthvine" at LiveJournal. The takedowns are smart, genre-savvy, down-to-earth, and actually really funny.

That said, I don't why, of all the examples, my brain happened to find this passage the most entertaining:

Now her friend was being quiet and serious, so you knew it was a really quiet and serious moment. “You would do anything to take care of your friends. But when was the last time you did something to take care of yourself?”

It was true. She hadn’t showered in four years. Her house had exploded and she didn’t even care. She hadn’t eaten in four months, and she was dead.

posted by quiet earth at 3:32 PM on April 30 [8 favorites]


I had to stop reading this because it was a) way too cringeworthily on the nose (like the UK The Office kind of feeling, and b) I was laughing so hard it hurt.

And that Ronbledore thing, I mean, wow. Genius. (And I don't even really like Potter.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:26 PM on April 30


Why the hell would you want to be normal?

"A normal life is boring."--Eminem, "Lose Yourself."

No, seriously, NORMAL LIFE IS BOOOOOOOOORING.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:37 PM on April 30



I always thought the Ugly Duckling fairy tale was pretty weird. The other animals make fun of the ugly bird, but then the ugly bird turns out to be a beautiful swan


and also, baby swans are so cute
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 7:40 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


You think? It's absolutely standard in teen girl YA novels, which don't have much to do with Jack Kirby and Stan Lee.

You want to know how I know you've never picked up an X-men comic?
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:12 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure "I just want to be normal" is a standard part of the narrative because it's such a common feeling in adolescence and an enormous amount of fiction is targeted at adolescents and/or a metaphor for growing up. Comics might've added to its popularity and contributed to its being used in certain ways, but I think that's a factor of the audience of comic books as much as

Even when it's not exactly stated as "I want to be normal", Buffy-style, it's "I wish I had normal (not dead) parents" (Harry Potter), "I wish I didn't have to lie about what I am (Chosen one, alien, half-blood of some magical race, Animorph, etc) constantly because of persecution and/or not wanting media attention (even though it gives me magic powers)" (Seraphina, I Am Number Five, any witch/wizard in any magic-fearing world, lots of magical girls), etc. It's to give them a personal thing to overcome and accept about themselves in the narrative and it helps all of us fucking weirdos believe that someday we'll be happy with ourselves in all of our weirdness and not be a normal person like everyone else but be BETTER.
posted by NoraReed at 9:44 PM on April 30


Isn't this a derivative of the "Mary Sue" TV Trope?
posted by lon_star at 10:22 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


No, seriously, NORMAL LIFE IS BOOOOOOOOORING.

For years I constantly pushed myself to be weirder and weirder, always hunting for a more extreme edge, because I was afraid that I was secretly boring, and if I ever let myself do anything normal, I'd sort of disappear into meaninglessness.

Yeah, ha. Turns out I'm fundamentally weird, life is awesome, and I couldn't be normal if I tried. This amazing revelation means it is no longer scary to do things that other people are doing, which means that not only can I share all my strange adventures with other people, but I can follow along on theirs, and life is better for everyone...

I'll be my own goddamn protagonist, thank you very much.
</tangent>
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:47 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


She was fiercely creative, tormented by constant ideas that fought for her attention.

"Why can't you accompany me to my corporate event tonight" Her suit-wearing boyfriend, who wears a suit and has a job in a corporation, asked on the phone.

"I'm so sorry - I have to write down this sonata I have just composed, it is selfish of me to place fulfilling my creative needs above spending time with you, I must also finish this essay on a new science research. I wish I didn't have so many ideas, I'd love to just sit and wait desperately for inspiration like all the other kids did at art school and spend the time in between drinking into oblivion".

Her boyfriend slammed the phone down, and she cried tears that sparkled on her mandolin, which she bought from a second-hand shop and was beat-up but not faulty in any sense that affected its sound quality.

Her science research partner, who is attractive and wears jeans that fit well, put his arm round her and said "you shouldn't have to apologise to him, he doesn't deserve you"

Later they made out but only after her boyfriend had broken it off in a way that was cruel.
posted by greenish at 7:48 AM on May 1 [2 favorites]


> You want to know how I know you've never picked up an X-men comic

It's more likely that someone writing for The Toast was influenced by YA books than by X-men comics.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:54 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


You want to know how I know Slap*Happy has never read YA fiction or The Toast
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:36 PM on May 1


not that your comment was bad, just that "I just want to be normal!" is a common enough trope that drawing all instances of it directly to Stan Lee & Jack Kirby is a bit of a stretch
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:44 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]


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