Sometimes it isn’t about being saved, it’s about finding a friend
March 5, 2012 5:28 AM   Subscribe

Counting Stars is a powerful and touching comic from artist Katie O’Neill, which looks at loneliness, wishes, and what we might really need more than a white knight to come along and rescue us.

In an interview with the Daily Dot, she said,

"I definitely wanted to invert the trope of having a dashing white knight ride in and fix everything because a lot of the time, people don't want that. They just want a strong hand to lift them back onto their feet, and to be their friend and support. As nice as it is to make a wish, I wanted to show someone deciding to solve her own problems. I think it's important to portray female characters in particular who take command of themselves and fix their lives, rather than just being swept up by prince charming without ever really solving anything."

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posted by quin (11 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Nicely done.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:39 AM on March 5, 2012

Beautiful. Answers the question of what an otherwise well-adjusted, but unhappy person would do when her or his white knight actually shows up.

(Though...I might like a quick trip around the stars before settling back into reality.)
posted by TropicalWalrus at 5:45 AM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Lovely. Anyone else reminded of the Doctor and little Amy?
posted by jbickers at 5:49 AM on March 5, 2012

No need for a wish, you've got a cat right there!
... kidding. Great little story
posted by Redhush at 6:34 AM on March 5, 2012

Sad that he gets 'friend-zoned' at the end. I bet he was looking for more than a friend.
posted by BlueScreen at 7:05 AM on March 5, 2012

This is sweet and moving, and I think it highlights why the "white knight" is such a recurring figure; it's not so much wishing you could be taken away from the troubles in your life as it is hoping for someone to discover new and uncharted lands with.
posted by byanyothername at 8:59 AM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Huh, strange. I so strongly associate paper stars in comics with Erika Moen that I kinda wasn't able to enjoy this on its own, I think.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:01 AM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I like that! My really strong stars-webcomics association is Perfect Stars, but paper stars have played a similar role in my life as both comics, so I think it's an image that really works for me.
posted by byanyothername at 9:05 AM on March 5, 2012

I actually stopped reading human relations questions in AskMe a while ago. It was partly because the neverending parade of people in obviously fucked-up situations and totally blind to them had become a drain, but it was also for the tales of the people who were otherwise reasonably well-adjusted, well-rounded individuals, trying to figure out why they were still alone. They would often receive a flurry of well-meaning advice: join community groups, try online dating, find a passion and join a group related to that, try online dating, volunteer, try online dating, etc. And when the person would respond that they had given all those things a good shot and that they just weren't yielding what they sought, well, then what?

I don't blame the answerers for their answers, because what can you say besides suggest things that have a non-zero chance of working? But there's this pervasive idea--I don't know if it's simply a modern American thing or what--that one can be a complete and satisfied person by oneself and if you haven't reached that point yet, try harder, because there's something you haven't addressed yet. Like, the idea is that wanting to be with someone is indicative of some sort of deficiency, because you aren't "happy by (and with) yourself," and that you need to be "finished" or "complete-in-yourself" before you can have a meaningful and successful relationship with another... when all these people are guilty of, really, is the (not universal, but close enough) desire to have a partner, an intimate witness to their lives. Sometimes I think the best thing to give the people who ask those questions is a little sympathy to help them keep trying. (I should say that even though I've never posted one of those questions, I speak as one of those people.)

And it's true that there are a lot of people who think they can only be saved by someone else, and that that isn't a good thing, and that overcoming that is a big part of maturity. It's also true that there are a lot of people who'd rather be alone and are fine that way. But what I like about this comic is that it addresses in a poignant way the desire (not universal, but close enough) to have that one friend. So, thanks for sharing this, quin.
posted by Kosh at 9:49 AM on March 5, 2012 [20 favorites]

I was someone who did not have a significant other until I was almost finished with college, right as I was about to turn 23. It was about a year or half a year after a certain turning point in my life, where I did not judge myself on having a significant other. In some sense, society seemed to judge me on not being in a relationship, as isn't "getting the girl" the reward in so many of our stories? It seemed even worse in high school, where social functions tend to be glamorized to the extreme (prom, anyone?)

Once I became happy with myself, by myself, I believe I became a better person, and found someone I wanted to spend my time with. And, y'know what, she wanted to spend time with me too.
posted by mutantmell at 12:50 PM on March 5, 2012

Our cultural myths about inexplicable singleness are:
(a) you are not complete without someone else, period, and it disturbs your loved ones if you do not catch a spouse. You do not fit in with our society without being paired off a la the ark.
(b) you have to 100% stop wanting a spouse, and miraculously, then a spouse will show up! That does work for a lot of people. It is not, however, working for everyone. Like me. I think I'm about seven years overdue for that to work by now :P
(c) The reason why you don't have a spouse is because there must be something wrong with you and if you just work on fixing yourself, you can finally earn yourself a spouse. If you can just make yourself perfect enough without one, you'll finally deserve it and God will give you one!

In all those Ask Mefis, nobody really wants to say that uh, some folks just get lucky and some don't and it doesn't matter what you do if the luck isn't with you. We want to think that there's something we can do about finding people. We like the idea that you can buy a book on how to find a husband after 35 or following The Rules or doing The Secret or doing speed dating (or making origami...) and somehow, that Doing Something will work. At any rate, it technically doesn't hurt to suggest going to meetups or whatever when someone asks. We'd like to think that finding a spouse or good friends is something that we can fix on our own actions.'s not. You can online date for years and years and not get anywhere. The book I like to cite is The Curse Of The Singles Table because that woman tried bloody everything for 3 years and got nowhere until she finally got lucky. If someone actually does show up, it probably does feel like a rescue from the heavens because it's just as inexplicable.

Anyhoo, back to the link, I think it's a cute story. But in a way, an inexplicable friend showing up is just as rescue-y as a romantic white knight, when you think about it. Or at least, finally, someone came along when you wished it, dammit!
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:49 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

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