Fine Day Sunday

in my opinion, best day of the week

Archive for September, 2013

Skyler White is not a bitch.

Posted by finedaysunday on September 29, 2013

Skyler 1

Preface: I wrote this with only one episode left of Breaking Bad before the show leaves us forever this Sunday night. So unless you’re caught up on, you know, everything, I’d recommend you skip over this entry and come back after you’re all caught up. I’m serious. I’d hate to think I spoiled any part of this show for anyone.

I suppose you could consider this a companion piece to my thoughts on Walter White a few months ago, but I’d like to use it more as a vehicle to talk about something bigger than Breaking Bad. Spend any amount of time at all discussing this show, particularly online, and you are going to encounter an alarmingly disproportionate amount of disdain for Skyler White, Walt’s conflicted and emotionally troubled wife. Sadly, this was always going to happen. In a drama series centered around a morally gray anti-hero protagonist, the wife is usually the one who faces so much bile from the more misogynistic members of its fanbase. “She’s trying to spoil his fun! What a bitch!”

Yeah, it’s going to be one of those entries this week.

I think you can trace this sort of thing back to The Sopranos, and it lives on today in series like Breaking Bad and Mad Men. When a story like this tries to tackle very real family-centric dilemmas without diluting its characters to easily digestible “good guys versus bad guys”, the protagonist still has certain traits that flatter the sensibilities of certain male members of its audience. Walt is a calculating genius who thrives on playing the puppet master, Don Draper looks so damn cool drinking and smoking in his office while wearing a suit, and so on. Conversely, the wife is often perceived by that same slice of the audience as the nag who’s always trying to bring them down. It’s unsettling.

Let’s talk about Skyler’s character specifically for a moment. Her introduction into any sort of criminal conduct does not come from Walt, but from her affable boss Ted. When she discovers that he’s been committing tax fraud and calls him on it, he goes into an impassioned plea about how desperate he is to save the business he inherited from his father, as well as the jobs of dozens of employees going through the same economic hardships as the rest of the population. He begs her not to turn him in, and just like that Skyler is introduced to the idea that sometimes well-meaning people do bad things for noble reasons. She not only reluctantly agrees to spare Ted but, and this is the important part, volunteers her own accounting expertise to help him better cover his tracks. And just like that, she’s reached another level of complicity.

Skyler 2

Before long, however, Skyler gets wise to what her husband has really been up to, although on reflection it’s a wonder she didn’t discover his secret life as a meth cook sooner. As I discussed in my previous piece, Walt likes to see himself as this master manipulator, this suave and gentlemanly sort of criminal who puts on a public persona that’s impossible to see through. It’s exactly why he admires Gus so much upon first meeting him, and he tries to adopt such a strategy for himself. But Walt is no Gustavo Fring. He’s just finding his feet in this business, and can no better deceive his wife than he can anyone else. Skyler is always the first to suspect Walt is full of crap, because she knows him best. It’s as much a testament to Walt’s shortcomings as it is to Skyler’s perceptiveness.

Here’s where things get interesting, and we see just how loyal and cunning Skyler White can really be. She agrees not to hand her husband over to the authorities and, despite Walt’s insistence that she not get involved, eventually volunteers to launder his money to preserve his secret. It’s exactly what she did for Ted, but on a much bigger and more dangerous scale. Her motivation is simple: Their son must never find out the truth, lest their family be torn apart. It’s a solid foundation from our perspective as the audience, because Walter Jr is the only innocent character in this universe, and I’ve always considered him the easiest to root for. Keeping their son in the dark is of the utmost importance to Skyler, her one and only attainable goal to strive for during this ordeal Walt has put her through, this awful lie in which she is willingly complicit.

As the stakes get higher, one of the most surprising and entertaining developments turns out to be that Skyler may very well be a more skilled criminal than Walt. She possesses meticulous attention to detail, she’s better at coming up with a cover story and sticking to it, and she’s better at putting on an act without setting off warning sirens to everyone around her. She may not have a very strong poker face at the show’s outset, but when her son’s innocence is on the line, we see the vast depths of her dedication and resourcefulness. It’s an admirable thing to see in a parent.

One of the key distinctions that separates Skyler from Walt, however, is that she ultimately gets cold feet. She is faced with an unwinnable situation: overcome with guilt and yet unable to back out. She is afraid of the same power that Walt craves. She is helpless to wash her hands clean of the entire mess, and yet is forced to continue holding back the dam as its foundations mercilessly crumble. She is horrified and disgusted by her actions, the most alarming of which is the realization that Ted is so intimidated by her that she can’t resist reinforcing his fear because it’s convenient. She is mortified at her own willingness to wield that sort of power, and is possibly even afraid that she might enjoy it too. Her conscience began setting off alarms much earlier than Walt’s ever did, culminating in a venomous verbal shouting match over the fate of their family that ultimately tears the once-happy couple in two. The man has been so manipulative and emotionally abusive for so long that it’s a wonder she hasn’t punched him in the throat.

Skyler 3

And so, that’s Skyler White, put into a hopeless situation from the moment her husband decided to break bad. To hear it from a certain portion of the audience, however, all of that apparently reduces her to the needless and thoughtless title of “bitch”. Skyler is no angel, but there’s a very visible line between “she’s just as guilty and manipulative as her husband” and “she needs to be grateful and learn her place.” It’s not okay that anyone should have to have that spelled out for them, and yet one of this show’s hottest talking points revolves around the disproportionate loathing heaped upon this one character by inarticulate troglodytes. As a huge fan of this show, this sort of vile, misogynistic sniping is far too common among certain types of fans that I often go out of my way to disassociate myself from.

But of course, any time a man speaks out against sexism, you can guess what happens next. A certain breed of stupid begins to seep out from between the cracks of the internet to accuse him of “white knighting” or “just trying to get in good with women.” You can set your watch by it. I’ve come to refer to this fine collection of folks as the Gallery of the Terminally Unimpressive. Their banally predictable accusations are heinous and sleazy on two levels. First is the implication that the only reason a straight man would have a problem with sexism is because he has some ulterior motive, thereby painting the accused rather than the accuser as the sneaky one. Second is the fact that it stifles all potential discussion we could be having on the subject instead. This is not at all limited to Breaking Bad or drama series like it, but it does happen to be the most relevant example of the moment, and it’s been bothering me for so long that I couldn’t let it slide without saying something.

Leave it to me to wait until the eve of the final episode to talk about it.

“Are you invulnerable while break dancing?”
“I’m dead while break dancing.”

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Dating Sites: What NOT to Do

Posted by finedaysunday on September 8, 2013

One of the more recent eye-openers I’ve come across on the internet is OK Weirdo, a collection of awful and cringe-inducing screen grabs from major dating sites containing messages (mostly sent from men to women) that range from racist, sexist, and misogynistic to bitter, hateful, pathetic and everything in between. Some of them are downright hilarious. Your basic worst instincts of humanity filtered through through the comforts of internet anonymity, when you get right down to it.

One such example stood out to me among the muck. This person, having finally become fed up with the lack of attention he was getting from the female population of the online dating world, decided to rewrite his own dating profile, repurposing it as a stream-of-consciousness rant targeted at women, framing himself as a victim of circumstance while casting women as the villains. It’s the foremost example I could find on OK Weirdo of hypocrisy, ignorance, and an outright refusal to see one’s self as being so completely in the wrong. I’ve read it several times, and somehow there’s always something new about it that manages to surprise me.

Haha

Aaaand please excuse me while I take a shower just to get that off me.

Yikes. Seriously, this is a real thing that someone wrote. Truly this is a champion of the common man, an exemplar for down-on-his-luck dudes the world over. No, wait. It’s actually a comprehensive case study of how NOT to approach the online dating world, or even social interactions in general. This is someone with a skewed and very unhealthy view of the world around him, and none of the things he says in his hate-filled screed should be a revelation to level-headed people as examples of “what not to do”. Then again, I found this on a virtual goldmine of a site dedicated to collecting stuff just like it, so it seems like these sort of warped views of how men and women interact are more common than you’d hope. With that in mind, I’m going to break down this mess quote-by-quote and, with any luck, dissuade a few people from following his example.

Disclaimer: A lot of what I have to say comes from the perspective of a straight male, so while not all of this advice will be applicable or even useful to women or non-heterosexual individuals, I hope we can all appreciate the overall sentiment of “Don’t be an asshole.”

What does it take to get a girl these days?
See “Don’t be an asshole” above. That’s a rock solid foundation right there.

I send out hundreds of emails per day and no girl ever responds.
Hundreds, eh? My suggestion would be to take a step back, and maybe invest a little more time elsewhere. Concentrate on your job, studies, hobbies, friends, family, whatever. That stuff is good for you. Angry rants like this are not.

And if yall do it is only to say (etc, etc…) and lame bullsh*t excuses like that. Those sound like pretty cordial responses from those women, in my opinion. Most women (and you would know, what with your rate of several hundred messages sent per day) will just simply not respond at all if they’re not interested. Taking the time to reply just strikes me as politeness on their part. Lame bullshit excuses, you say? You are not owed anything by these women, guy. No one is under any sort of obligation to respond in a way you approve of, or even respond at all for that matter. It doesn’t sound like you handle rejection very well at all. Not a good sign.

Are girls like you truly all that calculating, deceptive, shallow, and superficial? Redundancy aside, this is where that misogyny starts to creep in. By framing women in a negative light, he sets himself up as the wronged party. Also? Maybe take a moment to consider that the women not responding to you just plain don’t check the site as frequently as you do. It’s almost like they have other things going on in their lives.

Even a borderline barely good-looking girl like yourself won’t message me back at all!
Here’s where I start to get angry, once I get past the sad trombone sound playing in my head. You wrote this gem immediately after the “shallow and superficial” bit above. As a great man once said, do you actually listen to yourself when you speak, or do you find you drift in and out? I have no further comment here, other than to add that you just flat out get women, don’t you?

What the heck is wrong with this world? I’d say your views on women certainly qualify as one possible answer.

Getting a dream job during the Great Depression in 1930’s would have been more easier than finding some quality p*ssy these days. Well gee, now I can’t even come up with any reason why women won’t talk to you. Setting aside the fact that there are sites out there for sex personals if that’s what you’re looking for, it doesn’t really sound like you’re looking for a woman you’re compatible with. It sounds like you’re looking for validation of your current crummy lot in life instead of trying to grow as a person. Bit of a reach on my part? Maybe, but after reading this far, I’m not exactly inclined to give you the benefit of the doubt here.

The last time I checked, the male to female ratio is 50/50… is it not? It shouldn’t be this hard to get a girl at all.
That’s the approximate ratio, sure. What’s your point?

I send out hundreds of messages and get zero responses. Okay, I know I suggested above that you maybe take a break from dating sites and try doing other things instead, but now something about “hundreds of messages per day” combined with your “50/50” bit is starting to make sense here. You’re trying to “play the odds”, right? You’re thinking if you throw enough shit at the wall, some of it has to stick, right? So, how about this, and pay attention Socrates, because this part matters: Instead of goddamn carpet-bombing hundreds of womens’ profiles in one fell swoop with some generic “Hey, how’s it going?” in the hopes that even one of them will yield a reply, try actually reading a few of their profiles first and see if you have anything in common. Do you share similar interests? Background? Education? Career? Hobbies? Music? Are you even on a dating site for similar reasons in the first place? Do them the courtesy of showing them that you actually read what they have to say. If they respond, cool. If not, you’ve lost nothing. So quit feeling so hard done by, stop with the vague and uninteresting “Sup?” messages, stop doing Google searches for copy-and-paste “ice breakers” like one of those low-rent pickup artist types, and try to actually show interest in a fellow human being.

Then these same girls who don’t respond are the ones complaining about receiving 300 emails in their inbox a day and can’t find the time to reply to any of them. Truth is, women get awful messages from guys on dating sites on such a regular basis (leading to places like OK Weirdo being created just to compile them all) that they probably aren’t inclined to give Random Guy #301 the benefit of the doubt. Instead, it’s probably less of a hassle. Either way, it’s completely their decision whether they respond or not. You are not owed shit.

Why the phu*k are girls so selective, choosy and picky? Redundancy aside yet again, that seems like a vastly preferable approach to sending out hundreds of messages per day with the “any girl will do as long as she doesn’t fall below borderline barely good-looking according to some idiotic and arbitrary designation of my own” mentality you seem to have. Can’t you hear how desperate you sound? We have the right to be as selective as we want to be. Have some self-respect.

The gender ratio is the same, therefore logic dictates that if I create a profile then I should be entitled to receive hundreds of emails in my inbox from hundreds of different girls per day.
Oh man. Logic? Entitled? I can barely process this madness. To you, sir, I present my most bemused head shake followed by a facepalm for the ages.

Are all girls passively sitting back waiting for a magical prince charming, yadda, yadda, yadda. I don’t know. They’re probably looking for a guy with whom they share mutual interests, while you’re busy angrily making excuses for why you’re not finding success. This is much bigger than dating sites at this point. This, to me, points to signs of low self-esteem on your part. All kidding aside, I’d suggest taking a break from trying to meet women and focus on yourself. When you’re a little happier and more confident with your own life (note: different topic for a different day), you’ll notice that other people tend to find you more interesting.

And there it is. There’s plenty of advice out there for how to find success in the dating world, but (and I’m speaking to everyone in general here) you cannot be ready to hear all of those things until you first internalize what NOT to do, and sites like OK Weirdo are full of examples of the sort of horrible stuff that we’ve got to cut out. Once you’ve taken that first step, you’ll be much better off for what comes next. Let’s all try to be better. Sound good?

“Just because you shot Jesse James, don’t make you Jesse James.”

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