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February 14, 2014

A Valentine's Special: Let’s “discuss” Infinite Stratos.

I think zombie fiction has run its course.  For now, at least.  (Because that’s a good way to start a Valentine’s post.  Mentions of the living dead.)

I’ll admit that the concept itself isn’t automatically wrong, or impossible to work with.  But with an immensely flawed game like The Last of Us going to great lengths to win the Half-Assed Award, and a show like The Walking Dead caught in an Ouroboros of people being sad and angry and sometimes killing zombies, I think that we’ve reached a stage where -- unless there’s a big variation in the formula -- then zombie fiction is a “broken model”.  Going with the basic conventions gives diminishing returns, and just exposes the problems with the model in the first place.

But zombie fiction isn’t the only broken model.  I’m about ready to say that the same applies for the standard harem in anime and manga.  I’m not the only one to say as much, and I won’t be the last; based on comments on sites and forums, harem stories have to work ten times harder for recognition (beyond the usual “best girl” declarations). And in a lot of cases -- in the case of Infinite Stratos, for example -- the stories just expose all the holes.  Granted harems probably keep popping up because people keep buying/supporting them, but at what cost?  Broken models may be enough to earn some fans and some cash, but it’s the easy way out.  A fool’s errand.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I wake up one morning and realize I’m using the same model.


Well, that’s not entirely true.  In the case of I Hraet You, leading man Lloyd may have the goal of creating something like (and called) a harem, but it’s a bit more complicated than that.  A bit.  Only slightly more.  For starters, Lloyd is a character who’s more about the ideals than the actual application; he’s a person who may or may not even understand the concept of love -- making “harem” something of a misnomer -- to say nothing of the issues that make him much more than just a smiling, purple-haired goof

And while he may aspire to surround himself with a verifiable militia’s worth of women, the further the story goes, the more insane the cast becomes.  The second person Lloyd added to his “harem” is a shotgun-toting, bounty-hunting grandma; the third is an improbably buxom secret admirer/torture-employing psychopath who’s sharing a body with her sultry imaginary friend.   And it goes much further than that; yes, there ARE going to be male members in the harem.  And likely an animal or two.  And arguably a killer robot.  The rabbit hole is deep and dark.


Maybe it’s a little presumptuous of me to even bring up my story and try to declare that it’s better than a well-known, largely-successful franchise.  But you know what?  Just this once, I’m going to have to be a little presumptuous.  I may very well be better at writing a harem than the minds behind Infinite Stratos -- and if that’s not a cause for celebration, I don’t know what is.  Well, except for an announcement that Anji Mito is going to make an appearance in Guilty Gear Xrd.  But merely the fact that every other character I play is in, and in glorious 3D, has left me satisfied.  And ready to rock.


But I digress. 

I’m not going to go any further into the Stratos anime, because -- as you can guess from the last post -- I’d have more fun finding out how it feels to garrote myself.  Instead, I want to use this space to try and answer a question as best I can: why is the harem story a broken model?  Admittedly, there probably isn’t a clear-cut solution -- no remedy, no ironclad set of violated rules -- but Stratos is as good a show as any to examine what the problems might be, and I’m pretty sure I can do that fairly easily, even if some of the things I’m about to say are incredibly obvious -- and I can do that without shilling I Hraet You, so there’s a bonus.  It offers up a cross-section as revealing as the girls in the beach episode where I drew the line, and almost the entirety of season two where all the girls spend an episode putting on sexy costumes to try and win Ichika’s favor.

I wish I was joking.  But I’m not.  I’m really not.

…I thought this show was supposed to be about MechWarrior Academy.  This isn’t what I signed on for, Stratos!  This wasn’t part of the deal!  THIS WASN’T PART!

STRATOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOS!


Well, let’s have it.  These are The Top 10 Reasons Why the Harem Anime Model is Broken.

…Am I doing that right, internet?

1) A dense, generic protagonist.
Hey, guess what it’s time for?  That’s right -- it’s time for me to repeat myself again!  Join in, everyone: the main character defines the story.  And now the second verse: if the main character is bad, then the story is bad.  You could argue that in Stratos’ case, or most generic harems, the main characters are the girls and not the guy they’re going after.  But as Stratos demonstrates, I’d wager that that’s not usually the case.  Ichika is the focal point of his story, and the only reason why anyone might think otherwise is because of the squawking hens that occasionally fill a third of the screen with their spandex-wrapped asses.


No, this is Ichika’s story, because the story starts by following him, continues to follow him, and makes most engagements and developments centered on him.  It’s just a shame that while he started off as someone with the potential to become interesting, by episode five he’s had all of his personality filed off.  And a few IQ points, it seems; setting aside the fact that he can’t pick up the heat waves radiating from every lady he sees in a twelve-mile radius, his dialogue becomes blander, more predictable, and altogether uninspired.  How is there supposed to be any chemistry between these characters if the protagonist can’t engage with them in any meaningful way?

The only (obvious) answer is that Ichika isn’t there to move the story forward, or give it some spice.  When he gets to grab Charlotte’s ass, it’s for the audience’s benefit.  It’s so they can grab her ass by proxy.  Vicarious living.  Wish fulfillment.  And speaking of which…

2) A dense, generic protagonist -- who is also better than everyone else.
So in the context of Stratos, Ichika -- despite his crippling case of blandnessitis -- is special.  He’s the only male IS pilot on Earth.  He’s the little brother of a legendary pilot.  He gets his own model with a unique set of abilities.  He gets to go all in and try to save the day, because despite losing nearly every battle he’s in, he’s the only one that can do it, I guess?  Bear in mind that he occupies space in a cast that (in the first season, at least) has four out of five of its ladies in the running to represent their countries in the Gundam Fight IS skirmishes. 


I said last time that China’s representative, Rin, was set up as a close-range specialist -- and then spent pretty much the entirety of her fight shooting lasers from afar, especially once Ichika hit the field.  I suspect that that wasn’t an oversight; it was a way to make sure that Ichika -- armed with just a sword and Protagonist Powers -- gets the chance to shine, at the expense of the rest of the (significantly more skilled) cast.  He even ends up holding Rin like a newlywed bride at one point, because…reasons?  That reason being that they’re childhood friends?  I don’t know.  I really don’t.

3) There’s no such thing as friends in this universe.
How does the saying go?  “You are defined by the company you keep”?  It makes sense, sure -- but that’s a lesson Stratos willingly launched out of a cannon. 

Every one of these girls exists inside a vacuum.  If there was no Ichika in this story, then these girls would have nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  Think about it: childhood friend Houki is set up as a kendo champion with a rigid personality.  Fair enough; that’s a jumping-off point, not the whole of her character.  The questions that need to be answered are: how does that affect her character?  How does that affect her concerns, her desires?  And more importantly, how does that affect her day-to-day life?  Not everyone around her is a kendo ace, so how does she relate to others?  Are there people that admire her strength?  Are there people who screw around with her, and try to get her to do more girly things?


I don’t know.  And I doubt we’ll ever know.  The minor characters in this show are pretty much just filling the spaces in a scene.  They’re completely sealed off from the main cast, and make a small world even smaller.  What could have been a chance to make these girls more than just space junk caught in Ichika’s orbit -- more than just moving pictures -- is just one of a hundred missed opportunities.

4) There’s no male presence in this universe.
I know this sounds sketchy, but hear me out.  This is a point I don’t really hear much about, but I think it’s an important one nonetheless.

 Stratos has a built-in reason for explaining away all the men in its world: because besides Ichika, there’s not a single man that can use an IS.  And since Ichika’s at the all-female MechWarrior Academy, adding in another guy would make for some real silliness.  Well, more than usual.  But to my surprise, one episode opens with Ichika visiting a pal of his and playing video games (a fighting game, with arcade sticks no less!) and just goofing off.  It’s a good moment…which gets hamstrung by the pal’s little sister showing up in less-than-formal wear and immediately blushing over Ichika’s divine presence, but I’ll take one minute over zero minutes.


It’s the same problem as the last point, only magnified.  Not to be sexist, but there’s a difference between two guys hanging out and a guy and a girl hanging out.  There are just certain things that you can and can’t say to both, and that distinction, and that interaction -- when used in fiction, of course -- is important for fleshing out characters.  But it seems like when/if there’s another guy in a harem series, more often than not he’s a perverted caricature to be shoved aside or shrugged off (don’t be this guy, audience!  He’s a joke!), or given just one scene and shuffled off into the corner. 

I don’t know if the average harem series hates men or women more.  

5) The girls have no aspirations besides “get the guy”.
Okay, now I do.


I think I can point to the exact moment where I gave up on this series, assuming that I haven’t done an emergency memory dump of everything I saw.  In a flashback, German rep Laura reveals her relationship to Ichika’s older sister Chifuyu, a famed IS ace-turned hard-boiled teacher.  As it turns out, Chifuyu had to teach in Germany as part of a deal to protect Ichika from harm -- and one of those students was Laura, who learned to admire her and her strength to the point of cold-hearted fanaticism.  Remember this for later.)  In the midst of the flashback, Laura asks what the source of her strength is; it’s the old “why do you fight” question that, while not exactly original, has plenty of potential vis a vis the answer given.

But in Stratos’ case, the prospect filled me with dread.  I was staring at the screen, saying to myself “Please don’t say Ichika, please don’t say Ichika, PLEASE don’t say Ichika.”  And guess what she did?  She said it was for Ichika.  And then my bullshit detector went haywire.


Okay, sure, Ichika might have been in danger, but still…really?  They couldn’t have given her anything else to focus on?  Nothing to aspire towards?  Chifuyu may be some badass veteran, but what else is there to her besides someone who’ll clock Ichika whenever he does something stupid/exists?  Who is she besides her brother’s keeper?  If he wasn’t around, what sort of person would she be?  And the sad thing is that she fares comparatively well, since she’s not a member of the main cast harem.  Houki fights in some tournament because she wants to win a chance to date Ichika.  Cecilia wants pretty much the same thing.  Rin expects Ichika to fulfill some childhood promise and eat her food every day, undoubtedly as more than just chef and customer.  Charlotte’s turnaround from roommate to courtship happens faster than a cheetah doing the hundred meter dash.

And then there’s Laura.

6) The girls lose their personalities along the way.
When Laura is introduced, she’s a no-nonsense, confident, and even malevolent presence in the show; she’s more than willing to brutalize her opponents with her IS weapons and tactics (even if that does include a cheap-as-hell “anti-everything shield”), and outright declares that she’ll never accept Ichika after slapping him right in the damn face in front of the class.  So of course, a few episodes later she’s in his bed sleeping next to him -- naked of course, because that’s how you act around someone you’ve spent about two days with -- and getting all hot and bothered as she dons a school swimsuit and wears some girly pigtails. 


There isn’t a single “what the fuck” in this reality or the next big enough.


Still not big enough. 

Stratos, NO.  You don’t get to play that card.  You don’t get to completely rewrite a character in the space between the end of one episode and the start of the next just for some half-assed character harem dynamics.  You might have had to compress certain story aspects so you could fit everything you wanted into a season, but there are just lines you don’t cross.  And you crossed a big one.  I don’t want to see Lil’ Germany trying to get Ichika to cross her Rhineland; I want to see her stomping around in her mech, being a hard-edged soldier, and (if need be -- which believe it or not might be debatable) becoming more well-rounded as time progresses.

 I sure as shit don’t want to see her don kitty pajamas or a bunny suit in season two.  If you want your characters to be cute or hot, that’s fine -- but you can do that in the context of the show, without brainwashing them for the sake of the “plot”.  If you want people to like Laura, then have them like Laura because she’s a tiny, eyepatch-wearing asskicker.  Let her be her own character, instead of someone who chains up and is chained to Ichika.  Even for a harem series, it’s NOT THAT DIFFICULT.


Shit.  I probably should have checked out Gundam Build Fighters instead.

7) Contrivances rule the day.
I suspect that Stratos isn’t the only series guilty of this, but like I said, it’s a good cross-section.  Too good, maybe.  I feel like things happen in the show just to funnel Ichika towards MAXIMUM HAREM OUTPUT; he’s the only boy at an all-girls school because…we’ll explain that eventually!  Oh, what’s this?  He’s got not one, but TWO childhood friends!  Uh-oh, looks like Ichika just walked in on Houki when she got out of the shower!  And then walked in on Charlotte while she was still in the shower because he thought she was still a boy…even though I’d like to think that even two guys wouldn’t walk in on each other while they’re in the shower, especially if they haven’t even known each other for a week.  But hey, it’s funny!

Again, it’s vicarious living.  One of the things that I can’t help but notice about harem shows is that the main character is visually inoffensive.  Bland, essentially.  Comparatively, the ladies that surround him run the gamut in terms of shapes, sizes, colors, styles, ages, and even species.  (Assuming they’re not conforming to stereotypes of their own.)  Those contrivances -- the situations, the sexy mishaps, and the ever-popular misunderstandings -- aren’t there for the story’s sake.  It’s an interaction between the audience and the story in the worst form possible.  If a story wants to entertain, it shouldn’t have to resort to the old bag of tricks.  It just has to be natural, and put its best foot forward.


8) It never ends.
Like a fungus near your toilet that just won’t go away no matter how much you nuke it with an array of bathroom cleaners, the harem is as self-perpetuating as it is everlasting.  (Note: I may not know anything about fungi.)  It can go on and on and on without stopping, because if the main character -- Ichika in this case -- is too dense to realize the feelings of the people around him, then there’s no reason for anything to change.  No reason to ever have to make any definitive step with any of the girls fawning over him.  It’s a cheap out.  The same could be said about an indecisive lead, of course, but that doesn’t apply as strictly to Stratos.  You could argue that Ichika’s being indecisive over not being able to decide which of the screeching water fowl he wants to hang out with, but that’s neither here nor there.

Letting a story go on isn’t inherently a bad thing, of course.  There are just certain conditions that should be met.  Either that story has to have a level of quality that warrants going on for a long time, or it has to have a sense of progression -- a reason to justify its extended life.  Stratos --and a number of other harems, I bet -- doesn’t.  The biggest shake-up it can offer to the story at large is to add more girls to the harem, which strikes me as something very similar to trying to fix a broken pipe with fistfuls of cheese.  In the show’s defense, I’m under the impression that the source material (the manga, or light novels, or whatever) have much more to offer because those are where ALL the story beats show up instead of one or two.  But even then, the source material laid a shaky, exploitable foundation.  Is it really free from blame, especially when it tried to pass off a blatantly female Frenchwoman as a male?


9) The “best girl” never really wins.
I said last time that British rep Cecilia Alcott was the best girl of the series.  I stand by that.  But it’s blatantly obvious that she has no chance of winning Ichika’s heart.  She gets turned into a patsy right around episode five, and maybe even before that (seeing as how that’s when Rin shows up and has to have her go-nowhere arc). 

If what I’ve gleaned from other sites -- i.e. people who have actually watched the series all the way through, the damn fools -- is right, then Houki’s going to be the one to walk away with Ichika as her trophy.  This is despite the fact that she was ice-cold to her childhood friend from minute one, attacked him with a wooden sword with enough force to break through a door in episode one, continued to treat Ichika like a sack of dog crap for several episodes, stopping only to monologue or blush at the thought of Ichika, and forcibly declared him as the prize of a school-wide tournament. 

…I don’t know, either.  A popular theory is that she wins because they’re both Japanese.  Though circumstantially, that means Chifuyu's a top contender as well.


Now how the hell does this even work?  You can't -- no, no, forget it.  Let's just move on.

So generally speaking, if you’ve got a favorite character, your chances of seeing the ending you want (the pairing between your best girl and the MC) is about 20%.  In Stratos’ case, at least.  So on that note, you can assume that the best girl will probably lose.  Despite that, even if Cecilia were to win -- and if I were to keep watching the show -- it wouldn’t be that much different from a loss. 

Remember, the prize in this little competition is Ichika, a guy whose only charm point is the ability to grope a teacher while lying on top of her after she crashed into him from above…and that’s setting aside the fact that he didn’t have the self-preservation instincts to move out of the way.  Proxy relationship aside, is that any sort of fate you’d wish upon a character you’ve come to love tolerate?  No.  No, of course not.  In the end, nobody wins.
 

The harem, in its basic, unembellished form, is a self-defeatist model.    Which leads me to suspect that…

10) The best way to write a harem is to not write one at all.
Stratos had the right idea.  Adding in mechs -- however ill-conceived their design might be -- was a good move.  It was a way to temper the standard-fare and mostly-cloying harem shenanigans, and offer up something to strive towards besides the MC’s affection.  But that went out the window as soon as the phrase “second childhood friend” gained traction, and it only went downhill from there.  What could have been a story that balanced its elements and offered up some charm and wit became something completely overburdened by the promise of blushing girls and the black hole of a man they compete for.

Nobody wins with a straight-up harem.  Nobody.  Not the ladies, because they risk losing themselves just to “win”.  Not the MC, because he has to suffer through antics and shenanigans all day every day, and exist in a state of hyper-neutrality, lest he upset the balance and bring the golden goose closer to its last hour.  Not the audience, because unless they’re lapping all the action up, they’re just being fed the same gruel over and over again.  Not the story, because said gruel is clogging up its organs.  To repurpose a popular phrase, “you never go full harem.” 

So how do you do it, then?  Do what Seitokai no Ichizon did.


Make an energetic and dynamic male lead.  Surround him with a cast of females who have their quirks, but aren’t just there to lust after the MC.  Offer up some semblance of a plot -- even if it is just the daily life of a student council -- and have them interact with one another besides just going to beaches or feeding one another.  Make it so that they respect and appreciate each other as friends -- and then, MAYBE go for the love route…and even then, leave it downplayed.

Or you could do what Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukinai did.  Make the ladies so unbelievably mental that they’re more suited for an asylum than a harem.  Have them interact with one another on their terms.  Make the MC more of an impartial observer, and have him interact with the girls as a means to flesh out their characters.  Let them naturally progress from bitter rivals to teeth-clenched club members.  And if you’ve got the talent, inject a bit of savvy and thought into the story to offer an added punch.

Or, believe it or not, you could do what Kamen Rider Den-O did.


I’m not even joking.  Den-O is almost more of a harem show than anything else, even if it’s got time-displaced warrior genies guys in suits instead of cute girls.  But that’s fine, because it’s about building relationships with these characters, letting them progress toward being a familial unit, giving them something to struggle with vis a vis the plot, and building memories -- for themselves and for the audience -- from one episode to the next, even without having to resort to fighting incoming monsters.  And it’s all done without having one of the guys in suits try to win the MC’s heart and manly bits.

But don’t do what Stratos does.  DON’T. 

It’s a show that squanders all its goodwill, tosses aside all its interesting plot elements, ignores its potential, and dives head-first into a rut just so it can tick some boxes and win the adoration of fans who really should know better.  It’s a disservice to the characters it at least tried to present as enjoyable -- characters who deserved better, and deserved their chance to fly through the sky without having to flip the perennial bitch switch over who gets to nestle up with a guy with the presence of the common shrub. 


It doesn’t even matter if there’s a best girl in the series.  As it stands, the only thing needed to make that decision is an image from the wiki, and a snap judgment based on how they look.  The story itself is just barely needed, because all fans have to do is take the characters and make their own fanfics/doujins to create the scenarios they want.  They -- fans and creators alike -- are invalidating the harem they’re supporting merely by virtue of existing.

That might not be the case if Stratos -- and plenty of other harem series, no doubt -- was worth anything.  But it isn’t.  It takes off, and crash-lands just minutes later.  And the sad thing is that I don’t even feel that bad about it.  There’s something very wrong with a story if you can’t generate even a shred of emotion, good or bad, from it. 

So there you have it.  Nothing personal, Cecilia.  You just chose the wrong show.


Her Majesty the Queen will still welcome you with open arms, though.


4 comments:

  1. Yeah... this show sounds REALLY crappy. This may be due to my not being in the right demographics for this kind of anime. Heck, not even the reverse-harem genre does anything for me. Watching a gang of pretty men (or women) on the outside with their hair, face, and bodies, and shallow inside is just uninteresting to me. It could work if the characters had... well... characteristics beyond the basic stereotypes and tropes in harem series, but I haven't found such an example I can stand behind yet.


    And don't feel bad when you prop your own work above someone else's. It's kinda scary, actually. I have a draft on my blog about questioning the actual quality of one's own work next to others', using my 1-year old fanfic to make points. Regardless, sometimes there are times you just feel like saying, "What the hell?! I can write better plot/characters than this stupid piece of fiction, but it's still a hit!" It happens, dude, it happens. The only thing to remember is to not call yourself a god. (You don't, so you're fine, man.)


    Anywho, your ten points are pretty spot-on. Many of them greatly troubled me due to these being problems I'm spotting more and more lately. Maybe it's just me, but no one wants to make a protagonist have any kind of definitive personality. The lead - often male for some bizarre reason given our culture - has the most generic appearance, personality, talents, and hobbies. He must be as bland as possible for male viewers to insert themselves in the plot. The next thing you know, the lead is a glorified Bella Swan with a penis. So perfect, special, and attractive (debatable), everyone is mesmerized. Give him extra muscles, a gun, and gruffly facial hair and you have every single lead in a AAA video game. Make him socially inept, stupid, and awkward - but not so much that he pisses the bed at night - and you have an anime male lead. Cast an A-list celebrity and you get two solid handfuls of best-selling Hollywood films. You're not even trying anymore.


    Another point to address - thanks to your bit on contrivances and "it never ends" - is the never-ending tango line leading up to a romantic resolution. I'll just assume most harem anime either get nowhere close to picking "the one" or they take so damn long, you just don't give a shit anymore. ...Okay, maybe it's just me. Not that every piece of rom-com media has to drop the rom-com obstacle course, but it'd be nice if the actual problems make sense in context. Having two characters not get together for 50+ episodes because of a misunderstanding that everyone around them knows is false but refuses to say anything is stupid. Having complete character 180s due to a truth or event that would not affect the character under other circumstances except for being in love is stupid. Basically, having drama for the sake of drama or creating conflict for the sake of "shaking things up" at the expense of consistency, character development, and plot progression - say it with me - is stupid. And that may be why I hate harem media as a whole. There is so much bullshit going on that could be cut out and no meaningful progression is lost.


    Or people think the journey is always superior to the destination. If a writer knows what he/she is doing, both can be done beautifully. I dunno. I'm getting off track here.


    Thanks for the post. If anything, it helps give tips on how to NOT write a story. Good food for thought.

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  2. "The next thing you know, the lead is a glorified Bella Swan with a penis."

    That made me laugh a lot more than it should. Ha ha ha...oh, mercy. I am just terrible.

    It's funny that you would bring up "A-list celebrities" in the same space as "generic protagonists". MovieBob did a video review of the new RoboCop (in a surprise to absolutely no one, it's awful), and he mentioned that the guy who plays RoboCop is just one of a stable of generic brown-haired white guys that Hollywood is convinced make for good stars...and that he couldn't tell the difference between the movie's title character and a handful of others. I mean...am I going crazy here? Am I asking for too much to have a protagonist that actually DESERVES his role instead of being just the first guy to get a name? I'm not being too demanding, am I? This shouldn't be that hard. It really shouldn't.

    I would assume that the key reason why harem shows (and other long-runners) keep going is because of more than just playing the shenanigans card every step of the way, or just general incompetence. It's probably because that's where the money is. The fame, the safety, the reliability, the longevity...whatever you want to call it, some people are all too eager to bank on a "safe bet". I guess that when all's said and done there's nothing wrong with that; I just wish it didn't have to come at the expense of quality. Supposedly, that series Nisekoi is running into the same problems with its manga, so...I don't know. If a story's going to drive toward a dead end, they're going to ride it for everything it's worth.

    Well, whatever. At least we've got Attack on Titan. Now THERE'S a show. But I'll get to that.

    "Or people think the journey is always superior to the destination. If a writer knows what he/she is doing, both can be done beautifully."



    Aha, now that's some REAL food for thought. I'll have to keep that one in mind.

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  3. I don't understand why the everyman character is getting so pervasive now. Why now? Why NOW of all times?!

    I suspect it might be an allergic reaction to the more sartorial or out-of-place characters that dominated pre-revealed-Wall-Street-excess Hollywood. Hollywood used to be the low-life's glimpse into the gilded elysium of upper-class life and had more liberal casting that suited metropolitan sensibilities. Now it's . . . Snortin' Joe McBlandy Edition. The upper echelons of society are morally repugnant (and by extension the "liberal values" of diversity they supposedly espoused) and we're defaulting to the populist choice. Remember that we're working on the Hollywood axis here: when I think upper class, I think neoconservative and low diversity, but the public thinks diversity, liberal values, and the entertainment sector run together.

    It's one guess, at least. We have everyman protagonists (or what the American public considers everyman protagonists) because that's what our culture's reactively idealizing right now.

    Whatever the real reason, I want the parade of mayonnaise snowmen to stop. Now. And that's coming from a mayonnaise snowman. I'll still accept mayo characters, but they'll have to try harder to get my attention.

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  4. I would have guessed that our culture would idealize protagonists that are actually...I don't know, worth idealizing. People of strong character, or spirit, or something. But it seems like -- as is the case with a great many things -- I was just being naive.


    Boy, does THIS not say good things about our culture.


    In any case, it's interesting that you'd bring this up. I've got a mini-post coming up on the everyman -- asking for more opinions -- so if you've got something else you want to say on the subject, like an insight you have in the next few days, then consider it a chance to weigh in some more.


    I could use some more insights. I'm just as confused as you are, after all.

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