To Woobify or Not to Woobify

Alright, everyone ready for me to continue rambling about scary stories and evil characters? No? Well, too bad. My blog, I do what I want. Also, the only things I think about on a regular basis are beer, scary stories, and my ferrets so give me a break. I am a simple creature.

In my last post, I talked about how we sometimes have a hard time letting evil characters be evil. It seems like we think that liking an evil or morally questionable character means we’re evil or morally questionable. So, instead of trying to understand an evil character, we tend to kind of ignore the shitty things they’ve done and focus on their good qualities even if they’re few and far between.

Of course, it was Tumblr that finally gave this phenomenon a name and it is the goofiest thing you’ll probably ever here. The word Tumblr uses is “woobify.”

According to Urban Dictionary, the word “woobie” is used as a term of endearment for a thing that is sweet and comforting, like a stuffed bunny or baby blanket. Over the years, I’ve also seen many people online use it as a term of endearment for overly sweet or precious characters. From my experience, it’s kind of interchangeable with the phrase, “sweet, precious cinnamon roll” in that this character is so pure and good-hearted that it’s a little sickening.

However, despite wasting years of my life on this godforsaken plane of existence we call the world wide web, I am no expert in any of this gibberish. Forgive me if I’ve misinterpreted the word “woobie” and I will go weep in shame.

Anyway, based on the term woobie, Tumblr came up with the verb “to woobify,” which means to give morally ambiguous characters pure, precious, and almost immature characteristics. The character I’ve seen woobified a lot in recent months has been Kylo Ren from the new Star Wars movies. I am by no means a Star Wars fan, but I know enough about Kylo to know that he is a morally reprehensible man who represents the worst parts of toxic masculinity. Well, Tumblr users have fallen in love with him and instead of allowing themselves to love an evil man, they’re overemphasized his few sympathetic qualities, like his tragic relationship with his family and the dark side. They’ve taken an evil and complex character and turned him into a helpless child, a victim of circumstance and thus blameless in the shit he’s pulled as an adult. They’ve woobified him.

Not okay, not okay at all.

I don’t know a whole lot about Kylo Ren’s backstory so there may be some traumatic events that explain his behavior that I don’t know about. So, before I go on, I want to say that I am in no way trying to be dismissive to people who have experienced traumatic events in their lives that continue to affect their behavior. Everyone has a story, everyone has a struggle, and I strive to keep my mind and heart open to people just in case they need help.

However, a traumatic past is not a legitimate excuse for hurting people in the present. To quote a very wise detective by the name of Jake Peralta, “Cool motive. Still murder.” No matter what your excuse is, the thing you did is still shitty. 

By purposefully changing a character’s narrative to be more sympathetic, or woobifying them, you’re not only discrediting the entire plot, you’re also dehumanizing that character in a sense. Making that person a victim of circumstance, helpless and lacking free will. A person is not defined by their past, they’re defined by their actions and Kylo Ren, by definition, is evil.

And guess what, that’s okay!

As I said in my last post, connecting with a villain does not make you a villain, it makes you a complex human being with more than two emotions clinking around in your skull. Good stories are meant to challenge you, to help you grow and understand yourself and how you fit into the world.

And sorry to break it to you, but no human being is one hundred percent good or evil. We all have things in our life that we have to fight against, things that could very easily turn into our “villain origin story” if we let them. Villains are in stories to help us recognize the darker parts of ourselves and thus more effectively fight against them.

So, liking a villain doesn’t mean you’re evil and “woobifying” a villain isn’t good because it means we’re trying to deny your own evils. And we all know the least effective way to handle a problem is to deny it.

So, summary, don’t woobify. Denial is never a good strategy. 

-EMS

 

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Nerd Lite™

Nerd Lite

/nərd līt/

Adjective, informal  

A person who has some knowledge of a nerd subject, but not enough to be considered an expert or “super-fan” of the subject.

“I could tell you all of the captains’ names from Star Trek, but I can’t remember the rest of the Enterprise crew. I’m a bit nerd lite when it comes to Star Trek.”


 

I am definitely a little bit of a nerd. I play Pathfinder every weekend, I basically have the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time memorized, and I religiously follow the release of new horror films. I’m also surrounded by nerds, including my husband who has been playing tabletop roleplaying games since he was a child, a close friend who has an eidetic memory when it comes to fantasy character names and quotes, and my regular GM who listens to H.P. Lovecraft stories to help him sleep.

Well, being surrounded by such huge nerds, I sometimes feel like a fake nerd. But then, when I go back to work and talk about my life, people look at me like I’m the biggest nerd they’ve ever seen. The first time I ever experienced this weird dichotomy was when I went to see “Trek in the Park” in Portland with a friend who has literally seen every Star Trek episode multiple times. I felt like such a wannabe nerd hanging out with her. Well then I went back to work and told my coworker I got to see “Trouble with Tribbles” performed live over the weekend. She didn’t know what tribbles were, which was so strange to me. To me, tribbles are like culturally iconic. Even non-Trekkies know what a tribble is, but then I had to explain it to her. I felt like a huge nerd.  

That’s when I came up with the term nerd lite. I’m definitely a nerd, but when it comes to some topics I’m not a “huge” nerd. I’m still a nerd, but with fewer calories. Nerd lite.

There are lots of things I’m nerd lite about besides Star Trek, including Star Wars, World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy, and H.P. Lovecraft to name just a few. Some of these things I picked up just because they’re such an integral part of our culture while others I picked up from my friends who are serious nerds. Sometimes nerdy things are like colds, you can’t help but pick them up when in proximity with someone who has it.

Unfortunately, we live in an age full of elitist nerds who will try to make people feel bad for not being nerdy enough. Nerd lite would be an insult to them, as much as nerd used to be in the 80s and 90s.

It was John Green who said, “When people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is, ‘You like stuff,’ which is not a good insult at all, like, ‘You are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness”

I love this description and honestly think it defends both the people who are too nerdy and the people who are nerd lite. When someone calls me a fake nerd what they’re saying is, ‘You do not like this thing enough in my opinion,’ which is one hundred percent bullshit.

You are allowed to like a thing as much as you want. You are allowed to like a thing because your friend likes it and you like your friend. You are allowed to only know bits and pieces about a thing and still enjoy it.

And when it comes to being nerd lite, you are allowed to exist in both worlds. There’s no such thing as a hard line between a nerd and a non-nerd. Like many things, nerdiness is on a spectrum and right in the middle of that spectrum is nerd lite.

-EMS