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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Poetry is Everywhere

I’m just going to come out and say it: People take poetry too seriously.

So many people I talk to think of poetry as this bougie, intellectual thing that people pretend to like to seem smarter at dinner parties. Poetry is like dry red wine or Ernest Hemingway novels, available everywhere, but you can’t find a single person who genuinely likes it for what it is. Now, I find this absolutely baffling because I actually like poetry. No, I’m not trying to impress anyone or look smarter. I like poetry and I like reading it, but that’s because I have never taken it too seriously.

I think the issue is how we are introduced to poetry. More often than not, a person’s first introduction to poems is in some type of high school class in which a stuffy teacher recites flowery sonnets and then forces the class to write a five page essay on the symbolism and word choices of that poet. It seems like we’re taught from a young age that poetry is this complex, abstract thing that needs to be carefully dissected to be fully understood. It takes effort to enjoy it properly and that is utter bullshit in my opinion.

Poetry is defined as, “the art of rhythmical composition, written or spoken, for exciting pleasure.”  Basically, poetry is any and every combination of words that you find pleasant. And, as is often the case, you get to decide what you find pleasant and why. It doesn’t take a five page essay and a deep understanding of things like alliteration, symbolism, and rhyming schemes to know that you like the way something sounds or makes you feel.

A few months ago, one of my coworkers found me in my office reading a collection of E.E. Cummings poems. She said something along the lines of, “Wow, you’re so smart. I need to read poetry.” Well, after that, I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I have no idea what his poetry is supposed to be about. I just like it because it’s fun to read out loud.

My favorite poem by Cummings is “Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town,”

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn’t he danced his did.

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn’t they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone’s any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain

Read that out loud.

Isn’t it fun? It’s got this rhythm to it. It’s like music.

Do I have any idea what it means? Absolutely not. In my opinion, good poetry is sometimes like pop music. Meaningless and fun, and that’s okay.

On the topic of my favorite poems, some of my favorites aren’t even poems. They’re single lines of text that I found on Twitter or Tumblr or in a novel that just resonated with me. Here are some of my favorites:  

“What a blessed if painful thing, this business of being alive.” – Joe Hill

“Do sharks complain about Monday. No. They’re up early, biting stuff, chasing shit, being scary – reminding everyone they’re a fucking shark.” – Tumblr 

“What can be done when you’re eleven can often never be done again.” – Stephen King

“Believe in yourself. You are an ancient, absent god, discussed only rarely by literary scholars. So if you don’t believe, no one will.” – Welcome to Nightvale

I love these “mini poems” because they say something deep and profound without burying it underneath a lot of unnecessary prose or rhymes. Straight and to the point while still being lyrical and beautiful. Poetry doesn’t have to be obscure to be well done or pleasant.

Now, I could continue talking about this for a while, but I’m down in Vancouver for work and just finished up a two-day science communication conference. I’m ready for a fucking beer.

“I’m ready for a fucking beer.” Look, a new poem.

-EMS