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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Let Villains be Villains

Last November, Charles Manson finally passed away. Right around the time he died, the internet was flooded with people saying “R.I.P. Manson” and “so sad to see him pass” and other completely tasteless, idiotic things.

As you can probably tell, I have no sympathy for this man. He was a monster who literally brainwashed children to kill for him.

Now, I have read Helter Skelter and watched as many documentaries as I could find on the Manson Family, their crimes, and the following legal battles. I do find the story of Charles Manson fascinating and I’m probably safe in saying that I know more about him than the average citizen.So, in retrospect I guess it wasn’t a huge surprise when an acquaintance asked me if I was sad to see Manson die.

Of course not I wasn’t sad to see him die, I told them.  

Well, I know you like serial killers, they responded.

Which was fair, so I couldn’t really be offended. However, that conversation got me thinking about a recurring problem I’ve seen amongst true crime and even some horror movie fans: the inability to separate fantasy and reality.

Now, before I start talking about my theories behind this behavior and whatnot, I would like to acknowledge that some of these assholes are just that, assholes. I’m pretty sure most of us went through that “I’m so complex and no one understands me” phase when we were determined to shock our parents into thinking we were edgy. Thankfully, most of us grew out of that, but just based on the number of tweets I saw mourning Manson or the many Tumblr accounts I’ve seen that post artsy photos of the Columbine killers, I know some of us didn’t. These people are just looking to cause drama and, instead of dying their hair blue and piercing their face, decided to spit on the memories of these criminals’ victims.

I have thankfully matured enough to realize how tasteless that is and opted to pierce my lip and buzz my head instead. This way I’m only hurting myself while I show the world how edgy and cool I am. I might crochet throw blankets and sing show tunes to my ferrets, but I’m a bad bitch and my hair proves that.

Anyway, I should also admit that the people out there mourning Manson and fawning over the Columbine shoots are extreme cases. I don’t really need to prove that these people are being assholes. However, this trend of blurring the line between fantasy and reality also shows up in more subtle ways and it’s having a weird effect on the horror and true crime genres.

You ready for me to dive into some pseudo-psychological bullshit, Daniel? Brace yourself.

I think we as a culture have a difficult time understanding how to handle the concept of evil. We see things as black or white, good or evil, and therefore when we come across something that’s “evil” that we enjoy it’s hard for us to handle. We can’t be a good person and enjoy “evil” things, and so that evil thing must not be that evil.

A good, recent example of this was the reboot of Stephen King’s “It” in which the very attractive Bill Skaarsgard played the killer clown, Pennywise. I know you’re not on Tumblr, Daniel, so you’ll just have to take my word for it when I say Tumblr was ridiculous in the weeks following that movie’s release. The amount of extremely sexual Pennywise fanart and fanfiction that appeared on my Tumblr dash was unreal.

I won’t deny the fact I played into the mania a bit myself and made my fair share of “Float me, daddy” jokes. But that’s exactly what my comments were, jokes. I know that Pennywise is evil and that, given the chance, I would also shove a metal fence post through his face before I would ever hop into bed with him. Some Tumblr users on the other hand seemed to be crossing that line from harmless joking into actually wanting to sleep with this murderous, Lovecraftian monstrosity. A tad concerning in my opinion.

What I think happened is that, after seeing the movie, these people decided they liked Pennywise. Well, Pennywise is evil, which means they must be evil, but they’re not evil so instead Pennywise must not be that evil. So, in order to justify their love for this killer clown, these people just opted to pretend he wasn’t that bad. I’d bet that the same kind of logic is used to justify loving serial killers and criminals.

However, the world isn’t black and white. Liking a character/person/thing that is evil does not make you evil. It makes you human. It only becomes evil when you decide ignore the despicable things that character/person/thing did in order to justify your fascination with them. I can enjoy the story of the Manson Family, read Stephen King novels, and watch gorey horror movies and enjoy them while still understanding that these people are evil, that what they’re doing would never, ever be acceptable.

Basically, this entire argument boils down to the idea that you can like a villain and not necessarily be a villain. Let your bad guys be bad guys.

I feel like this is getting a bit rambly. I think I’ll cut it here and maybe pick this up in my next SDoS post. I have lots of thoughts about scary stories I want to share. Might just be time to bite the bullet and go back for my master’s in scary stories.

-EMS