Monday, January 19, 2015

The Misfit Myth

misfit: a person whose behavior or attitude sets them apart from others in an uncomfortably conspicuous way.

It is a recurring discussion in my household of oddballs, this misfit myth. Just who are these "normals" we're not fitting in with? I don't know any. Do you? Like ROUS's, I don't believe they exist. (And if you got that reference, you might just be a misfit.)

The most successful stories, whether book, movie, television or comic, center around a misfit, or several of them. From Rudolph the Red-Nosed-Reindeer to Batman to the wallflowers in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, the message is clear. "We are different. We do not fit in. JUST LIKE YOU."

We identify with these characters because we are these characters. Who identifies with the mean girls in Mean Girls? Well, sure they exist! We all know or knew some, but 1.) they are in the minority, and 2) the so-called normal kids are almost always the villains. Why is this so? Why is the minority set up as some sort of example we must all aspire to, while the vast majority of humanity exists in this misfitness?

In The Breakfast Club, who are the characters we feel for before we know their stories? Bender (Judd Nelson,) Allison (Ally Sheedy) and Brian (Anthony Michael Hall) no? Why? Because they are, for all outward appearances, the misfits. But then we learn Claire (Molly Ringwald) and Andrew's (Emilio Estevez) stories, and we see that their normalness isn't normal at all.

left to right: Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson, Anthony Michael Hall, Emilio Estevez, Molly Ringwald
These last years have seen "the rise of the nerd" in media across the board. This media would have us believe that it's now cool to be different--and yet bullying is still a problem. There is a definite, social psychology at work here--the pack mentality/mob mentality is so hard-wired into our brains that we, as a world society, can't seem to shake it. The overall trend is positive, I believe. Do young men still get beaten for being uncloseted gay? Unfortunately, yes; but twenty years ago, those beatings were almost sanctioned by a society that believed such things would serve as useful warnings to others, and maybe "straighten them out." Today, not so much.

We have a long way to go, but I am hopeful. More people have to realize the misfit myth is just that--we are all misfits. Gloriously different, with our own experiences and minds and influences. Celebrate the misfit in you, in your loved ones and someday--call me an optimist--everyone will.


Anonymous said...

I love this post Terri!

Two kiiiind of related things ROUS's in real life: cabybaras:
South Park: Goths vs Emos

Anonymous said...

Hope you're right, but I'm more of a pessimist than you. There are more bullies out there than nice guys, and few are brave enough to stand up for the misfits with a bully around. We celebrate those who do. That's not to say we shouldn't keep teaching kindness and hoping for the best. But as long as "kindness" and "mindfulness" are satirized as fads, we're in trouble.

Terri-Lynne said...

Mary Beth, I knew this would be up your alley.

Yes! Cabybaras! Though I think ROUS are even bigger. I kind of used them in A Time Never Lived, a slight nod to The Princess Bride. :)

The Goths vs. Emos is one of my fave South Park bits. It's a classic.

Terri-Lynne said...

Renee, I think just the opposite. I believe there are far more nice people out there. It's the bullies that get the attention, whether in a school, in the media, or in a neighborhood.

The part I agree with you on is that it's going to take people standing up to the bully, standing shoulder to shoulder with the misfits, for any change to happen.

Debbie Christiana said...

Wonderful post - One of my favorite quotes :)

“Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

― Apple Inc.

Terri-Lynne said...

I love this quote, Deb. Love it madly.

Anonymous said...

I've always considered myself a misfit. But, then again, I guess that makes me normal. ;)

Great post, Terri!

Terri-Lynne said...

Linda, we make good company. :)

Heroines of Fantasy said...

Mark here,

Interesting post. I think we have begun to move out of what I like to term a bad time. FB, twitter, chatroom records and the like that seemed to endlessly report on the newest bad thing someone said, did or implied. It was open season on character assassination with the field dominated by bullies of every stripe pursuing inimical agendas. And yet as our culture gets more used to tolerating difference in meaningful ways, we have begun to get a clearer perspective on what evil really is and how best to confront it. It takes the rebels, misfits, cranks, insistent voices out there to get the body politic to come to its collective sense and progress. Celebrate these people? Absolutely. As Cockburn put it on a song from his 1984 release Stealing Fire: "Pay attention to the poet/You need him and you know it..."

Terri-Lynne said...

I agree, Mark. I feel the overall trend is a good one, even if there are events every day that try to tell us otherwise. Strides that really count are more often made in small ways. The big ones make headlines, they keep hope alive, but it's the small ones that make the journey going forward.

Unknown said...

Love this post, Terri! I think these days, more people accept the quirkiness of others and see that those who are "out of the box" often have some amazing things to offer. Where it's still probably hard is those annoying high school years. I mean, it may be more accepted to be different, but it really doesn't make it easy at that young age for the person who is different. I always told my kids, high school is just the beginning of your life. Work through it and don't sweat the small stuff. Great things are to come.

Terri-Lynne said...

Thank you, Sharon! And I agree. Still, I can't help wondering how it turned out that the minority gets seen as the majority that must be emmulated. I mean, really--how many truly drop-dead gorgeous, athletic kids really ARE in any given high school class? According the definition, THEY are the misfits, because they stand out in ways that make others uncomfortable. It's upside-down world!

Anonymous said...

Great post, Terri. I think it's great that people are more willing to embrace differences. The world would be a pretty damn boring place if we were all the same. Unfortunately, we are still running into problems when people are afraid, and that fear can come on two levels. First is fearing what you don't understand. Second, is fearing to step up and embrace your own uniqueness and then jeering others who have the guts to do it.

Julia said...

Coming in late to this post, but wanted to chime in with a "hell yeah!" This is exactly why I run a project called "Fly Your Freak Flag High" and encourage people to be proud of their unique "freaky bits". ;)

Terri-Lynne said...

Thanks, Julia. It's an honor to have your freaky bits along for the ride. ;)