There are seven billion people in the world, and you have only experienced twenty thousand at the most. And those twenty thousand were fairly homogeneous. Your experiences with people have been largely dictated by your parents’ choices. The neighborhood in which they chose to purchase a house. Where they sent you to school. And maybe those choices weren’t the best for you. Maybe you don’t fit in where you are now. But you still managed to survive four years of high school and have a few meaningful experiences along the way. There are seven billion other people out there. Seven billion. Are you really pessimistic enough to believe that you wouldn’t get along with any of them?
Does anybody else ever feel that your friends have other people that they call friends, they have other people to fall back on and you, you only have them. If they were to leave, you’d have nobody, whereas they would still have those other people in their lives. Such a lonely thought.
My only requirement of any story is that it respect its own characters to behave as the human beings their backstories, personalities, and circumstances insist they are, and to react coherently to the context in which the story places them.
In practice, that doesn’t mean a happy ending for them, or a character making a morally correct choice, or being likeable, or being treated respectfully, or even getting what they want. It doesn’t even require a character to be original, or interesting, or even anything too far removed from a basic stereotype. This requirement only asks storytellers to address issues their story raises and allow characters to react to those issues in a coherent way.
Two things brought this basic requirement home to me: reviews of the film Passengers, and watching Elf with my mother.
I have not seen Passengers, and given the spoilers I doubt I ever will. But it reminds me how frequently female characters are not given the benefit of coherent reactions and subsequent actions. Too often a story fulfills the desires of a male protagonist at the cost of any internal coherency in a female character. Why would an ambitious and adventurous woman whose choices in life led her to a career in journalism, suggesting a deep interest in experiencing and documenting human society in all its forms, accept never again being part of human history, never having another conversation with anyone other than this one guy she’s sleeping with? It’s possible to construct a character who would be okay with this scenario, but if you haven’t constructed her that way, you can’t expect an audience to accept her actions as coherent or okay.
Why would an intelligent, self-sufficient young woman who is knee-deep in the difficult realities of her life suddenly want to go on a date with a much older man wearing tights who behaves like a 7 year old? Is she tired of the real world and wants to retreat from it? A few moments of thought suggests that if she wants her life to be easier and have more innocence and magic in it, she would want a partner who can help her deal with its difficulties and rise above them, not someone who is unaware that they exist in the first place. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. But when a story needs a romantic ending for an idiot man, female characters often have to be bent to accommodate.
Shoutout to the aromantics who don’t hate being aro.
Shoutout to the aros who were happy, not devastated, when they found out they were aro.
Shoutout to aros who felt relief, not sadness and mourning, when they realized they didn’t have to keep forcing crushes and getting into uncomfortable romantic relationships anymore because they finally discovered that romance wasn’t the only option.
Shoutout to the aros who like their orientation and wouldn’t change it if they were given the choice, despite even the “accepting” communities assuming that they must be miserable and that they must wish they weren’t aro.
Shoutout all the aros who don’t fit the narrative of self-loathing misery and never see themselves represented because no one ever talks about aros who are happy with themselves and like their orientation.