Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Cinderella Plot -- Male

Hey ya'll.  So in my last post I mentioned that men have their own Cinderella story.  It's true.  Granted, it's not entirely like the female version, but it's the same basic idea of the protagonist getting swept away in amazing circumstances and being judged better than his rivals.  It's the same in that it's the male fantasy, fashioned the way the male mind likes its rags to riches tales of glory.

There's a fundamental difference between mediums of the female and male versions of the Cinderella story.  That is, the female version is predominantly in book form, and the males' is in movies.  Sure, vice versa exists, but it's the result of how men and women view excitement differently.  Women are more mentally in-tune, which is why an otherwise good looking guy will become instantly hideous to us the moment we learn he's a scumbag.  We don't separate beauty from personality very much, and books work for us because they display personality traits and leave the looks up to our own imagination.

Men, on the other hand, are very visually stimulated, hence action movies.  'Splosions, hot chicks, guns and cars are all better for them when visual.  And while the male Cinderella story isn't necessarily an action film, many of these are action types, or else realistic fiction.

But let's get to the specific elements now, shall we?  Unlike for women, men don't have a set down, specific story for this, so I'll just use Rocky as an example.

1. A man from a bad, rough, or common background, or perhaps just a guy in bad cirumstances, has a hard time of handling his life.

- Think Rocky Balboa, who represents a normal guy fighting for his dreams.  He's a guy with just enough money to get by.  He's mocked by teenagers he attempts to help, his best friend is a cranky drunk, his boxing coach criticizes his ability and takes away his locker, and the girl he likes doesn't laugh at his dumb jokes.  And to top it all off, he works as a tough guy for a loan shark just to make ends meet.

2. A catalyst alerts the man that he's something different -- he has a superpower, or is the descendant of someone important, or otherwise is granted the chance to display his already present ability.

- Because Rocky is not a fantasy movie, we stick with Rocky's natural talent.  He's a good fighter but undisciplined.  The catalyst is Apollo Creed arrogantly giving a chance to a nobody.  Rocky's still disrespected, and treated like a five year old given a chance to be a big boy only when it serves the older children's purposes.

3. A woman, hot, sophisticated, or in many ways above his level is present, sometimes along with the catalyst, or already present but unattainable early on.

- Rocky, unfortunately, is such a schlub, that even a timid pet shop worker with bad glasses is above his level.  To be fair, Adrian is intelligent and caring, and with only a little push she becomes sure of herself.  More typical examples of this element are: Aragorn's love for Arwen, the immortal elven princess, and John McClane's wife, who is far more sophisticated and authoritative than he.

4. The man uses his ability to overcome his enemies and impress the girl, and he proves himself an ultimate warrior, famous hero, or otherwise important person.

- Rocky doesn't beat Apollo Creed, but he does win what he truly wanted but couldn't get until that point: Respect.  He had to fight for himself, proving with his own ability that he's strong enough to fight the big boys of boxing, and not some gimmick that's just going to return home and be forgotten by the world.  It didn't even matter that the judges saw Apollo as the winner.  Rocky wasn't there to win, he was there to prove himself.

There are a few fundamental differences between the male and female versions right off.  First of all, the man's version almost always starts with a common or hard beginning.  They don't have the female's version of the protagonist having a good life that gets destroyed or being descended from someone important.  The male is just about always just a regular dude, or someone forced into bad circumstances.  Thus, the female catalyst is usually a negative change that propels the story.  The male catalyst is positive, or possibly lateral, making things more intense but not necessarily better or worse, such as the ring of power being found in Lord of the Rings.  The ring was a catalyst, but with or without it Sauron still intended to take over the world.

Also, while the female version doesn't require a love interest, when a love interest does appear, he is very important.  On the male side of things, his love interest is always there, and yet she's not the point. The point of the male Cinderella is for him to prove his ability, whether that ability is natural, learned, or supernatural.  The woman is the icing on the cake, the soft side to his hard path, or the reward for his suffering.  The point is not to gain a woman, but to prove his ability.

That brings us to another difference.  Women wish to be proven worthy by our characteristics, such as beauty, grace, and kindness.  We have rivals to compete with and judges to choose the winner. Huh, and they say women are less competitive.  On the other hand, men want to prove themselves worthy by their abilities.  They don't have rivals.  Mockers, sure, but never anyone on a direct path alongside them.  Men prize the whole never-been-done-before thing.

Also, the point of their path is not to be judged, unless they're being judged by their entire environment. What I mean is, there's no one specifically who decides if Rocky gets respect, or if John McClane is a hero, or if Aragorn deserves to be king.  However, the people around all three of these examples honor the three because they've earned their accolades.

What the male and female Cinderella fantasies have in common is that they are both an indicator of their respective minds, allowing the nitpicky among us to think with impunity.  The male mind is obviously focused on achievement, and it's his desire to be respected by those around him that drives him forward.  While women are vulnerable to feeling unloved, men are vulnerable to feeling like failures.

Now, before I finish up, let me note that these characteristics are only true of the Cinderella stories. Many stories don't follow this pattern, and that's because they're not Cinderella, but something else altogether.  For example, a story that hits most of the basic elements but has an unhappy ending still isn't Cinderella, because it fails in the whole bad to good arc.  Also, the desires of men and women that I describe here are the desires of those following the Cinderella path.  People who are bitter, or reject fantasy, or for whatever reason refuse to believe in their own ability to live well, aren't going to have these same desires.  Though I'd like to point out that the people who reject Cinderella are also living according to it by striving for its opposite.  They're letting fantasy control them by letting it determine what they won't do or believe.

Still, Cinderella is a fantasy for a reason -- because we want that life and mosttimes obtain something completely different.

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