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Kill the Messenger
The writers of Big Bang Theory handled Penny's (played by Kaley Cuoco) haircut the way they handle every change on that show. With laughter. Except this time, they added in a generous serving of psychological bullying. They employed several techniques to try to force us to be okay with the change. And it seems like it worked for the most part.
EXECPT I DESPISE the pixie cut. And no amount of bullying can make me feel otherwise. I keep mentioning bullying because that's exactly what it was. The writers were diabolically clever about it too. If they were to use those powers to bamboozle people into wanting to ban the use of nuclear energy, or prevent colony collapse, or keep our water sources clean, then the world would be a better place. But no, they instead harness their brilliance to make us keep watching their TV show.
How? By throwing in "jokes" that specifically aim to make us think our own feelings are unreasonable. Penny states that she doesn't need Sheldon whining, "your hair is different... I'm going to hold my breath until it grows back." Clearly equating anyone who would "rage quit" watching the show as being "like Sheldon." A character who, several times has been tagged as no less than "bat-shit crazy." They further cement the point when, at the end of the episode, Sheldon leaves the set saying, "Your hair is different. I'm out." Which isn't much of a joke, but that's not what it's supposed to be. It's beating the audience over the head with the obedience stick. "Keep watching. Unless you want to be ridicules as being as bat-shit crazy as Sheldon."
And what really bothers me is that the haircut has changed her character. Don't get me wrong - this show has ALWAYS been about the evolution of Penny. From season 1; the "girl next door" who unashamedly uses her looks to get what she wants, to season 7; the thoughtful, wise-cracking matriarch of the whole gang - guys' and girls' sides both. Season 8's Penny is suddenly a different person. What used to be the funny joke of Leonard being the dad, Penny the mom, and Sheldon the zany kid has instead become all that the writers have left for Penny. She's embraced the "mother" role so much so that she's completely given up on her aspirations as an actress, no longer goes to clubs or parties, and has even given up her, "Oh, I just threw this on," wardrobe. In last a recent episode, she even started wearing plaid shirts and regular (not fashion-cut or washed) blue jeans. The only joke I can think of that would bring it all back together would be if her dad showed up and called her, "slugger."
Antics aside, the writers need to figure out the new Penny and fast. Is her new-found sense of responsibility going to help her recognize and seize new opportunities she never would have considered in the past? Will she walk onto the set in a Powergirl costume and tell the guys she got everyone tickets to San Diego Comicon for Leonard's bachelor party? Whatever it is, if she's not having fun, then she's just not Penny. If her new role is ONLY going to be the "mother" of this series, then they'll need to fill the "hot girl" vacuum left in her wake. If they can't, or if they won't, then I guess the audience just has to accept that her relationship with Leonard, after only making her more thoughtful and open-minded until now, finally changed Penny for the worse.
There's something of a storm brewing within fandom lately. I'll admit, I'm paying a lot of attention to it, because the issue is important on many levels. Long story short, it turns out that *GASP!* girls like things like video games, comic books and other forms of genre entertainment too! Who knew?!
Well, obviously, the girls did.
Now, please forgive me in advance. I'm not used to weighing in on contentious issues mostly because I don't believe arguing on the internet accomplishes anything useful. So, I'm going to be plain and blunt. Anyone complaining about "fake geek girls" or angry that women are wanting more and better representation within fandom, you can go home now. All my life, all I wanted were more people to enjoy the nerdy things that I love, especially girls. Hell, I didn't even know that there were nerdy girls until I went to college and actually met a few. It was awesome! I never thought to question whether they were real geeks by measuring them against some sort of weird scale of geekiness. I was just happy to finally have people to talk to who spoke my language (mostly Monty Python quotes).
I think we've got a wonderful thing going in fandom. The label "geek" and "nerd" used to mean "outcast" but now, at least for us in fandom, its the name of where you belong. And coming from that old place of exclusion, it disappoints me that some guys seem hell-bent on trying to keep fandom mostly exclusive to the male population, or those women who will just play along and keep things the way they are.
That's why I'm dedicated to writing my female characters well. I want everyone who comes to Edge of December to be able to relate to the characters. Wendy shouldn't just be in here to give Kieron a romantic interest. She's going to have her own stake in the game and the same goes with Jennabelle, Ayita and May. Every character should have their own motivations and desires. I may fail at this sometimes, since I'm still something of a novice writer, but that's my goal.
No matter who I write for, one of the biggest challenges is putting yourself into their shoes and figuring out how they would behave in a given situation. This, I think, is what authors refer to when they're talking about how characters will "surprise" them, or a story moves in directions they didn't expect. Ultimately, the author is in charge, but if you can't be true to your characters then no one is really going to invest in them.
Obviously, you can't please everyone all the time. I'm going to write something that someone doesn't like, but that's unavoidable. What I can do is avoid the most common pitfalls and write the best possible characters that I can, male and female alike. Of course, everyone's going to die in the end an... Uhm...I mean, never mind. *Glenn! We can't kill everyone now, time to start working on a different ending!*
Edge of December, Volume 1
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