Bro, Do You Even Empathy?

“Entertainment by and about women is for women. Entertainment by and about men is for everybody.” –random commenter on this article

Oh god so much this!

While discussing sci-fi/fantasy/nerdy shows with my brother-in-law and my brother, I mentioned wanting to re-watch Buffy again. The only reason I ever watched that show (or got to) when it aired was because my brother loved it, and we would watch it together (with my sister sometimes). I really enjoy those memories. He would later chase us around the house, and say he was a vampire.

Ah, good times.

Anyways, after mentioning it, my brother-in-law casually said,”Oh, I never got into Buffy. It always seemed like such a girl show.”

Yeah, sooo girly

Yeah, sooo girly

I was like wtf dude. Buffy is awesome. Yeah, it’s kinda cheesy at times, but that’s part of what makes it great. And no, cheesy does not equal “girly.”

My brother tried to give him what-for, but in the worst way possible. He said, ”Oh no, it’s not a girly show. It’s super fantastic!”

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If you have to contrast “girly” with “cool,” then you’re doing it wrong, but I give him points for trying anyway.

I just get so pissed when, as a nerdy girl, all the nerd-dudes expect me to love AAAAALLLL of these shows with male protagonists that are obviously catered toward a male audience, but they are never expected to like a show that has a girl as the main protagonist, even one that often catered to the male audience:

Remember Vampire Willow?

Remember Vampire Willow?

If I even mention said show/game/book/whatever, even though many of them might like it, there’s always some dude who’s like “yeah, but that’s a girl’s show.” As if that settles the issue and he shouldn’t be expected to even *try* to like it. I mean, I’m like aaaarrrgh!

It basically boils down to “my race* and gender combo are the norm, so it’s for everybody! But your race and/or gender is not the norm, so if something shows your race/gender prominently, then it’s to be assumed that it’s made only for your race/gender to enjoy.”

They’re not related in real life, so it’s not weird that I like both of them, right?

They’re not related in real life, so it’s not weird that I like both of them, right?

Yes, I do love the shows with male protagonists. I freaking love Adama (bof’em), Jean-luc Picard, Angel and The Doctor and on and on the list goes. I’m not saying I can’t like a show with a male protagonist. I’m saying that I love shows with male protags (and video games btw) and it’s not a huge giant deal. I don’t agonize over the fact that I am able to identify with somebody whose genitals are different from mine. And yet, it seems that once a girl is the most important person in the show, dudes are expected to tune out. If they don’t tune out, it’s seen as such an amazing thing that this*sharp intake of breath* girl is so relatable to men. Wtf! That. should. be. normal.

I’m like “bro, do you even empathy?”

And the thing is, the question shouldn’t be “why aren’t these female characters relatable to men**?” The question should be “Why aren’t men able to relate to any character outside of their own race/gender?” Is there some cultural/social training here whereby men are taught to not have empathy? Is it really so bad to have to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes for just 30 minutes in order to enjoy a cool TV show??

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And that’s just it. Why are you watching fantasy/sci-fi if you can’t fathom being placed in somebody else’s world? That’s like the WHOLE POINT of fantasy/sci-fi. Sure, one could watch/read/play these genres and try to imagine themselves in that role, and maybe if that role is filled by somebody outside your personal identity, then it might make it harder to do that. But really, why would you be upset that the main protagonist isn’t the same as you? How many sci-fi books are about completely alien worlds filled with alien species that are completely imaginary and yet they’re fucking awesome to imagine yourself in? How many of them have the main protagonist as a white dude, and yet that white dude (who may or may not match the target demographic’s race/gender) is in such a setting that his whiteness and dudeness should not matter to the story? If the setting of the story is changed so much that the protagonist’s race and gender wouldn’t make a difference in the story, then why does it make a difference to you? If the protagonist may as well have green skin and be genderless for all the difference it makes in the world in which that character lives, then it shouldn’t make any difference to how you identify with him/her!

So guys who don’t like watching female protagonists, I just want you to stop and ask yourself: why aren’t I able to identify with this character? Not, is there something wrong with this character…but perhaps, is there something wrong with my ability to empathize? Because I identify with TONS of characters that look and feel nothing like me. Hell, I’m expected to do this. I honestly don’t understand how one can enjoy sci-fi/fantasy if they are not able to identify with people who are, even slightly, different from oneself.

*yes, this same thing goes for race as well as gender. You know what? It also works for different sexual orientations and religions.

**some, in this entire essay, I am only talking to *some* men.

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