Wednesday, October 10, 2012

UndieGirl Talks Tropes: Nice Guys Finish First

Let me tell you about the ‘nice guy’. You know him, he’s your best friend, he watches crappy rom-coms with you even though he doesn’t like them and he would never pressure you to do anything you didn’t want to do. He cooks, he cleans and he listens to you complain about the ‘bad boy’ whenever you want to. He’s the kind of friend everyone dreams of but before you get too excited you should know, all this niceness has an ulterior motive.

This blog is dedicated to the 'nice' guy, because sometimes he should finish last.

The ‘nice guy’ is everywhere in popular culture – he’s writing songs, cleaning up after parties, and chasing after your girlfriend (or boyfriend). He’s the boy next door who waits patiently in the background for the girl he loves to realise that he is better than any of the other losers she dates. I mean he’s ‘nice’ therefore he should clearly get the girl.

Now there is nothing wrong with being ‘nice’. In fact I’m a fan of it, I enjoy when people are nice to me and I am sometimes even nice to people. But if the reason you’re being nice is just because you think it will get you the girl (or boy) then you’re doing it wrong. Even if that’s not the sole reason for your niceness, the fact that you are a decent person does not mean that anyone is obligated to fall in love with you.

Look guys, I’m not trying to dash your dreams, if you love someone you should go for it. I’m just saying that just because you are nice to a girl does not mean that she is HAS to do anything with you. If she does like you, that’s awesome but if she says no, even after you have been nice to her, it does not make her a bitch, it just means she’s not interested. It’s not entirely your fault through, because this myth is perpetuated throughout movies, tv and books.  

As an example, the other day I was feeling nostalgic and I decided to re-watch Can’t Hardly Wait. In this trashy teen film (that I absolutely adore) Preston Myers (Ethan Embry) is in love with the most popular girl in school, Amanda Beckett (Jennifer Love Hewitt). When he finds out that she has broken up with her boyfriend, he thinks his chance has finally come. There is just one problem… they have never actually spoken. Somehow by the end of the movie, even though they have still not really spoken, Preston gets the girl and the assumption of ‘nice’ guy entitlement is fulfilled. 

This whole thing is not romantic; all the story tells us is that Preston likes Amanda – because it was fate that they ate the same kind of pop tart. We know Preston has been in love with Amanda for years but Amanda doesn’t even know his name. The fact is that what Amanda wants doesn’t matter because we know that Preston is a ‘nice’ guy and that’s enough for us to believe that he deserves to get the girl.

Of course Can’t Hardly Wait isn’t the only movie to invoke this trope some of my favourite movies do thing. Remember Cameron in 10 Things I hate About You – he was seriously pissed off when all his hard work didn’t result in a date (at first anyway). And in my all time favourite film, Empire Records, AJ is positive that Corey will love him back even though she has never shown any indication of it.  

The worst part is that I fall for this trope, I want the nice guy to get the girl and if he doesn’t I feel duped. I am guilty of being pissed of at the girls that deny them their rightful place as ‘nice’ guy boyfriend.  Think about Pretty in Pink, Duckie is a perfect example of this trope – he is the quintessential ‘nice’ guy and how many of us are still pissed off that Andie chose rich boy Blane over him? I scream at the television every time I watch it and if she were real I might even physically assault her. But why am I so upset that she didn’t pick Duckie, I mean sure I love Duckie but does that mean she has to?

If I watch the movie without my Duckie goggles he’s actually a total dick, he has no claim to Andie but he makes her feel guilty when she starts dating Blane. Then he tells almost everyone that he’s in love, except the actual girl in question (because what does her opinion matter). In fact the only decent thing he does is when he lets Andie go at the end of the movie, telling her to find Blane because that’s where her heart really lies. Sure Blane’s a dick but its Andie’s mistake to make.

It just doesn’t seem right… I mean why is it always the girls fault?

It’s this same attitude that makes guys say things like: “all girls like bad boys”. All I have to say is, just because she doesn’t like you doesn’t mean she’s only attracted to bad boys – maybe she just doesn’t like guys who only do decent things because they think it will help them get laid. Being nice to someone isn’t romantic – it’s just common courtesy. We need to stop perpetuating the idea that for a guy being ‘nice’ deserves some kind of reward… your reward is not being a dick, congrats.

Finally for those of you that are getting you’re nickers in a twist because I am gendering this trope, yes there are ‘nice’ girls sometimes, but they usually have to go through a physical transformation (makeover) in order to get the guy. The girl next door has the wear a push up bra before the boy she is in love with her actually looks at her as a viable romantic partner. The guys on the other hand, hardly ever have to go through the same kind of transformation – it’s the girl who has to change her attitude. 

Tropes and clichés are part of popular culture, and that’s fine the problem is that these ideologies bleed into our everyday lives. A real ‘nice’ guy would never blame or guilt the girl if she said no, so why do we? I just can’t wait to live in a world where nice is the default, where there is no special consideration or reward for a guy that decides he wants to be a decent person and the only way this is going to happen is if we stop feeding this trope.

I’m well aware that this was a tad ranty, but sometimes I care about things. All I’m really asking is that you take another look at that guy from that movie (or tv show or book) that you love – is he really as amazing as you think he is?

Do you have any examples of this trope? Comment them below – let’s throw the lid of ‘nice’ guy entitlement for good!