Comic Talk and General Discussion

Quackcast 245! Did hapless main characters create the friendzone myth?
ozoneocean at 7:28AM, Nov. 1, 2015
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You know the hapless main character in a lot of stories, usually comedies, they're often Mr super average or a bit of a loser? They often have a lot of trouble getting the girl of their dreams to notice them, they fall into the “friendzone”, they're nice guys, blah bla blah…
 
And this makes me think of the real life creepy “nice guy” group of people- with the neck beards, vicious misogyny, intolerant athiesism, cheap stingray fedora style hats, who hate feminisim and aren't really very nice people at all.
They're very unlike that hapless main character trope, and yet they identify so stongly with them!
 
- So What I'm asking is does this trope exist because we really can all relate to it in some way, because we all (men AND women), feel like hapless losers at times and just want that specific person to notice us?
- Or is this mainly a completely FICTIONAL trope that has become real because we're so used to it that we think it really does apply to real situations?
- OR, is it a hybrid of the two things: we CAN all relate to it, but the fictional parts of the trope have warped some people's vews of relationships?
 
usedbooks at 10:12AM, Nov. 1, 2015
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Eh. I think the unrequited relationship came before the trope. Pretty sure you'll find it in any literature back as early as literature exists. It probably started as a way for creative types to vent their frustrations, especially introverted creative types who found it easier to express themselves in verse or abstactions than actually talk to the person they were fawning over or moving on to someone else. 
  
 
When I was a teen, my sister told me if I hung out with boys, no boy would ever see me as a girl. Don't know if it's true, but I've never had a relationship. Fictional stories had nothing to do with it. All the protagonists were men anyway. Every major girl character always had a love interest, always. Men fought over them. They didn't do the fighting. They had to fend them off. There was no girl character I knew of that simply had no one interested in them. None that had an actual life and interests above boys. If anything, it created unrealistic expectations and really warped sense of priorities among girls. (My dad is always upset if a main character female doesn't get a man at the end of a movie. It takes me aback because those are the ones I like the most. :P ) It's not a myth, but it isn't as exaggerated or amusing as in fiction, and it is far more gender-balanced than is represented. Fiction, I believe, more represents the exaggerated thoughts and internal turmoil than the actual experiences of those involved. Every protagonist seems to have the emotional maturity of a 14 year old when it comes to relationships.
 
I have had a few crushes over the years but no one interested in me. Honestly, it's more bothersome than anything. I am far more productive when I can break a crush and be rid of the hormones. It kills me to be wondering of maybe someone might have feelings for me. Luckily, I have learned that if I just ask, we can have a horrible awkward moment, a “you're really a great friend, but…” and then move forward with an intact crushless friendship and get back to being awesome.
bravo1102 at 3:04AM, Nov. 2, 2015
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It's an old character who grew out of the hero's sidekick. Somewhere along the way a writer decided that the the sidekick would make an interesting main character especially if he was a bit of a ne'er do well.  Think the comic relief in Shakespeare romantic comedies. Think Falstaff in the Merrie Wives of Windsor.  

Every romance has had the guy or gal who just can't talk to the opposite sex and tell them of their love or whose plans to tell them of their love invariably fail. There were always shy and awkward leads but one who is a bumbler all the way around? Cyrano had the ski nose but was an excellent swordsman as well as great wit. Candide was hapless at times but eventually gets the girl through his own perserverance and is competent and notoriously upbeat and oh so perceptive in difficult situations. Then came Bob Hope. The trope really takes off with his movies.  He nearly created the character or if not perfected him. The clueless, bumbling lead. Falstaff crossed with Candide with Cyrano's nose. You know that in the Road… pictures it was stipulated that he NEVER get the girl? Even when he did, he really didn't. (Road to Utopia)

Another favorite of the bumbling nebbish lead set is Woody Allen. He admits to a large influence on his movies from Bob Hope. If you know Bob Hope films you see so many modern films and can rattle off where the gag appeared before in Bob Hope, then in Woody Allen and Mel Brooks and finally in a modern film. 

Notice the word “nebbish” Yiddish. Another large influence were the Yiddish comics of the late 19th and early 20th Century. A staple in their comic theater is the hapless romantically inept hero who rises above everything. Think Fiddler on the Roof which collects nearly ever staple of Yiddish theater and dumps it into one musical. There's a great bit in Spamalot ridicluing that with the song “Need a Jew”
ANd how did these influences come together? Vaudville.
KimLuster at 7:12AM, Nov. 2, 2015
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I think most of us have felt the Hapless Loser at times in our lives - I know I have…!!  And maybe most of us sort of are :D
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So… “We have news for the beautiful people - there's a lot more of us than there are of you!”  - Revenge of the Nerds
last edited on Nov. 2, 2015 7:13AM
Peipei at 11:58AM, Nov. 2, 2015
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No idea where the origins of the character derived from but I have been able to relate to several characters in story and film who fit in to this mold…on another note, I remember being guilted by a guy who had a crush on me years ago for deciding to date another guy before he got the chance to tell me how he felt about me. Did the whole “i'm a nice guy” spiel and everything. Long story short, I had to block his number and avoid being around him in person because he started behaving in a stalkerish way :S.
 
 
So while I can definitely relate to the “Hapless Main Character” (because i've been there in life, we all have!) I sometimes feel as though too many people gravitate towards the idea of them fitting that specific archetype. In doing so, a lot of people these days are starting to run with the idea that “nice guys/girls finish last”, which is mostly bull in my opinion. There are soooo many more factors that go in to laws of attraction besides only being “nice” and that kind of goes for everyone I guess :s. 
  
usedbookswrote:
When I was a teen, my sister told me if I hung out with boys, no boy would ever see me as a girl. Don't know if it's true, but I've never had a relationship. 
Woah o.o I never heard that one before, 95% of all of my friends have been guys and it's been the opposite for me, they usually end up crushing hard on me in secret (until they confess or another friend tells on them to me! xD) I remember being the only girl in to video games in my entire middle school and the guys absolutely loved it!  


I like Pie!
KimLuster at 12:35PM, Nov. 2, 2015
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Peipei wrote:
…95% of all of my friends have been guys and it's been the opposite for me, they usually end up crushing hard on me in secret…  
 
My man, who is brilliant but blusteringly opininated (yeah he sometimes reads what I post here - I don't care haha - he knows it's true) has this opinion…
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My man is of the opinion that when most (as in by far) straight people hang out with opposite genders, one, or the other, or maybe both, are crushing on the other!  He just doesn't believe than men and women are biologically wired to be ‘just pals’ (here I go with biology again, Ozone.. ;)), like in Harry Met Sally (Harry said guys and girls can't be friends because the sex always gets in the way…).  My man says most of the time it's the guys doing the crushing, and they're pulling the ‘nice guy, hapless loser’ thing prentending to be ‘just a friend’ so they get some scraps of affection and some level of ‘ownership’ (via the friends-thing), with some masochistic blind hope that things will change at some nebulous future personal utopia.
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Of course, I don't believe this (or I don't want to), and I know there's just GOT to be exceptions, but I have to honestly say that every guy (I'm like you and I've had lots of guy friends) who's ever just been my ‘friend’, for nearly everyone I later found out later he harbored a secret crush.  When me and my man first started dating I had this really good friend (we'll call him Don).  Don came over all the time, we had drinks together, talked about stuff.  My man said, “that dude's got it for you!”.  I argued hard against it - it just couldn't be true.  But it turns out he really did!
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Hubby insists this is really applies to people who claim to true friends, meaning people who  hang out together outside work, confide in each other, etc, and not acquaintances (work buddies, etc…).
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I think he would say (only half-joking) that anyone who claims to be one of these so-called ‘friends’ is not being true and is flirting with hapless loser-dom.
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What do you think?
usedbooks at 4:56PM, Nov. 2, 2015
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If anyone ever had a secret crush on me, they kept a very good secret. But I never took to asking until I was about thirty.
 
 
Until then, I just went on assuming most of the guys who I got along so well with or crushed on weren't interested. While assuming I had not one attractive cell on my person, I attempted to play sleuth, slyly look for wedding rings, or, in one case, remain completely oblivious to the “out and proud” badges and t-shirts. XD I could probably be the hapless female protagonist society doesn't need. (Or I could have been in my 20s. I swore off the nonsense.)
 
 
 
 
It's really unfair to say heterosexual opposite sexes cannot be friends. While it is true I have crushed hard on a good 30% of my male friends (I don't have that many friends, so that's been about six), there are more that I had absolutely no chemistry or attraction to, no matter how much we bonded or got along. There is science behind attraction, after all. We have our “types.” There's chemistry that makes us attracted to people with dissimilar immune genes, a neat mechanism to create a stronger next generation and usually prevents people from being attacted to close relatives. Of course, there is the phenomenon of how talking about science completely negates any potential attraction.
KimLuster at 6:36PM, Nov. 2, 2015
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I'm cool with it not being true!!  Or even mostly true!!  I'd rather believe I just picked the wrong ‘friends’ ;)
ozoneocean at 7:06AM, Nov. 3, 2015
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This is a fun discussion!
It's gone off topic I think but I don't want to derail the current thread of discussion so I might restart the Quackcast thing in another post… I dunno.
 
———–
 
@Kim- I think your hubby is partly right and partially wrong.
Of course there is always the potential for people to become atracted (as long as they're not related hopefully), and it's not limited to straight people either.
Speaking honestly from my own perspective (and I don't think I'm an exception): I don't hang out with and become friends with girls who I hope to become initimate with, rather the more I hang out with someone the more there's a chance I'll see them in a different light and then crush on them.
If I do I'll be open about that and get it out of the way because if you leave those things they become toxic to you. I find that being open about it is the best way to excise it and move on. And then I continue as before, hanging out, without that baggage.
 
last edited on Nov. 3, 2015 7:53AM
bravo1102 at 8:59AM, Nov. 3, 2015
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The friend zone is an outgrowth of the love triangle. A woman can only belong to one man so the other man must be only a friend. I can reference the entire genre of courtly love with Arthur and Lancelot, Mark and Tristan. 
KimLuster at 2:12PM, Nov. 3, 2015
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It's not totally off-topic, Ozone!  A fair amount of movies feature the ‘friend’ who's a bit of an oddball (the hapless loser) who has a secret crush on the main (or co-main).  When the crush is revealed, sometimes it's returned (“Some Kind of Wonderful”, “Can't Hardly Wait”), other times not, but they remain friends(“Pretty in Pink”, “The Last American Virgin”,“Lucas”)….   Notice that lots of these are teen movies, where the ‘Loser’ label applies much more harshly!
Point being that in media the ‘friend’ is often sort of a loser, often loveable, and with lots good traits, but still, they're… “different”.  Not sure about the RL equivalent, but I know, when I've crushed on others and never told them, it was because I somehow felt inadequate, not what they really want…  In my eyes I was ‘the loser’ to them!
last edited on Nov. 3, 2015 2:20PM
bravo1102 at 5:31AM, Nov. 4, 2015
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Yes it exists in RL. It is often occupied by the “quirky ” person who doesn't pick up on social signals and tends to be clueless  about crushes. Or at least that's my observations.  If I had known the signals and had an ounce of self esteem I could have had a freaking harem. 
ozoneocean at 8:07PM, Nov. 4, 2015
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@Bravo - Could that have happened Bravo, or is that really just what pop-culture images have convinced you is possible?
 
@Kim - That's interesting. OK, most of us will often see ourselves in that “loser” role from time to time, even if no one else sees us quite that way at the same time (maybe when we're thinking we're atractive and sauve is when they see us as a clowninsh loser? Haha)
Perhaps the media depiction of those character's behaviour is an exageration of people's own self perceptions, which is why they're relatable, comic (because of the exageration), and also SEEM to have a basis in reality. -when they're really just cartoons.
 
——–
 
I emailed Banes about this topic the other day and he mentioned other character types that exist in media but can't really exist in that form in reality, and yet the media does a really GOOD job of convincing us that they COULD be real. I found that really interesting.
He used Walter White from Breaking Bad as an example.
Which was pretty smart. Whatching that show you're convinced he COULD exist… but maybe the reality of that is pretty unlikley? And does that in turn infleunce people in real life to imitate that behaviour? I wouldn't think so.
 
But I have heard that the depiction of police in American cop shows and movies HAS often influenced the behavior of real police in various ways:
Manerisims with the sunglasses and trying to look cool being one example, trying to look “badass” with their guns being another, eating food over and being nonchelant around dead bodies was something that began in reality as a the sort of macho one-up-manship you expect from such people, but that wasn't widespread untill it was taken up and developed as a meme in various TV shows (Hill Street Blues etc) and then that became a more universal thing in reality as people unconsiously imitate the TV characters.
 
last edited on Nov. 4, 2015 8:12PM
KimLuster at 10:06PM, Nov. 4, 2015
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Reality imitating Media - what a fascinating notion!  I read that the Mafia loved the Godfather movies, and started imitating some of the mannerisms, speech, and quotes: “I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse…”
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I served on a Jury once, and for the trial a woman was representing herself.  She would question witnesses with much drama and theatrics.  Eventually she started yelling, “I will die over this…!!” and the Judge declared a mistrial and had her dragged out of courtroom.  Then he paused for a moment, silent in thought, and then turned to us jurors and said, “I really think people just watch too much television these days…!”
last edited on Nov. 4, 2015 10:08PM
ozoneocean at 12:10AM, Nov. 5, 2015
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Hahahaha! “OBJECTION YER HONOUR!”
 
bravo1102 at 2:11AM, Nov. 5, 2015
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There have always been dramatic people. It's that our modern media gives us more examples to emulate. Before the meme of sunglasses and cool there was the bewildered earnestness of Clancy the flat foot beat cop.

As an aside the sunglasses and boots cool arose out of World War 2 motorcycle cops imitating fighter pilots. They're called aviator sunglasses for a reason.
bravo1102 at 5:58AM, Nov. 5, 2015
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There is also the first motorcycle  cops coming from horse cops with the jodhpur and Sam Brown belts of the cavalry. Since many First World War pilots had been from the cavalry there was a natural meshing of styles. That eventually led to the sunglasses and leather jacket cool. 
ozoneocean at 12:34AM, Nov. 6, 2015
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These things (jackets, glasses etc) existed, they wore them, but were they neccessarily “cool” in them? (Are they even cool now? heh, they just think they are ^_^)
The thing is that some image creator, let's call them a Hollywood type, leveraged existing uniforms and styles and made them universally cool- which spread the image and the tyle wider.
 
What about the famous gangsters of the 1920s? They had a very specific style with their suits and hats. They say that was helped along massively by the image created by the early Hollywood movies. (some say they created it). And these weren't just Chicago gansters that looked this way, there are photos of gang members world wide with exactly the same look- In Australia in the early ‘20s, Itally, Argentina…
 - Not just clothes, but specific way of wearing them: hats right on the back of the head, hats cocked on an angle and pulled down low over one eye, hats pulled forward low to the nose, coats worn over the shoulders etc.
 
And that follows into the era of the modern “gangsta”. Styles which started in very limited, specific areas at certain points in time (I dunno, Compton, mid ’80s?), were spread and blown up massively because the images were popularised and sold on album covers, movies and ads and those things in turn helped mutate and further create the look of the modern gansta and then they coppied what they thought was “coolest” from the pop-culture version of their culture:
Baseball caps worn in various ways, trousers around the knees, gold teeth, guns held sideways…
 
bravo1102 at 1:06AM, Nov. 6, 2015
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Newspapers and advertising. Look at lots of old magazine and newspaper ads with the picture and testmonial. Look at particular news stories of certain figures who created a look. Advertising created icons of certain things like Coca-Cola and Santa Claus. The aviator look is from ancient Rayban ads which featured Navy and Air Corps fliers because Rayban already supplied the military and everyone had seen fighter pilots cool going back to barnstorming and wanted that. It is all documented.

The Chicago gangster look can be traced to the tastes of a handful of influential figures that everyone else copied. The sane with the modern gangsta look. A couple of influential figures wore it and everyone else copied. So it's someone creating the look, and individual or Madison Ave and then everyone copying. One album cover can create an entire fashion craze. Just the same as a handful of stylish gun slinging dandies created the whole Roaring Twenties gangster look that everyone else emulated and this was about 5-10 years before Hollywood touched gangsters in movies.
last edited on Nov. 6, 2015 1:09AM
ozoneocean at 1:41AM, Nov. 6, 2015
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Careful of tracing back to single origins though- the coke/santa thing is a well known modern myth.
http://www.snopes.com/holidays/christmas/santa/cocacola.asp
 
last edited on Nov. 6, 2015 1:43AM
ozoneocean at 1:48AM, Nov. 6, 2015
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These iconic images of 1920's Melbourne Gansters were created this way because of the professional, highly skilled, artistic photographer that happened to be working at the police station at the time.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2000227/They-dont-make-mugshots-like-anymore-Amazing-police-photos-1920s-criminals-arrested-Australia.html
 
bravo1102 at 2:15AM, Nov. 6, 2015
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Read Gangs of NY among other hisotries of the early mob for the dandies at the turn of the 20th Century who created gangster fashion.  Remember following the height of fashion was a symbol of wealth and power that the mob wanted to project.  It was already in US newspapers for 20-25 years years by the time that Aus photographer did his series.
ozoneocean at 2:57AM, Nov. 6, 2015
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Bravo, fashion during 1921 was amazingly different to fashion in 1901 and 1896. This is a very detail orriented thing: suit isn't just a suit.
I don't question at all, your sources, just your reductive tendancies.
 
Besides, wearing nice clothes that were “in” did not make the classic gangster look. You have to do a lot more than just have the right outfit. Things like the exact positioning of the hat, the tilt of the head, the tousel of the hair, turn of the cuff, hands in pockets… All that was posed and studied by these people (exactly the same with their counterparts today).
 
People imagine that they have some natural, “animal” cool to them, that it comes with the way of life, or the clothes they put on, but nothing could be further from the truth. We know these people admired their idols and studied to look like them, posed endlessly in front of mirrors… and in turn influenced others, then became the basis for images in ads, books, movies, film in a far more highly crystalised, stylised form and that infleunced even more people.
And it's been that way with the famous American outlaw cowboys (some of whom cultivated their image from the media of the day), normal cowboys, English Highway men, Bussh rangers in Australia, Pirates, Cavaliers, Samurai, knights…
 
I don't think I'm really disagreeing with you here, we're just at a slight variance. ^_^
 
I know from my outfit collecting effors that it takes a lot more than having the exact right gear to look as good as Sean Bean in hussar duds, Fred Astair in white tie, or George Clooney in a suit (all of which are artificial media stylisations)- you have to understand HOW they managed to look that way. …and then understand that some of these things are often based on the work of experts with angles, lighting, makeup…
 
Now I'm off-topic, getting all caught up in aesthetics…
 
bravo1102 at 3:41AM, Nov. 6, 2015
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Except that this is already in the accepted historical record. Men'should fashion from the turn of the 20th century was still the fashion in certain ethnic groups and “dressed to the nines ” resulted in a very similar look among gangsters but very different from Upstairs Downstairs.  This goes back to underworld figures like Diamond Jim and to the various ethnic gangs.

The aviator look was an established cool that is documented to WW 1 figures like Eddie Rickenbacker who became barnstorming and racers of both cars and motorcycles further adding to the mystique. It's  all in various histories of motorcycles,  early aviation and the waning days of the US cavalry as it became motorized. 


Similarly it's like how all the strands of the hapless hero came together in Bob Hope movies. That's gleaned from several of his biographies and reviews of the history of stage and screen comedy. Besides following specific trends is less reductionist than coming up with a grand theory of cool.0
bravo1102 at 6:18AM, Nov. 6, 2015
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By the way Oz, I  don't see us as right or wrong just delineating different aspects of the  same phenomenon. 
KimLuster at 9:53AM, Nov. 7, 2015
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Well y'all keep talking!  Fascintation stuff I was generally unaware of…!!
ozoneocean at 4:54PM, Nov. 7, 2015
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Bravo- from all I've looked into reality verses the idealised reality (media depiction), fact never matches fiction. Reality has the seed, fiction creates the image, then reality is influenced by it.
Dressing to the 9s is very different depending on the year. That ideal changed a lot with location and time… Subtleties that are meaningless to us now we're a big deal. One of the biggest problems with having an overview of history is that you miss the intricacies that were important at the time, you develop a compressed view. 
As a modeler, you will know that even though the Tiger is the classic German tank of WW2, in all the movies and artwork even though in reality the Panzer IV was the more iconic tank… And even then that had many different versions depending on time and place.
But film budgets are limited and the tigers look more exciting.
 
I have a LOT of reference material, not just gigs of downloaded images of all different types, but also a big library of books on all aspects of the early 20th century. 
I don't say that to try and convince you that my facts are superior, just to tell you that I HAVE honestly tried to research this. 
I don't just look for photos and descriptions of outits, I look for surviving examples too and what's possible to buy…
  
Because of that I know the glam of the motorbikers almost certainly did not exist in the way people see in film and artwork. The same with flyers. The reality was different in a lot of ways. These people were awkward enthusiasts, often gangly, not full developed youths. Their outfits were bulky and illfitting with none of the cavalry charm of the imagery. Modern US motorbike cops are more dashing than the riders of the old days on those muddy unfinished roads… Flying was a bitterly cold, dirty afair, no one looked dashing like mr Biggles… The only time they approached the look was in the officer's mess and that was more formal.
 
Even the famous flappers of the 1920s… You can see them in film but to dig up actual examples seems impossible. Sure these women existed but not quite as the media would have us believe- dresses were never as short for example. That might not seem like a big deal to us now but it was a huge thing then. To a massive extent the media created the image of the “Roaring ‘20s”
For a start, it’s often mainly centred around a small subset of people in a few US cities at the time- mainly New York, Chicago and LA. On the rest of the planet the culture was slightly different… But even in the US it was way more conservative than the popular image suggests now. 
 
ozoneocean at 5:04PM, Nov. 7, 2015
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On, the TL;DR version:
Reality is complex, dirty, boring, unstylish, with bad angles and lighting, it makes a million different versions or everything and can't decide which one is right, so the media comes along and makes the perfect composite out of the very best of all versions, boiling them down to the perfect hybridised ideal and THAT is what people follow.
 
PIT_FACE at 6:49PM, Nov. 8, 2015
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usedbooks wrote:
If anyone ever had a secret crush on me, they kept a very good secret. But I never took to asking until I was about thirty.
 
 
Until then, I just went on assuming most of the guys who I got along so well with or crushed on weren't interested. While assuming I had not one attractive cell on my person, I attempted to play sleuth, slyly look for wedding rings, or, in one case, remain completely oblivious to the “out and proud” badges and t-shirts. XD I could probably be the hapless female protagonist society doesn't need. (Or I could have been in my 20s. I swore off the nonsense.)
 
 
 
 
It's really unfair to say heterosexual opposite sexes cannot be friends. While it is true I have crushed hard on a good 30% of my male friends (I don't have that many friends, so that's been about six), there are more that I had absolutely no chemistry or attraction to, no matter how much we bonded or got along. There is science behind attraction, after all. We have our “types.” There's chemistry that makes us attracted to people with dissimilar immune genes, a neat mechanism to create a stronger next generation and usually prevents people from being attacted to close relatives. Of course, there is the phenomenon of how talking about science completely negates any potential attraction.



WTF? Who isn't being yer friend? Yer awesome! I'LL KILL EM!!!
bravo1102 at 5:39AM, Nov. 9, 2015
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Being usually ostracized ethnic  the fashion ethics of gangsters was often old fashioned.  But the bootlegger ideal was based on media accounts as you have indicated so the two fed into another to create an archetype precisEly how you're saying. Advertising added to the flyer into motorcyclist race driver mystique.  The dashing knight of the skies fighter ace was already attested to in 1916 even 1915 with the French pilot with the deflecting blades on his prop. You only needed one example to create an entire iconography is what I'm saying.  The flapper like the Gibson girl probably never existed but are composites from numerous models. And media ran with it and people tried to emulate what they saw and read.

So there is no disagreement from me. I  thoughtI had made that clear with the hapless hero archetype drawn together from many sources into Bob Hope movies persona. Which so many have copied.  It never really existed in one person in real life. But that has not stopped anyone from trying to live that life which is a fictional construction. And now it's  a tangled mess and I  am never sure what routine I'm drawing from anymore because at points in your life I did borrow from media to get by because I  had no other examples of behavior to draw upon.

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