The Romantic Role Model

Mansplaining: to explain something to someone, typically a man to woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronising.

I am not about to, so don’t worry, but I am seeing this term, and the actions of the definition therein far too often. It is the Counter Wife/Women-is-always-right movement I suppose, which is a little understandable, but only a little. I mean a real little little little.

The problem is using an approach that is condescending and derogatory is counter productive which ever side of the fence you sit. I fighting fire with fire only works when you know what you’re doing. When you don’t you just get a bigger fire, and on the internet, wildfires can spread incredibly fast.

I want to focus on a particular brand of Mansplaining, more of a topic in itself, and that is the “You-make-me-do-it” fallacy argument. You know, the argument that goes along the lines of “When you didn’t dress that way, lean over like that, talk that way, post nice pics, etc, etc, etc then I wouldn’t be this way.” Those arguments.

If you have read any of my earlier posts about control, then you’ll already know what I think in this regards. If you haven’t, here’s a brief recap;

No-one makes you do anything. You choose your own thoughts and actions.

What really gets me is the contrast between the cultural icons that litter literature (both written and visual) which clearly show that a respectful and considerate outlook is a far more favourable trait in a man then the lustful self-righteousness we see off screen. How can we see this sort of role model in our everyday entertainment, and yet not be inspired to be like said examples?

And here is where I connect back to acting…

Mr Darcy

Let’s take a character that many consider to the penultimate depiction of the ideal romantic lead. He starts of aloof, even a little high-and-mighty, and gradually comes to realise his faults and works to change his ways, becoming more present, aware, and compassionate. He is a no time lustful, nor untoward the female characters in his story. He is certainly not one to rest the fault of thoughtless actions upon the shoulders of another. He accepts that he is the master of his own presence. When he is struck with feelings of love, they are from a place of respect and admiration, not a desire to grope. He is aware of his feelings yet chooses to remain in control of himself and act with self-respect.

This character appears in mainstream literature all the time, even in some of the present day superhero-movie franchises. Please consider that many of the heroes in our lives share similar qualities with Mr Darcy; they are flawed but work to overcome, they ultimately respect others even though they can be a little cheeky about it, they are ultimately honest and reliable, even though they may not start out that way.

Even our real-life heroes exhibit  similar qualities, and when they don’t meet these qualities, or it is revealed that they have somehow been otherwise, they experience a rapid fall from grace. For example, Tiger Woods, Golfing phenomena and with all the hallmarks of an honest family man, master golfer, honourable and respectful… then it crumbled. People and companies wanted nothing to do with him for a very long time after his indiscretions were revealed, and while he has accepted his mistakes and worked hard to regain some of his former standing, but the tarnish will never be completely removed. Admired when he fit the image of an ideal man, then shunned when that image was shattered.

Yet many men in general seem to stick to this fallacy that their actions are not their own, and thus expose themselves for the weak and fearful creatures they are. This is not the attitude of a courageous man, to deny responsibility for the words and actions committed by their own physical bodies.

Be the Romantic Lead

When you mansplain away the responsibility for your own actions, you are playing the role of the arrogant coward. You are the Wickham, rather than the Darcy. The one whom is either reprimanded, forced to conform, or left with nothing.

Do a Google search into the qualities that make for popular, interesting, and even romantic men, and you will find the consistent appearance of kindness, respect, and self-control. You will definitely NOT find selfishness, arrogance, conceitedness, and a willingness to blame others for your actions. Those are traits usually associated with the second in command of the bad guy, not the hero.

Nice guys don’t come first is something that was said to me a lot growing up. Usually by other boys. To me it evokes ideas of driven selfishness in order to achieve a goal, not matter the cost to others, and that being “nice”, which I take to mean considerate, paced, and cautious, means you may mist the prize. Well, that may be so, but what is so great about being first anyway? While the winner of a race is celebrated, the one that stopped to help his rival is often remembered longer, if not who they are, but what they did at the very least.

And if the prize is at the cost of the respect I get from others, then you can keep your prize.

The act of kindness, consideration, and respect is the act that moves people. Sacrificing the self-glory, which apparently is so incredibly important, in order to help another earns more respect I believe. It’s why people love such stories, even if they don’t personally behave as such themselves.

If you are a guy who is truly keen to get the attention of a loving and respectful woman, then you would do well to look at the types of male heroes they respect in literature, and maybe try to find some of those same qualities in yourself. I can promise that they are there, you just have to choose to use them, and not just for a little while.

Throw away your childish pride. Take the courageous step. Take control of yourself and be a man.

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Spoilers and Courtesy – Special Post

Ok, this may seem like an odd subject to discuss on a blog about things I’ve learnt from acting. Please bear with me, hopefully it will make sense.

No_SpoilersAn ongoing, debated topic is that of talking about shows, books, movies, etc to the degree where events are revealed in a public environment, potentially exposing crucial plot elements to fans that have, for whatever reason, not yet had the chance to read or view the said item themselves. In short, SPOILERS! It is a sore spot for many, and the growing network of online Social Media is making this a rather more uncertain and potential sore point between many interactions. Friends are lost over it.

Here’s the key issue as I see it. Some people feel that they have the right to post what they wish, regardless of what others say, and technically that is true. Taking the view point of freedom-of-speech means that people are entitled to say what they like without vilification. Freedom-of-speech also means that others have the freedom to express their disapproval without fear of reproach. Freedom-of-speech is rather self-contradictory in this way. If you allow it for the spokesperson, then technically you have to allow it for the recipient also. This isn’t what happens however. Generally what one sees actually happening is the one making an initial statement claiming barleys under the umbrella of freedom-of-speech, claiming that requests to reconsider or opposing comments were not welcome, and if you don’t like it, unfollow me. This is actually a right of declaration without further peer review, unless you agree with the declaration, which is an extremely one-sided, dictatorial standpoint, and therefore not freedom-of-speech.

Back on to the specific topic of Spoilers however, I am not saying that people should not post spoilers, as this raises some rather interesting, and unanswerable questions. Such as how long does one wait? The books were released years ago so they can’t be spoilers? And so forth. I think at this point it is important to understand the importance of what a Spoiler actually is, and it is not about freedom-of-speech. It is a much simpler, yet difficult subject; courtesy.

As an actor, I am very familiar with spoilers. I know the story, the plot, and key moments, in any production I am in, or at least, I have the potential to know these things. Where I can, I try to only focus on the story as it relates to my character because, and here is the key point, I like to be surprised. In addition to this, an actor needs to find ways to make those key moments special for the viewers, and not give away anything themselves. We work bloody hard to bring these scenes to life, and it does actually hurt a little when someone gives everything away.

It is about the emotion of the moment, not the overall storyline. Shock, horror, joy, surprise and other such emotions live in an instant, and their effects are exhilarating. A lot has gone in to the special moments, and the cast and crew anticipate the reactions so much so, that most will not give anything away! I’m sure you’ve all seen interviews with actors saying, “I can’t say too much because it would give it all away.” Oh what trouble would there be if an actor gave away a key plot item before the TV show or film was released. There are examples where it has become a legal affair rather than a simple matter of courtesy, so be flippant with spoilers at your own risk.

Here is what a spoiler does. The person who will post our spoiler in this little example I will call the Spoilee, and those that read the spoiler, I will label the Spoiled. So the Spoilee watches a show and reaches the pivotal moment in the story where something really big, shocking, and altogether unexpected happens. The Spoilee is quite obviously surprised, horrified or amazed at this turn of events, and then proceeds to explain to the world through very public forums, what happened. It only needs to be one sentence of a few words, like “I can’t believe such-and-such did this,” or “So-and-so bites the big one,” and so forth. This short declaration is now appearing in people’s feeds around the world. Some may have seen the show already and thus are unspoiled. Others may have no interest in the series or happen not to be online at that point in time, thus missing the post, and are as such unspoiled. Then there are those that are about to watch said show, or are unable to due to release timings, or the inability to be able to afford cable TV. These are the spoiled. They are now aware of a key plot event in the storyline that they were looking forward to.http://www.thefrisky.com/2013-09-30/3-helpful-tips-for-avoiding-spoilers-that-dont-include-yelling-no-spoilers-and-expecting-the-universe-to-listen/There are two types of spoiled; those who are somewhat more accepting of spoilers, because there is so much more about the story anyway, and those that appreciate being able to experience these things for themselves. Regardless of which group you are part of, and sometimes this will vary from show to show, the emotional value of the scene now spoiled is diminished. The Spoilee has taken that pleasure for themselves and left the Spoiled with near nothing. They have diminished the work of the show (cast and crew) by reducing the anticipation of the audience. The big key scene, with all the build up, all the preparation, has now been reduced to just another plot movement. The shock value is gone, selfishly claimed by the Spoilee.

Does this mean that people should not post about their favourite shows? No. I don’t think that the solution is to stop talking about your shows, it is just to have a little consideration for those who may potentially read your posts, and have the same enjoyment you had for a show, lost. I would suggest one of the following, as alternatives.

  • Warn people that you are about to talk about a show with something like “Show-such-and-such SPOILER ahead”, or
  • make a non-specific declaration about the show like “Can’t believe what I just saw in show-such-and-such” and start a private conversation with those that reply.

Think of it from the point of view that you don’t want to diminish the enjoyment factor for other people. Think of it from the point of view that you want others to enjoy the show as much as you did. Just show a little courtesy.

Oh, and if you use the argument that the books were written years ago, shame on you. There are far more books than movies and TV shows. It is impossible to read all books before a show, and often it is the Movie or TV show which is bringing attention to the books, not the other way around. If it was written in a book years ago, great. It makes no difference. I am sure the author is excited that new audiences will be enjoying his story through the visual medium, and hopes that they have the same reactions as those who read the books first.

Video

Daring to be Great – Special Post

Today, I just want you to watch this. It’s a long video, and it’s worth it.

Professionalism

WARNING: This may sound like a bit of a whinge, and it is. It is also a very important message about attitude.

In all professions, there is a certain expectation in terms of skill, attitude and respect that everyone needs to at least be aware of, if they plan to make their chosen career their life. Even if it is not your chosen career, just the one that is going to help you get to your preferred one, you still need to present yourself as a respectable professional. I was always taught this in no uncertain terms both by my parents, and my school teachers. Yet there appears to be a troubling lack of this awareness with today’s work force. Note I do not say youth (as many other commentators tend to), because even though it is more prevalent with the younger generations, it is not isolated to them. professionalism

Too much am I seeing an indefinable attitude that a commitment is not that important. You make an arrangement to meet, be it a job interview, audition, business meeting, etc, yet to not see the importance of keeping this arrangement, or at the very least, relaying some sort of message if circumstances change making your presence difficult if not impossible. What is with this? Where is your sense of personal and professional pride? Do you not care that such a regardless mind-set may actually prove to be detrimental to your future prospects? Or perhaps you are not aware?

In two very different capacities, I have sat on both sides of the fence. Both as the Applicant for a job interview, or casting audition, and as the interviewer or casting director. Now, I would not dream of skipping on an audition without at least calling to see if I can make other arrangements, or to at least give an explanation. However, based on previous experience, I would appear to be in a diminishing minority on that front. Let me relay a specific example, without revealing specifics.

I recently sat on the panel for the casting a local, Professional, Paid, theatrical production. The auditions were promoted through a casting agency, a casting website, through various theatrically/film related Facebook groups, and even direct emails. We had a rather large application pool which was rather encouraging. We ended up having to spread our sessions across five days which included a couple of weekends. In all, around 36 people applied, and confirmed a booking time. A few people missed out as we filled our books, due to the large number of confirmations. Everything looked rather positive in that regards.

Across the five sessions, a total of 12 people actually turned with a few giving their apologies or pulling out just before hand. I have no issue with these people. They demonstrated good professional etiquette by either keeping their appointments, or by contacting us. As for the remaining around 20 individuals… where were you? What happened? There were up to four people hanging around waiting for you to show, and the last day was a complete no-show! How is it that so many people thought it would be absolutely OK to simply vanish in to the mists?calendardate

I feel a little twinge of sympathy for these people (just a little) as their names are now on a shared record with other local agents. It is something I didn’t realise myself until going through this particular casting process; agents share something called a “shit-list”. It could cover all manner of things like poor attitudes, ability to work with, and attendance records.

In the not-for-profit theatrical groups, not attending an audition would probably not really affect your that much, unless you made a habit of it and word slowly spread. In professional theatre, well let’s just say it is less forgiving and can seriously affect your career choices.

So here is an example where my life has taught me important lessons that have benefited my acting life, and I am thankful for it. I think back and recall times where I made a call to a local Independent (not profesional) theatre making my deepest apologies for not being able to attend, or calling ahead to say I was running a little late, but was on the way. The people I spoke to usually were extremely appreciative, and occasionally surprised that I went to the trouble. I found that odd. To me it is simple good manners, nothing special.

After talking with various industry professionals, I find I am not alone in my concerns. There appears to be a troubling apathy in the talent pool to develop what is simply a respect for yourself, and those you have made a promise to. After all, it was your choice to apply, no-one forced you, which means it’s your professional reputation on the line.

When to say “No”

Lee Sheppard suggested that I write a post on “When to say ‘No’.

Based on another suggestion for a blog post, I address the matter of when to say no. As Lee was not specific in his suggestion, I will take it as saying no to a show, or a role.

Image from sharpmindmarketing.com

Now, why should this be important? Because it is all too easy to fall into the trap of accepting everything that comes your way, getting over involved in too many things, stressing out about being able to fulfil all your commitments and basically running yourself into the ground. Let alone the reputation you may gather by doing so.

Interestingly enough, and maybe a little counter-intuitive, you get less respect by being a “yes” man, than by having a few standards. This is true in life also. You need to respect yourself as much as, if not more so, than those around you. What does happen to the yes man, is people become complacent towards you because you always say ‘yes’. You make it easy for everyone and quite without meaning to, they will often take this as a given, which is not much different to taking you for granted.

Side Note: I actually see a difference between the two, seen as a given or taken for granted; one is borne of familiarity and not intention, and the later is more intention and expectation.

So when should you say ‘No’? It’s really quite easy. When saying ‘Yes’ makes you feeling uncomfortable, not happy, that’s when you say ‘No’.

If I may recount a personal experience. I auditioned for a play which I deeply desired to do. I learnt that the director was looking for a certain cast demographic that would most likely have excluded me from some of the roles I wanted, but I auditioned anyway. And so I should. So should you.

I once saw auditions as making a commitment, which was the ‘Yes’ man in me. By auditioning for a show, I was making a promise to do the show if cast. Right there, that is a perspective to be changed. By auditioning, you are showing an interest in the show not a commitment, not yet. You are saying, I would be prepared to commit sure, but you haven’t committed yet. That was one of my earlier mistakes.

Back to the example. I was offered a role. Several in fact. Minor roles, but a lot of them. Now there once was a time where I would have jumped at the opportunity to test my skill at playing various roles. I actually love that stuff. In this case, I tried to picture myself playing the roles, watching others play the roles I ached for, trying not to be critical or envious, and I couldn’t. The thought made me very uncomfortable. I knew that I would not be able to give my best performance if I was constantly being distracted in this way, so I turned the offer down.

Then you have to the other extreme; saying ‘No’ when perhaps you shouldn’t have. Don’t let pride and arrogance blind you to the opportunities that are out there. When you narrow your standards too much, you reduce your options also. I have done this also.

Another play which I would love to be in one day, and I auditioned for only the lead role. I determined before hand that I would accept nothing less. I stuck to my guns, walked away feeling quite proud about it, and didn’t get a role. However, had I opened my sights a bit better, I would have been first choice for another role, which I realised, after the fact of course, that I would have loved to play.

Then and only then, did I recognise what I had done. I had smothered all my feelings with an intellectual motive to demand the best. This is simply sheer arrogance, or naivety. In my case, a bit of both. Had I listened at all to my heart, I would have acknowledged the discomfort I was feeling with my choice. Had I listened to that feeling, I would have had another play on my CV.

So again, with a little embellishment, when should you say ‘No’? When saying ‘Yes’ makes you feel uncomfortable, and after some time to reflect. Don’t make your choice too hastily. Allow yourself sometime to consider all your choices, and be realistic about them. Don’t be afraid to say “Can I think about it for a day?” The Director/Casting Director will either say, “Sure” or “I need a decision now”, so at the very least, you know where you stand.