After Aetherfest a few weeks back, I saw The Avengers, and it was all kinds of awesome.
I mean. OMG. WTF. FTW. Really.
So, okay. This post is about arrogance, not creative genius. Although they sometimes seem to go hand-in-hand.
Tony Stark (Iron Man), Sherlock Holmes, and James Bond come to mind.
Also, Hal Jordan (Green Lantern), more along the lines of just arrogant before being gifted the “will.” Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother, definitely makes that show what it is (or, at least, what it was before I stopped watching it).
The above examples of fictional characters aren’t only arrogant, they are also womanizers, playboys (i.e., players), with the exception of Sherlock Holmes who, according to the new BBC series, is a “high-functioning sociopath.”
In the film The Avengers, Tony Stark actually says as much. In response to Captain America who shouts, “Take away the suit, and what’s left?” Mr. Stark replies, rather arrogantly,
“Genius. Billionaire. Playboy. Philanthropist.”
The first two and the last, I’ll give him. But Playboy? How is Playboy on the same level as philanthropist?
Playboy in it’s original sense, okay: a man who has a lot of time and appreciates the pleasures of the world. But the connotation is most often a womanizer or player. A lothario, a man who obsessively seduces and deceives women.
Casual sex is fine. Promiscuity is fine.
Deceiving people to serve your own selfish needs. Not fine. Exploiting women, treating them like ejaculatory tools only to devalue and discard them. Not fine.
So why do we as a culture champion these men?
One friend suggested that arrogance is often mistaken for confidence. Granted, as I just recently realized that they are two very different things indeed. The truly confident have no need to deceive or play, they are secure in themselves without the need for external validation. The arrogant, however, demonstrates haughty over-confidence to cover up a crippling self-loathing. They treat others horribly to elevate themselves.
Tony Stark may have used the term playboy in it’s more original sense, but at the same time, Tony Stark is likely a pathological narcissist. At least a recovering pathological narcissist.
He describes himself as a man who “Doesn’t play well with others,” “a living legend who kind of lives up to the legend.”
His time as a prisoner of war likely helped jolt him out of his old ways. Perhaps we’re celebrating his reformation from arrogant asshole to arrogant superhero. Overcoming his own issues. All superheroes are tragic in one way or another. They are who they are because of their pain and their fear. They rise above those things and put others before themselves. They act despite of their fear, the very definition of courage.
Now Mr. Stark saves the world. He no longer uses women, as he is in a “stablish relationship” with Ms. Potts. He has grown as a character in many ways, yet he still has the arrogant “charm.” Habit, perhaps?
Let’s take Mr. Bond. Totally arrogant. Total womanizer. He risks his life for Queen and Country again and again. Does that excuse the way he treats women?
Sherlock Holmes, genius who solves murders, does that excuse the way he treats everyone?
Perhaps it does. Perhaps we excuse bad behavior to individuals for the greater good? But in real life, it seems more likely that we excuse bad behavior for those who are attractive. We reward those who are charming and fun, regardless of the damage left in their wakes.
Barney Stinson is an example of this. He’s handsome and charming. Rich. Funny. But he’s funny because he’s on TV. Would you really want Barney as a friend? A boyfriend? Still, he is who makes that show so great. Is it because he is such an honest character? Perhaps he shows us our own absurdity in celebrating the arrogant lothario as a culture.
The old cliche “The nice guy finishes last” comes to mind. And, in reality, they do. It’s a reality I have been loathe to accept. But it has become more and more undeniable as I progress through life and through love. Still, those arrogant, narcissists I’ve known might be handsome and charming and even successful with their work helping and/or inspiring others, but they leave a string of broken hearts in their wakes without remorse or looking back. Or maybe they do feel remorse and guilt, but they hide those as well as they hide their true selves.
It has started to become quite clear that these wo/men are quite miserable. Perhaps as tragic as those superhero characters, in a less larger-than-life way. They suffer inside. Full of pain and darkness and unable to express or fill such emptiness out of their fear. They, unlike superheroes, don’t face their fears. They don’t have courage. They are cowards and they hide behind their beautiful facades.
Just think how great these talented, inspiring wo/men could be if they found their courage. Then they would truly shine. Until then, they will continue to hurt themselves and others all while pretending not to care or notice.
But they do notice. They do care.
Each new broken spirit left behind for which they refuse responsibility creates a deeper chasm of pain, causes them to hide further behind their mask. More and more makeup is needed to cover the expanding cracks until they no longer even know who they are themselves. They have buried themselves so deep in their own darkness, so afraid of showing the world, and themselves, who they truly are that it becomes decreasingly possible to ever break free from it.
And this deeply saddens me. Because there are so many “nice guys” full of love and acceptance that would embrace them for who they are. Who would never ask them to edit themselves. Who would stand by them while they faced their deepest, darkest fears, loving and supporting them through it.
I’m one of those nice guys. All we ask for is love and respect in return. But that, it seems, is something they are unable or unwilling to give in their current state. Some find the courage to face their fears and invest in love, but those are few and far between.
People who can find the courage to face their fears, to be honest and open, to look within and work on their issues, to invest themselves in love…those are the real superheroes.
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~ by omgrey on May 30, 2012.
Posted in Romance & Relationships
Tags: arrogance, author, barney stinson, fear, green lantern, grief, intimacy, iron man, james bond, joss whedon, love, misogyny, narcissism, narcissist, non-monogamy, o.m. grey, olivia grey, open, open marriage, passion, polyamory, relationship advice, relationships, romance, sex, sherlock, sherlock holmes, the avengers, tony stark