Thursday, March 10, 2011

Reality and Fictonal Stereotypes

Okay, I've got a blue collar job. I've made other entries that say as much.

One thing you notice right away in the world of grocery retail - most people are uninteresting and pretty much unlikeable. I was taking my lunch in the break room the other day when I overheard a coworker's very loud cellphone conversation. This middle aged woman is very plain, with a figure that may have been pleasant when she was younger and a personality that generally makes me forget she exists. But this phone call that I was privy to allowed me to see another aspect: she, too, has real problems in her life. Unfortunately, these problems are so mundane and boring that she failed to garner any of my further pathos.

In stark contrast, the fictional version of this woman would have to have some quality that would cause us to pull for her, to hope she overcomes her obstacles and betters herself. In reality, though, we know that she's never going to change her situation, and we accept that, forget about her, and move on.

On the other hand, one of the assistant managers of the store is the exact cardboard cut-out of middle management that stereotypes in art, lit and film have brought us to expect. He's overweight, frumpy, put-upon by the higher ups, lacking in real ambition to achieve anything past the status quo, barely competent, thinks himself far cleverer than he really is, etc. If I actually wrote this guy as a character in a story, you'd think he was a stock character and ask me to make him rounder. But I swear, he's really as banal as you'd expect. I bet you could write his dialogue.

There's also a particularly ugly and peculiar fellow I have to deal with daily. While retaining his anonymity, he's got the same name as a famous king of England who suffered an infamous defeat. In appearance, he somewhere between Shrek and Quasimodo, with a mustache and glasses. To top it off, he's epileptic, which has caused him to damage his body further during his seizures, so he sort of scuttles along. And he's got a really bad attitude, despite being an obviously lonely character --who'd be much more sympathetic in fiction, mind you. But in real life he's immediately unlikeable. I keep praying that one day he will confide in me, "Gary, I was once a handsome young prince. But a witch fell in love with me, and since I would not return her love she locked me in the hideous form you see before you today. I remain afflicted until I can find true love... with a horse."

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