About seven years ago, my all-time favorite movie was Garden State. I felt like I was Andrew Largeman, Zach Braff's character. I was the emotionally numb twenty-something waiting for life to begin. I was the one waiting for a quirky girl like Sam to come and rescue me from my doldrums. "Finally," I thought, "somebody gets me!"
Seven years later, Amanda and I watched the movie together, and throughout the entire movie I kept thinking, "Man, Sam is such a Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope!"
I mean, I still like Garden State. Just not without discernment, thanks to feminism.
That's the thing about feminism. Once you find out just how male-dominated and heteronormative our society is, you can't look at things the same way again. You realize how many of your favorite movies portray women as either damsels in distress (Disney, I'm talking to you!), prize goals for successful men, or merely helpmates for male protagonists. Not to mention that most of your favorite movies will no doubt fail the Bechdel Test.
And if you're as self-conscious and sensitive as I am, chances are this new information will generate two reactions:
1. Extreme Guilt: "I'm such a horrible person! I'm the worst human being in the world! Now I have to do penance to atone for my patriarchal sins."
2. Extreme Defensiveness: "I'm not a bad person! I'm not one of those people! I don't hate women! I don't make rape jokes! I don't go to strip clubs! Stop judging me!"
Unfortunately, neither response helps anything. Change has to come from a happy medium. So instead of my beating myself up about what I'm doing wrong, I try to let each new piece of information become a learning experience that hopefully will help me grow as a person.