Today, a co-worker emailed me this to show his appreciation for an assignment I’d completed:
Monthly Archives: April 2010
“Hunger hurts, and I want him so bad, oh it kills/
’Cause I know I’m a mess he don’t wanna clean up”
— “Paper Bag,” Fiona Apple
I’ve been watching and reading Naruto for some time now, and I’m finally able to put a label on this pattern I see among its characters: emotional starvation. See, we all have an intrinsic need to connect with one another, despite all of the walls that we build around ourselves. We crave the attention/love/approval that others have to offer. Those who don’t get the need for emotional support met sufficiently will seek out that support even when the person from whom they want it most is incapable of giving it.
Exhibit A: Naruto. He grew up with people thinking he was nothing more than a monster. Until he met Iruka-Sensei, he didn’t know the meaning of true affection. But it’s being placed on a team with Sasuke that makes him value the importance of teamwork and friendship (a messed up, anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better version of friendship, but friendship nonetheless). Sasuke’s subsequent abandonment of his village isn’t enough for Naruto to let go and treat him like the criminal that he is. Even as Sasuke continues his refusal to acknowledge Naruto as an equal and plots to destroy Konoha, he still holds a special place in Naruto’s heart. He’s emotionally starved and the crumbs that Sasuke threw him were enough to keep him holding on to what could’ve been—a relatively healthy, functional relationship* dynamic.
Exhibit B: Sakura. I know everyone hates her for her hardcore Sasuke fangirling in the pre-time skip part of the series, but I think she, too, is suffering from the effects of emotional starvation. Sasuke left her for the bad guy. Naruto left her to train. Kakashi never really bothered to acknowledge her in any meaningful way. In the face of this, Sakura turns to Tsunade for support. (And by “support” I mean “getting her ass kicked until she’s a stand-up medical ninja.”) She promised Naruto she wouldn’t be a burden to him when they faced Sasuke again. But even when she confronts Sasuke and has the opportunity to kill him, she can’t bring herself to do it. Her connection to him, although mostly one-sided, may not be as strong as Naruto’s, but she loves him just the same and wishes that everything could go back to the way it was before the Chuunin exams and that ill-fated meeting with Orochimaru in the Forest of Death.
Just going off of these two examples (I’ll save my analysis of Hinata for another time…she should get a post of her own), it’s nice to see that emotional starvation isn’t just for women. However, it is worth noting that the realm of the emotionally unavailable seems to be exclusively reserved for men. Hmmm…
(*Note: I don’t mean “relationship” in the romantic sense of the word, OK? Back off, you squealing yaoi girls!)
For those who don’t know, Jem & the Holograms was an American cartoon that came out in the mid-’80s. It focused on the musical and romantic adventures of an all-girl rock band. I was watching, the video for “Time Is Running Out” on YouTube a few days ago (don’t ask) and I realized that most of what I know about relationships I learned from this show. It’s sad, really, but true. The biggest lesson? A man is only as loyal as his options. A major plotline in the show was the fact that Jerrica and her alter-ego Jem were dating the same dude. Rio, the purple-haired, Members Only jacket-wearing roadie, was primarily Jerrica’s man, but he had the hots for Jem. He was a flip-flopper. One minute Jerrica was the light of his life and the next minute, he’s all over Jem. What a cad. (I also learned that men really don’t care about you changing your hair or how you fix your makeup because Rio couldn’t tell that Jerrica and Jem were the same person.)
So there’s this fanboy I like. I know him mostly from professional settings and we’ve attended some of the same events. Our circle of friends/acquaintances overlap and I see him on a fairly regular basis. I think he’s the bee’s knees. He’s smart, well-spoken, shy and quiet, a bit nerdy, and I love it. He has a great analytical mind and a penchant for sci-fi. (He doesn’t seem to be big into anime but that’s OK with me.) The question is how do I approach him? Do I approach him at all?
On the surface, pursuing a fanboy seems different from pursuing other guys, but the fundamentals (i.e., be attractive) are the same. However, I felt it was necessary to convene an impromptu fanboy roundtable for the straight dope. And now I give you my findings:
1. Don’t make fun of their fanboy-ness. “I would say the most important thing would be respect what he loves,” says one of the knights of the roundtable, let’s call him JP. “If you have similar interests that’s great! You can stay up all night debating whether the new Battlestar Galactica was better than the old one (it’s not, by the way). But even if you haven’t the slightest clue why he likes what he likes, you must still respect that he likes it. I’ve had more than one lady tell me that things that I like are childish. Which did nothing but make me do it more.”
Knight #2, KM, says: “It’s become a lot more socially acceptable to advertise that you have those kinds of hobbies [anime, D&D, wargames, comic books, etc.], so I guess it’s not as big of a deal now as it once was. But I still worry about it when I’m out meeting new people, knowing that my fanboy persona has to be hidden for fear of being judged.”
2. If you’re into what he’s into, you should really, really know what you’re talking about. Quick story. In college, I was digging a guy who liked baseball. I liked it, too, just not as much as he did. Because of that, the following conversation took place:
Him: who’s your favorite player?
Me: Ken Griffey, Jr.
Him: Really? What’s his ERA?
Him: *blank stare*
Baseball fans know where I went wrong. “ERA” stands for “earned run average,” a stat that only applies to pitchers. Griff was a center fielder. After I picked my face up off of the floor, we never talked about baseball again. And he never asked me out. Lesson? Don’t fake the funk. Either be hardcore about it or be up front when you aren’t.
“One of the biggest things people like me get a kick out of from girls is interest in the immersion,” says knight #3, JW, who’s married (yes, fanboys do wed like everyone else). “For instance, [my wife] has started getting into comics. She likes them, even though she doesn’t know all of the history and storylines behind them. And that’s OK, because it’s something for us to talk about and is kind of fun.” See? They appreciate enthusiasm even when you don’t quite know all of the details.
3. Claim your fangirl-ness. Nothing’s sexier than a fangirl who knows who she is. “I met a girl at a birthday party a couple weeks ago. She was the kind of girl that I didn’t expect to be my type at all,” KM says. “I took her for a former sorority girl. The last thing I expected was for her to have a single geeky interest. Well, I get back home, do the requisite adding of people I met that night to my Facebook friends list, and lo and behold, the girl loves fantasy literature and comic books. I was floored. It made her instantly more accessible to me, and I felt a lot more comfortable sharing my interests.”
And there you have it. I still don’t know if my fanboy would ever be attracted to me, but hearing what’s what from these guys makes me feel a little better about my chances.
…I will be grooving to the swingingest anime soundtrack ever made today. That is all.
So it’s Thursday and the latest chapter of Naruto isn’t up at One Manga. Is this an April Fools Day joke? If so, it’s not funny. *crosses arms over chest* Hmph! (Then again, I guess I shouldn’t complain since I’m reading it for free. *smiles sheepishly*)
Update at around 5 pm: it’s up now.