It's charming when I do it - Tactical Ninja
Jul. 3rd, 2013
10:48 am - It's charming when I do it
Wow. I just got a notification that someone has updated their MySpace. I didn't realise that people still even used MySpace. Although, hipsters might. Hmm..
Anyway, rivet posted this thing yesterday. I don't know how many of you read it, but it's about charm - more specifically, the seeming lack of it in modern society. The article claims that men in particular have lost their charm - or that charm is a learned method of social interaction and that nowadays men do not seek to gain.
I struggle a bit with the gendered nature of that claim. The article suggests that women tend to be more charming as a social strategy, because charm requires creating space for another to shine rather than focusing on oneself and this is something that women are socially conditioned to do. I'm not sure I necessarily agree.
Well, when I start trying to think of people I know who are charming, I struggle to think of any, male or female. I can think of one off the top of my head, and while she is a woman, I don't see her charm as an artefact of her gender. I mean, I can't say whether she'd be as charming if she were a man, but I'm not seeing a lot of supporting evidence for the idea that charm is a womanly trait these days. She is not a representative sample, yeah? So there's that.
And then there's the bit where I'm not really sure what charm is. So I looked it up:
Wikipedia says it's a number of socially desirable characteristics, but doesn't expand on what those might be. Could be "doesn't pick nose in public", you know? In which case, I'm dead charming.
The Free Dictionary says it's a delightful quality or characteristic - again, without going into specifics - although it does mention mischievous smiles. I have one of those too, at least sometimes. Hmm...
WikiHow says it's the art of having an attractive personality. It also comes with a handy-dandy list of 11 things You Too Can Do To Become More Charming, complete with cartoons to demonstrate. And lo! The list includes a whole lot of things that are about making other people feel important, and being nice. It even mentions practicing sounding sincere into a tape recorder. Which makes me go O.o.
Anyone else notice that almost all of the cartoons depict women? Particularly the one who is learning to be charming. Also, I don't know about you, but this is the ad that I got at the top of the page:
10 Ugly Mistakes Women Make That Ruins Any Chances Of A Relationship
So I'm gonna take a wild stab in the dark here and suggest that even if charm itself isn't gendered, there is some conditioning going on that implies that charm should be gendered. That women are the ones who seek out ways of becoming more charming, perhaps in order to attract men. Which agrees somewhat with the premise of the article up there.
Further to this, the other thing that rivet posted yesterday was about Manic Pixie Dream Girls - a phenomenon that most of us are probably familiar with nowadays, in which the woman plays an archetype that is designed to - wait for it - charm a man out of his rut/depression/shyness, and teach him to embrace life to its fullest and therefore further his character development.
I can't be the only one seeing parallels here, right?
So we have this idea that charm is gendered and that men have somehow 'lost' it. We have the idea that charm is something women seek to have. And we have the idea that a woman whose existence is entirely about making things better for the man who is central to the story, is a charming and desirable archetype. Because charm is about placing the other person in the central role, apparently.
And yet, when I look around me, I'm not seeing these ideas played out in real life - at least, not the gendered aspect of them. I can still only think of that one person who I think is truly charming. And I wonder if people really were any more charming Back In The Day than they are now, or if as Dr Wheel says, the depiction of charm in movies is related to the contrived nature of visual stories before the advent of method acting, and was only ever a fantasy created for us by those who seek to extract our money by delivering wish fulfilment fantasies?
Which is something of a cynical perspective, but I can definitely see its point - lots of things from bygone days get this rose-coloured-spectacle treatment, and without context it is possible to see a Cary Grant flick as an accurate depiction of real life back then, you know? But my Dad, who was Grant's contemporary, would give you a very different picture of the interactional norms of the time, you know?
Anyway, I'm curious what y'all think about this. Do you know anyone you'd consider to be charming? What do you think charm entails? And is the version we get in 1940s movies really the only way to see it?