In my December 2018 series on male stereotypes, I talked about the warrior archetype and how heroics are central to the self-image of most men. However, I only briefly alluded to the role of Princess Zelda as the damsel in distress. Although neither I nor any human has ever met her, she was central to my conception of romantic love as a young man.
For those who don’t know her, Princess Zelda is the titular character of the epic Legend of Zelda video game series. She exists primarily as a means of motivating the (male) hero, Link, to overcome his fears and overwhelming odds to save her from the forces of darkness. Sound familiar?
While much is wrong with this narrative—for starters it relegates women to near-total passivity and boosts even young boys, in the case of Link, to the weighty role of savior more or less against their will—there is one hidden gem of wisdom in it: women are powerful motivators for men. To take it a step further, many (straight) men find it difficult to find their purpose in the absence of women to impress, care for, share experiences with, and so on. This to me is so obvious it’s almost not worth stating, yet it is rarely framed in this (positive) way by feminists. One of the reasons why I committed to my most recent ex is because I did not think I could handle life’s difficulties without her as a motivating force. Moreover, in the absence of a partner, the only reason why I did not give into temptations toward violence and other destructive behaviors in the past is because I feared what my mother would think. I do not think I am the only man who treats a woman’s judgment as gospel but couldn’t give a damn about another man’s opinion of me.
As a straight man I do not understand the point of doing what Millennials call “adulting” if it is not either in the context of a relationship with a woman or self-improvement with the goal of someday entering into one. Otherwise, living entirely for the moment sounds like the better option. I hate paying bills, filling out tax returns, applying for jobs, going to work when I have a job, getting my car serviced, getting appliances fixed, making doctor’s appointments, shopping for groceries, doing laundry, and a number of other necessary evils in the context of a relationship. I could never do all of those things except as part of a (perhaps delusional) roleplay where I am the hero of at least one woman’s fantasy.
So I want to thank all the fictional damsels in distress for making me feel valued enough to get up in the morning and get to work.
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