I’m going to tackle some stereotypes present in modern fiction that I think are dangerous when used irresponsibly. Any entries part of this series will be labeled as “Dangerous Stereotypes.” You can read previous entries in this series, which discuss the Scientist, Bad Boy, and Alpha Male stereotypes.
Audio Edition Coming Soon!
We all love stories about underdogs. We like hearing tales of right and justice and the forces of good beating evil and injustice, no matter what the odds are against them. We like stories about lone wolves who find out the truth about “the system” and fight against it. We love our Rebel Alliances, our Neos, our Team Avatars. We enjoy following the stories of characters who are outgunned but still pull through with cunning, bravery, and a hefty dose of luck. We admire the vigilante characters like Batman, Zorro, and V who uncover the truth or see injustice run rampant and refuse to follow protocol in order to do what is right. We’ve all read those stories, seen those movies and TV shows, played as those video game characters. The fact that we can be outmatched and still come out on top is a heady, even addictive, feeling.
Freedom is a word that has been bandied about to a point where it’s become almost meaningless. It’s used in political rhetoric, as a banner to shield bigotry, and, ironically, as justification to take freedom away. Using a word too often, too freely, too ambiguously, drains it of significance. The concept of “freedom” is already so vast and amorphous that it’s difficult to define, even at the best of times. Words like “love” and “change” and terror” are tossed around like common ingredients in a salad rather than as carefully chosen seasoning. Some definitions restrict “freedom” to a carefully regulated nanny state while on the opposite side it becomes a free-for-all of Darwinian anarchy.
Freedom is both very broad and highly personal, so I’m not going to attempt to define it when far wiser and more experienced minds have written whole volumes discussing its nature. But I think we need to keep that in mind and be very specific when we talk about freedom because it means so many things to myriad people in disparate circumstances. I do think that the majority of people agree than an important component of freedom is the ability to strive and improve one’s lot or one’s self uninhibited by artificial societal or cultural constructs. That doesn’t mean it will be easy or that one will succeed, but we should all at least get the chance to try. We should each be able to establish our own independence. So as this Fourth of July comes to a close, I recommend going to YouTube and watching the TEDxConejo talk with Erin Gruwell, founder of the Freedom Writers Foundation. The best place to start planting freedom’s seeds is within the garden of one’s mind.