liz_marcs (liz_marcs) wrote,

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When the victim tied to the train tracks was a man...

Sometimes you overhear something so strange (in this case, two theater majors talking in the women's locker room at the gym) that you think, "This can't possibly be true."

Yet, something about that thing overheard compels you to check it out for yourself. If it's not true, it's just two college kids who misheard something in class.

If it is true, however, well...

And then when you do a little digging and discover (to your utter and complete surprise) that it's true, you honestly don't know what to think about it.

I'm sure there's someone on my FList who can take this information and run with it. By run with it, I mean writing a well-thought out, cogently argued essay about feminism, and the constant infantalization of women in the popular press and entertainment, and society's insistence on hiding a woman's power from herself.

While my natural sympathies certainly lie in that direction, I'm not nearly thoughtful enough or deep enough to even begin composing an essay like that to change hearts and minds, even while showcasing "Exhibit A" right here on this journal.

Instead, I'm reduced to this: o_O

And possibly this: >_<

Everyone knows that all great clichés start somewhere (just watch Casablanca sometime and you'll see what I mean).

The eponymous "helpless girl tied to the train tacks by the mustache-twirling villain and rescued by the studly hero and then they live happily ever after," it goes without saying, is no different.

But what if I told you that in the first recorded instance of this cliché appearing in the U.S. the victim tied to the train tracks was a man, and the studly hero who saves the victim at the very last minute was a woman?

After all, images from The Perils of Pauline and Rocky & Bullwinkle and approximately a gazillion other examples are so ingrained in our culture and our subconscious that it's nearly impossible to imagine this is true.

That's okay if you don't believe me. I didn't believe it either when I heard it.

And if you're like me, you want proof.

If that doesn't convince you, how about a playbill from the 1867 play, Under the Gaslight, depicting that very scene here faithfully displayed under the LJ-Cut?

Believe it or not, the melodrama had a point: That women deserve the right to vote because, when the chips are down, they are just as capable as men.

Can someone explain to me why the victim tied to the train tacks was changed to a woman? Can someone explain to me why the hero was changed to a man?

And can someone explain to me why this scenario was repeated over and over and over again to the point that we now all believe that it's always been this way?

I don't know about you, but now that everything I thought I knew about this cliché has turned out completely wrong, I have an overwhelming urge to go outside, stand on my head, and look at the world from a different angle for awhile.

If you're looking for me, I'll be on my front stoop and standing on my head with this expression on my face: o_O

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