Auntie SparkNotes: Am I a Sheeple?
It's been dawning on me lately that I might be easily persuaded into things with hardly any critical thought, even though I'm already twenty years old. Not sure if this is the case, though, so I wanted to ask you for advice.
Let me start off with a mundane example: after the historic Rick & Morty season 3 premiere livestream, I reblogged a lot of jokes about the Mulan McDonald's Szechuan nugget sauce that was mentioned in the episode. I even drew some fan art of Mulan and Cri-Kee with chicken nuggets and Szechuan sauce. A friend of mine noticed the reblog and art and told me, "You know that Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon probably had McDonald's pay them for advertising the company on the show, right?" She told me that this was all a plan for McDonald's to get more free advertising and that they would end up giving the sauce again sometime soon. She told me that I was acting like another R&M sheep and falling mindlessly for a blatant capitalism trick.
All I wanted to do was share a joke from the show, and if the sauce is actually as good as Rick said it was, I wouldn't mind trying it myself. But I can see what she means; if this was a ploy for free advertising, I fell for it hook, line, and sinker.
Now here's a less mundane example: when I was eating breakfast at a restaurant near my university, there was a man who walked up to me and asked me for $20. He had dirty clothes and missing teeth, and he told me that he was homeless and unemployed. He told me that he needed the money to buy clothes, and I was happy to help. After I gave him a $20 bill and paid for a small meal for him, a police officer came up to us and asked if he could talk to the man. As I waited, I saw the officer frisk the man against a wall and call another officer in. Long story short, this man a) wasn't actually homeless, b) had been panhandling from and harassing other people in that same area for the past few weeks (going so far as to go up to people inside the store like with me), and c) was intoxicated (!?). (The police showed me the breathalyzer that showed me his decently high blood alcohol level.)
I was shocked. I was sure that man was homeless, but it turned out that he wasn't. And how did I not see that he was drunk!? He was slurring, but I thought it was because he had missing teeth. How could I not notice something that was right in front of me? And I lost more than $20 because of it.
Auntie, am I really that easy to fool? Is there something I should do? Am I really a sheep who believes and follows others mindlessly?
Well, let's put it this way: even if you were that easy to fool, you're certainly not anymore.
There's no cure for gullibility like being had, and while $20 isn't nothing, you might consider it a fair price for getting a useful lesson in the virtues of a little healthy skepticism. (It sure beats losing your life savings to a Nigerian prince, among other things.) And the next time you're approached by a guy who claims to be homeless and hungry, you'll know better than to just fork over the contents of your wallet, right? You'll consider the situation with a more critical eye; you'll sniff the air to see if you detect a whiff of b.s. (or booze); and you'll make a decision that weighs the wisdom of experience against your sympathetic impulses.
And those impulses? For the record, they are not a bad thing. As character flaws go, you could do a heck of a lot worse than to be a little bit too soft-hearted and eager to help. Personally, I can tell you right now that I'd much rather hang out with a slightly gullible person who has an overdeveloped sense of charity than, oh, say, the human bonerkiller who calls her friends "mindless capitalist sheep" and gets her jollies from peeing all over other people's parades.
Which is to say, I know you included that Rick & Morty story as an example of how easily led you are—but really, it works a lot better as a story about your friend being a sanctimonious buzzkill who tried to make you feel bad about yourself for no reason. Even if that episode was a bit of branded content (and for the record, creators are actually bound by pretty strict guidelines vis-a-vis disclosing that kind of thing, which is why your friend is probably wrong in addition to being obnoxious), who cares? It was still funny—not just to you, but to millions of other people (including one guy who was so intrigued that he paid $14,000 for a packet of the sauce on eBay.) And not for nothing, one of the reasons why it was funny is that brands and art have always had a complicated, symbiotic relationship due to the influence they both wield over our lives. For the people who watched that episode (or at least, the ones old enough to remember the great Mulan-McNuggets love affair of 1998, when the Szechuan sauce was rolled out as a limited-edition menu item), that entire sketch resonated because it was a send-up of a highly specific moment in consumer culture. Without that context, there is no joke.
All of which you should feel free to say to your friend the next time she criticizes your fan art by saying insulting things about your character. (Or, y'know, you could just slap her gently in the face with a salmon until she cries. Your call.)
Finally, if there's anything to be learned from that experience, I'd like to suggest that you take it as a lesson in the importance of not letting one nasty comment send you spiraling into an identity crisis. You're allowed to like things, sweet pea, and you're allowed to do that as uncritically and enthusiastically as you want. And while what your friend said may tell you something about what kind of person she is—my money being on "the kind who tears other people down in order to feel important"—it doesn't reveal anything about your character or your quality as a person.
Got something to say? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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