Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Relatability and the Cone of Shame

I saw UP last week. Yes, I'm aware that the rest of the planet saw it last summer, but I saw it last week. I was prepared to be disappointed because everyone had raved about how great it was and knew my expectations would be too high (WALL*E, anyone? Anyone? Buehler?).

I loved it. I cried like a baby during that opening montage. Sniffled my way through parts of it, laughed out loud at much of it and just wanted to hug everyone at the end of it although I'm SERIOUSLY worried about Russell. How much longer can Carl last? Must the poor child lose another father figure? Will the residuals pay enough to cover that much therapy? Why am I that worried about an animated person?

I can answer the last question with one word that I'm pretty sure I made up since the dictionary is not recognizing it: relatability.

We all know a Russell, a kid who is trying to achieve to win a parent's love and attention. Hell, some of us have been a Russell.

Then there is the Cone of Shame. If there is one thing from the movie I hear quoted again and again, it's "I do not like the Cone of Shame." Well, that and "SQUIRREL!!!" We currently have a cat wearing a Cone of Shame (see photo on the left). He lifted his head up and meowed when Dug said his quotable line.

We've all seen dogs or cats wearing those and can see them cringing inside them. More importantly, we have all had moments in our lives when we've had to face the world with whatever our equivalent Cone of Shame is: a bad hair cut, a zit on the end of our nose, that irritating 20 pound weight gain, the loss of a contract. We know that cringing feeling inside the Cone of Shame. We relate to it.

Yesterday, Molly blogged about historicals. I said my problem was that I often didn't relate to the problems the characters face. Their Cones of Shame don't make me cringe inside. That said, I've read a few contemporaries with Cones of Shame that didn't mean much to me either. I'm beginning to think my problem isn't genre (contemporary vs. historical), but whether or not something in the character lets me relate to them and to their problem.

I understood Russell's Cone of Shame and Carl's, so I related to the movie. Find me an historical character whose Cone of Shame makes sense to me and I'll relate to that, too!


Molly O'Keefe said...

facing the world with thier cone of shame - I love it! I absolutely love it. We relate to characters who know they've f'ed up and they face up to it and they move on with the cone of shame - they don't like it and don't have to like, but like your poor cat - they have to wear it. It's perfect.

It's funny, how the concept - you kind of get, of course you kind of get but then some kind of metaphor comes along and hammers that concept home in way that make it brand new.
Cone of Shame -
Throw them in the dumpster -
You guys are good.

Jenn said...

The quote we took from UP: "I have just met you, and I love you!

Eileen said...

You know . . . I think I should start some kind of banner across my computer. "Throw them in the Dumpster!"

Except my kids would probably never bring friends home again, would they?

Kristen Painter said...

SQUIRREL! may just be the best line of any movie any where.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Up was the first movie we tried to take our son to and I had to leave early - because Mick just kept yelling "where are the robots? When are the robots coming?"

So, there's the 3.5 year old boy relatability factor....

Eileen said...

ROFLMAO!!! Molly, that is priceless!

Maureen McGowan said...

Great way to look at this! I remember when the Shopaholic books came out and a lot of people said they couldn't read them because they couldn't relate to Becky.

I TOTALLY could. While my personal cone of shame doesn't involve ignoring my financial responsibilities (I'm kind of the opposite, there) I have many other areas of my life where I bury my head rather than dealing, and so I really got Becky's cone of shame and found her hilarious.

Sinead M said...

Relatability, love this post, and adored the movie.. My 4 year old didn't move a muscle through the entire thing, and was transfixed by the idea of a talking dog, to the point where she kept asking if we could get the same collar for our cat.

I didn't buy the shopaholic books for a second because I could never relate to the main character, not for a second. But Emily Giffin's Something Borrowed, totally related to that heroine...

Relatability, a writer's secret weapon.

Great post, Eileen.

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