This Tuesday is an ultra exciting day on television. We will be graced with the mid-season premiere of Pretty Little Liars – with the intriguing #5YearsForward jump – and the series premiere of Shadowhunters, the new series based on Cassandra Clare’s book series The Mortal Instruments. Obviously we are obsessed with both of these fandoms and as the good fangirls we are, we’re dedicating an entire week to discussing these thrilling television debuts. Welcome to PLL/Shadowhunters Week on My Fangirl Life!
Guys, why do nice guys always finish last? I know that people try to convince you otherwise, and perhaps in the long run karma balances out, but in teen years nice guys seem to be the forgotten ones. What brought this preponderance to mind, you ask? Why Love Triangles & Shadowhunters, of course.
Shadowhunters starts this week. This new CW show is based on the YA Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. It’s about a teenage girl who finds out there’s more to the world than she previously realized. Demons, werewolves, and vampires are real, along with a coven of warriors sworn to protect the mortal world from them. That’s all well & good, but why am I lamenting over the downfall of “the boy next door”? If you’ve read the books (or saw the 2013 The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones movie) you know that Clary, the protagonist I spoke of earlier, is initially caught in a love triangle with two guys: Jace & Simon. It is a love triangle of epically typical proportions for teen content. And it brings to mind something I have puzzled after for years:
What’s so wrong with Mike Newton?
We’re all about the hard questions here at My Fangirl Life… but seriously, to bring it back to Twilight, why was Mike Newton such a ridiculously bad choice to Bella? Why are the Mike Newtons of teen fiction always so overlooked? They are everywhere and they are constantly getting screwed… or constantly not getting screwed, depending on how you look at it…
Let’s start with Mike Newton himself. In case it’s been awhile since you read/watched Twilight (believe me, I understand why) I’ll refresh your memory on the Mike Newton situation: Bella moves to a small town and (despite the fact that she seems to be the most boring person alive) Mike Newton notices her. Mike Newton! The local dreamboat! This should be super exciting. She should be giggling with her friends, scheming ways to bump into him in the hallways, but Bella sticks true to the emotions Kristen Stewart can portray and completely ignores him… even when she realizes he likes her! You do all realize that if this were any other teen movie/book/tv show Mike Newton would be the guy every girl wants & every guy wants to be, right? He’s seen in a letter jacket, which means he’s probably the star player of Forks’ number one sports team, vying for an athletic scholarship to a fancy college. But we never find out because Mike Newton is not worthy of backstory, apparently.
Of course, this franchise has vampires so the quarterback becomes totally irrelevant. By rule of the genre, Bella goes for the mysterious other-worldly creature. Then enters into a love triangle with another supernatural being, who could possibly kill her. Now I understand the appeal of fantasy (I’m a huge nerd who lives for anything dragons/elves/zombies) but I don’t get why you would want to date someone who is always seconds away from ending your life. It seems needlessly stressful. Bella is stuck trying to figure out how to make a relationship work with a guy who wants to suck her blood and will never age… Meanwhile, Mike Newton is probably going off to school, getting a solid job and establishing a great life for himself & his future wife. Why is that not something she should want? Where does it say that a safe and happy life is a bad one? What’s so wrong with Mike Newton?
But Mike Newton is not the only case of this “nice guys finish last” mentality. As I mentioned earlier, this was brought back to mind by the Jace-Clary-Simon love triangle of the Mortal Instruments series (and the upcoming Shadowhunters show). Clary spends her whole life pre-City of Bones with Simon by her side. He is absolutely devoted to her, yet she never even considers him in an anywhere-near romantic way. Then along comes Jace with his superhuman shadowhunter abilities and she’s falling all over herself to get with him. I’ll admit I’m a sucker for Jace’s golden locks & quick wit but that doesn’t mean we should completely rule Simon out! Jace is leading her into a life of danger, obstacles & pain. Simon, on the other hand, would lead her into a life of coffee shops, video games and nerd references. With Jace she will have to train to fight and fight to live. With Simon they would probably go off to college – her taking fine arts & pursuing drawing, him taking computer sciences or something equally as nerdy & lucrative. If she and Jace manage to survive long enough to get married & have kids, she will be dooming them to the same risky existence. The biggest threat her & Simon’s kids would face would be inheriting either of their apparent clumsiness. I know what the obvious choice is for me… Plus who doesn’t find an awkward comic book reading geek incredibly sexy? … Oh, that’s just me? Ok…moving on…
Need another example? How about the recently concluded film series (based on the best-selling book series) The Hunger Games? This one is a little more complicated but still demonstrates my point. We have nice, sweet, safe Peeta and burly, angry hunter Gale. Katniss fails to even note Peeta’s existence for the majority of her life. Meanwhile she is running about the woods in a thoroughly rebellious manner with Gale. You’d think the tide would turn once she and Peeta have entered & exited the Hunger Games arena… she’s got to have noticed him now! But alas, Peeta is still the sensible guy who just wants to wave at the cameras and work at his family’s bakery. We can’t have our heroine going for a guy like that! He wants to make a living and have a family in the nice homes they now live in? The horror! Instead she needs to continue to long for the guy who wants to run off and live in the woods – or start an entire rebellion – depending on the day. I know what you’re thinking: But she ends up with Peeta in the end! Yes, she does, but only after he’s been transformed into a completely different person. She doesn’t want Peeta because he’s a nice normal guy. She wants him because he’s messed up… that seems to go right along with what I’m saying.
So what have we learned here? For starters, I’ve learned that nice guys finish last… at least in teen tv shows & fiction. What kind of message is that sending to teen girls? We obsess over the fact that there are so many strong female characters for girls to hold as role models these days, but are we really analyzing the examples they are setting? Sure they should be as resourceful & resilient as Katniss and as clever & creative as Clary and as – yeah I got nothing – as Bella… but when it comes to love I’m not sure they should be following their literary heroines’ leads. Really look at the choices of men these characters have and try to tell me we are not telling girls to pick the wild, tattooed biker over the cute guy next door. Plus this is not doing anything in terms of realistic expectations; fantasy is fun, but the chances of you meeting a vampire in real life are low… and one that won’t want to kill you, even lower.
The next time you are reading a book, or thinking about the romantic choices in your life, remember the my advice. Nice guys finish last… but do they have to? Be sure to stop & ask yourself: What’s so wrong with Mike Newton?
Love & Luck,