― John Green, Paper Towns
Are people ever what they seem?
I recently read John Green's 2008 novel, Paper Towns. Don't know who John Green is? Get off of this page and google him. Right now. Go on, I mean it. Or, go here, to the YouTube channel he share's with his brother, Hank. I have unfortunately not watched many of the videos as of yet, but when I purchased my copy of Paper Towns, I found a mysterious note in it sending me there. Later, my boyfriend, who had insisted I read the book, also sent me there. So go there.
If you are still here, I'm making the assumption that you've 1. previously read Paper Towns or have gone, read it and returned and 2. understand the allusion I am making here.
On to my point.
Paper Towns got me thinking about how we view people, how we label people. Hard as we may try, and believe me I do, we all make snap judgments about people. Recently I have had the opportunity to meet many, many people, many of whom I made a snap judgement about that was completely, utterly, incomprehensibly wrong. So why do we make them?
Also, I know this is a bit jumpy, so bear with me.
Why is it that our society feels the need to categorize people? I was watching the movie Mean Girls one day, and in the movie they categorize each of the tables in the cafeteria, there's the jocks, the nerds, the popular kids, ect. I remember thinking, nobody does that in real life! It doesn't work like that! But then, I went to school the next day and I looked around. In my cafeteria we had the card players (two sets actually, card playing is HUGE at my school), the football players, the "popular" kids, the wannabe popular kids, the IB kids (this is my category!), the frizzy-haired-we-spend-all-of-our-time-reading-in-the-library-and-we-make-up-the-entire-school-book-club girls. Whether or not these categories naturally exist, we feel the need to label them.
But think about it, those labels could be changed. If I moved the kids around to new tables, I could create new categories, it could be, perhaps, the single parent family kids, the vegetarian kids, the I-say-I-hate-Justin-Bieber-because-I-want-to-seem-"cool"-but-nobody's-allowed-in-my-room-because-it's-secretly-covered-from-head-to-toe-with-the-largest-collection-of-Bieberbelia-outside-of-Oslo kids. If these groups are so easily rearranged, do they really mean anything at all?
There's a quote written on the wall in my school cafeteria that says "Labels are for cans, not people." I agree. I WISH labels could only be for cans, but if I'm being honest with myself, and you, I'm not sure that's possible. I feel like our brains must categorize people for a reason. Perhaps it's how we keep people straight, helping us to remember them and keep them separate from other people. I guess what I'm saying is that I don't think the labels will ever go away. That's okay, we can work with that. What I think SHOULD happen is that people need to make an effort to realize that there is more than one kind of tomato soup. They all say "Tomato Soup", but one could be chunky tomato soup, one smooth, one might have noodles, who knows, one might even be gazpacho. Maybe, instead of saying "I hate tomato soup," we should go through and make sure we REALLY hate every single darn type of tomato soup out there before we make that judgement, after all, that judgement is what causes stereotypes.
Here's a final song, for your inspiration. ;)