The Lie of Mysteriousness

A worthwhile exercise: In The Wonder Years, Winnie’s behavior is presented as mysterious and whimsical, as seen through Kevin’s eyes; analyze how it’s actually logical and consistent if their interactions are looked at from Winnie’s perspective.

My analysis: Kevin likes Winnie, but what he likes best is having her — and other girls — like him. He is fairly obvious about this — especially when it comes to his interest in other girls. Thus, when he expresses genuine affection for Winnie, she generally reciprocates. But when he tries to pin down Winnie’s feelings for him without expressing any actual feelings for her, she — quite reasonably — distances herself.

This exercise is worth applying to any quality work of art shown from the perspective of a man that involves a woman who behaves capriciously. Quite often, she’s actually picking up on the man’s indifference to her as a person as opposed to a mere sexual object.

For instance, in the third episode of Scrubs, JD explains to the viewer after a near kiss with Elliot that he now has 48 hours to make the kiss happen or else get “friend-zoned” due to Elliot “over-thinking it.” He spends the next 48 hours busy with other things — largely because he keeps forgetting about Elliot — and eventually accepts being “friend-zoned” with equanimity, explaining to the viewer that it’s actually a good idea to have friends. Okay…

Let’s look at this from Elliot’s perspective: she makes a move on JD (she initiates the almost kiss) and then he doesn’t make a move back for a full 48 hours, at which point — in response to her needing to talk rather than kiss at that exact moment — he decides that they should just be friends. Elliot didn’t overthink anything — she made a move, found JD fairly indifferent to her interest (despite his generalized interest in kissing and sex), and so she moved on with their friendship. This is totally rational behavior and can be understood without any mystical nonsense about women “over-thinking” things.

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