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Once Upon a Stereotype November 26, 2011

Posted by Onely in As If!, Pop Culture: Scourge of the Onelys.
Tags: , , , ,

So there I was, slouching in my massage chair, rotting my brain by watching the Grimm pilot, when I heard some singlist dialog. I sat up and sprang into action to write this post a month later.

Fairy-tale monsters live in our midst disguised as humans, but fortunately there’s a handsome cop who can see through their disguises. I tolerate the terrible dialog and acting (one woman actually dies by closing her eyes, opening her mouth, and dropping her head backwards in one fell swoop as she stands in our hero’s arms),  for the chance to see werewolves. I will even–yes–tolerate tacky stereotypes of singles.

Our hero (you can recognize him from the monotone and Ken-doll haircut) chases a suspected child-killer-slash-monster through a park to the suspect’s house, then at 23:00 delivers this line to his skeptical partner:

He fits the profile! He’s a loner, he’s never been married, he lives across the street from the park.

Yes! He’s a loner! He must be our perp!

We’re all familiar with the myth that single men are more likely to be serial murders and child molesters. We also all know that some of the most famous serial killers have, in fact, been married–the BTK strangler was married to a clueless wife, and Ted Bundy actually got married while on trial for his life (perhaps playing into the “marriage as redemptive” myth).

The purpose of a profile is to put together a hypothetical picture of a perpetrator (say it five times fast).  I guess it can be useful in gaining perspective on a crime (profiling during routine traffic stops and airport security is another ethical and statistical matter altogether). But it only works if you consider many different aspects of the suspect. Seeing he’s single and then using that to push him up the suspect ladder doesn’t get you accurate results.

Yes, it’s TV. But it’s reflective of the larger single-men-are-creepy myth and I’m curious as to just how law enforcement “profiles” are created. Do they base them on cultural myths, or statistics, or what? Do any of our Copious Readers have a background in this stuff?


Photo credit: extraordinaryintelligence (helsing)


1. singlutionary - November 26, 2011

The idea that single people are off balance is so pervasive that sometimes I find myself falling prey to it!! But, in this case, the “loner” myth might be more disturbing. Our culture lives within an enforced code of social behavior. We equate being super friendly and “sociable” with success and wealth. Spending time alone is rarely considered a good thing.

Of course, there are people for whom spending a great deal of time alone is a sign of a problem, like depression. Sometimes, it is merely a matter of taking on a solitary project (like reading, research and other academic-y stuff).

Solitude is stigmatized in our culture and I think that folks who are single and solitary get a double dose of prejudice.

Of course monsters are loners — they have to hide out from the humans who would kill them. I spend a lot of time hiding out from the vapid conversations that kill my soul.

Onely - November 26, 2011

” I spend a lot of time hiding out from the vapid conversations that kill my soul.” HA! That would make a great T-shirt.

Chris - January 8, 2012

A is B but B is not therefore A. Monsters are loners but loners are not monsters.
I’ve never been married (though I do find myself in a kind of relationship at the moment and have been in the past) but as a single man was once described as ‘the most gregarious person I know’ by an equally gregarious young woman (herself now about to be a mum for the 2nd time I believe).
Perhaps surprisingly I get more disapproval from other men than I do from women, as though as a single man I’m somehow letting the side down by not marrying. Or maybe they’re just expecting me to rubberstamp the status quo for them (as I’m usually older than the guys saying this). Which I will not do.

Onely - January 9, 2012

I like that, “rubber stamp the status quo.”

2. Alan - November 26, 2011

I agree that it’s part of a common misconception that single=loner. When that in fact may not necessarily be true.

I don’t know about law enforcement, but I wonder if, like psychology, they tend to reflect common societal biases in their beliefs and conclusions.

3. jeanybeany - November 27, 2011

Interesting post! I too fall prey to this mentality that single ppl are off somehow. I’ve often wondered what my neighbors think of me, like do they wonder why I’m single? I know this is neurotic 🙂

4. Stella - November 29, 2011

Ah Onely, thanks for pointing out the stereotype. . . I read lots of murder mysteries and they’re always saying that. Always!
Would buy a t-shirt that said that by the way.

5. livinganunbearablepain - December 6, 2011

if there is anyone living in Bangladesh, single, unmarried and alone like me, please contact me. I need a friend, i am loosing it.

Onely - December 18, 2011

We don’t know anyone in Bangladesh, unfortunately (though I used to have a friend from there!), but perhaps one of our other readers does. In Bangladesh is there lots of cultural pressure to marry?

Generally at Onely we try to remember that single doesn’t necessarily equate with “alone”, but that’s a lot easier said than done in the face of pressure from family and friends. . . It’s hard enough here in the U.S. where it’s (relatively) accepted for women to be unmarried, but I know that in some other countries (or in certain socioeconomic strata in the U.S.) it’s far more difficult to be like “la dee da, I’m having a good time being a single woman. . . ” because there’s not the social support systems or infrastructure set up to allow unmarried women to support themselves.
Anyway, best of luck!


6. Poetry for Progressive Singles: Your Responses Requested! « Onely: Single and Happy - February 2, 2012

[…] The next participant adds a third verse, again with the 5-7-5 pattern. Such stereotypes– […]

7. Brian - February 29, 2012

My parents, five siblings, and many of my friends have been married and divorced. The financial and emotional devastation was almost too much to witness. I was married and found myself more confused and lonely than I had ever been in my life (mainly in the last half of the marriage). Despite the many divorces I had seen, I bought into the whole ‘happily ever after thing’ in a big way and was almost completely incapacitated by the divorce twelve years later. It has taken me a long time to change my mindset with regards to marriage.

“Marriage is the art of letting go.” – a quote I read somewhere that is forever stuck in my brain. Instead of focusing on finding ‘that special someone’ and/or sharing my life with someone else, my entire mental focus is on becoming emotionally and financially independent of others. I enjoy the company of others, but I keep my need for them in my life under close control and don’t become too close.

It has taken me a long time to shift my thinking and deprogram myself from my earlier beliefs, but as each day passes, I find I like the single, independent life more and more.

Onely - March 3, 2012

Thanks for sharing your story. That is a lot for one person to go through. I’m glad you’re reprogramming and wish you luck. I guess what we’ve learned is that there are many different ways to live happily ever after. = )

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