A Mile in Their Shoes
Summary: A sociological experiment is conducted in which young men and women volunteer to temporarily live the lives of some of the most widely despised Harvest Moon characters, just to prove that they could do it "soooooo much better". Unfortunately, they invariably cannot.
Disclaimer: The only characters I own are Rick-Bashing Karen Fanboy #26, Gray-Obsessed Mary-Basher #13, Elli-Bashing Doctor Fangirl, and Gina-Bashing Alex Fanpoodle, but even they exist everywhere there is discussion on Harvest Moon. Every time someone dares to voice their soft spot for cute glasses-wearing little Rick, Gina, or Mary, they will be there. Every time someone says they married Elli in the game and don't regret it, they will be there. Although, I mostly say that because frankly, I really don't want 'em. Oh, yeah; and I own Rhianwen, as I kinda am her. Mary-Sue alert! I don't own Bezo, as we do not have THAT kind of relationship, and I would totally be the submissive even if we did.
It was not a good day to be Rhianwen.
How was it that this had seemed like a good idea at the time, back when she was posting around the message boards for volunteers, plotting out how this could be successfully accomplished, and glorying in the understanding and respect it would inevitably foster?
Now that she found herself pacing in front of the kitchen table within the tiny kitchen within the tiny student-family-residence apartment that she and her adored hubby shared, being eyed warily by said volunteers, her reasoning was beginning to, quite frankly, suck.
It had been simple: she had become a Harvest Moon addict in August of 2006, and the obsession had, to put it mildly, stuck. She had started with More Friends of Mineral Town, and grown very quickly to love all the characters that made the game as fascinating and charming as it was.
Next had come fanfiction, sprouting from her adoration of the little nurse Elli and a burning desire to expand upon the made-in-heaven romance between two adorably cuddly, work-addicted health care professionals.
After that had come, less wisely, the message boards. It had been a simple desire to chat with like-minded people about a shared addiction after her sweet, loving, and long-suffering husband began to automatically glaze over at the mere mention of chickens.
So had Rhianwen gone in search of fellow would-be farmers.
And so had Rhianwen's faith in humanity, barely recovered from the fannish absurdities and mean nature of the online Harry Potter community, been crushed and mangled just a little bit more.
Ew, Rick is UGLY! He has GLASSES! Karen deserves BETTER!
Elli looks like a GUY! The Doctor secretly HATES her, haw haw haw!
Mary's a NERD! She should DIE!
Alex is MINE! Gina's an EVIL BITCH who tried to TAKE him from me!
And so it had continued, until merely looking at her computer had begun an involuntary twitch in Rhianwen's left eye.
Logic was spurned by the bashers again and again, the suggestion that perhaps looks didn't matter to everyone as much as they did to teenyagers on the internet labeled flaming and fired back at her along with threats to tell the mods that she was being meen.
It had been something of a delight when one of the aforementioned moderators had shown up and laughed in the face of the prosecution.
Nevertheless, it had done little to remove the face-palming, head-desking stupidity of being labeled a psychotic loser Rick fangirl for pointing out that the much-abused young man was only trying to take care of his family, and it didn't necessarily follow logically that he ATE BABIES or KICKED PUPPIES, just because he disliked Kai, allegedly the HAWTEST group of pixels in the game.
She had tried to suggest that even the commonly disliked characters had personalities and motives, and were probably likable to someone, but to no avail.
She had even gone so far as to suggest that when a person found themselves possessed of obsessive dislike of a character, they could try putting themselves in that character's place, attempt to work through for themselves what made the character the way they were, but had been met with a series of ill-spelt, capslock-abusing statements along the lines of I'D RATHER BE DEAD!
Finally we agree, Rhianwen had thought, but not said, as wishing aloud for the deaths of other board members would most likely be considered a personal attack.
Instead, she had turned off the computer in disgust and snuggled up to her long-suffering sweetie. After several minutes of vitriolic ranting, an Idea had planted itself in the irate little fangirly's brain.
If the character-bashing crowd couldn't utilize their teeny-weeny brains sufficiently to imagine themselves into the places of their most hated characters, perhaps she could help.
It was a simple matter; a touch of creativity, a little brutalization of the fourth wall, and the consent of the character-bashers themselves, and her dream could become a reality.
If it was simply too painful for Rick-Hating Karen Fanboy #26 to imagine what could possibly make Rick a wee bit overprotective, perhaps he could experience it firsthand. With a little disguising of motives on Rhianwen's part, of course.
"I have an idea," she had said whilst in conversation with the aforementioned #26. "You clearly hate Rick a lot, right? Well then, for the sake of all of Mineral Town, why don't you step into his place and show us what you would do differently? Perhaps Rick himself can pick up some hints from you, and the game will become far more enjoyable to generations of gamers to come."
I can't believe he fell for it, she had thought, utterly floored and wondering if her seventh Mai Tai was to blame for what she was reading, when she had received #26's email, agreeing enthusiastically to her suggestion, nevertheless making it clear that she was a worthless sell-out and a loser.
Her success had repeated itself with a Mary-basher, an Elli-basher, and a Gina-basher, all of whom had been very anxious indeed to prove to her that her own fangirlism for all three of these lovely ladies was misplaced, and just how much more she would like them when their roles were being filled by their greatest critics.
Those times, there was no alcohol to blame for possible misinterpretation.
And now they sat ensconced at her kitchen table, listening with expressions of detached teenager-ey disgust for anyone or anything over twenty, as she explained exactly what she would need from them.
"Uh, we have to take notes?" Elli-Bashing Doctor Fangirl #89 sneered. "I didn't agree to this so I could do work."
"Then I have some bad news for you about Elli," Rhianwen muttered, sending up an internal prayer for Stu, Ellen, and the well being of the Mineral Town clinic. "Look, I just need a few observations from all of you on how things are going. I don't want doctoral theses or anything, but I want your thoughts as they come to you."
"Fine," Gray-Obsessed Mary-Basher #13 huffed. "But I'm not filling the whole journal, and after we're done, I get to keep it to write poetry!"
"Just as long as I don't have to read it," Rhianwen agreed smilingly. "I'm not sure I could take all the w—angst."
"Yeah, well, you know what you promised me," #26 said, intending no doubt to come across as deeply foreboding, but instead achieving a high level of goofiness, due in part to the light refracting brightly off the grease in his face.
"Okay, fine, here's your book," Rhianwen grumbled, pushing a black leather carrying case with chrome handles and three jagged claw marks emblazoned in white across the table at him.
"This is it," he breathed in awe. "The special edition, hardcover, bonus material Whitewolf Character Creation Guide."
"And I've got sparkly nail polish and Hot Topic gift certificates for you three, as promised," Rhianwen added with a heavy sigh, addressing #13, #89, and Gina-Bashing Alex Fanpoodle #43.
"Yaay!" #13 squealed happily, until #89 and #43 elbowed her simultaneously in the ribs, at which point she dutifully resumed her snotty, bored, indifferent, slightly vapid expression of deep disgust.
"Let's just get this over with," #43 huffed, arms crossed, eyes rolling until Rhianwen made a mental note to call a priest the second she caught any hint of green pea soup erupting from the girl, or at the merest mention of the urge to do things with a crucifix.
"Okay," their hostess agreed brightly once she had assured herself that the phone was within easy reach. "I think we'll start with Rick."
"I'm not actually Rick!" #26 exploded, pounding his fist goofily on the table, lips drawing back in a snarl.
"I meant," Rhianwen explained slowly and as calmly as though she wasn't fighting back the urge to hurl a nearby blender at one or all of these kids, "that we'll start the experiment with the character of Rick. Meaning, you will go take Rick's place first, and we'll all observe the numerous changes for the better that you will doubtlessly bring about."
"How are you going to do that?" he asked, grumpily curious.
"With my brand new Plot Device!" Rhianwen replied proudly, carrying a large pot over to the kitchen table and setting it down in the middle with a flourish.
#13 leaned in for a closer look.
"It looks like a slow-cooker."
"Yeah, well, you take what you can get." Rhianwen turned the device around until Acme Plot Device 2001, clearly painted on after the fact in sparkly blue nailpolish,was before the girl's eyes. "See? Now it's a plot device. So! #26. You ready?"
"Yeah, I guess," #26 agreed sulkily, arms crossed, leaning back in his chair until he was nearly horizontal.
"Geez, don't get so excited," Rhianwen muttered, already busily setting up her Gameboy Advance. "You'd never know the kid agreed to this and ordered me not to give away his spot. Okay!" she chirped brightly, setting the little game system in front of the boy. "Do you have any statements to make for the record before we begin?"
"Like what?" he demanded sullenly.
"Well," she began mildly, "you could start with exactly what it is you dislike about Rick, and exactly how you plan to improve upon his role."
"Rick's an ugly loser," #26 scoffed.
"That's a slightly subjective opinion," Rhianwen pointed out, wishing not for the first time that day that real people had the ability to sweat-drop.
"It's not subjective! It's pure and unalterable truth, because I say so! I even made an Official Seal saying that Rick sucks," #26 declared, smirking at her amid the twitters of the three girls, with a smugness that made it clear that he considered his arguments to be carefully constructed pictures of groundbreaking brilliance.
"Whatever you wanna believe, Skippy," Rhianwen sighed. "Now, all you have to do is hold onto the Gameboy, and spill your soda."
All four participants stared at her in utter bewilderment.
"Uh, what?" #89 finally managed.
"Well, that's how people always get sucked into video games in bad self-insert fanfics."
"That's stupid," was #26's indispensable advice.
A toothy grin crossed Rhianwen's face.
"I saw a few stories where a girl tried to hang herself, or got hit by a car, or shot, or brutally dismembered, and woke up in Middle Earth. If you'd like, I can go get some rope, or bring the car around front. Heck, if you'd like, I just bought my hubby a brand new meat cleaver for our first anniversary!"
"Don't use my cleaver to murder teenagers unless I get to help!" Bezo's voice drifted in from his makeshift music studio.
"Fine," Rhianwen called back with a pout. A long pause. "Honey? Do we still have that sword?"
"Let's try the soda," #26 said hastily. "I'm not afraid of death – I embrace it, unlike you sellouts – but I wanna read my Whitewolf book first."
"Then let's get with the spillin'," Rhianwen urged, going so far as to shake the boy by the shoulders until Mountain Dew began to splash out of the can and onto the Gameboy, as well as over the Cheetos he had demanded before he would go anywhere near her house.
The air filled with electricity too blinding to see through, conveniently blocking the girls' view of things far beyond the author's powers of description without making them sound more utterly ridiculous than anything else hitherto discussed.
When the smoke cleared, #89, #13, and #46 gasped in unison, and Rhianwen suppressed a joyous squeal.
Where #26 had previously been was now merely a soggy bowl of Cheetos, a puddle of Mountain Dew, and an abandoned Gameboy Advance covered with a thick residue of hair gel.
"O-kay!" Rhianwen chirped, beaming at the stunned trio of girls as she gingerly retrieved and wiped off her beloved game system. "Who's next?"
End Notes: Okay, I promise this will have more to do with Harvest Moon in the next chapter. This was just the setup, and Rhianwen probably won't even appear again, so rest ye easy on that knowledge, dear readers.