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Let me be me

I grew up near Ned Kelly country.

Ned Kelly was a bushranger. This is an Australian term for a highwayman, a bandit, or an outlaw. Someone who used to rob people to survive.

Ned Kelly is famous—or infamous, if you like—for wearing homemade metal armour to protect himself in his final battle. More, he was considered a folk hero. A man victimised by the rich squatters in the area, and by the police.

Times change. People change. I have changed. My attitude to Ned has changed.

He and his gang were thieves and murderers. They stole cattle. They robbed a bank. They killed people. But it all started when he and his family were treated poorly by the police, so I have sympathy for him, too. I know the story isn’t that simple, and there would be incidents leading up to that whole first incident where he shot a policeman, but there was also poverty, racism, class and power imbalances involved.

Not that long ago I watched a television series—I can’t remember the name—about a stuntwoman and a rich young man who swapped in and out of each other’s bodies. I loved the show to start with. The stuntwoman was strong, with a good sense of self; she knew who she was and what she wanted.

Then, about six episodes in, while he was in her body, Rich Young Man (let’s call him Rich) started buying her clothes. Expensive clothes. Feminine clothes. For a girl who lived sneakers, jeans and t-shirts.

I used to love make-over stories where the rich man would come along and sweep the girl off her feet, buying her fancy clothes, changing her appearance, making her look like he wants her to be.

Times change. People change. I have changed. Nowadays, I find stories like that creepy. Controlling. Particularly when, as in this case, it’s supposed to be a romance. She’s gradually falling for him—as he is—while he’s supposedly falling for her but at the same time he’s trying to make her into a different person.

Having said that, I have no objection to anyone buying their partner clothes but have some respect for that partner and their likes and dislikes. In this case Rich ditched her old wardrobe and replaced it. Her original clothes were pretty good, by the way, with a smart, Asian chic. The clothes he replaced them with were totally not the person she was. Frilly, feminine dresses. Nor, might I add, did they suit her job. She does stunts, for heaven’s sake.

Yeah. Definitely controlling and there’s no half-way either. He doesn’t expect to change at all, but she’s expected to make herself into a different person.

I don’t remember finishing the series.

The girl being made over at the command of someone else is a common trope in many stories. Sometimes it works—I read one the other day where it did—but so often for me it’s a case of someone imposing their will on someone else. Oh, and it’s so frustrating when they throw out all the other clothes. Me, personally, I like my current clothes.

Around two years ago I got so frustrated by stories like this that I started to write my own story based around this very trope—where a rich main character ends up buying a whole wardrobe of new clothes for another character—but twisting it so that the reason they were buying the wardrobe was logical, trying to eliminate the creep factor altogether.

It was harder than I thought to come up with a good reason to do this. Like I say, times change. People change.

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