I’ve heard the word ‘Snowflake’ bandied about quite a bit in recent years. Perhaps its the deeply divisive nature of the U.S. at the moment. (Coming from South Africa, this word was not part of my vocabulary) I had my version of what I thought the word meant but I decided to crowdsource on Facebook and ask my fellow digital compatriots to help me define the word. I got a number of responses.
An old college friend from London (male): Calling someone a snowflake means you don't have anything constructive to add to the conversation or have no cohesive argument so you'll go down the ad hominem/ad feminem route by suggesting that people are somehow weak or less able. Like the deployment of Godwin's Law, it means you've lost.
An old college friend from South Africa (female): It's a pejorative used to describe the best kind of people by people who can never hope to aspire.
One of my fiesty writing partners (female): It’s a word used by people who get easily offended when they realize someone has pointed a true and uncomfortable fact about them. For example...
SNOWFLAKE: “that is a racist remark, please don’t speak like that around me”
OFFENDED PARTY: *realizes that’s true, is angry at being held accountable, reacts like a child* “Oh my god it’s a joke! You’re such a snowflake!”
The irony is incredible. It has been one of the most enlightening relationships to watch unfold online... anyone who would call someone a “snowflake” would only do it if they are offended! Which makes THEM the snowflake! It’s fun to just sit back and laugh....
But don’t worry. The snowflakes will take over because as well all know...
Winter is coming.
A very accomplished Television Producer (female): Snowflake is a term originally targeted at liberals. It has recently turned into a term targeted at conservatives. Long story short, it is a term invented to create division. Don't use it.'
So it sounds like it’s basically shit-talking the ‘over-sensitive’.
As a filmmaker, I’ve been thinking a great deal about the kind of people we celebrate in Film and Television. A group of characters that people seem to LOVE are those that can DO WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE - without being fazed in anyway. The strong, silent and emotionless type. While the weak squirm, they can do the dirty work of revenge, torture, violence and video-game level massacre.
BANG! BANG! BAM! BOOM! Shoot that thing! Yes I said thing…. not person.
Also in this spectrum of characters are the ‘anti-empathic’. Those that can be downright mean and machiavellian and scoff at the sensitivity of others. One role that springs to mind is the character Cat Grant, played by Calista Flockhart in the first few seasons of Supergirl. Her character is 'bad-ass'. Mean, demeaning, insensitive, narcissistic. And people love her!
Why are characters with these tendencies so admired?
Disturbingly, these character traits could also be found in assassins, human traffickers, scheming crime-lords, psychopaths... all the way up to unscrupulous corporate leaders and some world leaders.
Story-tellers in the media have made these character traits SEXY. Flat-affect psychopathic traits have been made the NEW COOL... Perhaps it stems from a secret childhood desire to not have showed emotion that time they were bullied or emotionally tortured.
"When I grow up I want to be tough and strong and in charge. No-one will hurt me… I will hurt them!”
But... hey… I’m just guessing.
This celebration of horrendous character traits brings a whole new level of understanding and stark contrast to the term ‘SNOWFLAKE’…. Is a snowflake then… someone who is NOT these things, but instead has what might be termed an oversensitivity of emotion and an overdeveloped sense of empathy? Is that even possbile? Can one have TOO MUCH empathy? I think not.
I am deeply concerned at the celebration of the ‘emotionless’ traits. Despite what some may think, empathy is an evolutionary development from an earlier state of low-conscience objectification of others. But empathy is not been made cool enough by some story-tellers. We are now a society being fed conflicting messages. Do unto others… etc VS the celebration of psychopathy.
The ‘very accomplished Television Producer’ who wrote on my Facebook wall regarding ‘snowflakes’ was none other than Barbara Hall. She is a television writer and producer known for creating and producing Judging Amy and Joan of Arcadia, co-producing Homeland and is the creator and showrunner of the political drama Madam Secretary.
I am a huge fan of Barbara Hall and also the TV show ‘Madam Secretary’. I’ll tell you the great thing the show has going for it! (perhaps the most important thing) GOODNESS. There is a pervasive goodness to the main characters.
Tea Leone’s character for example is apportioned a beautiful helping of empathy and compassion. She struggles in her life to figure out what's the right thing to do? What will cause less harm to others? Can I sacrifice this thing I want for the an even nobler value? How do I love my kids without controlling them? How do I fight in politics and retain my soul? How can I model caring for my staff? How can I bring more caring into this conflict?
In this time in the U.S. and this time in my life… I cherish her character. She gives me hope in a rather dystopian and depressing world. 'Madam Secretary' celebrates empathy. The show has a pervasive goodness to it that I love! The writing makes the pursuit of goodness a higher value than the celebration of psycopathy. While many shows and films are masturbating with moral ambiguity and the sexiness of serial killers, this show takes a stand for decency and nobility. It models the way we could be! It models what a great leader could be.
The way the word SNOWFLAKE is used on social media nowadays, I would imagine this show and it’s characters are seen as a bunch of WEAK BLEEDING-HEART SNOWFLAKES. Which begs the question. What would be a show of strength? Genocide without a blink of concern? Rape and pillage? All out nuclear war? The imprisoning of babies and children? Removing woman rights? Destruction of the environment?
If that’s strength… call me a SNOWFLAKE.
I’d rather have my heart bleed.