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I Read It So You Don't Have To: Secrets of the Southern Belle (by Phaedra Parks)

I hope the past few days have been restful and rejuvenating for you all, but -- as I'm sure you must have learned by this point -- the journey to personal betterment is an eternal endeavor. We haven't got a moment to waste, so let's bid adieu to the sunny serenity of the California coast and settle in down South with Real Housewives of Atlanta's Phaedra Parks, as she descends from her ivory porch swing and illuminates the esoteric in Secrets of the Southern Belle: How to Be Nice, Work Hard, Look Pretty, Have Fun, and Never Have an Off Moment.
True to the title's descriptive and straightforward sentiments, Phaedra begins the book with a concise synthesis of the worldview she hopes to present:
I believe every woman should be a Southern Belle or minimally aspire to being more ladylike, charming, and intelligent, because we should all be treated well.
As she continues, we get our first glimpse of the deep well of compassion that underlies Phaedra's mission to improve the lives of those around her.
Honestly, I sometimes feel sorry for women of northern persuasion. There they are rushing around in their baggy, drab clothes, doing everything for themselves and looking like they just rolled out of bed. They don't seem to understand there's a better way.
Thankfully, I no longer have to count myself among that witless horde. I feel like, until this fateful moment, I have been living like one of those people from the black-and-white "before" footage of an infomercial -- haphazardly bumbling through the most menial of daily tasks with no way of knowing how much brighter my world could be. Phaedra has freed me from Plato's Cave, and I have no choice but to follow her instruction and strive to shape myself in her image.
A true Southern Belle is known -- first and foremost -- for her fundamental kindness and compassion towards others, so it is only appropriate that the book's first section is succinctly titled, "Be Nice." However, even this simple directive has been trampled by the corrupting influence of the modern world. As Phaedra laments,
Unfortunately, as we see more migration from other parts of the world, we also see an increase of poor manners and rude behavior.
She elaborates, providing specific examples of the personal injuries incurred as a result of these unmannered interlopers.
I find it particularly odd in business, when the salespeople or tellers don't speak or thank you for your patronage. Don't they realize that without customers they would not have a job?
I, too, find it offensive when minimum-wage workers have the nerve to act like actual human beings rather than automatons at the mercy of my personal whims, and I appreciate that Phaedra is bold enough to ask the question that has undoubtedly been on the tip of our collective tongue. Yet somehow, she still remains humble enough to freely admit where she has room to learn; here, she lets the reader in on "something I've never quite understood about non-southerners:"
They're suspicious of basic southern warmth because they're worried it's insincere. But at the same time, they will tell you the most inappropriate things! They tell you stuff about their health that you don't want to know. They launch into crazy stories about their terrible childhoods and how misunderstood they are. They complain about what happened long ago, and they fret openly about the future. Then they tell you what they paid for things and you want to crawl under the table.
Frankly, that's not very attractive.
What is attractive, then, you may ask? Effusive compliments, for one thing -- "I don't know why some people are so concerned with being sincere, when being nice is so much more effective." We also learn to "never contradict anyone, even if you know they are wrong." Phaedra illustrates this particular lesson with the following example:
If someone tells you that your taxes are due on April 30 instead of April 15, you look puzzled and say, "Goodness, I had no idea. Did they change the date?"
And what happens after that? Either the person says yes and you're forced to play along with whatever bizarre delusion and/or power-play your companion is currently indulging, or they say no and you say -- what? "Right, of course, I knew that the whole time!" Or, "Gotcha! It's April 15th, you incompetent fraud!" Or maybe, "I don't even know what taxes are -- money is for menfolk!" I just can't imagine any of those scenarios playing out with less discomfort than a simple correction, but after four years living in New England, I can only assume that's just northern negativity clouding my vision.
We are next presented with a list of "compliments that come in handy," a few of which I've transcribed below for immediate incorporation into your own phrasal repertoire.
What an interesting way to think about it. (Good for a point on which you disagree with someone.)

You thought of every little detail; I love a meticulous lady!

Wow! That is so original. I would never have put it together like that. (In this South this might mean, "I hate it," but in a polite way.)
Boss Babe is out -- Meticulous Lady is in! Phaedra reminds us to keep health concerns -- "especially female issues" -- far from polite conversation, then shifts gears to a much-needed lesson in verbal comportment. It's not just their "attractive regional accents" that distinguish Southern Belles from their less-attractive northern counterparts; they also devote great attention to evoking grace through their cadence and tone.
Sometimes northern women can sound awfully abrupt. It's just a habit they have, poor things.
If you'd like to take your place amongst esteemed gentility, however, I urge you to change your ways! For one thing, when speaking, "slip in something affectionate so that a very harsh reality doesn't come across as rude or abrupt." For example, see how much unpleasant confrontation is avoided with the following turn of phrase:
Darling, don't you know you're too smart and pretty to be the town drunk?
Silly girl, haven't you heard? Addiction is for ugly people! You should also feel free to use these compliments liberally throughout conversation -- "You don't have to mean it, you know." As an example:
If you can tell that someone has put a lot of effort into a particular aspect of her outfit, just draw attention to it. Sparkly stars-and-stripes high heels could be terribly tacky, but you bet they're supposed to be noticed, so go ahead and do it. "Those are certainly patriotic shoes!"
Let me take a crack at it -- This book certainly has a lot of words in it! Writing a book is such an impressive achievement -- I'm sure it feels so rewarding to finally see it In print! And I love the way you occasionally use infinity signs as bullet points -- it's so evocative! I think I'm getting the hang of this!
"Another southern difference?" As Phaedra informs us, "we try not to make direct requests. It just sounds so forward and frankly unpleasant if someone comes right out and says what they want from you." Phaedra's Starbucks barista must really despise her -- If it isn't too much trouble, could I bother you for something to drink? No, anything's fine -- I wouldn't want to impose.
Almost like a modern-day Rosetta Stone, the next passage introduces us to the nuanced connotations that pervade a true Belle's vocabulary. For example, Phaedra tells the reader that "if I tell someone 'Goodness, you must have spent all day on your hair. I am so impressed!' it really means I hate it." Before I manage to convey how impressed I am by the book before me, I read on to learn that "when you're discussing a homely girl, you generally say, 'She's so smart!' The general thought is you can't be both ugly and dumb. God wouldn't be that cruel." Please excuse me while I take a few hours to re-analyze every compliment I've ever been given in my entire life.
Now that that's done, here are a few more translations to help you decipher the Belles in your life.
Belle-Speak: She's a nurse-in-training.
Unvarnished Truth: She dates only old men.

Belle-Speak: She's a butter face.
Unvarnished Truth: Everything looks good but her face.

Belle-Speak: Hope he's got money.
Unvarnished Truth: He's unattractive and pays for affection.
The second one is not even really a euphemism so much as Phaedra trying to demonstrate her knowledge of hip modern slang, but I digress. We transition into advice for conversation starters -- "don't throw them complicated or controversial subjects like politics, animal rights, or local zoning." Truly, I can't tell you how many times I've been approached at a party with an opener about municipal ordinances, and it just kills the mood like nothing else. Worried about how you'll ever find something to talk about under these restrictions?
Don't worry about sounding interesting. "Interesting" is an overrated notion. Just fill the empty air.
That…explains a lot, actually.
Our next lesson is in reference to dinner parties -- "don't make a fuss, unless you're complimenting the cook." In case you're confused as to how this guidance should be interpreted, Phaedra clarifies with some examples -- "'Is there meat in here? I'm a vegetarian' is the wrong kind of fuss." Since I typically ask this question while flailing my arms wildly and making intermittent whooping noises, I completely understand how it could be disruptive amongst refined company. Although I'm starting to get a bit nervous that I won't be able to keep track of these seemingly countless rules, Phaedra's next assurance puts my mind at ease: "If all else fails, remember the secret weapon of the Southern Belle is delicate helplessness."
In the next passage, we learn that, "if there's any characteristic that defines a Southern Belle, it's her habit of firing off little notes on any occasion." Just as with verbal compliments, these notes require little to no basis in factual reality -- "obviously it's perfectly all right to exaggerate." But while truthfulness is more or less dispensable, your choice of writing implement could have grave repercussions. As Phaedra exhorts, "Never, ever write a letter in pencil. You might as well not bother at all." Within the realm of pens, however, "blue and black are perfectly acceptable, even if they do lack panache."
We return once again to the topic of appropriate subjects for conversation, and are cautioned against asking anyone their age. Of course, wild speculation is encouraged, "as long as you're out of earshot." In the next tip, Phaedra declares: "Don't discuss the cost of anything. Any discussion of cost is just in poor taste." I just can't help picture how much of a nightmare this woman must be at a fast-food drive-through. Our final instruction?
Don't discuss hair color. Men always pretend they don't dye their hair, so you just have to go with it.
At first glance, this seems reasonable enough, especially in the context of the social graces espoused by the book so far. However, Phaedra's attempt at further explanation quickly begins to careen off-course.
For women, it's a little bit more complicated because you have the question of whether the drapes match the carpet, so to speak. And I do know some who dye the carpet to match -- that was the big thing in high school. Now with all this weird waxing, you don't have to do as much dyeing, but that's another thing you don't talk about either!
Let's see if I've got this straight: I should always believe a man about his purported hair color no matter what, but if a woman tries to lie about hers, she'll get caught…because I will inevitably be forced to confront the realities of her pubic hair? An intimate partner, sure, but I just can't imagine this situation arises with enough frequency to merit even the few lines its given in this text. And honestly, at this point, I don't even think I want to know what Phaedra means by "weird waxing."
This section of the book concludes with a final catalog of "the 'She did what?' mistakes." The list starts off strong with "wearing white to another woman's wedding." However, by the time we end on the most unimaginable of atrocities -- "drinking beer from a bottle" -- I'm beginning to wonder if this list was actually supposed to have been titled "things the sexy homewrecker does in a bro-country music video."
The following section is titled, "Work Hard," and I am immediately inspired to do exactly so by the implicit challenge thrown down in Phaedra's opening lines, in which she coquettishly asks, "Who always delivers a presentation on time, with the printed materials perfectly written and proofread?" I'm usually quite good at taming my most pedantic impulses, but contrarian passions I never knew I had are foaming at the mouth to find an upcoming typo and self-righteously call her bluff. Although perhaps I should find a more feminine way to phrase that; as Phaedra cautions, "we don't like to think of ourselves as driven, because that sounds so neurotic and unpleasant."
We next learn that "you cannot be a Southern Belle unless you understand what it is to be ladylike." But unfortunately, it is all too easy to be caught up in the ways of the world and lose sight of this primary calling.
A lot of women today enjoy being the feisty, brassy, foul-mouthed kind of gal who drinks with men and shows a lot of flesh. They think it's cool.
Phaedra continues and reflects that, "I've heard the argument that this is progress, from the feminist point of view, but I don't necessarily agree." I can never remember -- which wave of feminism was the one with all the feisty gals? But clearly, their agenda has gone too far! How, in contrast, does a delicate Southern Belle behave?
She looks as if she's heard of sex, probably has had sex, but has no plans to have sex with anybody in the immediate surroundings.
I'm not sure exactly how to convey this highly specific sentiment in any other way than purchasing a t-shirt custom-printed with the phrase, "I have heard of sex, have probably had sex, but have no plans to have sex with anybody in the immediate surroundings," so I hope that approach will suffice for now. Phaedra follows up by cautioning us that,
A lady never puts in the shop window what isn't for sale.
Personally, I like to think of myself as more of a museum than a gift shop, but to each their own! We next learn more about the delicate balance a Southern Belle must achieve in order to maintain her esteemed position. For example, while "she doesn't cuss and doesn't talk dirty," frigidity is similarly unbecoming -- "if somebody tells a good dirty joke in her vicinity, she'll laugh." I'm barely a third of the way through this book, and I'm already exhausted at the prospect of having to remember all of these hyper-specific edicts. It's no surprise that the Southern Belle has to remain consistently vigilant; as Phaedra intones, "coming from a Pentecostal family, I hate to see a woman down more than two drinks." It seems to me like the simplest way to avoid such emotional turmoil would be to simply refrain from compulsively tallying the beverage intake of strangers, but I soon learn there are far more perilous hazards lurking around every corner. Phaedra shares her personal strategy for avoiding the very implication of incivility in the following excerpt:
I don't ever go to the bar at a party; I think that just looks terrible. If I must have a glass of wine or crave a fruity adult libation, I'll ask a nearby man to procure it for me.
Sir! Procure me a fruity adult libation -- tout de suite! But I would hate to diminish the male gender by implying that they're only good for the acquisition of potables; no -- men can be leveraged in an increasingly broad array of day-to-day tasks. As Phaedra shares:
I have friends who have never in their lives pumped gas for their own cars. They will ask a complete stranger to do it for them. One of my besties from New Orleans will flag down a man, give him her credit card, and have him pump and pay for her gas.
Honestly, I can't help but wonder if this might actually be some kind of avantgarde performance art, in the tradition of Marina Abramović's Rhythm 0. Because the idea that this gambit has never gone horribly, horribly awry truly strains credulity. As I read on, however, I learn that my current train of thinking is sorely misguided.
Sometimes when I'm at a grocery store the fellow bagging the groceries will ask if he can take them out to my car. Why would you say no to this? But sometimes women do. And I look at them and sigh and think, "Poor thing. She has a lot to learn."
Thankfully for my personal development, the next chapter -- titled "A Crash Course in Being (Selectively) Helpless" promises exactly the sort of content that I so desperately need to understand. As Phaedra explains, a Southern Belle is "never intimidating, because some things she just can't do on her own." She goes on to offer concrete examples of how to incorporate this ethos into your life on beginner, intermediate, and expert levels.
Experts: assume help will arrive. Flat tire? Pull over to the curb, and don't sweat it. Can't figure out which wrench to buy at Home Depot? Or how to program your DVR? This is what former boyfriends and other gentlemen are for. Believe me, the age of chivalry is not dead.
Rent due? Don't sweat it -- a gallant gentleman likely already has a check in the mail. House burning to the ground around you? You should know a Belle doesn't walk down the hallway on her own two feet! Bear attack? I'm sure a male bear is just around the corner, ready to jump in and defend your honor!
Without a hint of irony, we transition to Phaedra's advice for the workplace. We learn that the quintessential gentlewoman is savvy, competent, and always at the top of her game. For instance, at her workplace, "she figures out how to work the coffee machine and the copy machine." With that kind of go-getting attitude, the Southern Belle will be bound for the C-suite in no time! Provided, of course,
She never does that thing I hear of in the North sometimes of telling you how little she paid for something. Why would you brag about bargains?
I can't hear the phrase that thing I hear of in the North in anything other than the voice of Tinsley's mother, Dale. Except she would probably use it in reference to something like "giving compliments to your daughter" or "weight gain." Regardless, a more appropriate question at this juncture might be, "Are you sure this book was proofread quite as judiciously as you claimed?" As I scan the page, my eyes happen upon the line:
10 percent for tithing, if your religion encourages tithing, which mines [sic] does.
Of course, it would be entirely uncouth for me to brag about my typographical superiority in this context, so now seems as good a time as any to exercise some of my newly acquired techniques. Oh, Phaedra -- bless her heart! I suppose we can't all be detail-oriented, can we? It must be nice to be so casual and carefree when you express yourself!
Without further ado, however, we move along to our next lesson -- "People don't know when you're hungry, because they can't hear your stomach growling, but they definitely know when you're homeless." To be honest, the more I think about this statement , the less sense it makes to me (people…can hear your stomach growling?). Luckily, with the jam-packed schedule of a Southern Belle, I simply don't have time to dwell on the issue for a moment longer!
Our next tutorial? " If you have one fabulous pair of shoes, you will wear them to church. It is the very least you can do for Jesus." As we all know, Jesus loves sweet kicks, so he loves nothing more than to see you rock the newest styles when you drop by on Sunday. And besides -- the higher the heel, the closer to heaven! Phaedra summarizes the Southern Belle's can-do attitude with the line: "We all may not be sitting around big ugly Formica boardroom tables, but we get things done." As someone who has only ever attended meetings held around moderately sized tables, I find this to be a validating sentiment.
When it comes to extracurricular pursuits, "beauty pageants are important." However, "as much as she loves performing, the Belle will not take to the stage: some of those theater people are just too peculiar, bless their hearts." Honestly, Phaedra and I come down on the same side on this one. But I will have to heartily disagree with her next passage -- with respect to traditions of stepping within Black Greek Life -- in which she states,
The traditionally white organizations don't have anything comparable.
Um, excuse me? Have you never seen this iconic video?! However, Phaedra does reassure us that she's far from ignorant in the ways of the world. As she states, "I have read about hookup culture and known a few easy women." Of course, easy men don't exist -- or at least, that's what I've read in all the most prominent textbooks regarding hookup culture. But don't mistake Phaedra's awareness for acceptance -- "that doesn't mean I like any of it." However, this sentiment is belied just a few paragraphs later, when our author recalls:
I offended the mother of one of my best friends once by booking some exotic entertainment at this friend's birthday party. My friend loved the anatomically exceptional dancer, but her mother was livid.
I'm sure that it was only your friend who loved the "anatomically exceptional" dancer, and I assume this must have been one of your aforementioned token "easy" friends, besides. A Southern Belle, in contrast, is interested in serious, long-term relationships. And for this purpose, "it would be much better to marry a young man that you can train. I have always said that I would rather be a babysitter than a geriatric nurse." Yet even these kinds of discrepancies seem trivial in comparison to the boundless passions of eternal love. As Phaedra shares,
I want Apollo and me to celebrate our fiftieth anniversary, so I try to overlook momentary annoyances.
That aged well. Bless her heart.
We're soon treated to a cheeky list of "what her husband doesn't know," which echoes several key themes from earlier in the book -- most notably in its bizarre fixation with pubic grooming.
He doesn't know what her true hair color is, because the curtains always match the carpet.

He doesn't know how often she waxes, or exactly what waxing entails.

He doesn't know that she has her own credit card, her own savings account, and a safe-deposit box.
I've got to say, that last one hits just a little bit different with hindsight. Always timely, however, are Phaedra's views on the importance of the homemaking arts. In this evocative passage, she describes the primal horror of an encounter with a woman tainted by an unimaginable curse:
A nice lady from another part of the country recently confessed to me that she doesn't know how to do any crafts. In fact, she said, she gets all nervous and antsy in crafts stores, because they're so full of things she doesn't understand. I laughed like I thought she was joking, but really, I felt bad for her. Imagine not knowing how to make all those cute objects that brighten up lives in the South! I shudder to think what the inside of her house looks like!
With that fable still ringing in my ears, we transition to the next section of the book: "Look Pretty." Phaedra reflects, "I am always shocked when I leave the South and encounter the enormous number of women who don't seem to understand how their clothes should fit." Now feels like an appropriate time to draw attention to the book's back cover, in which an open-mouthed Phaedra swivels her torso in such a way as to create a bulging protuberance across one half of her chest. In awe of her commitment to inclusivity, I now realize this could only have been an intentional choice to make herself seem more approachable to us northern oafs, and for that I am eternally grateful.
Phaedra goes on to inform us that, "personally, I prefer skirts and dresses over pants." However, although "high-waisted pants and pants with visible hem cuffs are quite elegant and ladylike," one should take care never to forget that "minimalism and menswear looks are just puzzling and not appealing to a Belle." I, too, must admit that I find menswear looks puzzling -- a girl? in boy clothes? I just can't make heads or tails of it! And this is far from the only contemporary fad that baffles the true Southern Belle. As Phaedra continues:
I've never understood the appeal of the natural look. It's so easy to improve your appearance; why wouldn't you take advantage of the many beauty aids available to you?
In a frankly unexpected dig against the ceramic arts, Phaedra notes that "unless you are a professional potter (and I don't think Southern Belles generally are), your nails need to be clean and filed." More generally, your physical proportions should remain mild and inobtrusive:
Ever since voluminous behinds became fashionable, I often see these lumpy, huge derrieres on women with legs as thin as a chicken's, and I think God would never put a rump roast on toothpicks, so why did you do that?
That's why I always caution my friends to pair their butt implants with a battery of leg implants, in order to really round out the overall contour of the body and mimic that structurally stable, God-given look. After all, as Phaedra quips: "'Knowledge is power' -- that's my motto." But this knowledge doesn’t come without a price; being as world-wise as Phaedra often requires direct confrontation with the atrocities of today's world. As she recounts, for example: "I was astonished to find out that not every woman possesses a lint roller." It's truly a tragedy to learn how the other half lives!
We are next informed that, "you have to have your ears pierced, but only one hole in each ear." The consequences for an infraction of this critical edict are left unvoiced, from which I can only assume that they are swift and merciless. Any self-respecting Southern Belle has a taste for the finer things in life, and Phaedra is no exception. As she remarks:
I love diamonds; I'd have a diamond duvet if I could afford it.
Because I am less fiscally endowed, I have had to settle for stuffing my duvet with assorted Swarovski crystals, at least for the time being. However, I'm eager to upgrade -- I can only imagine that the extra hardness of the diamonds will add a satisfying acupuncture affect to my nighttime regimen!
Phaedra moves on to fashion advice, and cautions the well-heeled Belle to remain conservative in her fashion choices. But don't worry -- there is a time and a place to let loose and express your more artistic side. Or, as Phaedra says, "something a little funky or ethnic may even be appropriate from time to time." To further illustrate this principle, she explains: "If I were going out West, for example, I might wear some turquoise bracelets."
But some things are a bridge too far! Any woman with a modicum of dignity would know never to be caught dead in "polar fleece," "a naughty-nurse costume," or "footed pajamas." We are also encouraged to carry around a hand fan -- "the elegant way to stay cool" -- as well as a "small leather-bound notebook for jotting down inspirations." I lose my train of thought for a moment, caught up in a daydream about the ingenious wonderings that must be contained within Phaedra's hallowed journal. But I'm brought back to reality by a declaration of "what's not in my purse," beginning with the stern pronouncement: "any kind of contraband substance."
Our pilgrimage to polite society continues with a comprehensive exploration of the monogram's social gravitas. As Phaedra intones, "I've even seen cars with a very discreet monogram on the driver's door." But with light must come darkness, and the next chapter bravely confronts an issue many others would fear to face: "Looking Like a Tramp" ("There, I came right out and said it," Phaedra breathlessly gasps below the harsh text of the passage's title). She gathers herself together and courageously reports, "some women look downright sleazy."
Alas -- even more tragically -- couture catastrophes are not restricted to those of legal majority. Phaedra heroically pulls back the curtain on a nationwide epidemic of wardrobe misconduct being perpetrated against society's most vulnerable:
I saw a picture not long ago of some hippies or hipsters or whatever you call them from some remote city. The parents looked the way you'd expect them to look, a little bit bedraggled, but the worst thing was they had this adorable little baby all done up in a black onesie. And as far as I could tell, it wasn't even Halloween!
How to combat this terrifying trend? Phaedra offers words of wisdom: "Little Southern Belles always look sweet and appropriately girlish." Specifically, we are encouraged to incorporate design elements like "tasteful, conservative rickrack." By way of further explanation, she clarifies that, "what they don't do is dress like Lady Gaga in dresses made of butchers' best cuts of beef." I'm disappointed to learn that my idea for an Etsy store selling bespoke meat-based children's clothing might be a nonstarter, but I suppose I appreciate our author giving it to me straight.
Another childcare commandment?
No costumes outside the house. Of course every little girl loves to play dress-up. But I truly dislike seeing Snow White or a fairy princess trailing along behind her mother at the Piggly Wiggly.
As she sits in her living room, most likely waiting for a man to come to her aid for some reason or another, Phaedra is struck by a sharp, blazing pain. As the flash of blinding torment subsides, she catches her breath and shakes her head wearily -- another costumed child has gone into a grocery store. Forgive their guardians, for they know not the harm their actions have caused to our author's delicate and genteel sensibilities.
But it does us no good to dwell on the darker side of life! Rather, we'll move right along into the book's final section, "Have Fun." However, this does not seem to be exactly the same kind of "fun" colloquially mentioned in mainstream circles. Rather, the Southern Belle defines fun with the principle, "everybody needs to know that you made an effort." For example, "if you're pouring punch into paper cups for a gaggle of seven-year-olds, put a spring of mint in it." My previous experiences in the general vicinity of children lead me to believe that at least 75% of the seven-year-olds in this group would respond to this elegant enhancement by dumping the punch out on the ground because it has a gross plant in it. Maybe that's part of the fun?
No analysis of Southern culture would be complete without a discussion of that most hallowed of pastimes -- college football. And although "only a really unusual woman watches football alone," it is imperative that a Southern Belle attend the social events associated with the on-season. What's more, she should take care to do with impeccable style. As Phaedra laments:
Sometimes I see pictures of women in store-bought football jerseys and I feel sorry. A store-bought jersey does nothing to flatter the feminine body.
As for the game itself, minimal understanding is required -- "Naturally a Belle knows how much men enjoy telling her things, so she isn't shy about asking questions." True to her generous spirit, however, Phaedra nevertheless provides a basic primer in the rudiments of the sport:
Basically each team is trying to get the ball through the tall H-shaped goalposts at the end of the field. […] The problem is that the ball can look awfully little from pretty much anywhere in the stands. There's no shame in watching the video replay to see what really just happened.
As a final tip, Phaedra suggests that "belles whose husbands have season tickets might even invest in matching linens and china." Our next unit of instruction concerns the arrival of a newborn bundle of joy; as we learn, "the birth of a baby is a big deal in a southern family." It's so interesting to learn all of these unique cultural details! I don't know if I've ever heard of another culture that places such importance on birth -- I'd love to get an anthropologist's take! There are also strict guidelines to which one must adhere regarding the naming of a debutante-in-training:
A Southern Belle's name:
-- is obviously feminine.
-- is two syllables or more (names like Ann or Joan seem abrupt, like so many Yankees).
-- is a real name, not a geographic feature like Sierra.
-- means something. Preferably something nice.
Once born and appropriately christened, children should be painstakingly shielded from the contaminating influences of the world at large. Phaedra explains that "pop culture is full of children behaving disrespectfully." Without the slightest suggestion of self-reflection, she goes on to declare that "besides, we think TV characters are basically tacky."
Phaedra reiterates a few of the courtship commandments mentioned previously, most concisely in the adage, "Belles don't date losers." And, as any suitor worth his salt should know, "a date with a Belle is no time for a boy to experiment with 'alternative' clothes or grooming either." Instead, a Southern Gentleman takes care to keep his language clean from distasteful or offensive language -- "For instance, why say 'liquor' when you can say 'adult refreshment'?"
As we near the end of the book, it seems only fitting that we take a few pages to cover the traditions and rituals associated with life coming to a close. Buttressed by her extensive knowledge of mortuary science, Phaedra instructs us:
Postmortem is no time to experiment with cosmetics. No one wants their sweet aunt Gertrude looking like some ashy Jezebel when she meets Jesus.
The passage concludes with the brassy observation, "we don't usually cremate in the South; we figure if we wanted to burn we'd just live recklessly and go to hell."
Before the book closes in earnest, Phaedra shares a few of her special, meticulously developed recipes. The most evocative of her culinary optimizations is a recipe for sweet tea, in which she thoughtfully informs us, "sweetness can be personalized by adding more water or ice to the tea."
The book's final pages contain an instrument designed to measure the effect of the preceding 252 pages on one's essential courtesies, charmingly titled "The Belle-O-Meter Quiz." As Phaedra explains:
So, ladies, how are you doing? I'm sure you've all been very attentive to my suggestions and are amazed by the results. You're probably totally used to a steady diet of compliments and flirtation and invitations. But here's a little quiz in case you feel the need to measure how far you've come.
If you'd like to take the full quiz, you can do so here. But if your busy Belle schedule doesn't permit you to devote that much time to something so self-indulgent, a few example questions are provided below:
Your routine greeting when you meet a new person is:
a. A surly glare.
b. "Hi."
c. "Well, hello! How are you today?"

If your gentleman friend brought you a corsage to wear on a date you would:
a. Put it in the refrigerator. Nobody wears corsages nowadays!
b. Pin it to your coat collar and check your coat.
c. Pin it in an unusual spot like your waist or behind your ear, after extracting one little blossom to put in his lapel.
The answer key informs us that answering mostly C's means that "you are a genuine Southern Belle." As Phaedra goes on to suggest, "maybe it's time to share your new skills with a friend and pass along this book. I hope it's been helpful to you." As a book hoarder of the highest order, I will have to skip that suggestion, but I am nevertheless thankful to move one step closer to self-actualization with the help of another Real Housewife. Until next time!
Upcoming plans in comment below!
submitted by efa___ to BravoRealHousewives [link] [comments]

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure OC Tournament #5: Round 1 Match 20: Casey Williams and Manta Malaise?

The results are in for Match 18.
The game was lasting quite a long time, with Red Carpet Renaissance’s more aggressive playstyle hardly giving the room to breathe to the carefully-crafted tactics of the Sharp Lookers, but those very same plans at once keeping them from finding themselves getting clicked.
Violet Lange was watching, still, invested in how the hell this could keep on going, what might finally turn the tides, only for her cell phone to vibrate, a text message appearing on it from a contact registered under: “C. Williams”
waiting at docks
we still on?
“Oh, shit, what time is it?” Violet glanced upwards slightly, and cursed again as she realized what hour and minute read. “Yeah, I gotta go. Uh…” She waved at the ongoing game. “See ya ‘round, guys, you’ve been totally great!”
Nobody noticed her walk away.
Nobody wins! For an equal score of 66, everyone’s time was wasted!
Category Winner Point Totals Comments
Popularity Sharp Lookers 19-10 Things seemed even for most of the voting period, with many of the votes being split, but late into it, a modest number of Sharp Lookers votes translated into a massive lead. For the first time, this resulted in votes splitting perfectly by .5s when the division was done, and since it would mean taking a point away from one side to give it to the other, that thirtieth pop point simply vanishes into the aether…
Quality Red Carpet Renaissance 20-22 Reasoning
JoJolity Red Carpet Renaissance 17-24 Reasoning
Conduct TEAM 10-10
Half an hour later…
“Uh… Kisa?” Masa asked, earning his partner’s attention. “You know how I said I’d watch the girl to make sure she didn’t pull somethin’ weird?”
“Hm?” Kitose Saiko turned to face his friend, and noticed the lack of anybody he was standing beside. “Oh my god. How… How, Masa?”
“I dunno!” He answered, sounding similarly bewildered, waving his hands as Kisa, in his frustration, lit up the entire remaining pack of his cigarettes and took a drag from each of them at once. “She just sorta… Was gone when I stopped paying attention.”
“The woman is… Gone.” Dimitri was incredulous as well. “And there goes our hints on this Black Angel! The library is surely closed by now, so we’ve wasted a day and this town knows we’re looking.”
pranked again… violet lange, u r officially… epic
As Nebula’s synthetic voice remarked that and moved to silence, Ace couldn’t help but laugh. “Vitus is gonna be pissed too, that we were dragged off to play some game instead of tailing Peres… Haahhh, man, what were we thinking? This was her job, I bet. She just needed to waste our time awhile, get us heated and fighting each other, throwing piss around and playing dirty… Gave us the slip soon as our attentions were off her. Well played, I must admit… Well played…”
“Distracting us from the Black Angel…” Dimitri stroked his chin. “And also from Peres? But I remember Laverne saying the Black Angel vigilante was banned from the Devil Blue, the hotel she works at. What could the common thread between them be..?”
“Well, I’m annoyed too… Don’t just bail on an agreement you make…” Masa answered, before adding with a slight smile. “But hey, in some good news…” He held up a gift card, waving it between his fingers. “She left the CaraMel’s gift card, 200 USD just like she said, and that place? Not just to die for, from when Ray came back with stuff from there the other day, but I hear the ‘goss’ is ‘hot’ there too, as she said in that super-exaggerated little Valley Girl voice. What say I claim this card and treat you all? Call it a, uh… Ceasefire, for now.”
gonna be annoyed if its stale by the time i can actually eat it
but ok sounds good
The game of assassin was fruitless, but the fruits of an assassination are still born, and two pairs of Stand Users fight to protect their local leaders from them. There’s still about a day to vote in that when this goes up.
Scenario:
South Aurelio - East of the Wormwood
“I am so sorry, I just lost track of time… I got these four roped into this big assassin game, and I didn’t wanna bail, but…”
Not long after Violet Lange officiated that little college game and the evening began to roll in that, again she found a Stand User’s company. Casey Williams, MFA member, sat in the passenger seat of a vibrant purple convertible, occasionally staring either at passing suburban scenery in the transition between the college town and suburban hellscape, or the way her companion’s lavender scarf billowed in the wind.
“Look, I get it, I get it, shit happens, especially ‘round Midnight Sun. You don’t need to explain.” After a few moments of silence, tapping her hands against the outer door of the car as her arm hung over the window, Casey spoke up. “I, uh… Didn’t expect you to call me, but Kirk vouched for you. Why me, for… Whatever this is?”
Violet had, that morning, asked Casey to aid her in an investigation after she finished up with some shit she had to do on campus, and still now, had said very little about what was going on sans its importance. “I trust you… For the same reason I took over the bifrost server, and the same reason I revealed myself to your team. André had faith in you all to do what was best, and, well, I have no idea what to do but follow his lead and use what power I have to do it. As for you in particular… I want to work with somebody my age, basically. No more than that.”
“If you trust me so much,” Casey said, looking to the river to her left as the pair drove along a road opposite it, admiring how the setting sun reflected upon its rippling waves, “why haven’t you told me what we’re doing, then? You sounded like it was important, so I agreed to hear you out, but you’ve still been cagey.”
“I wanted it to be in person, while we were speeding along,” Violet explained, looking out upon the road still, briefly glancing off in the distance and seeing a manor across the water, braking for a moment and pointing towards it. “See that house by the riverbank there?”
She handed Casey a pair of binoculars, and the latter surmised, “looks like a dump.”
“From the outside, and nobody has owned it for thirty years, yet…” She paused, as if she was about to say a name and reconsidered. “My contact - a high-schooler who comes and goes late at night, you wouldn’t know them, and I’m purposefully leaving them out of this, but I can vouch for their reliability - says that sometimes, late at night, delivery trucks bring perfectly good furniture to the bridge just North of here, and by morning, they seem to have just disappeared into the ground. I dunno if you pay attention to the news, but there’s a ‘Serial Killer’ who operates in this town, and besides that… Sixteen people who disappeared in this area are still missing, and haven’t had their bodies identified. The more research I’ve done lately, I’m completely certain of it. That ‘abandoned residence’ must be the ‘lair’ of this killer! It’s certainly big enough to hold that many people and then some… So I plan to break in.”
“Serial killer..?” Casey’s head tilted slightly, then, suddenly, the words hit her as Violet resumed her drive. “Wait, what? So even if you’re right, you’re just gonna bust down this guy’s door without knowing what he’s capable of? Why this? Why you, and so covert?”
“Because I’ve spent my life sneaking and slipping by to survive, clinging to stronger people. Because I used to roll with the kind of scum who would use Stands to do whatever the hell they wanted like we were better than everyone else. Because the last time I tried to get someone to take care of this killer, all she did was kill an innocent man in front of me! I’m tired of just being an ‘extra,’ moving pieces around and waiting in place, Casey. I’ve said that I just want to survive, but a friend of mine, every day, fights tooth and nail to make this place better. I’m going to be an adult and try, goddammit, and if you don’t want to do the same, I can just drop you off, and-”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Casey continued, raising her hand up, and then offering Violet a confident little smile. “When did I say I was going to refuse? Hell, lives are on the line, pedal to the metal! I hear this town has like two cops, and I sure don’t see either of them around!”
“That’s what I like to hear…” Violet’s own lips curled upwards slightly, and she stepped on the gas. “We’re gonna totally tear shit up today.”
They drove along the bridge in silence from there, Casey contemplating things as they sped along, occasionally stealing glances towards the house just what was now South of them. Not long after, though, she began to grow uncomfortable, pulling her shirt’s collar over her nose. “Eugh… What’s that smell now? We pass a dead skunk or something?”
“That’s… I know this smell. That isn’t a skunk.” Violet gave a glance to her rear-view mirror, and her face stiffened. “Casey… Get out of the car, now! Ditch it!”
“What? What is-” Casey stammered, surprised and trying to hurriedly work her seatbelt off as Violet began to jerk the vehicle around, as if intended on steering the thing straight into the river. As she did so, she glanced behind her, and though the rising shape of a figure on the back of the car was hard to make out in the twilit evening, there was certainly a massive, and vaguely humanoid, and there were eyes on her.
There were so many eyes.
Slightly down the Wormwood River…
Ah, the Wormwood River. This massive landmark is a symbol of Los Fortuna in many ways. It came to exist during the city’s foundational years, it runs from the Northernmost mountains into the city itself, and quite symbolically, it splits the affluent Eastern portions of the city, highly regarded centers of culture and quality of life, with the Western, the environmentally unclean, the poorer, the portions of the city in which the greatest safety and stability comes from being within the care of a territorial gang which has earned the ire of countless other districts.
This divide was sharp and clear in the way it split the affluently beloved outer suburbs of the Woods of Aurelio, whose schools, fine homes, esteemed country club, golf course, town hall, and most of the town’s voting centers all sat in the East.
Manta Malaise thought this symbol of all which they sought to destroy a poetic place to take their pollution this evening.
“This Metropolis which is so very very burdensome to me, and this humble hamlet so tantalizingly close to it nearby,” they began aloud, just in the off chance somebody was around to hear it (and if not, rehearsal was always useful), while the diesel-burning gas-guzzling pickup truck they purchased on the resort’s tab began dumping a container’s worth of sand and grit, “I have heard it said that this location in which we are entrapped it on the decline… Yet nay, I say. At least, nary the full picture… This place is but a microcosm of all that surrounds it, a more blatant case of all that is true elsewhere, as well… A fine example for the world, it will make.”
As they spoke, a ripped-away purple car door floated by on the river, distracting them from speaking about how, if they repeat this process for a few weeks (maybe buy a new car every time), they would be able to kill the fish eggs and microorganisms that make up the key bottom of the river life’s food chain, eventually add nitrogen to the mix to toxically increase ugly and deadly algal growth, and aloud, they spoke “curious… That is a recognizable door of a quality automobile… To whom might it belong? Ah, no matter!”
Seconds later, a bloodied figure with several open wounds along its back burst from the water, clinging to dear life to the floating door and beginning to kick in Manta’s direction with surprising strength. He seemed to have tall blond hair, green pants, and a sleeveless shirt, though those all were obviously soaked and stained both with water and blood. As he reached the shore nearby them, within the range of ‘Morgana Courts Danger’, he gasped and turned onto his wounded back.
The young man who floated towards Manta Malaise said nothing, and did not even seem to notice the effects of their proximity as they approached and turned him around to get a look at the other side of the sleeveless shirt-clad figure. The life was fading from the blond man’s eyes, and his lips trembled, a faint grin on them. He did not say a word, but as Manta looked down, they realized that the phrase on the outfit he wore said more about his final feelings, the state of his body, than his voice ever could.
Ouch!
“What… What on this fetid dying earth is going on here?” They weren’t concerned, per se, but curious about the sudden arrival of this man.
He continued not speaking, bringing a trembling hand up and away, pointing softly with a single finger Southwards, slightly - towards a shabby-looking abode.
“Do you… Mean to send me there?”
His strong lips curled into a serene smile, his hand dropped, and his eyes closed.
“Nghh… I had not the time to have his final sounds heard in life a rejection of this quest, perished for naught…” Manta remarked aloud, gritting their teeth. “As if I would simply traipse towards what is not my business… Though, how did he get here through the water? He seemed to appear so suddenly…”
They looked towards their truck. The motor was still running, but it had emptied its load fine. “I am curious,” they remarked, and so, after cranking the heat and AC of the vehicle as high as it could go, they abandoned it, diving into the water to see where this dead lad may have come from.
???
Casey awoke to that same odor again, but less severely so, in an uncomfortable, unsheeted mattress in what appeared to be a bunk room of sorts. As she rose, she had to avoid scraping her arm on a rusty spring, rubbing her eyes all the while.
“Nngh, what’s..?” She looked around, and after glancing past her a few times, saw Violet laying in a similar situation, a bizarre metal collar around her neck poking out behind the scarf, but otherwise looking unharmed. “Violet..! Wake up, Violet!”
“Nnghh… What’s..?” She sat up, feeling around for her beret and putting it on, glancing at Casey. “You’ve got a weird collar on you, Casey…” She felt at her own neck, then. “Oh.”
“Look out for those things,” a casual-sounding, low voice uttered, earning the attention of the pair; a woman with dark, wavy hair and a velvet dress was filing her nails on one of the springs. Nearby her sat a cone-haired, dirty-blond high schooler, built like a football player and a varsity away from dressing like it. “When ‘that person’ brings in a ‘Stand User,’ they get a collar like that… Likes to make up little game rules, and if they break ‘em or leave, uh…” She jerked her thumb towards a far-off wall of the room filled with a few dozen bunks, in which a bloody, smoky outline shaped like a person outstretched was dried against the wall. “Poor bastard didn’t listen because the floor wasn’t literally lava… Hey, don’t jump now, yeah? That’s not the game being played right now.”
“Palmer, you’re scaring the hell out of them, and that really isn’t useful right now… We’re going to get out soon, I’m sure of it,” another young woman’s voice called out, and as the voice seemed familiar, the face confirmed it. Though her long neat hair was short in an uneven cut, the blue blazer’s sleeves were destroyed, and the bowtie was loose, it was absolutely TV personality Jillian Heart.
“Jill..?” Violet asked, tone lightening up immensely.
She took a moment to process that, but then nodded. “Hey, Lange. You and Reed doing alright? And, uh, this a friend of yours?”
“Yeah, hi,” Casey answered, “Casey Williams… College student.”
“She’s cool, yeah,” Violet promised, looking around, “where’s Chad? Not like him to run off…”
“That’s why we’re getting out soon,” Jill answered, happily, “we noticed it when you two were brought in! Broke open this statue in the courtyard and found a waterway that ‘Worm’ - that’s what the killer goes by here - has to have been using to get in and out. They have one of those ‘Stands,’ but we all can see it, so they wear it like a costume and it guards them… But Chad’s the strongest person here, and he’s been our rock through all of this! After Worm left again, he volunteered to go through it and find help, and with him, that means it’s as good as done!”
“I see… So that makes how many people left here, then?” Casey started counting on her fingers.
“Sixteen, minus you two,” Miss Palmer answered, “I’m, uh… Palmer, by the way. Drama teacher at the high school out here. Same story as everyone else here, more or less… Bet the Superintendent’d be happy to hear Elton here and Swift Taylor are still alive, though.”
‘Elton’ said nothing, still, simply sitting there, while Jill took over a bit to talk about the place.
“I think I’m gonna start getting the lay of the land, then…” Casey said, feeling the need to take the initiative. “I’ve still got my Stand with me, thankfully, and if we can’t leave just because help shows up, that means we’re gonna have to fight to get out when this killer shows.”
“Careful,” Jill warned, “there’s traps all over the damn place here… And ‘Worm’ changes them when we’re not looking, just like they change the furniture, or what doors lock how. Makes everyday in this big house hell, and it’s worst of all around the edges. Makes up most of how people die here…”
“I’ll be careful,” Casey said with a nod, stepping out into the halls of the bizarre home.
The underwater corridor Chad had needed to swim through to get out was brutal, and even Manta Malaise had felt tense handling it. Over four meters underwater, less than two meters wide, and the top of the dark, dirty, dank area was lined with rusty nails, blades, and the blood of the man who had attempted it, across a forty-meter stretch of water - slightly shorter than an Olympic swimming pool, but so much more claustrophobic, and with pressure much higher.
They managed it, however, and were they able to speak now, would have commended the amateur cameraman who only swam as a summertime hobby for managing fatally what they were able to get through unscathed carefully. At the end of this gauntlet was a straight shot up, illuminated by moonlight, and so, Manta hurried upwards, taking a breath as they surveyed the area they had come out in.
It was a large fountain on the Eastern end of a long, statue-decorated courtyard full of thorny ground. The crumbled, destroyed remains of such a statue, presumably having once sat atop this passage, was now in pieces, only a pair of outstretched arms on either side of them.
“Look out, you damnable fool! The arms, the arms!!” A theatrical voice called out, and Manta looked its way to see a figure in a top hat, three-piece suit, and black cape with a handlebar moustache and unibrow, and before they could process it, an automated voice emerged from the crumbled head at the fountainside.
Flow 24 Detected
The stone arms seized their neck firmly, and so soon after they had breathed, they could not again. It was no matter for their strong arms to easily smash these damaged ones of stone, however, and soon, they crumbled and descended into the deep. However, Manta felt a new weight around their neck nonetheless; a metal collar.
“So… You are the ‘help’ that damned Kroeger sought? Imposing and impressive-looking for sure, but entrapped like the rest of us now.” The dapper fellow complained.
“Who are you to criticise me, when you yourself are enraptured in this place as well?” Manta asked, spying the man twirling his moustache and moving to do the same with their own facial hairs as if in challenge.
“You dare insult Los Fortuna Parking Lot Magnate Born Bad? I was celebrating turning a GarfieldEATS into one, when I thought I might make my next grand step the transformation of the entire Wormwood River into the world’s largest parking lot as well!” Bad was twirling his moustache hard enough one might have thought it would catch alike. “It would have been a fortune for me, and a record for parking lot-kind!”
“That would destroy the ecosystem of all of Los Fortuna, you know… Ingenious, if more brazen and avant-garde than I might have done,” Manta answered, “tell me now. What have I been caught in?”
Through much villainous posturing, Born Bad explained similar basics of the situation to Manta that Jill had for Casey.
“So my own curiosity has laid me in this ‘Worm’s’ tunnels… Yet, at once, I think it will do to undo this as well. Entrapment here stands in my mission’s way.”
That conversation was cut short by the sound of the Westernmost balcony opening its doors, several meters above them, and a young woman with brown hair, eyes, and skin was looking down at them. She appeared, at once, confused and intimidated by their presence, which was the response Manta generally wanted to evoke.
“Hey, you! Are… Did Chad send you?” Casey asked, clearing her throat. “How is he? Is he alright?”
“If you mean the youth who died luring me here without a word, he is certainly deceased… And has caused for me a definite predicament of a pickle.”
“Wh…” She sounded taken aback. “He’s dead? H-how can you sound so indifferent? That guy risked his life to get help for us, and-”
“And I knew him not, and he got me trapped here. Why should I shed tears for his passing?”
Before this argument could escalate further, a large, pristine-quality monitor which framed the upper Northern wall of the courtyard turned on on its own, and in it, was an image of the entrance foyer of the manor. Slowly, from its floor, that that thing Casey saw before emerged, idly twirling a saber in its hand and lifting it over its head as it leaped several meters into the air.
(Shout-outs to Skelly-tan for this art!)
A voice, both distorted and gargling yet perfectly coherent spoke from its wide maw. “Good evening, everybody, thanks for tuning in! It’s me, you all know me, your hero, the Conqueror Worm! Let’s give it up for our guests tonight… We’ve got a lot going on for our last big ‘game night!’ That’s right, you heard me, last one! Much as doin’ what I have here has been fun, after this, I mean to move onto bigger and better things… But I’ll never forget this place, pinky-promise!”
There was a sort of twisted, uncanny elegance to the way ‘Worm’ paced around, both as if it were limping in agony and gliding effortlessly, the camera focused on it at all times.
“Yep, Aurelio, you heard me right… Conqueror Worm is done bein’ your killer! The lot of you left in here are the end of a generation, and y’all are absolute treats to work with! So, with three Stand Users here, good an’ collared and here to have a time and a half, let’s make this a grand finale for the BOOKS! Stand Users,” it pointed its blade towards a small entranceway behind it, “that door there is locked, but also, in the right circumstance, the one way you’re gettin’ off my property without explodin’ into funny lil’ chunks! See!”
The screen, then, turned into a showing of two maps of the building, with several spaces highlighted. “I just got finished slitherin’ around droppin’ off three ‘chips’ which ya scan against your own specific collars, and then, if you’ve unlocked that mini-foyer behind me, boom! They’re off, and you’re free! I just gotta make sure you die before then, and I can do it with ease! With this body of mine, I can grab anything, put it in there, and pass through any surface I can fit on, see! And to the first person t’get out of it alive? A SPECIAL gift’ll come!”
“Didn’t mention the master key?” Another voice asked.
“Well no I didn’t, but no way they can get that offa-” The camera returned to its view of Worm, though Violet was standing directly behind it, directly waggling a keycard in between her fingers. Not much further back, Jill was covering her mouth with clear amusement. “Wh- Why you!” He swung at her with her blade, and she dodged back, and Worm threw his head back and laughed. “Well, I’ll be… How’d you manage t’pull that off? That’s on MY person, INSIDE here!”
“I started to steal things just for the rush and attention of it when I was seven years old,” Violet said something then, which the audio blurted out and her mouth was off-camera for, but the sound of which shook Worm to his core, his laughing growing slightly incredulous. As she did, she swiped the card over her collar, and it clanked to the ground in pieces. “Yeah, that’s right, I figured out exactly who you are… and now your whole audience knows.”
“I mean sure, think that if y’want!”
“Right… You probably censored it then.” She pouted, then struck a cool and casual pose. “No matter… I’ll just show them your corpse.” A big bushy white hound emerged from Violet’s person, then, ethereal and snarling and beautiful, and she called out, “This is the start of a new me! ‘Forgive and Forget’ is putting you down, Worm!”
As the Stand-dog rushed forward, he chuckled. “Keep runnin’ into white Stand-dogs lately, huh… It’s gonna end for you like it did the last one, too! You shoulda just run!”
F&F leapt into the air, taking aim for the throat underneath Worm’s pungent armor, but he lifted one arm, and as fangs sunk into that, his other swung its blade.
Violet’s face went wide-eyed and pale, and she looked down at herself, clutching her stomach and noticing how red poured out.
“Ooh, did I reach bone there? Tough break…” Worm pulled back the blade, removing it from Forgive and Forget’s midsection as the white dog dropped to the ground before its user, fading away as she fell to her knees. “Aw, y’didn’t realize? This ‘Saber of the Gold Knight’ I perma-borrowed from our local museum ain’t just a conversation-starter… I wouldn’t take it for no good reason at all!”
“Violet..?” Jill asked, stepping back towards another room, too afraid of Worm to rush to her friend’s aid. “What… What even happened? Worm swung at the air, and… And…” Panicking, despite her resolve, Jill ran into the other room, a look of clear terror and guilt on her face.
“…I dunno, blanked out there!” Worm chuckled a bit, shaking off its bitten, uninjured-looking arm and retracting the sword inside its own fetid rolls of rotten off-white flesh. “But whatever happened, that’s ONE down!” He kicked Violet into a corner to the sound of her whimpering and sighed, pacing around a bit as he held up his master keycard and sucked that, too, up in his person. “Won’t cause me much trouble like that, but I know the other two of ya are in my courtyard… Funny startin’ place, since I like to use that place for when a guest wants to just say ‘I give up! End it here!’ Real useful tool for that bit of mercy, y’know? But anyway, the show goes on, and one-on-one is more interesting anyway! First one t’get to the end, I’ll even throw in an EXCLUSIVE interview to make it worth your while! But I’m not gonna keep the viewers at home waitin’ anymore saying more, since this is already goin’ on a little while, and you’re our stars still! So, without further ado…”
“OPEN THE GAME!!! Man is that SATISFYING t’say!”
Location: The estate of the Conqueror Worm, a two-floor building straight out of a Survival Horror. The whole place is hanging with an odd smell, and walls of most of the rooms are dotted with realistic murals of bones and various body parts - given Conqueror Worm’s ability, one must wonder how they were made.
1F MAP, 2F MAP. Due to interests of character limit, the details of each room in the estate can be found here. Most of the rooms are pretty simple, though, so don’t be intimidated by that.
The players are denoted by the circles marked with their character’s initials, with Manta standing in the fountain on the far-East end of the Courtyard of Despair, and Casey standing on the Western second-floor balcony overlooking it. Worm, meanwhile, starts in the first floor’s entrance hall, marked with a question mark. The C marked squares and the M marked squares are the chips that Casey and Manta need respectively, scanning which against their collars will ‘count’ them as read. For what it’s worth, the Violet chips were in the hot tub, freezer, and conservatory, but that is completely irrelevant now.
The circles with numbers in them represent the nonstand-using Survivors present in the area. Exact details on each of them aren’t particularly important, but a list of their names can be found here. The personality blurbs and occupations listed aren’t really relevant for the match’s sake; even the sports stars have been brought to a point where they have the same stats as everyone else.
The X and Y marked rectangles are locked doors and their respective keys are somewhere on the map denoted by the X and Y marked diamonds; these function not unlike car keys; though they can be used to physically lock and unlock the door in person with a turn, it’s much more convenient that one press of the buttons on them can instantly lock and unlock every door on the map marked with the correct letter.
The “F” marked square is the keycard that unlocks the finish line room.
Several of these rooms have traps which Worm knows about, but the players will not be given foreknowledge of all of them. These are already set in stone, however, and it will be up to the attentiveness of the players in following the location descriptions not to fall victim to these; hints are provided, basically, and they’re designed not to be too hard to respond to if you see them coming.
The rooms’ ceilings are generally quite high, three and a half meters above the ground, with about half a meter of space between the ceiling of one and floor above - basically, being a story directly above or below Manta is NOT enough to be within the range of Morgana Courts Danger.
Goal: Casey and Manta, your own survival is priority number one here. Try to get yourself out of this situation alive! In order to do so, you must deactivate your own collar through the insertion of three chips placed around the facility, where labeled on the map. Free yourself and escape alive. That is your priority, and you are under no obligation to help anybody else if you have no desire to. Leaving the map for longer than five seconds without outright moving through the finish space marked on the map will result in the collars detonating, even if all three chips are inserted.
Conqueror Worm, kill Casey and Manta by any means necessary.
A player character will win if their score surpasses that of the Conqueror Worm’s, while receiving less will result in elimination. A tie will be regarded as normal.
This match, thus, has special voting rules. Basically, there are four valid voting options in this: ‘Casey and Manta,’ ‘Manta and Worm,’ ‘Casey and Worm,’ and ‘Conqueror Worm,’ depending on if a voter believes that both players manage to escape, one of them is stopped by the killer, or both of them are.
NPC Information:
‘Conqueror Worm’ Sheet
(Plain Text Version)
Additional Information:
Unless noted otherwise, all doors are wooden.
While there are several unique NPCs throughout the estate, functionally, all of them can generally be expected to act in the same way: they have 222 stats with irrelevant special skills, and generally speaking, do not want to die, and will act in accordance with things they believe to follow that end, though they are not particularly skilled in identifying traps on their own. Manta Malaise frightens them, however, so they may find they require a little more effort to convince people to follow them around than Casey would be able to. Born Bad (“1” on the map), a fellow Dastardly-looking villainous caricature and thus kindred spirit of theirs, is the sole initial exception.
Violet Lange is bleeding and unconscious, and will in no capacity be able to assist, but still alive and should remain so as long as her particular injuries are not aggravated and the game does not take too agonizingly long. The killer has already forgotten about her.
Through review of previous materials, the players do have sufficient information to correctly identify the user of Conqueror Worm, who is, in fact, a character who appeared in the previous Suburb match. They will be allotted one guess, accusation bolded, in the text of the strategy, to name the person. There is no penalty for an incorrect guess, but a correct guess will see ten bonus points awarded; to one side if only they guess it, while both receive five if both do. One hint: they were present at Match 8’s baseball game.
The chips are extremely durable, but if they are rendered inaccessible or removed from the premises, a safety switch will force them to be treated as if they were simply activated and used; Worm isn’t interested in a game where victory or loss is impossible.
The traps themselves will be revealed throughout the first segment of the killer’s strategy, and take up characters in as much, but the existence of these are an indisputable fact which the players must be wise to either avoid or work around.
Though his durability and endurance are exceptional to the point where a fight would be immensely difficult, the killer also possesses a ‘master key’ which, if utilized, can be scanned against the collars to unlock them, unlock the front gate, and unlock any of the electronically-locked doors in the facility.
Team Combatant JoJolity
Masters of Funky Action Casey Williams “No escape, huh? I didn’t want one anyway. That was never part of the plan.” You came here for a reason, even if you’re still trying to define what, exactly, that reason is to you. Whatever you think being a hero might mean in this situation, live up to the standard you define for yourself!
Judecca Highrollers Manta Malaise “The greatest threat to the peace of my heart isn’t Jotaro! It’s him! Josuke Higashikata!” This is an indubitably vexing situation into which you have been brought. While you abscond from this, make certain that you find clever ways to get back at that bastard who has entrapped you here!
???? “Worm” “‘Misconceptions’ are the most terrifying things in the world… And the consequences are even worse if you’re overly confident that your abilities and talents are superior.” You’ve made an absolute deathtrap of your estate here, and it would be a damn shame for any of that to go to waste. The more of your traps successfully go off and seriously hurt someone, the higher your JoJolity rating will go!
Link to the Official Player Spreadsheet
Link to Match Schedule
As always, if you would like to interact with the tournament community and be among the first to get updates for the tournament, please feel free to PM a member of our Judge staff for an invite to our Official Discord Server!
submitted by Dungeon_Dice to StardustCrusaders [link] [comments]

I'mma head out

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The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya - You Had To Be There

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya: You Had To Be There

Warning: I’m going to be committing murder in this essay, as I will be explaining a joke and that inevitably kills them. However, this is for the further advancement of science, so I hope I will be forgiven.
If you want to start an argument, whisper, “Broadcast order is best” in a room of veteran anime fans. They’ll know what you mean. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Along with the franchise’s penchant for self-commentary and general disregard for the viewer's comfort, its lack of order is usually taken as evidence that it was done just to mess with our heads. And it was… with neurosurgical precision.
Haruhi S1 is the most delightfully clever series I have ever seen, a cleverness that I suspect springs from inspired necessity. Like many adaptations, the staff could only fit so much from the light novel source. While including the “Melancholy” volume was natural, being the introductory segment, it’s worth only six episodes of content. What to do with the other eight broadcast slots? Curiously, rather than utilizing “Sigh” (the next volume), the rest of the episodes are plucked from different volumes then inserted throughout[1] :
Broadcast = Chronological 1 = 11 (Adventures of Asahina Mikuru) 2 = 1 (Melancholy 1) 3 = 2 (Melancholy 2) 4 = 7 (Baseball) 5 = 3 (Melancholy 3) 6 = 9 (Island 1) 7 = 8 (Missing computer club prez) 8 = 10 (Island 2) 9 = 14 ("Final" episode) 10 = 4 (Melancholy 4) 11 = 13 (The Legend of the Nagato Heroes) 12 = 12 (School festival, concert) 13 = 5 (Melancholy 5) 14 = 6 (Melancholy 6)
This may seem random, but notice that despite all the jumping around, the six Melancholy episodes remain sequential, spaced throughout the season, with an emphasis on the beginning and end as we’d expect from a progressing plot. Furthermore, this unorthodox structure has a purpose, and that it is the “inspired” part of “inspired necessity.” Haruhi is a mystery, a mystery that guides an adapting, self-aware joke. If I had to describe its method it would be to create expectations, know that it’s created those expectations, know that we know that it’s created those expectations, show us that it knows that we know that it knows that it’s created those expectations… and then stay one step ahead to make it all work anyway. Allow me to enthusiastically demonstrate.

The Setup

1 = 11 (Adventures of Asahina Mikuru) 2 = 1 (Melancholy 1) 3 = 2 (Melancholy 2)
Nagato: “Suzumiya Haruhi and I are not ordinary humans.” Kyon: “I kind of knew that already.” Nagato: “That is not what I mean… In more common terminology, I would be classified as an alien.”
It was at this moment Kyon realized his understanding of the situation had gone seriously awry. As did we. This is not a conversation “either” of us thought was possible. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Starting at the beginning is what normally makes sense.
The Adventures of Asahina Mikuru is a prank, and a brilliant one at that. You may think I’m referring to its candid introduction of the cast, hiding everything by hiding nothing, all while thumbing its nose at us because we don’t yet know what we’re in for. That’s true and worth a chuckle later on; you might even have an inkling of this yourself as you watch it. If so, all the better, even. Like so many aspects of this show it can stand on its own as a gag, but it’s also the setup for a much bigger question:
What is Haruhi trying to do?
Sure, it might be funny to to subject us to a few minutes of this farce, but twenty-two minutes and seventeen seconds of it? This is so excessive that it demands an answer… we uncomfortably don’t have. What sort of series does this? What’s worse, everything about the episode is subtly contradictory. The poor cinematography belies an expert recreation of poor cinematography as filmed through a camcorder. We unthinkingly accept the glaring holes as part of its ridiculousness, yet our attention is directed relentlessly to discrepancies big and small as though we ought to be looking for consistent story. Then, oddly, when extremely unusual things do happen sometimes it explains them, sometimes it doesn’t. And what about the people? They’re all poor actors, so are we supposed to be bothered by their failure to live up to their roles or ignore that too? Like Kyon, our longsuffering representative in this misadventure, all we can do is keep trying explanations and hope they stick, unsure if it matters at all. By the time Suzumiya turns to address us at the end, not only has carefully watching not answered anything, it has actually left us less sure what is signal and what is noise.
Now having been mildly confused, mistreated, and mocked (you wanna tell me you didn’t catch yourself staring too?) the series begins “in earnest”: a standard case of a jaded, low-energy male protagonist being dragged around by an eccentric, hyperactive female who instigates wacky adventures for her and her merry friends, all the while peppering in obvious self-referential comments that make us smart for noticing them. Now it clicks into place. Haruhi is a comedy, one that is making fun of all the other series in the genre while being a joke itself. The opening movie was just a good, sharp kick in the shin to show off just how funny and different it is.
...except so far it’s not funny like it’s supposed to be. Sure Kyon keeps up his observations of the weirdos around him, observations that are our own but better said, but Suzumiya herself is legitimately awful to people. The light-hearted music plays and it fits all the tropes, but Asahina’s reaction to being groped and publicly humiliated is discomfitingly not that of a comedic side character. And what’s Nagato up to? Rather than being the bookishly shy-but-sweet girl she’s remained sitting in the corner, an unreadable lump with no personality in sight. If possible, everybody is playing their roles even worse than in the movie.
Moreover, strange things are afoot at the Circle K. It’s nothing we can take to court, but Suzumiya keeps getting her way in the oddest of situations. Random lots gives her the coveted back left corner, with Kyon in easy grabbing distance. Stereotypically the literature club is low on members, and the sole remaining occupant allows her to use the space despite being a patent hermit. She wants a timid, cutesy mascot, and not only does she locate a perfect specimen, Asahina even chooses to stay despite the mistreatment. Are these just contrivances of the genre or are we supposed to question what they mean (...and did she just read our thoughts)?
Which brings us at last back to Nagato’s apartment. When she tells Kyon that she’s an alien we’ve reached a critical mass of uncertainty. It’s not just that we don’t know whether she is telling the truth. That’s not the real suspense that has been building, although we’ve been given conflicting information on this too[2] . It’s that we don’t know whether we should be wondering it. Is it even possible? Aliens belong in certain shows, delusional high school girls in others. But what type are we in?
And Haruhi stares back at us through Nagato’s indecipherable face, playing it straight. It anticipated out first (mis)understanding (“That is not what I mean”) and it knows we want the answer as to what it’s up to. But as the episode ends, it’s not giving any more hints.

Payoffs and Playoffs

4 = 7 (Baseball) 5 = 3 (Melancholy 3)
Now time for baseball! This is… not what was expected. Although not entirely unexpected either, because if its earlier actions weren’t enough to convince us we can be pretty sure now Haruhi must be going for random nonsequitur. To not explain itself before moving on seems like just the sort of trick it would pull. It even keeps stringing us along with more strange coincidences, more indecipherable references, more cases of Nagato being weird-but-not-indisputably-alien-weird (which is a great visual gag, I might add)… but something is different.
Kyon: “Hey Nagato. Could you make it rain on the day of the game?”
Kyon, our faithful narrator, has changed his mind; he knows something we don’t. Or does he? Nagato immediately gives him a reason why she won’t do it, so maybe she’s just a dedicated roleplayer and he’s decided to humor her after their meeting. He knew she’d turn him down. ...maybe? We still can’t identify what a “tell” is in this show; how can we when it’s sending signals that are random, discomforting, and funny too? And it just keeps getting weirder, with references to the end of the world piling up and odd flashbacks that we cannot verify. Then the killing blow:
Nagato: “This [bat] has been modified with a boost in attribute data.”
With the ball flying far out over the field, we now have confirmation: there is something supernatural going on in this series. The rest of it could be explained away, but not this. But here’s the kicker:
“There’s a limit to ridiculousness.”
Haruhi knows it. It knew precisely up to the point that we would be doubtful and what kind of information we’d accept to make our decision. We didn’t figure it out; we were told. Haruhi played us, making us think our resolution with Nagato was on hold, only to pitch it to us here. Speaking of which….
We’re now returned to our regularly scheduled programming. The atmosphere, which before was merely suggestive, has become kaleidoscopic, the subtle hints exploding into a welter of visuals that let us know we’re not in Kansas anymore. But that’s the funny thing: we don’t need it. We’re already convinced. This is almost like Haruhi is rubbing it in our face that it was here the whole time and we didn’t bother to notice until now. It was also the moment when I fell in love with the series:
Nagato: “[Suzumiya] won’t take the data you feed her seriously.” Kyon: “You have a point.”
I had to pause the video and laugh until my jaw hurt. I know it’s quixotic to hope to convey comedy, but this was truly one of the most hilarious moments I have ever experienced in anime. In anything. Like all the gags in this show, it’s worth at least a chuckle on its own, a small denigration of Suzumiya’s nature that we can smugly agree with. But that’s the lesser portion. It’s the moment when this entire build up reflects back on itself holographically. A character, who is being told the truth but doesn’t accept it, is disparaging another who would do the same, while functioning as our stand-in, the audience who was skeptical about what Haruhi was telling us, in both cases because we “knew” what world we were in, caught in the act of confidently agreeing with his/our assessment of the foolishness of people who don’t listen to what they’re told. It is in that sudden snag, that snap of dissociation that proves not only that Kyon is an unreliable narrator, but that we are as well, that the waveform collapses in a moment of perfect comedic timing.

The Island: We Won’t Be Fooled Again

6 = 9 (Island 1) 7 = 8 (Missing computer club prez) 8 = 10 (Island 2)
With this "reveal" that we’re actually in a supernatural random-discomforting-comedy the first arc ends and the second begins. Yet curiously little was resolved. Nagato has demonstrated herself in the way we accept but the other two club members have been less forthcoming with evidence; it’s all and special circumstances for using powers. Are they really what they say they are? This series could really go either way, but they’re probably both special. Probably.
But the central issue is Suzumiya. Despite all the warnings and hints, we don’t actually know how to spot her powers at work. Apparently she’s omnipotent, but we have only the characters’ word to take for that. That’s fishy. It’s one thing to accept Nagato can bewitch sports equipment, it’s another that Suzumiya can destroy the universe because of a bad mood. And we have no way to prove that all these coincidences are actually Suzumiya’s fault, especially since things don’t always go her way. We need more data, and on cue is our mystery scenario:
Koizumi: “[Situations like this] only exist in the unrealistic world of storytelling.”
Haruhi isn’t going to insult our intelligence by trying to hide it a second time. It comes clean up front in an overstated self-referential dialogue: the only way these sorts of things happen is if they’re rigged. Come on, we can’t miss it; this is the confirmation we wanted, right? Even though it’s not quite what Suzumiya dreamed of, it’s close enough to her fantasy that it’s clear she’s the culprit. Besides, who else could summon a typhoon from clear skies?
The murder, however, was not expected. Sure there was mention of the apocalypse, but this has all been too flippant to take seriously; random and discomforting aren’t the same as dark. Haruhi wouldn’t kill somebody… would it? It’s the same conundrum as before with Nagato. We’re faced with a “confession” of sorts, with evidence leaning both ways, and as we wrack our brains we can’t quite convince ourselves after all its antics that Haruhi isn’t that sort of show. Maybe it’s just pretending to be dark. Maybe it’s not. Maybe Suzumiya will bring Keiichi back to life or rewrite time or… something. Who knows what she, or this show, can do, now that we’ve accepted her power. We’ll just have to find out next episode.

And now time for giant digital cave crickets! Not only is it the same problem as in episode three, it’s the same low-blow trick to yank us away from the action just at the height of the tension. But we know this song and dance (or, rather, maybe we do in retrospect; I didn’t know it at the time). The last “random” episode was informational, meaning this one likely is as well. So, what does this episode have to say?
Well, to put it briefly, it’s a mystery that is actually an engineered scenario. At first we assume it’s Suzumiya’s fault, because everything is, but as she points out: if she does everything then what’s the purpose of the rest of the cast? The real culprit is somebody else, somebody completely obvious in her driving of the events and in the middle of all the action, someone who had even taken the opportunity to deflect a bored god’s enthusiasm with the scent of the unknown. Just because it slightly involved Suzumiya’s powers, that wasn’t the real story (she was hellbent on pursuing her own wrong theory anyway; what an idiot).
I’m pretty sure I don’t have to spell out the obvious, since reading this far without having seen the series would be daft. Haruhi is taunting us. Just because the venue changed, the mystery never stopped; the indications are everywhere in this series, and it is even so kind as to repeatedly correct our key misunderstanding. Yet despite its valiant efforts, we’re more liable to be distracted by the crazy supernatural events, and so entirely reinforced in our faith that the murder scenario is supernatural too. No wonder Koizumi didn’t worry about Kyon catching his drift.
The island isn’t done with us, though. Not by a long shot. Having given us innumerable clues (again) Haruhi lets us try to put it together (again) while we nonetheless remain remarkably confident (again). Why do we fall for it (again)? Because, as always, we think we have the right answer. Or, rather, the right framework. The real secret here is Suzumiya’s powers, not these pedestrian goings on. We’ll spare a thought for the murderer, of course, but having established the ultimate cause in our minds we are not overly concerned about the details; gods, if they want to kill somebody, will find a way. What’s preoccupying us is how to make all these events make sense in our theory (and patronizing Suzumiya’s ignorance… again).
Again, everybody here knows the resolution, but I just wanted to remind how utterly delightful our own self-misleading can be. The only way we were fooled was if we obediently learned the wrong lesson from the first arc. Before we discounted signs of the supernatural because we didn’t think they fit; now that we know they fit, that’s all we could see. In fact, even when they didn’t fit we made them; did Suzumiya’s face really look like she was guilty? No, she was horrified and distraught, and told us outright that she didn’t actually think anything bad would happen. Haruhi would never kill somebody out of boredom. In spite of this, we chose her as the culprit because the evidence to the contrary was just too mundane to make note of in this supernatural random-discomforting-meta-comedy (and we don’t like her very much either).
Meanwhile, it was Suzumiya who assiduously paid attention to the facts in front of her, and who was able to realize she was in a three level mystery: that there was an “apparent” truth (normal island / murder), a “false” truth that acts as a red herring (supernatural island / accidental door murder), and a real truth hiding at the bottom (it was all a play with a purpose, just like we were told at the start). We’re the ones who can’t seem to solve the mysteries staring us in the face. Of course, it’d be too embarrassing to admit that, so we’ll retreat to reminding ourselves how annoyingly self-absorbed she still is, and that we weren’t that clueless (be honest, you said the same thing). Haruhi even lets us keep our dignity by pretending we were helpful. snerk
At this point I’m reminded of a short quip from a previous episode: if Haruhi can only throw straight, then eventually even a child would catch on. We knew Haruhi was trying to get a ball by us but accepted the soft-pitched, and painfully obvious, metacommentary anyway. That it had the confidence to even signal (loudly and repeatedly) before actually throwing a curveball means it thought we never had any hope of hitting it in the first place. We can gripe that it wasn’t clear, but what’s the point of a mystery if it tells you what the clues mean?
Oh, and since it knows we weren’t really paying attention, Haruhi will even give us one last hint: what about that unidentified shadow that led them toward the cave? We thought the mystery was over, but maybe that’s because we never grasped what it was about.

The Final Akanbe

9 = 14 ("Final" episode)
“The SOS Brigade keeps getting caught up in various incidents… Even so, we couldn’t possibly run into situations like that every single day.”
This is it, the final episode… of sorts. It begins before the OP with a tranquil atmosphere, looking forward to the coming winter while happily reminiscing about the past. It’s all so homey. Time for us to kick back, relax, and enjoy one last healing round with our favorite characters...
Yeah, right.
There is no way that this is all there is to the episode. “Unusually cold day”? What’s the setup this time? Is Suzumiya going to accidentally cause winter to come early? Or is it Asahina’s turn to do something sneaky and leave Kyon forlorn? As the OP ends our eyes are peeled for what’s going to jump out next. The camera thoughtfully obliges us: a wide-angle that keeps the whole room in view, missing nothing, followed by God’s-eye perspectives, letting us linger over every detail (taking bets you paused it at least once, probably on the card game). It drags on in eerie inaction until Kyon startles and looks up (does the sun mean something?!?), as though he had just remembered that an episode was supposed to happen. The regular music comfortingly begins to play and he narrates for us as he always has:
“It sure is nice and quiet when Haruhi isn’t around. But I guess it’s a little too quiet, huh? Now that I think about it, it’s already been half a year since I met everyone. We’ve sure been through a lot. Situations where Haruhi was the instigator and a few where she wasn’t. Well, most of them started when we were kicking back and relaxing in the clubroom like so only to be interrupted by her barging in…” SLAM
Remember those times where we weren’t sure if something was going on? Where we were misled by our own expectations, hung up on whether something supernatural was happening (or not), and so overlooked important details? Well, Haruhi Farm remembers; they were great. The series might act like nothing is up, but suspiciously on cue Suzumiya bursts in the door. Something is always up, no matter what the opening told us, and after missing twice we’re intent on not striking out with a third failure. Besides, with more than half the series complete we’re beginning to notice the cross-references and double-meanings. We’re getting it now.
And this is how the episode mocks us relentlessly for twenty minutes, because nothing happens.
Of course, this doesn’t stop us from trying to find it happening. Kyon pauses in his walk down the hill and we hold our breath… but it’s only to idly wonder what Suzumiya is doing. Koizumi’s tea has gotten cold, nothing more. But, wait, calling Asahina a mascot character is self-aware! It’s just enough to keep us going. Just enough to convince us to sit and listen to four minutes and twenty two seconds of inane radio chatter hoping to find relevance in the words. It even does it to us a second time, and we’re prepared to listen all over again… before Tsuruya interrupts. Then it checks if we’ll do it a third time. Yep, we will. And we think we’re rewarded for our persistence: Nagato finally stands up, validating our efforts… only for the screen to go black. We were waiting for nothing.
But really, we should have known this. Did we really think we’d see Asahina in the buff? No? How about again? And again? It doesn’t even seem to matter whether we know we’re being tricked, we’ll still fall for it at least three times (first arc, second arc, and now here). And to top it off, not only can Haruhi get us to do whatever it wants, we’ll even think ourselves clever when we’re forced to notice it.
In the last few minutes, though, something does happen: Suzumiya likes Kyon. We probably already guessed this given the previous indications, or at least the tropes; the manic pixie dream girl is legally required to like the male protagonist, and even if Suzumiya is more “manic” than “dream girl,” it’s still obvious that’s her role. We won’t begrudge the scene though; it’s nice to have solid confirmation of anything in this series, after all. But don’t hope for too much, because Suzumiya will be Suzumiya. Like the last football pulled out from in front of us as we go to kick, she prances away with the umbrella and ruins any romantic tension that might have existed. After the rest of this episode, the rest of this series, did we really expect anything else?
Strike three.

God Knows How Much She Tries

10 = 4 (Melancholy 4) 11 = 13 (The Legend of the Nagato Heroes) 12 = 12 (School festival, concert)
Before continuing, a brief recap is in order (everybody likes recap episodes, right?). Bemused by the first episode, we were left off balance and so open to questioning what this series was about. The first few episodes carefully maintained this uncertainty, counting on then cashing in our wariness. The island arc demonstrated that it didn’t matter if we were aware of it, we could still miss the obvious because we thought we already knew the answer. Having been fooled repeatedly, we accepted what the final episode “told” us without question: this series is absurd, Haruhi sticking its tongue out at us until the last second.
“Perhaps Suzumiya is feeling lovesick?”
As Ryoko speaks this line at the beginning of Melancholy 4, it seems a bit… unnecessary. Yes, of course, we already know this. We just saw it last episode; like any good tsundere, Suzumiya is humorously enamored to Kyon but almost pathologically unable to express her feelings. Watching her deny it while occasionally being caught in the act is part of the entertainment. But Haruhi likes commenting on itself, and we like noticing it, so why not?[3]
At this point in the essay, I hope the reader has some inkling that we’re being set up. Have been set up all along. We’ve been allowed to think we know Suzumiya: she’s a thoughtless, obnoxious character who, despite being putatively intelligent, is comically delusional. Her feelings for Kyon are just part of this silly contrivance. Similarly, we think we know Haruhi. Like its titular character, it has been, and will be, one big (absurdist supernatural random-discomforting-meta) joke, and as Suzumiya walks on stage in her now-familiar bunny suit we can only groan at what is coming. “What foolishness has she cooked up this time,” we murmur amongst ourselves. Meanwhile she works steadily, solemnly, ignoring us and making sure everything is ready, before beginning...

…!

It is the greatest, most heartfelt “prank” of the series: Suzumiya was a serious character all along. All it took was a disagreeable nature and funny appearances for us to not notice. We truly are bad at this. But now, like the beginning movie whose effect could not be faked without being followed through, there is no way to counterfeit the gorgeous animation or mistake the passion and personality of her song. Knowing so well how to toy with us, Haruhi knows how to prove itself too. The audience is stunned into silence, mouths hanging open in disbelief at having their expectations defied so spectacularly.
But what I find truly arresting, touching even, about this scene is how it encapsulates Suzumiya at her best, a reflection of her life hidden in plain sight. From the first moment she was on stage, relentlessly expressing herself at maximum volume even though people didn’t understand. It was always a failure of having the right context. People already “knew” what her behaviors meant, and interpreted her accordingly (sound familiar?). So even as she explains herself (“I run through [life] with a thirsting heart”), her frustrated regrets (“I’m sorry I… couldn’t even share your pain / You wouldn’t let me”) and her fondest dream-memory (“You were there, I was there, and everyone else had vanished”) the audience is none the wiser for it. Except one. Kyon, our stand-in, at last has the wits to stare dumbfounded at this remarkable girl he had missed all along.
When she is done, Suzumiya looks up as though waking from a trance, surprised to see everybody cheering. She was so absorbed by her own intensity she wasn’t even watching them. Now, even though they don’t understand, they do appreciate. She’s not used to being appreciated. An exhausted, joyous smile spreads across her face and she turns to the camera to let us know it. It’s the most tender expression she’s had all series. True she’s often grinning, but to see her like this it makes you realize that she’s not as often happy. This has been a window into her, a character that, like so many things, we didn’t pay attention to until we could no longer ignore.
Koizumi: “Suzumiya is quite good, isn’t she?”

The Disappointment of Haruhi Suzumiya

13 = 5 (Melancholy 5) 14 = 6 (Melancholy 6)
“Say… have you ever realized how insignificant your existence is on this planet? I have. It’s something I’ll never forget.”
Suzumiya has fantastic back muscles. It isn’t apparent until you get a clear look at them, covered as they normally are by a school outfit. She has a good body, fit and taught like a strung bow, poised for action. She isn’t ashamed of it. But like so many things about her, it’s not quite the body people are looking for.
There are clues scattered throughout the series which only now become obvious. No matter the physical challenge, Suzumiya was there to meet it. Mentally it was the same. School isn’t an obstacle, she’s unusually perceptive, and her apparently-spontaneous schemes are actually quite well-planned and effective. If this were not enough, she possesses nearly unlimited energy, enough to run everybody else ragged, and a strong will to direct and utilize these impressive gifts. All of this was taken to be part of her caricature (what kind of show are we in again?) or covered by our own griping about her personality (because this was all about us), but the evidence was always there: Suzumiya is an exceptional human being in nearly every regard.
This is why she’s on the lookout for the unusual. She’s on a mission. Normal life and normal people leave her unfulfilled so she dreams of something more; that she jettisoned the supernatural club as fast as anything else proves it’s not conspiracies that she believes in (she’s too smart for that, ironically), it’s a more interesting world. People think she’s behind when in truth she’s lapped them.
And she never turned down a boyfriend. Suzumiya, against her fervent objections, is stuck being a healthy young female. She’s a bit of a romantic and is desperate to find that one person who will make her feel loved for being the vivacious, but tempestuous, girl that she is. She wants somebody to share her vision with more than she wants aliens, and keeps trying despite the unrelenting failures. Now she’s fallen for Kyon, the guy she dearly wishes to rely on, and doesn’t know what to do when he doesn’t reciprocate (“I’m sorry I… couldn’t even share your pain / You wouldn’t let me”). She’s scared he’ll let her down too[4] , afraid that he’ll never take her seriously, and angry when he expresses the self-satisfied mediocrity that causes her to disdain everybody else.
Disdain. This has been her greatest failing. Suzumiya is not unaware of how to be considerate, nor is she so lacking in self control that she cannot be civil when she wishes. It's that she chooses not to be, contemptuous of empty social norms, impatient with complacency, and scornful of how everybody has misunderstood her. In time she has come to value them not at all, becoming a disruptive and uncouth caricature of herself in the process. Suzumiya is genuinely eccentric, yes, but her own act has run away with her and although everything about her behavior radiates a denigration of humanity, Suzumiya is still begging for their appreciation and acceptance.
So as she stands up there after the concert, and the crowd is finally giving her the adulation she has secretly craved... Suzumiya apologizes. She shouldn't be up there, this was somebody else's concert, but in her rationalized selfishness she was willing to push them out of the way for the chance to prove herself anyway [5]. To see her unaware victims standing in the doorway later, come to thank and praise her, her eyes go wide and then she looks away in shame at how she has acted. As long as she felt painfully undervalued she could feel justified in returning the favor, but now the truth is forced: it's not just people's incomprehension that has caused her to be disliked. It has been her own unkindness as well, and maybe she should think on that. Then the last stinging line:
“We’re planning to put on one last concert. You should come and watch with your… (the girl turns questioningly to Kyon, then back to the camera pityingly)... friend.”
That the crowd still found her acceptable after all her apologies made her so happy she could cry. That the guy next to her, the one she just sang her heart out for, seems at best to tolerate her, means it yet went to waste. Suzumiya really is lonely and lovesick, and though not an easy person to be around her feelings are genuine. All of her is, to a fault. And in the background the series winks to let us know that we know it now too.
This is Suzumiya’s struggle of the final few episodes, then. Throughout the series she has frantically tried to get Kyon’s attention in her own stubborn, eccentric way, because that’s how she needs to be appreciated if it is to mean anything. Yet it doesn’t seem to be working; he doesn’t even seem aware, let alone interested. Her last hope is failing her. It’s why she even overcame her trepidation to talk to him earnestly at the railroad tracks. Haruhi isn’t using a faux-existential ramble to prove she’s special; we already know that. Nor is it an excuse for bad behavior. It is her beseeching Kyon to understand, that she knows what she’s doing and why, and an invitation to join her that she would extend to nobody else. The world was never threatened by her boredom, only by the ache that she would be alone in it.
The resolution, though, is happy, and the last reason I value the broadcast order as it is. While the future may foretell that nothing happens, it slips in the side door anyway. We were fooled by not being fooled. It ends up all along, the core of this story really was a romantic high school comedy, and at the conclusion we get our confession (of sorts) and kiss. Shame on us for doubting. And lest we think Haruhi would impishly steal that back to spite us, that moment of annoyed disbelief as Kyon falls out of bed and we fear it was all a dream, the last scene before the wrap-up is Suzumiya with a ponytail. She won’t face the camera; it’s still hard for her to compromise even a little like this, after all. But... it really does look good on her.
Conclusion in comments below
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I am about to post the 3000 most common words in the English lexicon. Wish me luck...

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withdraw within without witness woman wonder wonderful wood wooden word work worker working works workshop world worried worry worth would wound wrap write writer writing wrong yard yeah year yell yellow yes yesterday yet yield you young your yours yourself youth zone
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