Rebel with a Capital “E”

You know that episode of Seinfeld, the one where Kramer drives his car until it runs out of gas? My mom did that once, but in a parade. When someone asked her at the last minute to drive a bunch of kids down the parade route, she didn’t hesitate or mention that her gas light had been on all day. She loaded fifteen kids into the back of the Nissan pickup and took her place in the annual Duluth St. Patrick’s Day Parade. We coasted in on fumes.

I spent yesterday thinking of “rebel” stuff for my rebel-themed post. I really couldn’t get my mother out of my head. She’s always driving in parades on “E” or flouting convention in some way or another. The woman wore a pink wedding dress. I doubt it was just about the price tag, as she insists.

The Catholic Church really brings out the best in my mother’s rebellious side. When I was little, she volunteered at my Catholic elementary school. One day, when the teacher asked her to lead us into mass, she did several jumping lunges in front of the pew instead of genuflecting. It’s still one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. Then, she passed out gum to all the kids. When she discusses her love of her Catholic high school, she often mentions things like the filodex of excuses she pinned to her uniform every day. I think she loved shocking the priests as much as she enjoyed singing in the choir.

Now that think of it, it seems obvious, but a really good rebel needs a solid opposing force. I guess this is the whole idea behind not having rules for your teenager — it defuses the rebellion. The more monolithic and unbending the opposing force, the more tatted up and stoned your rebel will get.

In other words, you need a really good bad guy to make a great rebel. There is no Che Guevara without Batista. No Katniss Everdeen without the Capitol. No Luke Skywalker without Darth Vader. (Hope you didn’t mind me mixing actual revolutionaries with fake ones!)

In the world of cozy mysteries, rebels tend to be a bit quieter. For instance, they might bake cookies and wear pantyhose, but rebels they be. Stella Hardesty of the Bad Day series is a good example of a cozy rebel. At least I think it’s a cozy. Maybe the Bad Day series is a straight-up mystery. Either way, the back cover says:

Stella Hardesty dispatched her abusive husband with a wrench shortly before her fiftieth birthday. A few years later, she’s so busy delivering home-style justice, helping other women deal with their own abusive husbands and boyfriends, that she’s barely got time to run her sewing shop.

Strong women, who aren’t afraid of being women while solving mysteries the police want them to ignore, make up the heart of the cozy genre. That’s why there are cookies and daggers on the covers. And cats. Everyone’s gotta have a cat! Or a dog. But I digress.

So for a good rebel, you need a well-defined bad guy, which leads me back to my initial story. Is driving in a parade with an empty gas tank just stupid or is it a rebellion? If it is a rebellion, who is the rebellion against? I’m not sure if this is a question for the mystery community, a philosopher, or Jack Handy. Feel free to weigh in on that. I should probably get some sleep.

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10 thoughts on “Rebel with a Capital “E””

  1. I don’t think driving with a low tank is rebellion. Probably excitement over being asked to be in the parade and gas is the last thing I would think about. I try to keep the tank full (or not less than 1/2 empty) so I probably wouldn’t have a problem. Your mom sounds like a hoot.

  2. I think rebels are anybody who are willing to go against convention, and while the out-of-gas thing might not exemplify that, the lunging-in-church does! I do think a healthy bit of rebellion as a teen is necessary for personality growth and development. Testing boundaries with parents is practice for testing boundaries in a classroom or workforce later in life. I’m a compulsive rule follower, but the few times I have tested boundaries, I’ve been better for it.

    And, welcome!

  3. Welcome, Sam! I think you’re right – without an opposing force of some kind, it’s hard to be a rebel. Kind of a Law of Physics for rebellion – for ever rebel there must be an equal and opposite convention. 🙂

  4. Welcome Sam, and well done. I like your mother. Of course she was rebelling. Driving on E is quite a risk, and it’s a rebellion against convention that would have told her to decline unless she had a full tank so there was no chance she would be a spectacle! I would give a lot to see those flying genuflections. Any chance anyone got a video?

  5. Thanks for all of the welcomes! My mom is a hoot. Maybe I’ll have her reenact the genuflecting for old time’s sake one of these days!

  6. Welcome! I loved this post–I chuckled all the way through it. Your point about opposing forces is important. If I think about books where the “rebel” didn’t really work for me, I realize that often it was because the opposing force just wasn’t there.

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