Why Star Wars Fans Need to Give Alden Ehrenreich’s Han Solo a Fighting Chance

Source: IMDb

Now that Disney owns the Star Wars franchise, it’s safe to assume that the saga will continue for years (and years and years) to come. Thus, as the brand works to expand the existing universe, fans are nervous that those who take on their favorite characters will butcher the memory of what once was. And now, with the standalone Young Han Solo film on the horizon, film buffs are becoming more anxious than ever.

During the Super Bowl, Disney debuted the first teaser for “Solo: A Star Wars Story.” By the next day, the full trailer was online, available for all to criticize and complain. Because the film explores Han Solo’s adventures prior to the original Star Wars trilogy, the casting directors had to reach beyond Harrison Ford’s iconic performance to find someone who could bring Solo to life for the next generation. While the process drew much doubt and speculation from hardcore fans, the filmmakers chose Alden Ehrenreich, a relative newcomer to the entertainment industry.

Of course, while the up-and-coming actor was likely excited to earn a role that could launch his career to A-list status, he also has the thankless job of following in Ford’s footsteps. From the moment he was revealed to the world, Ehrenreich has been exposed to the harsh condemnation of the internet. Fans of Ford can be rather rude, especially considering the cowardly anonymity that comes along with social media. Now that these diehards have finally seen Ehrenreich in action, their hate hasn’t subsided. Yet, while some fans were hoping for an exact replica of the character’s original vessel, Ehrenreich opted to embrace Solo on his own terms—and rightfully so.

“I think the main thing that’s different is that the Han we meet in this film is more of an idealist, he has certain dreams that he follows, and we watch how it affects him as those dreams meet new realities, realities that are harder and more challenging than he’d expected,” Ehrenreich told Entertainment Weekly.

Ehrenreich also did his homework in order to ensure that his portrayal does both Ford and Solo proud. Lucasfilm president and “Solo” producer Kathleen Kennedy told EW that, while Ford kept a respectful distance from the project, he did have lunch with Ehrenreich to offer insight into the rebellious hero he originated in 1977.

“What [Ford] did so beautifully for Alden was he talked a lot about what he remembered when he first read ‘Star Wars,’ and what George had done with Han. Who the character was and the conversations he had for so many years with George about how that character developed,” Kennedy said. “He gave Alden that kind of insight which was invaluable. There were several times in the course of making the movie where Alden would actually recount some of the things that Harrison had pointed out. I think that was really, really helpful to him.”

When assuming an established character, it’s often hard for the new actor to find his footing. While some believe they should emulate their predecessor’s every move, others are motivated to disregard history entirely and find their own approach. Although no one can accurately judge Ehrenreich’s performance as of yet, it’s safe to say that the actor has done all he can to honor both sides of the debate.

Han Solo will always be one of those legendary characters that transcends time and, in this case, space, but there isn’t anything fans can do to stop those who’re in control from reinventing the story in the future. To compare Ehrenreich with Ford would be like comparing every incarnation of Superman with Christopher Reeve, who’s arguably the greatest actor to ever don those tights — it’s futile, and doing so robs Ehrenreich of the opportunity to make his mark on the franchise. He’s got big shoes to fill. Even if he trips up now and then along the way, he still deserves the chance to learn how to stand on his own two feet. Ford will always be the first (and probably the best) Han Solo no matter how much time passes, but Ehrenreich certainly deserves a fighting chance.

(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

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The Mourning After: When Fictional Deaths Evoke Real Emotions

Source: General Hospital

Nothing can prepare your tear ducts for the raw emotions death brings to the table — not even spoilers tweeted by the deceased themselves. After all, even though it’s not uncommon for popular TV shows to kill off major characters nowadays in an attempt to capitalize on the shock value, the surprise isn’t any less devastating.

When Detective Nathan West (played by Ryan Paevey) “General Hospital” died from a gunshot wound to the chest recently — an injury inflicted by his criminal mastermind father Cesar Faison, no less — I was stunned. Like many fans, I simply didn’t see the twist coming. Even though I discovered the news via Twitter spoilers, I found my breath catch in my throat as I quickly scrambled to confirm these facts. It was clearly true, but I started to explore related trending topics in search of fan theories expressing the contrary anyway.

Much like the actual mourning process, I was in denial.

Despite the fact that Paevey remains alive and well, it was hard to fathom that Nathan’s shy smirk, the one that twitched to life whenever he’d gaze upon his on-screen love Maxie Jones (played by Kirsten Storms) with those baby blues, would no longer be part of my afternoons. He’ll no longer save Port Charles from the bad guys that roam the docks. He’ll never offer his sister Nina (played by Michelle Stafford) another supportive pep talk.

When you stop to think about all the “never agains” that come along with death, even in the fictional sense, it’s difficult to absorb and accept the wasted potential of a young life curtailed. In this case, Paevey’s decision to leave the acclaimed daytime drama was motivated by his desire to pursue his dreams and embrace said potential. Nathan’s tragic death subsequently tapped the emotions we hold deep within, evoking a visceral, involuntary reaction that one can only be attributed to genuine acting talent from the entire ensemble and brilliant writing from the creative team.

Each actor’s grief reached beyond the screen, tugging at the heartstrings non-stop. It’s hard to watch such scenes, no matter your attachment to the character specifically, for the tears appear to come from the cast’s mourning for a dynamic that can never be reclaimed. Just as the audience was suddenly forced to grapple with their emotions, the actors involved with this storyline had to bring the words on the page to life in the face of his on-screen death.

Of course, having watched soap operas for most of my life, I’ve already eased my sadness by brainstorming ways for the writers to bring Paevey’s character back from the dead down the road, should the actor choose to return. (It’s simple, really. This entire string of events was merely staged, you see. Nathan’s just in hiding — the Witness Protection Program, or something similar — in order to protect his unborn child until the threat of evil fades. It’s been done before, I believe, so it’s within the realm of possibility.) It’s the only way I’ve been able to get through these scenes without bawling alongside his fictional family.

While viewers are aware that the given death isn’t real, the brain can’t seem to convince the heart that what’s depicted isn’t true. Because we can empathize by putting ourselves in their metaphorical shoes, we feel what the actors feel — we sob when they sob, we ache when they ache, we crumble when they crumble. Even though we know we can easily connect with the actor in question via social media, five seconds after they flatline, it’s hard not to mourn someone we invite into our home each day. It’s hard not to grieve the end of something familiar.

Paevey’s character arrived in Port Charles just over four years ago, but the actor has left an indelible mark on the show in a relatively short period of time. Nathan’s one of the few characters in soap history who’s maintained their “good guy” vibe — even when he was being secretive, it was only in an effort to help his friend Amy (played by Risa Dorken) pay for her wounded brother’s medical bills upon his return from Iraq. It’s no wonder Paevey’s departure launched an endless stream of crying emojis all across social media. He was an instant favorite and, wherever the wind takes him, his devoted fans are sure to follow.

(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

Saturday Night Live Should Cut Ties With Alec Baldwin

Source: Will Heath/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Like your favorite bartender or local pizza joint, Alec Baldwin has become a Saturday night staple. His impersonation of Donald Trump earned him an almost-regular role on “Saturday Night Live” back in 2016, putting him at the center of the American zeitgeist, and making the sketch comedy program a must-see for NBC.

But all good things must eventually come to an end, especially when that “good thing” happens to be part of the problem.

If SNL hopes to maintain its credibility, the show must cut ties with Baldwin. While his impersonation has certainly become tired, adding little to the national conversation as of late, Baldwin himself has been more than vocal about his support for his friends and former collaborators—and alleged sexual predators—James Toback and Woody Allen.

Recently, Baldwin came under fire for his comments about Woody Allen and the sexual assault allegations brought on by his adoptive daughter Dylan Farrow. Baldwin claimed that the accusations were “unfair and sad,” casting doubt on Farrow’s accusations—the very behaviors that discouraged women from coming forward about such violations well before the #MeToo Movement came to be.

“Woody Allen was investigated forensically by two states (NY and CT) and no charges were filed,” Baldwin tweeted in January 2018. “The renunciation of him and his work, no doubt, has some purpose. But it’s unfair and sad to me. I worked with [Woody Allen] 3 times and it was one of the privileges of my career.”

“Is it possible to support survivors of pedophilia and sexual assault/abuse and also believe that [Woody Allen] is innocent? I think so,” Baldwin added. “The intention is not to dismiss or ignore such complaints. But accusing [people] of such crimes should be treated carefully. On behalf of the victims, as well.”

Back in October 2017, when more than 300 women spoke out against Toback, Baldwin also went on the defensive, telling the Los Angeles that the allegations leveled against the famed director and screenwriter were “heartbreaking” despite the fact that he knew Toback was the kind who “hit on a lot of women in a very vague way.”

“Meaning that he had an appetite for going up to women and saying salacious and provocative things to them and introducing himself with his credentials and so forth and laying that on people to seduce them,” Baldwin said. “I never knew any details of what he did that was assault in nature, or rape in nature, or criminally actionable. Never, never, never.”

However, during this same interview, Baldwin went on to criticize the alleged actions of his alter ego. “On the record, there’s all kinds of evidence that Trump has behaved this way,” he said, “and he’s the President of the United States, and that being just one of the things that is horrifying people about Trump, his opinions, his behavior, his methodology and there’s nothing you can do about that.”

How can one man—a self-professed sexist, no less—shame one alleged abuser, while supporting two others?

After all, Baldwin admitted that he’s been guilty of sexism, too, voluntarily outing himself during an appearance at the Paley Center in November. (As if preemptively confessing your faults could make us forget about THAT voicemail…)

“From time to time, I’ve done what a lot of men do, which is… when you don’t treat women the same way you treat men. You don’t. I’m from a generation where you really don’t and I’d like that to change. I really would like that to change,” he said.

“I certainly have treated women in a very sexist way,” Baldwin confessed. “I’ve bullied women. I’ve overlooked women. I’ve underestimated women.” He also explained that the Weinstein reckoning was “a very eye-opening experience” for him personally.

“We’ve got to be vigilant in a new way to make sure that everybody is comfortable, and that we get the job done together that we’re there to do,” he added.

But, no matter what lengths Baldwin goes to in his effort to sugarcoat his previous indiscretions, the actor has been beyond forthcoming with his support of predators who deserve their own day of reckoning. His time on SNL has cast him as some sort of national treasure, making the show appear topical and relevant, all the while allowing its writers to fallback on the same old concept without acknowledging his glaring faults. Allowing Baldwin’s reign to continue aligns the show with his views, intentionally or not, adding an element of hypocrisy to every scathing remark he utters under the guise of Trump.

When it comes to sexual misconduct, you cannot pick and choose who gets the benefit of the doubt. Yes, some abuses are far more severe than others, but this does not negate the fact that each victim deserves to be heard and trusted. SNL can’t ridicule Donald Trump relentlessly without first taking stock of its own moral standing. Judging by the running commentary, it’s easy to conclude that the show serves as a platform for liberal ideas, but its reluctance to shake Baldwin says otherwise. Presidential jokes and skits are par for the course regardless of who’s in office, but did they really need to cast an actor who resembles Trump in both appearance AND ideology? If there’s anything the writers have learned from Trump’s example, it should be two simple words: You’re fired.

(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

Why Do Stars, Like Alec Baldwin, Keep Defending Woody Allen?

Source: Gravier Prods/Perdido Productions/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (5885836bc)

Despite the breadth of the #MeToo Movement, Woody Allen continues to coast along, relatively unscathed. While the embattled director has faced rape accusations at the hand of his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, for years, he’s seen his career flourish, with little to no ramifications for his alleged misdeeds. Farrow shared her story countless times prior to Hollywood’s #MeToo reckoning, but even now—even as victims begin to gain the justice they’ve long deserved—stars across the industry insist upon casting doubt on her claims by defending Allen instead.

On Sunday, actor Alec Baldwin continued his prolonged defense of Allen by deeming her allegations “unfair and sad.” Baldwin also tweeted an unlikely literary reference, comparing Farrow to Mayella Ewell, the fictional character from the novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” who falsely accuses an African-American man of rape.

“[One] of the most effective things Dylan Farrow has in her arsenal is the ‘persistence of emotion,'” he tweeted. “Like Mayella in [“To Kill a Mockingbird”], her tears/exhortations [are] meant [to] shame [you into] belief in her story. But I need more than that before I destroy [someone], regardless of their fame. I need a lot more.”

“To say that @RealDylanFarrow is telling the truth is to say that @MosesFarrow [her brother] is lying. Which of Mia’s kids got the honesty gene and which did not?” he added alongside a Sunday New York Times piece about whether Allen would work in the business again. Moses Farrow insists his sister’s abuse allegations are false, while Allen maintains his innocence, instead accusing his ex-wife Mia Farrow of implanting the idea in Dylan’s mind.

Baldwin concluded his rant with, “If my defense of Woody Allen offends you, it’s real simple. Unfollow. Condemn. Move on.”

Dylan Farrow subsequently responded to Baldwin’s comments in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter: “It’s interesting that Mr. Baldwin chooses to dismiss the judgments of Justice Wilk and Prosecutor Frank Maco, who reviewed ALL of the evidence instead of just selected bits and pieces. However, considering that Mr. Baldwin confidently invoked Mayella Ewell to make his point while forgetting that it’s been hotly debated that she was, in fact, raped by her father, demonstrates that perhaps Baldwin is just not a stickler for details.”

Baldwin inexplicably ramped up his unsolicited defense earlier in the week when he tweeted: “Woody Allen was investigated forensically by two states (NY and CT) and no charges were filed. The renunciation of him and his work, no doubt, has some purpose. But it’s unfair and sad to me. I worked with [Woody Allen] 3 times and it was one of the privileges of my career.” He added, “Is it possible to support survivors of pedophilia and sexual assault/abuse and also believe that [Woody Allen] is innocent? I think so. The intention is not to dismiss or ignore such complaints. But accusing [people] of such crimes should be treated carefully. On behalf of the victims, as well.”

Yet, while Baldwin tries to soften the blow by emphasizing that all accusations deserve to be investigated, his defense discounts Farrow’s allegations to prioritize Allen’s worth as an artist. While Farrow has been striving to have her story heard over the years, her voice has repeatedly fallen on deaf ears. Allen’s marriage to another one of his adopted children would normally set off red flags, providing an element of validity to Farrow’s claims. But, unlike many other famous faces, Allen receives the benefit of the doubt because it’s easier for those who’ve worked with him to tout his value as a director and a storyteller than to admit he might be a pedophile and a rapist.

Allen’s case perpetuates the very mindset that pushed the brave souls at the forefront of the #MeToo Movement to the brink in the first place. Women are portrayed as unstable or unreliable, while men are allowed to fall back on their role in the world. Abusers can carry on, as if nothing’s changed, because others value their contributions to society over the idea that they might be a menace to society.

Of all those who’ve come forward to expose abuse, Farrow’s accusations seem to get swept under the rug every time she speaks, while respectable actresses and actors clamor for parts in Allen’s films. While some stars, such as Timothee Chalamet and Rebecca Hall, have chosen to donate their salaries from Allen’s upcoming  “A Rainy Day in New York” to Time’s Up to show their solidarity with Farrow and their regret for working with Allen, few have taken a similar stance.

When people remain silent, they become complicit. Allowing the abuse to happen—and making excuses for the accused in response to subsequent allegations—makes even the most innocent bystander an enabler. No matter how much one respects the perpetrator on a professional level, we must hold the patriarchy accountable, or else this entire movement will be for naught. Victims often refuse to report sexual misconduct because they are afraid no one will believe them and, in Farrow’s scenario, that seems to be the case. And, when big name actors, like Alec Baldwin, come to Allen’s defense, the public focus shifts from condemning Allen to doubting Farrow. Each victim deserves the opportunity to have their say. Men have dictated the national conversation thus far. Perhaps it’s time to sit down and listen to all the facts, gentlemen, before you stand up for someone who needs to take a seat themselves.

(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

Will #MeToo Mark the End of Victim Blaming?

Source: Slate

Outsiders always criticize women who’ve been sexually abused. They wonder why victims don’t speak up sooner. They often chastise them for not fighting back. They accuse them of “asking for it” because their clothing or behavior might’ve been misleading. Regardless of the situation, society instinctively puts the onus on the abused because women are frequently forced to bear the blame for men’s faults.

But if there’s anything the public has learned from the case against former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, it’s the fact that victim blaming silences even the brave few who try to expose such abuse in the moment.

From a distance, it’s easy for spectators to posit the obvious questions: Why was this abuse allowed to continue for decades? Why didn’t the victims tell their parents? Why wasn’t Nassar held accountable for his actions after the first accusations arose? But as his more than 150 victims have revealed, words often become lost in translation when those in power refuse to listen.

“When survivors came forward, adult after adult, many in positions of authority, protected you, telling each survivor it was OK, that you weren’t abusing them,” Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman said to Nassar, who she says began abusing her when she was 15, while reading her impact statement in court. “In fact, many adults had you convince the survivors that they were being dramatic or were mistaken. This is like being violated all over again.”

ESPN’s Sarah Spain reiterated the sentiment, noting that many of Nassar’s victims could’ve been saved from his abuse had the people they trusted chosen to put their safety and well-being first. “If parents had believed their daughters, if coaches and administrators had taken seriously the complaints of their student-athletes, and if Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics had prioritized people over public reputation, humanity over a bottom line, morality over medals,” she wrote.

Extreme, but true, Nassar’s countless victims were led to believe something was wrong with them—that they were in the wrong for questioning his behavior— because the adults they trusted failed them in the worst way. They internalized the blame, effectively muzzling the aspiring athletes until the silence became deafening. Now, however, as these women and girls come together, all connected by an unspeakable, yet unbreakable, bond, their collective voice echoes well beyond the ears that refused to listen long ago.

While it might be too late to prevent the pain these survivors must live with for the rest of their lives, their words—especially at the height of the #MeToo Movement—will undoubtedly produce true change. These survivors now hold the power the adults once abused, and they won’t let go until they’ve righted the wrongs perpetrated by those they were told to trust. It’s unfortunate that these athletes had to suffer at the hands of someone as despicable and virulent as Nassar, but it’s their subsequent strength that will make all the difference for those who’ll follow in their footsteps.

Society has an undeniably daunting amount of work left to tackle, but each woman who speaks up against her attacker—each survivor who stands before the court to describe Nassar’s crimes—moves us one step closer to a world in which no sexual assault victim goes unheard. #MeToo has amplified those voices, which were once eclipsed by the status quo. In essence, it’s now “cool” to listen when women share their stories, so to speak.

But we can’t take this moment for granted. Predators will still attack the innocent. Victims will still shoulder the blame. Critics will still judge these situations from the outside looking in. Visibility doesn’t mean women no longer have to fear for their safety, but it does mean that these voices have a platform. These stories are no longer written off as fiction—they’re now treated as fact.

We can’t assume that this willingness to listen will become universal, as there are plenty of people who believe #MeToo is nothing more than some witch hunt. But we do know this—there’s hope. Hope that lasting change will come to pass. Hope that there will always be someone there to listen. Hope that, one day, women’s bodies will gain the respect they so obviously deserve. Until then, we’ll just have to keep speaking out against these cultural norms by repeating what so many have been saying all along: Me, too.

(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

William H. Macy Claims “It’s Hard to Be a Man” During the #MeToo Era

Source: John Salangsang/REX/Shutterstock (9327719c) 

With actress Kristen Bell at the helm and an endless parade of female presenters to follow her lead, the 2018 Screen Actors Guild Awards was an undeniable tour de force for women throughout Hollywood. Once again, the #MeToo Movement and Time’s Up commanded much attention, calling upon those in positions of authority to speak out against the injustices women face across industries on a daily basis.

Yet, while women were using their time in the spotlight to advocate for one another, the men of Hollywood continued to stumble over their own tongues, much like they’ve done since this revolution began.

William H. Macy, in particular, took time to address #MeToo and Time’s Up backstage after winning the SAG award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy on Sunday night. According to Entertainment Weekly, the “Shameless” star told reporters that “it’s hard to be a man these days.”

“I think a lot of us feel like we’re under attack, and that we need to apologize, and perhaps we do, and perhaps we are,” he said. “But we’ll keep talking. To repeat, I’m blessed that I’m in this business.”

“We had a meeting, a bunch of guys got together, under the auspices of Time’s Up — and that’s good for men,” he added. “Men don’t talk enough. Men don’t talk to other men, and we talked. What the hell — a little bit can’t hurt you.”

While Macy’s remarks likely reflect the feelings of countless men throughout the entertainment industry, it’s interesting to watch men distort this moment in history—a moment dedicated to empowering and liberating women—and once again make everything all about them. Like Liam Neeson’s previous claim that #MeToo resembles an old-fashioned witch hunt, Macy believes men are under attack.

Well, if holding predators accountable for the crimes they’ve committed repeatedly over the years qualifies as an “attack” by today’s standard, then yes—we’re using our fighting words.

When men openly criticize the breadth of #MeToo, they must first consider the years of physical and emotional abuse women have endured at the hands of the men in power. Many men might feel slightly “on edge” or defensive right now. Perhaps they feel the need to sensor what they say or do in the presence of the opposing sex. Perhaps they are second-guessing every move they make, worried that it’ll be misinterpreted as something provocative or sexual. Perhaps they’re afraid to be alone with someone of the opposite gender for fear of the moment coming back to haunt them and ruin their careers.

Do these concerns ring any bells?

Except, if these men actually walked even just five feet in a woman’s shoes, they’d recognize that their discomfort will never measure up to the genuine horror women face every single day. Being cautious shouldn’t be seen as some sort of prison sentence, as these men should’ve been treating women with the dignity and respect we now demand all along. Men who’ve done nothing wrong shouldn’t feel as if #MeToo “attacks” their personal character if they’ve been treating women well right from the start.

If you haven’t done anything inappropriate, then #MeToo shouldn’t scare you into submission. If you haven’t enabled abusers to torment your female colleagues over the years by staying silent, there’s no reason you should feel compelled to hide in the shadows now.

Men have controlled the national dialogue without question until recently and, despite #MeToo’s widespread impact, these men still retain most of the power, so there’s very little sympathy to spare for their supposed struggle. If they still wish to be part of the conversation, however, they should heed Macy’s comments about how men rarely talk to one another. They could be powerful allies in this fight for equality, but few have yet to speak up in a constructive manner. Perhaps, if they stop focusing on how #MeToo might hurt them and instead, focus on how men can stop hurting women, society will soon improve for all, not just some.

(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

Please Stop Assuming All Women Want To Procreate

Source: Pexels

When my former colleague became pregnant with her first child, she revealed that our health insurance provider filed maternity leave as short-term disability. Despite the fact that she was about to bring new life into this world—essentially the most able-bodied function of any such mammal that comes to mind—to the insurance company, she was handicapped for the foreseeable future. Handicapped! Paid leave debates have raged incessantly in recent years, for sure, but few discuss the methods used to secure such benefits in our current climate.

However, upon deeper consideration, such perceptions of new mothers seem right in line with how society treats women overall. For some reason, we’re regarded as weak creatures whose sole purpose on this planet revolves around perpetuating the species—a responsibility that requires the sort of strength no man can comprehend. By the time every woman reaches the age when most start families of their own, in society’s eye, we’ve merely transitioned from “boy crazy” to “baby crazy,” for our true aspirations are limited to mating and procreating only.

Except that’s entirely untrue. 

Countless women have little desire to pursue motherhood. Despite society’s assumption that unmarried, childless women are lonely or unfulfilled, many genuinely prefer this sort of lifestyle.

In an Op-Ed published by The Huffington Post, actress Jennifer Aniston specifically addressed the issue, as she’s likely the most famous victim of society’s tendency to shame women who refuse to adhere to the unwritten handbook that dictates how we should live our lives. For decades, Aniston has had her face plastered across tabloids, her life on display for all to see, as the public speculates whether this angle or that purchase indicates that she might be pregnant. 

Although Aniston rarely acknowledges said tabloid fodder, in this instance, she could not help but highlight that the sheer amount of resources spent on trying to uncover her supposed pregnancy “points to the perpetuation of this notion that women are somehow incomplete, unsuccessful, or unhappy if they’re not married with children.”

“We are complete with or without a mate, with or without a child,” Aniston wrote. “We get to decide for ourselves what is beautiful when it comes to our bodies. That decision is ours and ours alone.”

“Let’s make that decision for ourselves and for the young women in this world who look to us as examples. Let’s make that decision consciously, outside of the tabloid noise. We don’t need to be married or mothers to be complete. We get to determine our own “happily ever after” for ourselves.”

Source: Priscilla Du Preez/Unsplash

But Aniston fails to recognize that, in many cases, people who swear by marriage and motherhood can’t fathom a world in which women opt out of this traditional path by their own volition. Women who have no use for these institutions must constantly justify their decisions, as if these choices are unnatural and embarrassing. Doing so almost feels like being the one non-Stepford wife in town—you are unwelcome and irrevocably misunderstood.

Collectively, we must allow people to live as they see fit, even if those choices aren’t what we’d choose for ourselves. Might those who don’t want children right now inevitably change their minds? Absolutely. If I were to meet someone whose genetic code seems worthy of reproduction, I’d certainly entertain the prospect, but I won’t fall to pieces if Prince Charming’s horse accidentally makes a wrong turn along the way.

To most, I’d likely be considered a spinster at the ripe, old age of 30 simply because I’m not married and I have no urge to walk down the aisle any time soon. Thus, in my lonely state, I’m left to listen to the ticking of my internal clock—the metronome that beats in rhythm with my waning childbearing potential.

Except there’s no time bomb, no sadness, no jealousy. In fact, I can’t help but wonder how many of the married couples I know will get divorced when they finally realize they subconsciously settled for the one they were with because it was a logistically appropriate time for them to start a family. Society might’ve paved one path, but no one said it was the only way to go. Find another route or blaze your own trail. Listen to what’s in your heart, not what’s been put in your head, as that’s the only surefire method for finding your way.

(This post originally appeared on Storia.)