Ryan Gosling, Romance Novels, and the Dangers of Fantasizing

The problem isn’t that we long for something better. It’s that we long for too small of things.

It’s 5 o’clock and you’re stuck in traffic with hungry kids in the backseat, and no dinner waiting for you once you get home.

Hey girl. It’s cool that you made a three-course meal for the mom in your co-op that just had a baby — then hit the drive-through on the way home to feed your own family. I kinda like room temperature fries.

Or maybe it’s only 11 o’clock on Tuesday morning and you’ve already gotten three urgent projects you hadn’t budgeted time for, and the coffee machine is broken and you’re afraid that guy on the train who coughed in your face gave you a cold because now your throat feels weird.

Hey Girl, I know you ain’t feelin’ it today. That’s why I’m so proud to see you at that desk, doing what you do best. Cheers.

Whether you’re a homeschooling mom, a feminist, a knitter, a literary agent—or one of many other types of women—there’s a message from indie actor-heartthrob Ryan Gosling meant just for you. In each blog post, Gosling is there to be handsome while he offers understanding and consolation for your mundane but particular drudgery or disappointment.

In some ways, the online meme is fairly innocent. And in their tendency to highlight various frustrations and minor grievances common to particular subcultures, these faux Goslings can even create a sense of shared experience, along with the release of laughter and pleasure of seeing the handsome Canadian actor in various poses.

But if even one of those wishes came true, and Gosling suddenly stood beside us, actually saying what we wish he might, would it put doctors out of business, stop all earthquakes and volcanoes, suck up all the venom beneath our tongues?

Of course not. And that’s one of the problems with escapist fantasies. Though we almost always turn to them when life’s brokenness has reasserted itself, such fantasies represent the wrong kind of change.

Don’t get me wrong — to sense that the world is not as it should be is the right response to sin and the fall. And it’s right and good to long for restoration. But fantasies like Ryan Gosling addressing you as “Hey girl,” or the newest romance novel topping the NYT bestseller list, or the Lucky Vanous Diet Coke breaks of yesteryear, don’t do anything to help advance the change that’s really needed. They just fleetingly numb our individual pain.

The first time I indulged a fantasy of this sort toward the end of high school, as I waited for my ride home from a job at the mall.

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