Why Sequels Suck

In storytelling character traits are very important in giving dimension to characters. The rule of thumb is that a character should have three to five traits. Having too few will leave it feeling one dimensional. Having too many can convolute the character, making it a nightmare to write.

One of the character traits is usually bad, dysfunctional. Greed, unfaithfulness and hate are a few examples. Moving this bad trait to a good one is called an arc. Scrooge is a textbook example of character arch. He only thought of himself and was selfish and ungiving. These are not three traits because on paper they look very similar to each other when shown. By the end of the story, Scrooge learned that the world was bigger than him, that love was important, and giving to others in need filled the soul. He has become the person he should be.

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To write the sequel to Scrooge would be difficult. The writer would have to come up with another bad trait for Scrooge to have and then show how that happened. This would allow him to traverse another arc, allowing him to become the person he should be. Again.

In movie sequels this is often done. That's why they often feel false and forced. That's why a lot of sequels suck ass. This brings us to The Last Jedi.

In my humble opinion, Rian Johnson, the writer and director, had gone straight down the garage compactor. He had taken an iconic and loved character, Luke, and destroyed all of the work the initial Star Wars trilogy had accomplished.

The first two movies taught us that Vader is the baddest fucking dude in the galaxy. He kills and tortures people like a psychopath, destroys his daughter's home planet, and doesn't shy away from freezing people in carbonite. His own son picks a fight with him. But instead of giving him a slap on the hand, Vader kicks Luke's ass and chops off his hand. The masturbatory one!

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Despite all of that, Luke wonders whether he can rescue his father from the dark side. He converses with his old quirky teacher, Yoda, who states, "Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny." In other words: Yo pops...he gone, bruh.

That was Yoda. Grand Master Jay. Short for Jedi grandmaster. And still, Luke be like, "Yo. He mah pops, sucka. I see da good in him, bruh. I'm out. Peace."

By the end of the third film, Luke rescues his father's soul, drags his body into his ship as the new Death Star falls apart all around them, and gives him a proper burial. Respect. Luke is a dude that sees past the worst of you and says, "Ya aite."

Down the garbage compacted we go.

In The Last Jedi, Luke had taken his nephew, Ben, under his wings and taught him the ways of the force. To Luke's dismay, the dark side was strong with Ben. So what does an uncle do? Kill him. Ben finds out about Luke's plan, which sends him farther down the dark path.

For Luke to look at his nephew and have no hope betrays one of his core character traits. It would be one thing if Luke found out that Vader had no good within him. Then, attributing that to Ben would make complete sense. But when Anakin shares a father/son moment right before the Death Star blew up, and said, "Tell your sister that you kissed in the mouth in Empire Strikes Back that you were right. You were right."

Johnson's version of Luke was so off putting that even actor Mark Hamill, who plays Luke, couldn't help himself but have a dead stare.

I'm not sure if Johnson wanted to give Luke an arch to travel, so he had to force a bad trait on the character. But Johnson didn't have to because there are other characters. Not every character has to have a character arch. Maybe Johnson didn't know that. Given how he torpedoed The Last Jedi, I wouldn't be surprised of his ignorance.

Story Time

Minutemen. Women don't appreciate them. Maybe hookers do. Turn over is money. Hey. Sometimes men have a dry spell and...oops. Did I do that?

This past weekend I was working with my writing group where we critique each other’s pages. Commercial break: Listen to a hilarious podcast where we talked about our group dynamics and workshopping our books.

One of our authors is writing an urban fantasy. I read an action sequence that took place in the main character's apartment. She's fending for her life and is losing badly. Using her telepathy, she calls for help. Her friend responds, telling her to hold on, and that she was almost at the apartment. For me the tension of that action sequence lost it's hard on. Or maybe I lost my hard on.

And, no. I'm not a minuteman.

During our workshop, I suggested to the author that he remove the telepathic dialogue because it deflates the tension. He said that the main character's friend had already told her that she was coming by at the beginning of the scene. That’s right. He had a really good point.

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Still, I was bothered because my reaction was so visceral. I wasn't looking at it from a structural point of view. I racked my head. I literally put my head down on the pool table and put the triangle thingy over it. OK. No, I didn't.

A day or two later I came across an article titled: A Quiet Place: Who Are The Monsters? Such a great movie. And the writing kicks ass. Figuratively. Can't see how it would literally. 

The producers of the film discussed at length when to reveal the monster. They feared that they might have shown it too soon. In reality the film doesn't show the alien in full view until the last seven minutes. They wanted to delay showing the monster for as long as they could. Eureka! There was my answer. I figured out why my hard on had deflated. Not during the movie. Nor did I have one in the theater. That would be weird while watching a horror flick. I'm referring to my hard on figuratively.

In the pages that I had read, the character who is coming over was on the way before the action sequence happened. The main character is getting ready in her apartment when her attacker knocks on her door. She opens it, thinking it's her friend. The attacker pounces, and she fights for her life. Even though we know her friend is on the way, we don't know how far away she is. We know her pace wouldn't be urgent because she doesn't know how dire things have become. We don't know how long it'll take for her to arrive. Even if the main character calls for help telepathically, having the rescuer not respond can increase the tension in the reader. We're left wondering: What's happened? Where is her friend? What's taking so long?

Time is such a great tool. Delaying things can extend and heighten tension. Delaying pleasure can make the reader anxious. People love story because of the rollercoaster ride of life, even if we wouldn't want it literally.

Messy People

I finished watching Seven Seconds on Netflix. I Netflixed and chilled by myself, which is pretty sad. And messy. That's one of the things I loved about Seven Seconds. It's very messy. Napkin please. For my tears.

Veena Sud is the series creator and is known from her series The Killing. The Killing was amazing because of the mood it creates. It doesn't resort to bloody grotesque images to shock the viewers because that isn't the goal. The surprising realization for me was that most of the show followed the two lead detectives who were tasked to solve Rosie's murder. Well...duh. Stay with me.

The reason I was surprised was that I felt this sense of dread and darkness throughout the whole series. This came when the rest of the onscreen time was spent focused on the mother and father's reaction to this unimaginable hole that murder leaves. Powerful storytelling. But what punched me in the gut emotionally was how messy their relationship was with their daughter and with each other before Rosie was murdered. This creates complexities because the parents can't resolve old wounds with their dead daughter. So the question becomes can they heal from their albatrosses? Can they heal their relationship with each other?

So why not aim the cameras solely on the victim's friends and family? Wouldn't that make it more powerful? More engaging? Short answer, no.

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Too much darkness and dread can be too intense. Most viewers would be put off by this. Pretty quickly too. Which is why the show centers around the detectives. And the fact that the show asked "Who killed Rosie Larsen?" gave the audience a mystery to solve, something for their minds to chew on.

Whew! All this is to say that more often than not we see characters, especially supporting ones, that have no backstory. Even if they do, they're bland. Disney stories are like this. Most of the character building is focused on the main players. And that's understandable. Time constraints may limit that. But good characters had lives before showing up to the reader or viewer.

However, with a ten-episode series, a writer can delve into the messy lives and bask in the dreaded details. We resonate with that because all of our lives are messy. This is where Sud shines. She creates characters that have had lives before we see them. They're revealed in a way that helps create plot and arcs to be traversed.

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In Seven Seconds Clare-Hope Ashitey dives into the role of KJ Harper, the lawyer responsible for the case that encompasses the series. It's not enough to have her be an alcoholic. That's cliche. What isn't is how it affects KJ's choices socially and professionally. There's a couple of suggestions that she sleeps with whoever is available. A guy at a karaoke bar. Her detective counterpart. There are many times alcohol threatens her case. She either misses her court appointments, or delves into the deepest darkest part of her so she gives up on the case (and herself, essentially).

The detective, her partner in crime, not only has to deal with her messiness, but he has a messy past of his own, which resulted in a resentful daughter, revealing his emotional character arc. And this is something that isn't made very clear in a lot of the writing classes that I've taken. Creating messiness for a character is easy. But having it linked so his character arc must resolve it to me is pretty basic. But to know how to do this the writer must know the character traits. How it was taught to me is that a character trait shapes how she sees the world. For example if she's a workaholic, then her whole world revolves around that life. When a guy asks her out on a date, she'll likely deny him in some way, despite the fact that she may be hard up.

So working backward in creating scenes for your character is one way to approach this messiness. Having a character trait, workaholic, that allows you to move her toward the person she should be, appreciating the moment (smellin' da roses), will make it easier on the writer to create scenes. Because the scenes have to push the question: What's more important? Work life? Or life with people, nature, real experiences that changes her soul? I can tell you, living in the San Francisco Bay Area that real experiences are a luxury. In my opinion, that's unfortunate.

Bad Boys

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The Black Panther leaped into theaters, breaking records from ticket sales to having the highest rating on Rotten Tomatoes for a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie. And it proves that a predominantly black cast can sell a film.

I'm a huge fan of Ryan Coogler and have a man crush on Michael B. Jordan. Living close to Oakland, I heard about the incident at Fruitvale Bart Station. Seeing the movie Coogler wrote had an affect on me that I still cannot express in words today.

Going to school in the San Francisco Bay Area has taught me that all peoples are created equal. But this was a very intellectual idea, meaning I had yet to internalize this fact. It wasn't until I had started dating an Egyptian Muslim woman—read: highly conservative—that my eyes and heart were truly open. I had met her Arab friends, traveled with them, laughed and cried about their issues, and I came to know a truth. They want the same things that most hot-blooded Americans want: Happiness, security, friendship, love. They enjoyed great food, loved dancing, found the drink to be intoxicating, and even dove into sex freely. Though, many of them avoided eating bacon.

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I loved listening to the Arabic language. To me it sounded lyrical. From what little my ex-girlfriend had taught me of her language, I knew it was rich with meaning and depth. I found it amusing that many of the men were named Mohammed. Apparently, so did they. I've come to love what little I've seen of the Middle Eastern culture and yearn to travel there and experience more.

All of this is to say that no matter what background a person comes from, anyone can relate to them if they wish. Whether they're good or bad. Really? Bad? Read: Segue.

One of the rare things that The Black Panther has in a villain is that he's relatable.

I've always talked about rooting a character to a reader. This means that the reader becomes empathetic to the characters, or, for example, they want that character to succeed. And they'll also feel the character's losses when she fails at meeting her goals. In other words, the readers have invested themselves in the story.

One of the biggest complaints about the MCU villains is their motivations. Or lack thereof. Often they want the world's destruction for no real reason. Save one. Magneto.

My writing workshop had pointed this out to me, describing a scene where Magneto was taken away from a concentration camp when he was a child. This demonstrated how humans are cruel, fearing someone who's different. And what better stage than The Holocaust? So Magneto forms his own group of mutants to defend against the coming war against humans.

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In The Black Panther, the villain Killmonger dealt with his father's death at the hands of his own uncle. Then having to grow up in Oakland where black people, such as Oscar Grant, were either oppressed or killed by the white colonizers must have infected him with deep resentment. He's then highly motivated to force the nation of Wakanda to use their resources and arm the oppressed blacks of the world with advanced weapons.

Watching this develop in the theater, I found myself nodding. That surprised me. I'm against weapons of mass destruction, but having witnessed the many real-life injustices black people have faced, I couldn't disagree with the villain. I completely related to Killmonger's ideals. I smiled as I remarked on how my thinking was well led by the writing of Panther.

I also feel that when a writer roots any character to a reader, or viewer, there has to be an element of truth that we as humans can understand. For example, how can a writer show a schizophrenic character being jostled by the many voices in his head? If I write that the voices sounded like hundreds of ghosts screaming at him, then that might not hit the spot. Most people probably have not had this quaint experience. However, if I show that the voices sounded like his mother screaming, his father yelling, his little brother growling at him at every single moment of the day with no way to shut the door, then that might get closer. Here’s a great line from Magneto in X-Men: First Class (2011) that demonstrates this idea:

"You built these weapons to destroy us. Why? Because you are afraid of our gifts, because we are different. Humanity has always feared that which is different. Well, I am here to tell you, to tell the world, you are right to fear us. We are the future, we are the ones who will inherit this earth, and anyone who stands in our way will suffer the same fate as these men you see before you. Today was meant to be a display of your power, instead I give you a glimpse of the devastation my race can unleash upon yours. Let this be a warning to the world and my mutant brothers and sisters out there, I say this: No more hiding, no more suffering, you have lived in the shadows in shame and fear for too long. Come out, join me, fight together in a brotherhood of our kind. A new tomorrow that starts today."

AMWF vs WMAF

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The classic questions:

To be or not to be? 

What is the meaning of life

Does God exist?

Do you want fries with that? 

Which is more prevalent? Asian Male White Female couples or White Male Asian Female couples? 

I started my YouTube addiction when I began to ride my mechanical steedThere are endless videos that show motorcycle mishaps. I wanted to see the riders’ mistakes and hopefully learn from them. Those videos led me to babes on bikes, chics on bikes, babes and chics on bikes, which inevitably led to documentaries.

Recently, I had come across a forty-minute video from Natalie Tran, an Asian Aussie woman dating a pretty fly Aussie, for a white guy. She has a pretty big following on YouTube, and she received a lot of hateful comments due to her relationship with this white colonizer. I say colonizer with a heaping scoop of sarcasm and a sprinkling of yellow fever. Because as I was watching the documentary, I felt the anger from my younger days bubbling up. I remember talking with my fellow yellow brothahs on how white dudes were taking away our yellow sistahs. But we were no where near qualified to talk about a sensitive subject such as this, given our narrow point of view.

In Natalie's documentary, she speaks to several Asian professionals from a pick up artist to a matchmaker and a senior lecturer at the University of Sidney with a focus on Asian representation in the media. They all agree that Asian women tend to be desired as opposed to Asian males, who are not. The main factor behind both of these perspectives are the media. Asian women are hyper-sexualized. Asian males are shown as physically inferior (i.e. height challenged, meek), not engaging, nerdy, socially awkward.

The matchmaker has encountered women, even Asian women who would prefer not to date Asian men due to the above mentioned stereotypes. She's had to work extra hard to sell an Asian guy as a match, touting his many qualities that fall outside of the media fed image. When it came to selling a non-Asian male, the matchmaker didn't have to mention that he’s manly and does manly things. She realizes that the justification of Asian males is wrong, but it's become a reality of her job.

I'd recommend the video. I can't do it justice here. However, for me, the many conversations Natalie has is pretty engaging, but then I'm one of those undesirable Asian males. So I'm always open on how to grow—not height wise—and improve myself.

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After I was done watching, I noticed another video, a rebuttal to Natalie's film. This Asian fellow was particularly angry and honed in on how Asian males have a severe disadvantage versus other races. That white men have white privilege, so they automatically have an advantage. And his biggest point is that he sees way more Asian women dating white men than white women dating Asian men. Data through dating sites like OkCupid seems to support this.

So what can Asian men do to combat this beast of prejudice? Here's what I've discovered that not only will tame this beast but will make Asian males more desirable in the eyes of females all around the world and Venus. What you do is NOTHING.

Get out of town, Jimmy.

First of all, I don't live in a town, I live in a city. Second, I get out of the city all the time.

Let me drop some truth on y’alls. There's nothing to combat. If anything, the issue lies within the individual man. I don't care who you is, bruh, but if you wanna be attractive to da ladies, then you gotta love yourself. And not like that. Put the lotion away.

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What I mean is look in the mirror and get to know yourself. Your strengths. Weaknesses. Know your likes and things that make you go "Ew" like a valley girl. What are your core values? Are you a saver or a spender? Do you want a serious relationship, or do you just want friends with benefits? Being comfortable in your own skin will help dispel the power of your own weaknesses. In other words, they'll have little effect on you. Weaknesses don’t mean you’re weak. You may need to strengthen them if a situation calls for it.

And being open to yourself will also allow you to be vulnerable to women. That way when you talk to them, or anyone, you're not guarded. I tell women all the time that I'm a cheap date, that I attain the Asian glow drinking just one Coors Light. If a woman refuses to date me because of that, then we were never meant to be. She has no sense of humor. She may think my inability to hold my liquor is not manly. Therefore, I probably don't have the attributes she's looking for.

This leads me to another truth. Not everyone is gonna like you. Ya ain't gonna make everyone happy. If a woman doesn't want to date an Asian guy, then, as an Asian dude, why the fuck would you wanna date her? She's not worth your time.

Think of it this way. Would you want to spend time with someone who doesn't want to be your friend?

That's not to say that I didn't feel like low hanging fruit—yes, my fruit hangs low. For much of my younger years, I felt like I was inferior to other races of men. This is what I mean when I say the issue lies with the individual. I had this issue. No one planted it in me. So I decided to do something about it. I had to get out of my shell. I went out more, talked to different people, discovered that I had a pretty sick sense of humor, which I love. I slowly got to know me. Sure. There are things that I don’t like. But there’s a lot that I do.

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I decided to try an experiment. I switched my point of view and looked for Asian men dating non-Asian females. BLAM! My nephew had a black girlfriend, married her. I saw an old acquaintance of mine who had married a blonde. Saw a Chinese dude walk around in the gym with his Caucasian girlfriend. Actually, I don't know if he was Chinese or not. I can't tell the difference between the Asian races. AMWF couples were showing up everywhere. I was shocked.

So, instead of focusing on the issue that women don't like you for some strange reason, open your eyes to women who can handle your strangeness. From experience, going for what you want is way easier than being angry at the world.

There's one more point I want to hit on. Angry Asian harps on the fact that a lot of these Asian women only want to date white guys. He named several celebrities to prove his point. And their social media accounts show they all have white boyfriends. However, all of these women had railed against yellow fever, that they want to be seen and be wanted for who they are and not for what they look like. He then states that yellow fever doesn't really exist because guys don't care what race the girl is.

First of all Asian women can date whomever they want. Man, woman, dog, cactus. They are not obligated to date within their own race. Second, men do have their preferences. OkCupid and FaceBook had published a study that showed black women to have substantially fewer likes than other races of women. Third, Asian women can prefer white guys and still argue against yellow fever. Is it a double standard? Most certainly. But life is full of them. Notably slut-shaming. Society has taught women that it's bad for them to have many sexual partners. But it's fine if men do. I'm a dude. Even I think that's stupid. This brings me to my last point.

If you’re a woman and wanna sleep with someone and not be slut-shamed, then here's my contact page.

To live a happier life, remove the filter that the world hates you. Instead filter out people that don’t like you. It may feel like you're losing a lot of people, but you can't lose what you've never had in the first place.

The Missing Link

I was watching this YouTube video about a guy who goes through bouts of depression. He did a lot of drugs to expand on his artistic creativity, but that took him away from society, which he called an illusion. I tend to agree. The video didn't state how long he had done this, but he decided to re-enter the illusion and rejoin the human race.

At the end of the short video, he said that life has more to offer than happiness and that he wanted to pursue something more fulfilling.

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Before I started my illustrious career in writing, I knew I wanted to be an artist of some sort. So I tried everything from drawing, acting, poetry, martial arts, etc. before I careened into writing. Diving right into it, I wrote almost every day, creating my world, free writing to meet my characters. I asked cool questions like: How do these people sleep and have sex? or Where do they pee and poo? or What do I call an apple in this world? Apple was the answer. Deep thinking here, folks.

However, there were moments where I didn't feel happy nor content. So I naturally questioned my passion for writing, for storytelling. I should be grateful for having the freedom to pursue something, anything. But I wasn't.

Then it hit me. No. Not my writing. I was linking the activity of writing to happiness. Those two things should not be linked because they have nothing to do with each other. It's kinda like linking the climate control knob in your car to the volume of your stereo. The knob turns the fan on and off. It does nothing to modulate the car speakers.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” ― Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning

Frankl was a Holocaust survivor. From his experiences of being a concentration inmate, he discovered that people are able to experience happiness or peace even in the direst situations. That circumstanth doth noth determinith yorth worldeth viewth . Sorry. Something was stuck in my teeth. Your circumstance doesn't determine your worldview.

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I had written about a woman whom I named Miss Hates Myguts. She had chosen her friends like how someone might choose their dining ware. The right cutlery flanking the perfect plates must match the serving dishes. The gleaming statues of glassware must highlight the richness of that setting. So, too, in this way had Hates Myguts chosen her friends. She surrounded herself with the right kind of people because they represented her in a way that matched what she thought her world should look like. And I'm the dirty, broken dish that did not fit in her world. But there's a fallacy to that thinking.

Famed life coach, Michael Neill, once said on his radio show, "Rearranging the furniture on the Titanic ain't gonna help, sucka." OK, I added some ghetto flare.

Often we link things to our happiness. If I get this job, I'll be happy. If I get this chic, I'll be the man. Once I roar down the street with my loud ass motorbike, people will think I'm the badass ass in the world. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Think of it this way. A CEO of a Forturne 500 company is no more human than a homeless man ambling down the street. One has more stuff than the other. But that has no real meaning except that he has more stuff. And we already know money can't buy happiness.

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I apply this missing link to money with security. The more of it I have, the more secure I feel. That's OK for now, but what happens if I lose all of my wealth? I'll feel incredibly vulnerable, broken, worthless as a human. There lies the crux of greed. Money is not the root of all evil. It's fear. We fear not having enough. So what do we do? We hoard. And the only thing money is good for is buying stuff. Because security is an illusion. You can have all the armed guards in the world, but that doesn't guarantee your safety. And if you need all of that security, meaning the fear has taken over your life, then you'll never be happy or be at peace.

And money can't buy happiness because it's a state of being. Not a tangible object.

So why pursue anything if we can be happy no matter the circumstances? That's where the fulfilling part comes in. When I dove into writing, I was fully engaged with my creativity. There's joy in that. If someone loves farming, then they love working the land, tending to their animals, reaping the fruits of their labor. I know that last part is cliché, but I'm not a farmer and don't know what else they do. 

Being engaged with whatever moves you fills the soul. It's heaven.

Low Expectations

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In my previous post, I had stated that expectations can be the bane of relationships, using Valentine's Day as an example. If the woman had been expecting a grand gesture of gift and fine dining, and she received a card and dinner at Chili's, then resentment might grow. If the man had expected a superbly satisfying blow on his one-eyed python, but instead caught the stink eye from his lady, then resentment might root itself within him. Resentment can grow and explode into a full-blown argument. And those are exhausting.

The post came about when a woman had asked me how to have a long happy relationship. My answer was to have no expectations.

You know when you go to a Star Wars movie, like the one released at the end of 2017, and there were a jack load of people that were disappointed with the film? Everyone entered the theater with pretty high expectations. Me included. I remember thinking halfway through the movie: This smells like stinky butt. I had some hope that the end of The Last Jedi would sorta bring everything together, much like how Pulp Fiction had done, and I would feel like an asshole for thinking such blasphemy. Yeah...no.

Had I lowered my expectations to where Hell exists, then I wouldn't have felt so bad paying seventeen bucks. With no expectations, I would have enjoyed the film for what it is. Entertaining crap.

Now, I'm not saying you should lower your expectations so your relationship can be long and happy. Doing so would end the relationship in a dull silence of an atomic explosion.

If a husband does nothing to help his wife when she's sick, then she has two basic choices. Accept his behavior. Or not. I don't expect many women would let their husbands' callousness to go unpunished. A discussion needs to take place at this point.

Going back to the Valentine's Day example, the couple should set expectations. Do they want something grand and memorable? Or do they want something low key? Neither is wrong in my eye. Well none of those things can fit in my eye. But expectations should be set.

That's why communication is so important in a relationship. Each side should state what they want, and then compromise from there. It's a goddamn relationship, dammit! So go. And relate.