Everybody needs to calm down about Ryan Gosling saving me from a speeding car.
It was a curious thing that happened to me on the way to somewhere else. I had just bought a nice pink wig to wear to a friend's party. I was thinking about an article I'm writing about birth control and the importance of reproductive freedom to women's rights, and I didn't remember to look the right way. An actor happened to be passing and stopped me from getting run over by a car. I said "thank you." And that was that.
The actor happened to be Ryan Gosling.
I am grateful to the dashing and meme-worthy Mr. Gosling, just as I am grateful to every other kind New Yorker who has saved me from oncoming traffic in recent weeks, good citizens making the streets of this fine city that much safer for random British writers who can't remember to look both ways. It was a little bit like being in a cheesy film, but every day in New York is like being in a cheesy film. I've been here two months, and I'm still not sure this place really exists.
Look, I am kind of an idiot. I am constantly walking into things, losing my phone and keys, and wandering into traffic because I'm thinking about something else or have spotted something interesting in the sky, and that's when I'm not in a country where all the cars come in the wrong direction. Friends and complete strangers prevent me from taking the fast-lane death walk in New York City on a regular basis, and the reason that this happens is that people are actually surprisingly decent when you get down to it. If Ryan Gosling hadn't happened to be the nearest person at the time, I'm sure the girl standing next to me, who confirmed Gosling's identity, would have prevented me from meandering into an early grave.
As it was, the entire encounter lasted about five seconds.
Yes, I was a little bit swoony after it happened — but in fairness, I'll swoon over a cheese sandwich if it gives me a saucy look. In the interests of composed reporting, I really think the sentiment "Ryan Gosling is a total hero and saved this woman's life!" needs to be reassessed, even though it's technically accurate.
People do lovely, considerate things for other people all the time. I don't believe that the fact that A-list celebrities occasionally act like human beings is in itself news — it might have been slightly newsworthy had Mr. Gosling simply floated by on a cloud of his own cultural significance whilst a young woman got smeared into the tarmac, but lucky for me, even the most chiseled-jawed of us are usually boringly dependable in times of minor peril.
Americans are very strange. They can and do hyperventilate about the most everyday happenings as if they are the most important thing in the world, and then they act completely normal when public conversations are had about war on Iran and war on women's bodies and when Rick Santorum is considered a serious presidential candidate. The real heroes I've met in America are risking everything to make sure that the United States doesn't slide further into bigotry, inequality and violence whilst everyone is distracted by the everyday doings of celebrities.
What's more, I really do object to being framed as the ditzy damsel in distress in this story. I do not mean any disrespect to Ryan Gosling, who is an excellent actor and, by all accounts, a personable and decent chap. I thought he was marvelous in The Ides of March, and will feel weird about objectifying him in future now that I have encountered him briefly as an actual human.
But as a feminist, a writer, and a gentlewoman of fortune, I refuse to be cast in any sort of boring supporting female role, even though I have occasional trouble crossing the road, and even though I did swoon the teeniest tiniest bit when I realized it was him. I think that's lazy storytelling, and I'm sure Ryan Gosling would agree with me.
Image by Jim Cooke, source photos via Visual and Getty.
Laurie Penny is a British journalist living in New York. She is a regular writer for The Independent and contributing editor to The New Inquiry, and has contributed to The New Statesman, The Guardian, The Nation, Salon.com and Jezebel, among others. She is the author of Meat Market: Female Flesh Under Capitalism and Penny Red: Notes from the New Age of Dissent. Follow her on Twitter at @PennyRed.