My neighbor and I often talk movies. When I told him Wallace and Gromit: the Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) is one of my favorite movies of this decade, he asked how I could endure the eccentric Lady Tottington’s anti-gun fanaticism.
If you’ve seen the movie, you remember Lady Tottington. She’s the Cheeto-haired aristocrat whose garden has been overrun by rabbits. Her gun-toting suitor offers to shoot the bunnies, but “Tottie,” who abhors guns, recoils from “thoughtless killing” and hires Wallace, who uses humane pest control methods.
My neighbor knows I’m a second amendment supporter who believes violent criminals, not their guns, should be disassembled with hacksaws, so his question was reasonable. Why didn’t Tottie’s anti-gun stance shoot the entire movie right off my favorites list?
I managed to spit out something about the movie’s brilliant animation and its veddy British humor, but I couldn’t disguise the fact that he had me stumped.
Several viewings later, I understood why Tottie is tolerable, even likeable: Tottie is an eccentric, not a fanatic.
The line that separates eccentrics from fanatics is the same line that separates Tottie’s property from her neighbors’. She bans guns from her property, but not from others’ property. She pays for Wallace’s services with her money and doesn’t expect others to foot the bill. Instinctively, she respects other people’s rights and does not force her beliefs on others.
Tottie and other eccentrics would like others to share their interests and values, but that being unlikely, they are content to be left alone. They can be annoying, but also loveable, even inspiring.
Fanatics are not content to be left alone. Others must be forced to behave as they do. They can be anything from mildly annoying to downright dangerous.
There is no end to the variety of eccentrics and fanatics the world has to offer.
Eccentric: being a vegan
Fanatic: requiring restaurants to provide vegan options
Eccentric: forbidding one’s children from reading Harry Potter books
Fanatic: banning Harry Potter books from the library
Eccentric: forgoing a car and riding a bike to be eco-friendly
Fanatic: favoring taxes and regulations designed to make cars and driving more expensive
Eccentric: being homosexual
Fanatic: forcing eHarmony, a privately-owned business, to provide homosexual matchmaking services
Eccentric: standing on a corner waving a sign asserting the Earth is only 6,000 years old
Fanatic: requiring public schools to include religious creation stories in their science curricula
Eccentric: being an atheist
Fanatic: suing a department store because its greeter wished you a “Merry Christmas”
Being outsiders themselves, eccentrics like Tottie and her vegetable-obsessed neighbors tolerate others’ idiosyncrasies and demand only tolerance (not necessarily acceptance or approval) from others. They are true individualists.
Fanatics, who also tend to be outsiders, often like to present themselves as individualists, but anyone who feels entitled to control others’ behavior wouldn’t know true individualism if it bit him on the arrrr-tichoke.