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“I was studying. I didn’t have a choice.” -Rory, Gilmore Girls.

“That’s different. I didn’t have a choice.” -Andy, The Devil Wears Prada.

“Looks like I don’t have a choice.” -Meghan, The Iron King.

Sometimes, we don’t like either option, but we still have a choice. Rory could have chosen to not study and fail her test (or at least go into it well rested but less prepared). Andy could have refused to go to Paris in Emily’s place and risked Miranda firing her. Meghan could have left her brother in the Never Never, drunk Puck’s potion, and gone on with her life thinking the changeling was actually her brother. In the last case, I think that option was so unacceptable that Meghan didn’t see it as an option, but the option was offered to her.

Why is this an important distinction? Claiming “I didn’t have a choice,” transfers blame (and credit). If something goes wrong, “I didn’t have a choice” really means, “it’s not my fault.” In the reverse, when something goes right, the character isn’t painted as brave or strong. Fate, being in the right place at the right time–if the character didn’t actively make the decision, it isn’t his or her victory.

-Eliabeth Hawthorne