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Musings on Character Identification in Media - Synchronicity swirls and other foolishness

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March 26th, 2010

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04:43 pm - Musings on Character Identification in Media
A couple of days ago, rm posted a poll about identifying with characters in fiction and media. I realized that while I do this, I don't do it all that often. Limiting the discussion just to TV (largely because I read a lot of fairly obscure SF most of you have never heard of), most TV shows that I enjoy include no characters that I particularly identify with. For example, I really loved The Dresden Files show, Babylon 5, Farscape, Journeyman, and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and Burn Notice, and none of them included a single character that I identified with.

I can in fact only think of four characters that I've identified with in remotely recent TV. In chronological order:
  • Gabby in Xena: Warrior Princess – I have mentioned before how much I used to identify with being a sidekick, and while that no longer all of who I am, Gabby as the helpful & beloved sidekick strongly resonated with me.

  • Willow in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, some of it was about being a geeky sidekick, but especially on TV, characters who pursue magical knowledge & power and are not defined as evil for doing so are rare, and that's also always spoken to me.

  • Young Lex Luthor in Smallville - the whole morally grey child of a wealthy and poisonously evil family resonates really strongly with me for a variety of reasons. Eventually, due to a mixture of clumsily handled fate, increasingly dodgy writing, and Clark Kent lying to him one too many times, Lex became too one-dimensional and evil and my interest in the character and the show greatly decreased. I've read a great deal of Smallville fan fiction, most of it written from Lex's PoV, and most of it about redemption, and often two favorites of mine together – romance & cheating/changing fate.

  • Gaius Baltar in the new Battlestar Galactica - before the show fell apart due to writers with absolutely no clue what they were doing, for a while I strongly identified with Baltar. It's very rare to see exactly the sort of clever, intelligent, self-interested, non-evil, but fairly dubious weasel that he was at the beginning of the series. By the end of the first season I was far less interested in him, because he rapidly went from being a self-interested weasel to being simply insane, weak, and not at all clever. He's definitely a character I would have loved to seen handled in a different way.
I then thought about shows I liked with characters that I liked, but which I never identified with and found two sorts of reactions – characters that I cared passionately about, and those who I did not love in this fashion, but whose story I was interested in.

For example, in Babylon 5, I very much cared about the character Talia Winters, just like I cared about the character of Jack Harkness when he was first introduced in Doctor Who. In these and other cases, I don't feel that the characters are at all like me, but instead, I find them individuals who I am fascinated with, like, and care about.

However, there's yet another way that I can approach characters. While I didn't care in anything like the same way about Ambassador Londo Mollari, in Babylon 5, but I was fascinated by his story (which I consider to be the finest classical tragedy that I've ever seen on television), just like I cared about Chiana's story on Farscape, or Marshall Mann's character in In Plain Sight.
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative

(4 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:March 27th, 2010 03:22 am (UTC)
I am fond of finding characters in books who match my friends. I have found many people I know in Terry Pratchett novels and the Invisibles comic by Grant Morrison.
[User Picture]
Date:March 27th, 2010 04:51 am (UTC)
Londo's story arc is indeed a tragedy in the full sense of the word. It was even more intense when I watched the entire series over several months this past year (showed it to Wolfling for her first time).

As for my icon. . . Delenn is who I want to be when I grow up.
[User Picture]
Date:March 27th, 2010 05:11 am (UTC)

I'm planning on watching it again (after I finish rewatching Farscape with friends). I rewatched the first few seasons shortly after the series ended, but haven't seen it since 2000. I'll be especially fascinated to see it post 2001, since the entire Nightwatch/creeping fascism on Earth was so frighteningly foreshadowed the post 9/11 events in the US.
[User Picture]
Date:March 27th, 2010 02:07 pm (UTC)
I can only think of two characters that I identify with in an intensely visceral way: Tenjou Utena and Himemiya Anthy. I identify with them for related and yet very different reasons, and I've never, really, found any other characters with whom I've felt that kind of emotional kinship.

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