The Old Guy: Seeing yourself in strong and good characters, regardless of their gender or racial identification
I’ve heard and read this statement a lot, or something like it, lately: “After so many years, it was nice to see myself portrayed. And I was like… “Hmm… it’s strange… I usually identify with the hero of a well-told story.” “
And I know some of you are thinking… “Well, Gary, it’s because you’re a cis white man like most of the heroes in these stories.” “
Well, not in “A Wrinkle In Time”. Or “Wonder Woman” or “Black Panther”. Or in “Shrill”, “Hacks”, “Made For Love”, “Unorthodox”, “Jann” or many shows that I binged during the pandemic. And, like I said, my favorite character from “Game Of Thrones” is Brienne from Tarth and none of the male characters.
This is because all of these roles are written to encourage you to strongly identify with them, regardless of your particular life circumstances. In writing, it is called “suspension of disbelief” – the deliberate act of ignoring certain factors for the sake of it.
And I’m frankly appalled that more people can’t perform this function when they read, watch a movie or TV show, or even write. This literal interpretation of the circumstances of a story is disheartening. What has happened to the creative imagination, to the flights of the imagination, to reverie?
Frankly, I blame the education system which espoused critical thinking, analysis and inference but left all of those skills in the dust instead of boosting a student’s ability to pass a test that resulted in a quantifiable result.
Because you really can’t measure artistic progress. It is a process, not a product.
When I was working with the Ministry of Education, they tried to quantify the artistic process. I remember a one-day workshop where they gathered a bunch of “creative” us in one room and asked us what the most important information to glean from each area (music, dance, visual arts) was. , theater) in order to create a standardized test that would ask questions about this information.
Talk about round pegs and square holes! The arts are not meant to be quantified that way. Of course, you can look at someone’s work and see the progress (or not). If you listen to The Beatles’ debut album and then move on to “The White Album” you can hear the difference made in six years. If you look at the earlier pieces by Monet or Van Gogh and compare them to their later works, or read “Carrie” then “The Outsider” (both by Stephen King), you can see the evolution of each artist’s mastery. of the tools they use. create.
It is disturbing to me that everything is taken so literally. It may also be the result of social media, where intonation, inference, and humor cannot be easily conveyed. Perhaps this is the result of having lived through a year where each of our moves had to be calculated to avoid accidentally contracting an illness or seeing our conditions worsen, as they often do with people with illnesses. chronic disabling daily.
Whatever the reason, I think it’s time to let our minds free from their human cages and let them float for a while. Inhabit other mentalities and other bodies. To suspend our unbelief.
One of my last favorite shows is “The Nevers”, created by Joss Weadon, the man responsible for “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, writing “Toy Story”, “The Justice League” and the beloved “Firefly” . Man knows how to create a tale.
And, yes, there have been allegations of wrongdoing made against him, but I chose to bring it up because the characters in “The Nevers” make my point for me. The main characters are mostly women, with extraordinary powers and even more extraordinary stories. And yet, these are the characters you identify with when you watch the show.
Set in the Victorian era, women were affected by a galactic presence, which gave each of them a power (or “turn” as it is labeled) that, accordingly, qualifies them as bizarre or d ‘strange by those who have not been touched by the phenomenon. . This is a condition, I have been informed by friends, to which many women have become accustomed.
Good strong characters, regardless of their sexual or racial identification, old or new, give us hope, not because of the conditions of their existence but because of the qualities of their characters. This is what we have to identify with.
And, as the always fair Joan told me repeatedly when writing this column, “I see myself in the bathroom mirror every day. I wouldn’t mind seeing someone else for a change!
Keep your head up! And… dream!
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