I swear I will soon post something more serious, probably something where I gush about the people who’ve managed to put up with me this winter. This is not that time. We are not out of the woods yet.
When I was 6, my mom thought I needed therapy because I constantly pretended I was She-Ra. I look at it as indicating that my need for escapism started early. I have always loved Story – this interest being the one thing that gave my any practical direction in college. My imagination is always on. I frequently get bored with reality to the point that I make up more interesting stories in my head. Or, I relate whatever’s going on to something from a story. There’s always some part of my brain that is running on another creative level. This is just how my mind has come to work – part observation of the world around me, part shuffling and creating as I go.
I probably should see the above as an indication that I’m a bit screwed up, but I’m kinda okay with it. I just need to remember that the reason my life is not as interesting as many of the stories I ingest (or create) is because stories are NOT reality. They’re shaped, crafted, edited, and the best parts and moments of something based on reality. Most books/shows/movies don’t show anyone sitting around paying pills, brushing their teeth, or doing anything necessary but mundane. And I shouldn’t blame my friends for not being more interesting; no one really gets into scrapes like the characters in Friends. Although I should point out that I have several carefully crafted plans for a zombie apocalypse, I should not expect things to miraculously happen to me that are amazing, entertaining, and fulfilling. Real life is the base for stories, not the other way around.
But I DO bring books/shows/movies into reality all the time. We all do. Sharing much-loved, widely accessible interests is the very easiest way to connect with someone. “You like Firefly? Me too! We should be friends.” Or, sometimes there is a perfect moment to quote a line from your favorite character on Arrested Development, and suddenly you realize you have something to talk about with that weird guy to your left after all. And, quite frankly, I am immediately won over by your wittiness if you tie a Star Wars reference into whatever I’m taking about. (Hoth, of course, has come up multiple times this winter.)
Sidenote: While books are great (excuse me, “literature”), there is something about TV/movies that is just easier to share with people. Books demand a lot more personal interpretation. TV/movies give us all the exact same pictures and voices. Plus, I’ve always been a visual person, and having a bit of a photographic memory probably doesn’t hurt. THAT means I have all this stuff floating around in my head all the time – of course I relate it to reality…right?
While real life people have (hopefully) influenced my personal development more than She-Ra, there are many fictional characters over the years who, for better or worse, have shaped me. I learn vicariously, and this includes learning from people who don’t even exist. I’m sure every single person reading this can come up with a list (and I’d love to see ’em!) of characters who have meant a great deal to you. Here’s a random list of fictional characters who, for reasons great and small and important and stupid, have meant something to me:
- She-Ra. Probably responsible for my first subconscious idea of feminine defiance.
- DJ Tanner (Full House). She was an oldest child like me. I made my first bedroom a complete replica of hers because I liked the color.
- Claudia (The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler). She and her brother were a lot like me and my brother. They argued over grammar. She needed to be different, and this was the first female book character I really remember connecting with.
- Xena. Possible She-Ra Part 2, definite influence on Bullseye for the Kota.
- Rogue (X-Men, the animated series). Probably She-Ra part 3. And I liked that a tough tomboy could also cry.
- Mad Martigen (Willow). My earliest version of the perfect man.
- Errol Flynn as Robin Hood. Close second.
- Jane Eyre. Being smart and a wallflower, having nothing go right, etc. countered with patience and faith was inspiring as a teen.
- Ms. Parker (The Pretender). I definitely like dark female characters, which by this time I realized. But Ms. Parker had a broken, soft side that lashed out when vulnerable, and I saw myself in that. Plus, being mean is kinda fun.
- Clementine (Eternal Sunshine): It was refreshing to see a goofball who was carefree and original. And she gave a speech about men’s expectations that completely resonated with me.
- Lily (How I Met Your Mother). It’s okay to be cute and nice. You can still have a dark side. And wear fun clothes.
- Addison (Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice). It’s okay to have dark humor about not knowing what the hell you’re doing with your life/love life.
- Penny (Big Bang Theory). My friend Cat told me that her family thinks of me as Smart Penny. (Her mother apparently went so far as to one day – out of nowhere – say, “Sunny needs a Leonard.”) I get the character similarities, certainly the constant use of sarcasm and eye rolls. I also like that she shows it’s perfectly okay to wear sweatpants and tank tops constantly – a wardrobe I have adopted since working from home.
Also, while I’m making lists, here are some of my ridiculous triggers. (This usually annoys most of my friends who don’t know what I’m talking about, but at least my brother gets it):
- Anything about an island will make me think of Lost.
- Whenever anyone says “odd” I will retort with, “Odd. That is to say, Strange.” This from the TV-movie version of Alice in Wonderland.
- If one object is moving towards another object, I will quote Galaxy Quest’s “There’s a red thingy moving toward the green thingy. I think we’re the green thingy.”
- Also frequently, for no good reason, I quote Galaxy Quest’s “Is there air?! You don’t know!”
- Anything about a system controlling anything will result in 12 Monkeys “It’s the system!”
- Eating chicken… Fifth Element “Chicken good.”
- Llamas… Emperor’s New Groove “Yay, I’m a llama again! Wait…”
- (I hate that I’m admitting this) If someone is talking about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I sing in my head The Hangover’s “…The three best friends that a guy could ever have…”
- If someone doesn’t have a tattoo, I mimic Idiocracy’s “Why come you don’t gots a tattoo?”
- Berries… Intolerable Cruelty “Everybody likes berries.”
- Jewelry… Secret of NIMH “Ooh, a sparkly.”
- High school… She’s the Man “Screw you guys, I hate high school.”
So, yeah. At any given moment, some part of some story is swirling around in my head. Sometimes other people get it; sometimes I sound like a crazy person giggling to myself. But I think it’s interesting how stories can carry over into real life, sometimes shaping us more than maybe we realize. And it’s fun to see where we have overlaps.