Characters: who are they and why should we even care?

There’s some rational part of me that knows that it’s a tad obsessive to have posters of the actors or characters you dearly love hanging on the wall. I can partially rationalize it with the fact that there is a larger part of me that is a geek, but there will always be that little annoying man in the back of my brain saying ‘what will your friends think? Don’t you think you’re making these characters into gods or something’? That voice was loud enough for me to contemplate whether or not I should take my posters off the wall before my friends came over for a movie night.

    In the end, I didn’t. One, I’m way too lazy for such things. Two, it makes no sense for me to do so, otherwise than to hide a part of myself away. Why would I do that?

    That type of rationalizing is the same as considering taking down your family pictures when your friends are coming over. Unless there’s a rational reason for doing so, like if your family were a pack of rabid cannibals who enjoyed taking pictures of them eating human flesh, and you just happen to be inviting your next meal over… then it really doesn’t make sense to take them down. Every picture is a memory of sentimental value, something that keeps you going every day when you pick up those photos and just remember… remember when your family was beside you and you could smile for a bit. Just for a bit, while the madness around you continues.

    It could be a stretch, connecting family photos to posters of television characters, and in some ways it is, as I’m trying to connect real people to cultural icons. I mean, isn’t culture kind of bad to us sometimes? Scientists will argue that watching television or reading magazines and absorbing the culture affects people, and I won’t deny the facts. There are plenty of women out there who peer at those magazine covers, with the women with glossy, thin thighs, the round butts, the hourglass figures and the barrels on top and find themselves exponentially uglier in every way compared to them. I can’t say that I don’t wish for the kind of authentic, deep relationships between friends that seem to only appear in television. In the end, culture just seems to have the knack of hanging pretty things in front of our noses, and then denying us that right to have the shiny things.

That’s the key: culture is all around us, it affects us, and not all of the messages that the world pastes are ones we should be learning, but heck, it’s inevitable that world is culturally driven. Our population is stuck in a net of computer cords and television screens.

    This thought takes me back to a conversation I would have with my father whenever we went on long trips. It’s hard to have a philosophical conversation in my family. We are too smart for our own good, I’m afraid, and in all too different of areas. My brothers are technical, my father is medical, and my mother is smart in moral ways I could never even imagine knowing. The only manner in which we can actually engage are usually during car rides, long car rides, when the music lays dully on the ears, and there are too many hours left to drive to do anything else. My father and I always had a few halting starts, but when the conversation started to roll, we could reach high speeds.

    Often times, my father would steer the conversation towards our current culture today, and how it has its many issues. I could not help but agree, but then I would always silently think to the back of my mind that this was the culture I was STUCK in. I knew this was MY culture.

    There’s really no point in denying it, now is there? I am an instrumental part of my culture. I grew up in this culture, I’ve been shaped by it, I’ve experienced it every day, I’m part of what makes it tick, but I don’t think I’m ruined yet. Is it so wrong to try to love a culture so broken, so screwed up? Is it okay to love people who are making themselves comfortably miserable? I can critique it all I want, but it won’t change where this culture is headed, and the fact that I’m a part of it.

    Which brings me back to my posters. My rationally, anti-culture little man in my head tells me it’s shameful to have these men on the wall. But then there’s the part of me who respects these men for their fictional achievements. The part of me who loves how they can keep secrets and be flawed yet have such hearts of gold that can make me wish to be that way. Flawed but beautiful. Just like our culture. I care for these people, fictional or not, and just as my family does, they can stretch a smile on my face and keep me going during a day.

    Why do we need characters? Because we all need friends. In fiction. In life. We need a friend who’s willing to walk with us through the story.

    You can call me geek-face or whatever, but characters, stories, plot, my culture, they’re not going away. Of course, in fiction, characters are not the entirety of the picture, but if you want to have a story peoplecan connect to, they better have someone they can connect to who’s on the inside. It’s like having an agent undercover. They can tell you what’s going on in the plot, while you worry for their safety, and can’t wait to hear from them again. I think that’s a beautiful thing, don’t you?

    Care for your characters. They’ll care for you too.

    See you next week.

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