There’s one experience that I’ve endured multiple times that completely baffles me: people telling me I’m nothing like a character that I strongly identify with.
I just don’t get it.
Why do you, someone who is not me, think you know whether or not I’m more like a character than I do?
To be fair, I understand that people don’t always see their own flaws. Trust me, I’ve discussed the topic of knowing oneself many, many, many times with my friends (mainly Anna) and that has been brought up before. And I know that some people hate it when others project their identities (be they race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, disability, illness, or whatever) onto a character.
But I don’t need to know my flaws to know I feel connected to a character and the character doesn’t need to share my identity traits in canon for me to see them.
Take, for example, my identification with Jeff Winger from Community. I’m nothing like Jeff. I don’t want to just breeze through my college education to get it out of the way, I don’t command a room with my presence, and people don’t flock to me.
But I can connect to him because he is lonely, yet acts as if he wants to be alone. He doesn’t actively seek leadership positions because he wants to seem disinterested, but he likes being in charge and involved. He says he’s having a bad time at Greendale, but he doesn’t want to let go. He struggles with change and so do I.
Or, if you want a more complicated example: Dave Strider from the web-comic Homestuck. Sure, Dave had a much harder life than me, even before the Sburb nonsense went down. If we were to compare my complaints from childhood to Dave’s, I’d be in the same “trumped up nonsense” boat as his friends, because I know that whenever I complained, “no matter what [I] said it was so obvious [my family] cared about [me] deeply” (Hussie 9649). But that doesn’t mean I can’t relate to him.
When Dave told Dirk on page 9649 of Homestuck
(yes, I know that’s a long page number. It’s not even close to the end of the comic, I highly recommend reading the whole thing, it’s really good) about how he felt about his childhood, there was a part that hit close to home for me.
(bolding added by me for emphasis):
DAVE: what gets me is how long it took me to put all this together
DAVE: to stop seeing it as some kinda roughhousey and eccentric life i had but was otherwise normal
DAVE: it took years to deconstruct it all and put it back together to understand how fuckin mad i should be
DAVE: and in particular how stone cold deeply uncared for i was my whole life
DAVE: like… being merely “monitored” by a violent robot
DAVE: i only started getting it after spending a lot of time in person with a bunch of people who actually did care about me
DAVE: and i could start feeling like
DAVE: actually somewhat human for the first time
DAVE: instead of…
DAVE: some sort of runty afterthought to a household cabal of smutty puppets
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve been cared for my whole life and I know that. But that doesn’t stop the doubts that creep into my head. It doesn’t stop the feeling of discomfort.
Why do I relate to this? Because I spent years knowing I was different, knowing I had some sort of disorder and needed help, but I was denied time and again. It wasn’t until I knew I was autistic
(yes, I’m still on that autism thing, try and stop me from talking about it) that, in the words of Dave Strider, “i could start feeling like actually somewhat human for the first time.” I finally can get the help that I’ve needed and now that I’ve gotten to “deconstruct it all and put it back together,” I actually am mad. I’m mad because it took so long and I feel robbed. I could have had help sooner. I could have known this sooner, but no one bothered to believe me.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame anyone but fate and circumstance. If you’re a family member reading this, I’m going to quote Dave again from page 9651: “youre not resposible for any of this shit but im sorta implicitly tacking it on you anyway” and I’m sorry for that. I don’t blame you for how long it took for me to get help. But I’m still resentful, though not at you.
That’s not my point though. My point is that I may not have a lot in common with Dave on the surface, but I identify with him for a reason. Many reasons, actually, that I’m not going to name because it would take a long time. I could even argue that Dave could be on the Autistic Spectrum, but I don’t want to keep beating a dead horse
(though I may write about it on a later date if I get bored).
But the main reason I connect to Dave is this: Dave Strider never wanted to be a hero. He just wanted to get away from all the fighting and bullshit. But he stepped up when he had to, and that’s part of who he is.
And yes, maybe I am like Jeff Winger and secretly want to be needed, but I too have had times where I have had to step up to things I don’t want to do because no one else will.
If you ask me, that makes me more like Dave than just some kid who raps.