I love rewatching shows like Community, Friends, How I Met Your Mother, Brooklyn 99, One Day at a Time, Gilmore Girls, and Parks and Recreation for mainly one reason: the characters.
The storyline doesn’t have to be great; it’s the characters that I fall in love with. Characters that I can relate to, get life advice from, and cry real emotional tears for.
Now, I don’t know if it’s an introvert thing, a film/TV lover thing, a social anxiety thing, a writer thing, or just a person-in-a-modern-world thing, but this is me: I relate to fictional characters more than real people. I enjoy the “company” of fictional characters over real people.
And so, as I like to do, I wanted to dissect why this might be.
Here’s why I think that I relate more to characters than real people:
I am an author, a novelist. I write stories and create characters all the time. It’s my norm and I love it. Naturally, to be a storyteller, you need to listen to stories. To be able to create characters, you need to see characters displayed in front of you. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why I relate to, enjoy, and admire fictional characters so much. I love seeing how a character can come to life.
Nuance and morals
When crafting a story, writers often want to get across certain ideas, morals, and meaning in the narrative. And of course, a narrative is usually based upon characters and their lives. We can all learn things from film and TV shows, especially ones with characters that feel real to us, or who we admire.
Seeing how things pan out for them, helps me to gain insight into my own life and my life choices or the reasons behind each circumstance.
Friends I never had
Being the person I am, or maybe just being in the place that I am in my life right know, I have a small number of friends. I don’t really feel like I have people I could turn to in a time of sadness or strife. I have my partner and my family, but not a friend equivalent.
However, the TV characters that I love are like the friends I don’t have. They can keep me company, help me through a crisis, and make me laugh. It may sound sad, but they really do. I think that’s why I love certain shows: the characters are real and they’re there for me when I need them.
People like me
I often feel alone in my way of thinking. I often feel like there’s only one of me in the world. Of course, this is completely untrue and dramatic, but I bet I’m not the only one who feels this way at times. However, with the characters and the shows that I love, I’ve found people like me.
They give me hope in the fact that one day I will meet people more like me. People who become close friends of mine, who understand and appreciate me in ways that others haven’t before them.
Archetypes and tropes
I’m such a Monica, an Annie Edison, a Lesley Knope, a Lily Aldrin (etc.) If you don’t know, these are main characters from the TV shows listed above and I love each of them; I relate to each of them. I’m not exactly like them. I wouldn’t say that I am such a stickler for rules like Monica, Annie and Lesley, but I do relate to them. I admire and enjoy their characters and their archetypes.
Archetypes are “a typical example of a certain person or thing.” So, this would be the good girl, the bad boy, the misfit, the loner, the athlete, the bookworm, the rebel, the popular girl, the jock, the fool, and so on.
Many shows, books, and films have played around with these archetypes/ character tropes over the years, but if you take a moment, oftentimes most of the main characters in a narrative can be linked to a recognisable archetype.
Again, this relates back to writing for me, and so naturally I enjoy seeing it. But it’s also very interesting to see these archetypes; see how they relate to one another, and see how it affects the narrative. And finding who you like the most and connect to the most is very interesting, too.
TV makes sense
Unlike life, TV often has meaning or a nice neat ending. TV is well-thought out and you can track a logical pattern of events. But life doesn’t work in quite the same way. It’s often confusing and scary and just plain awful.
I think I relate to characters and narratives so much more than real life people because yes, they make more sense. Their reasoning, their thoughts, their behaviours can be analysed and understood, even if you don’t agree with what they do. I can’t say the same for real people, at times.
Misfits have happy endings
In these shows, the misfits find unlikely friendship groups that become more like their family. I cannot tell you how much I wish this could happen to me! To finally find a place with great people; where I feel comfortable to be me and feel loved and supported and able to have endless shenanigans together!
It’s all very idealistic and perhaps a little infantile, but it’s a nice idea.
Answer life questions
As I say, relating to and admiring characters is a great way to also get answers and insights into your own life. If you watch a character who is in a similar predicament to yourself, you can find answers (or at least options) on what to do yourself.
I’m not saying you should base your life decisions on what happens on TV! But we can all admit to seeing some “signs” from what we witness on TV.
Understand the world
For me, good writing comes when you can take real life and detail it accurately. To take real emotions and life situations and make people feel the reality of that on the screen or on the page. To create real people, not just characters. To mould real relationships that people admire, and real pain that people feel.
I think that watching these particular TV shows over and over means that they are doing all of the above in the best way. They are taking real life and helping us to understand what it means to live through things (or as people) that we ourselves may never experience firsthand.
Understanding the world and people through a script or the pages of a book is truly special. It’s a level of writing, character creation, and narrative structure that I aim to achieve in my career.
Whether you read this post because you’re a writer, a fan of the blog, or just an average Joe like me who loves watching TV, I bet you have had times when you relate to characters more than real people. And ultimately, that is just down to great storytelling and character creation by amazing writers.
So, thank you, writers of the shows listed above for bringing people into my life that I shall never forget.
And to all the writers out there, I hope you can achieve this too one day.