The Magic of Television: Finding Yourself on Screen
Girl Meets World
Published: Friday, February 15, 2013
Updated: Friday, February 15, 2013 02:02
Two weeks ago, while editing my tribute to "30 Rock," Copy Chief Hunter Main mocked me for comparing myself to Liz Lemon, Tina Fey’s character. "Every girl thinks she’s Liz Lemon," he said. At the time I replied, "No, I really am Liz Lemon," but he wasn’t exactly wrong — a simple look at Tumblr will show that many girls believe that they’re just like Liz.
But I think that’s half the point; entertainment is often at its best when a character says something and you think, "Yes! That’s me!" Every television series, film or book that I’ve become obsessed with has at least one character that I’ve had this "a-ha" moment with.
Recently, I fell in love with Lena Dunham’s "Girls" for this reason, something my mother probably wouldn’t be too happy to know. Don’t worry, Mom — I don’t have a stalker ex-boyfriend, I’ve never done drugs and my job isn’t that miserable. That’s the magic of television — though the titular "Girls" lead lives much more debaucherous than my own, there are still these connecting moments, things they say that sound as if I wrote them myself.
Sometimes Dunham’s character, Hannah, does something wildly narcissistic or says something particularly self-loathing, and I see myself in her. Sometimes Shoshanna is naive or manic, and I see myself there, too. Marnie explained how she wishes that someone would just tell her what to do for the rest of her life so she can just be happy — that’s the quintessential 20-something problem. I don’t want to be like these characters — who are all unlikable and experts at turning their lives into messes — but I am.
I’m not the only one who sees myself in characters — if I were, quizzes that ask "which Disney princess are you?" would be less popular. My friends and I frequently discuss which Harry Potter character we would be (I’m obviously Nymphadora Tonks — bubbly and smart with a dangerous, unrequited love streak). I’ve also forced my friends to tell me which "Community" character I would be — apparently I combine the uptight but upbeat Annie and the overzealous and overbearing Britta with a touch of the nerdy Abed. My brother once told me that if I were a character on "Friends," I would be Chandler because my jokes aren’t funny, but it’s funny that I think they are. Chandler, coincidentally, is my favorite Friend, so this didn’t sting as much as he’d hoped it would.
But in those cases, it’s a little easier to see myself in the characters because our situations — minus all their specific eccentricities — aren’t so wildly different. The characters on "Girls" and "Friends" all live in my hometown. Harry Potter, for all its magic, is about a high school — I may have never faced He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, but I’ve done my fair share of boring history reading.
Even more interesting is finding myself in characters who seem radically different and are in completely insane situations. Take "Doctor Who," a show about a time-travelling alien with an inexplicable English accent. Though I have just one heart, have been alive for a fraction of his 1,200 years and have yet to save the world, I see myself in the Doctor. He’s emotional and needy and can’t stand when things don’t go his way or when his friends leave him. The universe has never literally torn apart me and my one true love, but his (at times over the top) emotions resonate with me. The Doctor isn’t the only character on that show I’ve connected with, though — there’s Rory Williams, the 2,000-year-old Roman Centurion who is always the one who loves others more. Who knew that I’d have so much in common with someone so impossible?
There’s just something incredible about that moment when an alien hundreds of miles and thousands of years away says the words you always wish you could have put together in a sentence. That’s the magic of entertainment, the weird connections that help you empathize with these over-the-top characters when their experiences seems so absurd.
So though I’ve never done cocaine with my flamboyant roommate, fallen in love with a werewolf or travelled to the end of time, those who have are some of the flawed, needy, nerdy and hysterical characters I see myself in and who keep me coming back for more.
But really — I am Liz Lemon.
Victoria Edel is a junior the College. GIRL MEETS WORLD appears every other Friday in the guide.