The Importance of Role Models

The definition of a role model is “a person looked to by others as an example to be imitated” (definition provided via Google search). It does not specify gender, race or age, nor does it clarify whether the person is good or evil (and depending on one’s point of view, “good” and “evil” are subjective terms). A role model’s job (as it were) is to inspire those around them to be more than they could be (hopefully for the better and not for the worse). A role model can be anyone – a relative, friend, historical figure and / or a celebrity, whether as themselves or as a fictional character, and the expectations that come with the job are monumental and perhaps overwhelming (especially to those who did not expect or intend to be role models).

So this is a quasi-continuation of last week’s entry, written before the revelation of the 13th Doctor and the Season Premiere of Game of Thrones, so there’ll be some quasi-rambling ranting (though always PG-rated) about the former and mild fangirling (Is that a verb? Well, it is now) about the latter, with a dash of how all of this fits into the writing process.

So let’s dive in.

Spoiler alert – if you don’t know who the 13th Doctor will be, watched any of the 12th Doctor’s adventures, or if you haven’t seen the season premiere of Game of Thrones yet

Though at this point, if you care about either or both of these series, you should know by now.

Really.

Where have you been?

Another warning: possible ranting / venting ahead, based on presumptions and inferences drawn from things that have been posted in seriousness (and not satire).

Anyway.

So the 13th Doctor will be a woman – Jodie Whittaker to be precise – the first time the titular character changed genders (though not the first time a Time Lord has changed genders – and when that happened, there wasn’t a massive uproar of disapproval or spiteful comments across social media or in the press). I’m not really familiar with the actress or the roles she’s played prior to the announcement, but I’m sure she’ll do well, or as well as possible, given the backlash from a certain section of the fandom (though their Tweets and comments have made me question their fandom credibility), both male and female. It seems to me (and I know I’m probably making some huge presumptions about these so-called “fans”) that the men are upset that their role model is no longer a White Male, and the women are not happy that their role model is no longer a potential love interest. This presumption is geared more to those who have seen the show since its revival in 2005 and only know the Doctor through David Tennant’s and Matt Smith’s versions of the Time Lord (with further stereotypical presumptions that they “skipped” Christopher Eccleston and thought Peter Capaldi was “too old”).

It’s amusing and a tiny bit frightening to read the  negative, hateful Tweets and comments that have flooded social media since the announcement when the actress has yet to do anything in the role aside from the minute video introducing her as the next Doctor. It’s also quite ironic since the concept of change is central to the show and its titular character – after all, the Doctor is an alien and can regenerate – change the outward appearance, while keeping the core aspects of personality and memory. There have been female Time Lords throughout the series, so it’s not as if it’s an entirely foreign concept.

Doctor Who fans are passionate about the show and have “their Doctor” (for various reasons), and my final thoughts (for the moment) about this is to see what she does with the role before judging and / or condemning her.

The key is in the writing and the direction new showrunner Chris Chibnall takes the journey of the Idiot With a Box.

I wish Jodie Whittaker all the luck in the universe in taking on such an iconic character.

Steps off soapbox… for the time being.

Onward to Game of Thrones and its season premiere, which opened with a startling (and awesome) scene, and mostly served as exposition for the events to follow. Now that the TV adaptation has caught up with the existing novels, everyone is on an even playing field – no one (aside from the writers) knows what will happen next.  Another journey into unexplored territory, as almost anything can happen.

OK, so not as much fangirling as expected, but the season’s just started – there will most likely be more in the coming weeks.

The North Remembers.

Back to how all this ties into the Writing Process and to the Works In Progress. It is the responsibility of the writer to create fictional characters (of any gender, age, race, creed, etc.) to whom reader can relate and with whom they can empathize, and maybe in the process of doing so create role models. It’s not an absolute requirement, but it would be a wonder if a fictional character can inspire kindness in real people.

What a world that would be.

Not quite sure if any of this makes any sense, but it is what it is. Hopefully there’ll be more coherent updates on the aforementioned works in progress.

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Questions of Gender and Age

Among the necessary aspects of the character building portion of crafting a story is to assess and decide upon the basics, gender and age to start. The rest usually follow quickly afterward – ethnicity / race (especially when writing science fiction or fantasy), along with the physical features. The genre in which the story is set and the target audience play a factor in that if the story is YA (young adult) or is intended for children (of varying ages), then there’s a set boundary on the age of characters (or at least the protagonist / antagonist) is pretty much set, though the gender can go either which way, depending on the message the story carries and/or the whimsy of the writer. The supporting characters can be of any age or gender, depending on the needs of the narrative arc.

For (most) other genres, determining the characters’ age and gender (and the rest of the internal and external traits) is a bit more flexible, though the audience for which the story is aiming plays its part. Conforming with or challenging established stereotypes also plays its role in the plotting, pondering and (eventual) writing process. Flipping gender roles and / or having the characters be of a non-traditional or non-typical age has its merits: it has the potential to bring a new (or at least creative) angle of on a narrative that has existed for eons (i.e. coming of age, boy meets girl, fish out of water, etc.). Representation matters, as the world is a far more diverse place than it has ever been. This only addresses human characters – inserting non-human (alien or mythical) beings gives the story another layer or nuance, and can bring about a different perspective on things.

The impetus for this topic has more to do with the upcoming announcement of the 13th Doctor in Doctor Who than the political and social debate / discussion of gender identity and omnipresent issue of ageism. I do my best not to delve into political matters here, as it’s not my intention to use this platform as a way of expressing opinions about the Real World and all its issues. This blog is about fictional world(s) – ones I have created / am creating / will create, and those of which I’m a fangirl (of varying degrees). The seventh series of Game of Thrones starts tomorrow too (so next week’s entry will no doubt have more fangirl-ish musings).

The FanGirl Meter (patent pending) might need another upgrade after tomorrow – I’m not ready to say goodbye to Twelve just yet (and whoever follows Peter Capaldi will have enormous shoes to fill). It matters not to me whether the new Doctor will be old or young, male or female – so long as the next Doctor is British (or Irish), then I’m all right with that.

Anyway.

Deciding on the gender and age of the protagonist(s) / antagonist(s) shapes the story and the perspective on the characters’ relationships and their overall journey. These days it probably shouldn’t matter whether the hero / villain is a young, old (or somewhere in between); nor should it matter whether they are male or female (or, again somewhere in between – as stated earlier – representation matters). The dynamic between the characters and how they react to the situations in which they find themselves should not hinge upon accepted stereotypes, unless it’s being used to commentate on it.

Different is not (always or necessarily) dangerous.

It’s just another way of looking at the world and those who reside within.

If we can accept that, then the world can be a better place for everyone.