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Thread: Is it wrong to prefer certain traits etc. in fictional characters?

  1. #1

    Default Is it wrong to prefer certain traits etc. in fictional characters?

    Couldn't figure out how to title this thread at all. Not completely sure it even belongs here too. (If a moderator feels it doesn't, I apologize greatly. ) I originally was going to post this in Adult Baby because it involves my personal identity but I realized that's not going to be true to everyone and the discussion is a lot more then just my own personal identity as a Little Girl.

    The question I have is: "Is there any real merit to enjoying, associating, identifying, or even just relating to/with a character simply because you have the instant connection to them because of their gender, race, age, etc.?"

    Part of this is because of the surge of desire for representation in media. Everyone wants to be represented, but part of me wonders how much this is just an excuse to not relate to people you don't share those immediate connections with. (Not that everyone shouldn't be represented, don't see this as an argument against that. Just as a thought as to why people desire it so much.) Why should someone who is male only be able to connect with other males? I feel like this is even worse in fiction, where people's favorite characters tend to be ones they self-identify with on an even greater level then actual other people.

    Lately I've been thinking how many people would change their opinions of characters if they shared the age, race, gender, or sexual preference that they have or identify themselves as. Like honestly standing back and imagining a character you don't normally like, but changing those aspects of the character to match.. would your opinion of the character change? It it alright to do that?

    Part of it is because I'm honestly guilty of this myself. If I can explain my own experiences with it for a moment.. (If you aren't interested I'm giving that section italics.)

    If you asked my my favorite Marvel super hero I would tell you it's Katie Power. If you asked me my favorite character in Tales of Xillia it would be Elize Lutus. I have perfectly valid reasons for connecting with these characters, but it's impossible for me to deny that what allowed me to make those connections initially and the probable explanation for the passion in the connection is because of the age of the character and the gender of the characters, in my case young in age and female. Embarrassing to admit or not, I identify myself as a little girl so I find it easy to understand and connect with characters that are the same.

    But as time goes on, I look at characters and I kept help but asking the question I proposed earlier in my head. "If this character was a little girl, would I feel different about the character?" and what's sad is most of the time the honest answer is yes.

    It's easy to sort of validate doing this. It's easy to say, "Well if you change the age, gender, race or sexual preference of the character that changes the character, so it makes sense that the new character make be someone you would like more." but how much honestly would it actually change? As a transgendered female the idea of basing so much about characters on physical appearance or I'm sure even sexual preference bothers me and makes me think of the pain I felt from others doing that to me.. but then why do even I just naturally do so even knowing this? Is there any actual merit to this?

    (Also sorry for the etc. in my title, not sure why I forgot to remove it.)

  2. #2


    This is a very interesting topic, I have never really thought about this. I too enjoy relating to specific character types in literature and films. I like bad girls who are nasty and up front to other characters but cannot stand that type in the male form, it is probably because I find bad girls appealing on many levels. I thought, after reading your post, about male characters in films I like, but I dislike a certain male, and thought about them as females acting the same way. And your method has proven true, I would most likely feel drawn to them rather than disgust. I took it another stage further and swapped out hair colours and dress sense and found that if the characters appearance was slightly different I would like them more in the book, film or whatever.

    It does bring up interesting thoughts about how and why we relate to certain aspects of character traits, it is not even limited to fictional characters. A band I like has a singer who I used to dislike, although the band was good. The singer changed their appearance in terms of hair and dress sense and I started to engage them more as a person. I also think you can take it to the stage where if you find out about someone's sexual preferences, after thinking something else about them, you may be able to associate with them more. I wonder how many folks who come out as gay suddenly have more friends within groups they would not normally associate with. I know when I accepted my fetish side I found myself making friends with people I would normally consider freaky and would avoid. I now am able to break down social barriers because I broke my own barriers down.

    Really good topic and thanks for the brain workout Muffinz!

  3. #3


    This is classic political correctness/social progress vs reality.

    In an ideal world, we would judge people solely on the relevant attributes for which they are being judged and provide everyone a level playing field. In the real world, humans have preferences as well as negative association (prejudice), and even with a high degree of discipline, it's virtually impossible not to impart those feelings into other unrelated areas.

    When it comes to entertainment, it's probably not a big deal, although it can make one aware of their prejudices.

    When it comes to things where it does matter (i.e. the workplace and decision making), the best we can do is rely as much as possible on objective measures and avoid measures which are influenced by personal preference and prejudice.

  4. #4


    I don't personally see a problem with having preferences in fictional characters. On one level, literature is supposed to be a form of escape, or imagining ourselves in more exciting situations than we normally experience. Not only that, I imagine it can be a chance to connect with other aspects of ourselves.

    Preferring to read about little girls because that's what you identify as is completely understandable, because it's a chance to imagine yourself in your ideal body/role. It's also a chance to see yourself triumph over evil, or solve problems, or just plain escape from the boring parts of life. There are lots of reasons why you might want to do this, and why it's important to be able to see yourself in fiction. And it doesn't make you wrong for preferring to see yourself.

    And you're right - there's more to a person than their age, gender, sexual preference, etc. It's a person's personality that matters. However, we already have our personality, and that's unlikely to change a great deal. But for an LG, it's natural to want to imagine yourself in that little girl role. That's why I loved reading/watching Matilda so much - because not only did I identify a lot with the main character's personality, but because it represented the identity and social role I want to take on when I regress. If Matilda had been a twenty-year-old man, I'm sure I still would have liked the character, but I wouldn't feel quite as much identification because I'm already a guy. It's not an escape to that ideal self. So I think it's natural to imagine having what you want so badly.

    It may be more prominent for those of us who aren't 100% satisfied with our given bodies. We imagine escaping to the role we truly desire. I'd be interested in seeing if other ABs/LGs/trans people on here are most interested in characters who are more like our ideal selves than our current bodies. I think that's probably a big part of it, but I'd like to see if other people agree.

  5. #5


    I think you are just seeing life as it is.

    Some people prefer Mysteries, while others like sci-fi, while others like romance.

    The character that we identify with fits somewhere into your own personality or alter ego.

    I personally like westerns because it fits into my enjoyment of doing the hard job and being alone while you do it. I am not into gun fights, or going after bank robbers, but I do see the desire to "ruff it" to do the task at hand. I can also I identify with the characters because I have done some of the things that they talk about. "City Slickers" is a good example. The number of calves and lambs I have had to deliver by hand. Hell I even had delivered several mouse pups in my day, its a long story but you have to know that those mice were worth $10+K.

    So I think it is normal to identify with certain characters and not like others.

  6. #6


    I think it's fine and acceptable to have gender preferences in literature and movies. It's what makes us human, and adds to the dichotomy of the mix that makes us who we are. I'm male and so I tend to identify with other male characters. I have read some very good stories however, with heroines and have enjoyed both the story line and the female character. The craft of a very good writer can do that, make their character get into your being.

    I tended to identify better with boys, when I taught at school, but I made it a conscious point to not let that get in the way, and often, I was moved by some of the girl students. As was said, our preferences should never manifest at the work place, and for me, especially not at school. Every child deserved all of my love and concern that I could give. I hope I did just that.

  7. #7


    Really interesting topic, Muffinz.

    I think that maybe it's in that you're identifying with a character. That is, you see traits in a character that you identify with and seek to model yourself, (or your little self?) after that. From my albeit limited understanding of psychology, most people actually seek out role models. And as long as these role models are positive, then there is no harm being done. But why do we tend to seek out familiar forms to model after? This is common. Boys tend to find male role models and girls tend to find female role models. But it's not always that simple. It's what we want to be. Typically, boys will find male role models - except when that boy is transgender. Or, in a less common-sense example, a white friend I had in high school decided at some point that she hated her own race and only liked Hispanic people. She dated only Hispanic guys, listened to Hispanic music, and her role models were all Hispanic. This is more a personal preference here than the more deep-seeded brain mechanisms involved in gender-identity, but it still stands to reason that people tend to model themselves after whatever it is they wish they could be.

    With favorite characters, I have to say one of two things happens. Either, you identify with them, or you are using them as a role model. In either case, people in general would tend towards either what they already are, or what they wish they could become. So it really doesn't surprise me that gender, race, and even ages are factors that go into who we identify or model ourselves after. I don't think this is a bad thing. I do think it's honest and very thoughtful of you that you noticed this incongruity with your normally more open-minded self. Just because you tend to identify with a certain type of character, though, doesn't mean you loathe the other types. I wouldn't call you a racist, or a sexist, or an ageist. Not at all! It's just quite a lot easier and more natural to pick out a role model who you already have at least some things in common with, and then develop yourself from that point forward. So, I'm not surprised a little girl identifies with, and seeks out role models with, other little girl characters.

  8. #8


    As a writer myself, I have always noticed I identity with characters who have somewhat realistic traits as I do in real life (by somewhat i mean better built than I am haha). Recently after reaching close to 900 characters in my comic series, I gave much thought about them and realized, a lot of the main characters were white male straight teenagers. Soon I decided to make profile changes to those characters in my mind. I even gave in to hesitancy regarding sexual orientation and subtly made two characters have a homosexual relationship, even though it is not mentioned in the stories, they are indeed gay and in a relationship. One group of characters features three males and two females. Recently I decided to mix it up and allow them to vary by ethnicity. Heck, even one of the characters in that group is asexual. Though in my own writing, I have allowed variations to the characters profiles such as race, gender, and even sexual orientation, when reading I seem to instantly imagine myself in that character's shoes. Take a novel where the main character, a male of unknown ethnicity, is on an adventure, I will automatically fill in the blanks to my own profile. Some believe that could be racial profiling and discrimination, but I disagree (and believe me, I have endured those taunts when proposing my ideas.)

    On this topic, I want to bring in the act of varying character profiles and representation for characters in movie adaptions. One example is the upcoming movie The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Electro is played by black Jamie Foxx. Yes, I am one for comic book continuity, but after seeing the various trailers, I actually thought it was a good change up of representation. And not to mention from what I seen, Foxx is actually quite good. Seems to enjoy the villain role. Also I heard rumors in which Andrew Garfield, who plays our web-slinging hero, proposed the concept of Peter Parker being bi-sexual and having a homosexual relationship with a male version of Mary Jane. My views on LGBT do not matter, so the matter of saying f*** no to that idea does not represent any homophobia or bigotry. I just merely do not like the idea of changing characters so drastically from the origins. If Garfield wants to go play in another movie of original value and have a homosexual relationship, fine. I'm cool with that. If it has a plot that interests me, I will go see it. But I do not like the idea of changing characters so drastically from the original ideas, especially superheroes I grew up on and loved.

    Speaking of which, the new Fantastic Four reboot coming Actually, maybe. I will give it a chance. Actually, no I won't. My idea for the cast is very very different. I actually want Dean Norris to play The Thing. But having Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm can be interesting in some ways, such as the idea of an adoption. But if they just say out of nowhere that they are biologically related, I'm going to say BS and walk out of the theater with very little hope for Marvel.

    I apologize for the little tangent I went on about profiling for characters and all that, but I figured this was my first real opportunity to voice my opinion about such concerns.

  9. #9


    So first of all, no it's not really 'wrong' per se, it's probably natural to form attachments to characters you see something of yourself in. And the closer they get to your experiences and your identity, you'll probably be more attached, because you can relate more fully. So in itself, no, it is not a bad thing to enjoy characters you see yourself in, and enjoy them more because 'they're like me!'

    To address this:

    Everyone wants to be represented, but part of me wonders how much this is just an excuse to not relate to people you don't share those immediate connections with.
    It is normal and natural to relate to people who are like you. But some people have more characters to choose from than others. White straight men have a LOT more examples (and more varied examples) of 'people like me' to choose from. White straight women have less, but still more than a queer disabled PoC. And so on.

    People who are not WSMs are pretty much forced to relate to people who don't share many/any connections with them if they want to enjoy most media. Representation allows them to have a character they can instantly relate to, for the same reasons mentioned earlier (the more similar a character is to who you are, the more likely you are to relate to them).

    More than that, we internalize messages that come from society and media. This has been seen time and time again: representation is so important for children especially, for them to see people like THEM achieving and being respected and important. It teaches them they are worth something. If you see the group you belong to (Y) being background characters, sidekicks occasionally, maybe even just solely there as love interests for the main character... and then people from group X are portrayed as heroes and main characters in nearly every single piece of media... you may well internalize some unhealthy ideas about what you, as a member of group Y, can and cannot do.

    So what I'm trying to say is this: while it is fine to enjoy representation of people like yourself, you should probably try to appreciate when it's given to other groups who need it more (I personally try and make more of an effort to relate to characters from groups with less representation!) You personally may get nothing from it, but remembering how much of an impact that character is probably having on somebody else might help!

    Remember that while you may not relate as much as you could to xyz character, there are other characters out there for you to relate to. Even if there's a lack of representation in the groups you belong to as well, it helps nobody to take away representation from another poorly-represented group. It is okay to feel instant connection with characters who resemble you! But try not to shut out other kinds of characters, especially when they have much lower rates of representation.

    Sorry, I rambled a bit there! :P Also representation no longer looks like a word :/

  10. #10


    This is totally normal, and I think most writers are very aware of it, designing thier characters to be either broadly appealing or appealing to an audience they have in mind. This is not a perpetuation of racial, gender, etc., stereotypes (why does everything have to come back to that?), it's just how our minds work.

    Think about it: Would you enjoy a sci-fi novel written from the standpoint of a six-eyed, three-legged, green-skinned alien on a world utterly different from our own? Probably not. Why? Because you'd be distracted, too busy assimilating the superficial aspects of the character and setting to appreciate the depth of the story.

    Listen to screenwriters talk about how they design characters. One of my favorites is an interview with Jim Henson where he describes how he designed the main protagonists for The Dark Crystal. They underwent a gazillion revisions trying to get in just enough human traits to make sure the audience was hooked. This is just how stories and storytelling work. No racial bullshit or any of that. We all live on Earth, yes, but that doesn't mean our worlds are the same.

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