How I stopped living like I was in a movie
I was partially raised by the media. Movies and television had a profound effect on me as a teenager. Like your average awkward, gangly thirteen-year-old, consuming stories on the screen and skimming for enchanting and eye-catching female protagonists became a standard pastime.
Each time I found my newest obsession, I would (usually unsuccessfully) attempt to completely and utterly become them. Over the years, this consequently resulted in a patch-worked wardrobe that looked like a jumble sale, and endless nights of scuttling around my little creaky bedroom rearranging, blu-tacking and tearing down posters.
I channeled a character a day, with iTunes playlists to match and all. One day I was the mascara-thick and brooding Margot Tenenbaum, the next I was the artistic Clementine Kruczynski, the next, the whimsical Juno Guff. My my surroundings, my life and my mood would be similarly colored to perceive things in a way that fit with the stylistic elements of their respective worlds. Depending on whether I was an awkward coming-of-age character, a beguiling temptress or an off-the-rails bad girl, I’d model my decisions or my “storyline” after whoever I happened to be feeling. While I was always a little too timid to go all out with behaving like my characters, I’d maybe spend 20 minutes longer on my homework if I was going for Violet Baudelaire. It felt like an endless game of internal dress-up.
I wanted to be everybody and ended up being nobody. In reality, I’d flit between different outfit choices in the morning, trying to decide who I was going to “be’”that day, and end up somewhere in a mix-and-match sort of middle. And all those seminal teenage life experiences? I missed them, or at least postponed them for years, desperately trying to work out what my story was and who I would model my decisions after. I kind of ended up hanging around in this weird limbo, torn between all of these behaviors and experiences that seemed to make up this perfect and ordered tapestry of who you were.
And there are countless young adults I have spoken to who have had similar experiences. I think part of it comes from those fake dichotomies in movies and television. Women are either cheerleaders or band geeks, stuck-up or trashy. “You can’t be pretty and smart,” they tell us. “You can’t be sexy and cute.” ‘
But in the real world, we are three-dimensional, living, breathing humans. We have complex and diverse wants, needs and personalities, and shouldn’t be made to feel that we are living in internal conflict because of our own infinite variation. Why waste time deciding which role to pick? I now know I can be every character at once. I don’t need to follow a storyline that fits a certain theme. I am messy and incongruous, and I like it.There really isn’t anything wrong with just being yourself—other people don’t have to have us worked out in 90 minutes. That’s the difference between fiction and real life.
Micha Frazer-Carroll is a London-based writer with a passion for feminism and BME issues. When she’s not fighting crime, you will undoubtedly find her tinkering away on the piano, guitar, or the keys of her laptop. You can find her screaming into the echo chamber that is twitter here .
[Image via Touchstone pictures]