You’ve stumbled upon Circle of Jerks, our sporadically published, weekly feature in which we ask the questions that really matter to our writers and readers.
It’s a time to take a break from our busy lives and revel in the one thing that we all share: a deep, passionate love of movies. If you have a question you’d like answered by the FSR readers and staff, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What character do you see yourself the most in? Thanks. – Donald B.
The answer to this can vary depending on who I’m around at the time. When I’m with my older brother I think the Gordie LaChance / Chris Chambers relationship from Stand By Me is a pretty good depiction of our personalities (me being Gordie). My brother isn’t quite the trouble-maker that Chris is and I don’t quite have the fear of embracing my positive qualities like Gordie, but I can empathize with their complementary character dynamics – Chris being supportive, nurturing and affirmative and Gordie being more open, honest and confident when around Chris; and together they just form one big smartass.
In fact, even though we don’t know much about either as an adult I relate enough to their pre-adolescent selves that I can imagine what their adult characters are/were like.
However, if I’m not around my brother it’s hard to find something as concrete or beneath the surface. Minus the looks, I can see a little of myself in Jack Traven from Speed. I don’t typically run the show but I’m equally comfortable and confident as a lead or just team player, my partner is usually smarter and wittier than I, I offer suggestions of why something will or will not work if I’m knowledgeable, I can think outside the box, I may not be smarter than my opponent but I enjoy pissing them off, I’d get down and dirty under a moving bus if I needed to, I’d chase down the bad guy, I’d ask him a stupid pop quiz question, and if I fail at dismantling a bomb I’ll probably respond with some kind of sarcastic remark if you ask me how it went.
Then, after it’s all said and done, I’ll make out with Sandra Bullock.
Many characters in movies possess attributes I wish I had (or aspire to have) rather than those I see myself as currently having. I often go to movies mainly to see people who aren’t like myself. That said, there have been a few characters I at one point identified a bit too much with, for better or worse.
In my early twenties while still in college, despite being neither Jewish or a New Yorker, I saw a great deal of myself (both vainly and self-deprecatingly) in Woody Allen’s Alvy Singer of Annie Hall: often oversensitive but unapologetically untraditionally masculine, intellectually adept but not without smug self-righteousness, and able to mine social existence with a unique and dry sense of humor.
Singer was a unique cinematic character that I saw so much of myself in to the point of extreme discomfort; he possessed everything that made me horribly insecure about myself (pessimism, premature dependency in relationships) while being simultaneously characterized by those attributes I saw in myself, or at least aspired to have (intelligence, humor).
Alvy is far from the type of cinematic entity I would like to model myself after, but I saw a lot of me in him, and that is both self-deprecating and an unearned pat on my own back. Just as I don’t know how I survived college with my own Protestant-raised, Anglo-Saxon brand of Allenesque neuroses, I can’t for the life of me figure out what Annie saw in Alvy.
Though Belle (from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, naturally) would be my preferred answer, the girl just has too much courage for me to truly say I see myself completely in her. So, I’ll go with a somewhat more honest answer: Corey from Empire Records. Played by Liv Tyler, the girl is all about being perfect, so much so that another character throws the trait at her in a very long and heartfelt rant. She may not actually have it all together, but she sure does try her best to make it seem like she does! Ok, I definitely don’t have her particular side interest (I’m high on life, man), nor do I have the guy whimpering after me from the sidelines (I think..) but the seemingly together, quiet, shy, academic thing? Totally me.
However, let’s get two things clear though – I don’t have the annoying voice and I have no plans to seduce Rex Manning.
The point of any good film is to construct characters in which the viewer can see him or herself on some level. For example, as a child of the 70s and 80s, the most defining movie series of my youth were the original Star Wars films. The brilliance of these movies is that I saw a bit of myself in almost everyone. I could identify with the young upstart in Luke Skywalker as well as the rugged scoundrel in Han Solo. I even saw a bit of myself in Darth Vader. And Chewbacca too, because that dude had one hell of a temper.
As I’ve grown older, this fact still remains that I see myself in the characters of many films, whether it be James Bond, Neo in The Matrix or someone more dramatic and down-to-earth like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life. Now, these are all pop culture delusions, and any similarities to international spies, cyberpunk heroes who know kung fu or beloved home-town heroes who run the wonderful old Building and Loan are absolute bollocks to anyone outside of my bald, little head. But like I said, that’s the point of a good story.
In reality, I lead a rather boring life, so I probably have more in common with some secondary character than a lead star. Think of Kevin Smith’s character in Live Free or Die Hard… the sedentary, homebody fat guy that the hero goes to for help. I’m not a computer whiz or anything, but these characters are usually chubby and often add a level of comic relief, which I have been known to do in real life. Unfortunately, like George Wendt in Dreamscape or William Forsythe in Cloak & Dagger, they are usually killed off, and that kinda scares me.
I used to identify with the unnamed narrator of Fight Club (aka Jack’s Cold Sweat, Jack’s Raging Bile Duct, etc.)
When I first saw Fight Club, I was unhappily toiling away in a decent-paying but soul-murdering environment. Fight Club was a revelation that I wasn’t the only one who wanted more out of life than I had been taught to expect. Rather than launching an anarchist terrorist campaign against corporate America, I wound up in journalism.
More recently, I’ve found Steve — the monkey in Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs — to be a kindred spirit. Like Steve, I enjoy Gummi Bears and have a hairy chest. And, as my fellow Rejects can attest, I often contribute to team endeavors by banging a bucket with a spoon and yelling, “Helping!”
Under the veil of self-delusion, my answer would, of course, undoubtedly be King Kong from King Kong (the original, and the Peter Jackson version, but not the 1976 version). On a more realistic tilt, I most closely see myself in Will Bloom from Big Fish.
He’s got the nervousness that only a writer can own, but despite his disbelief in the magical, he seems to be developing into a magician himself.
I thankfully can’t relate to the situation of seeing my father on his death bed, but I think I rely on my father as much as Bloom does and see him as a bit of a super hero who only recently developed the gloss of a foolish old man whom I’m still very much in need of approval from.
Will is committed to a family who is warm and loving to him, and struggling with the discord that comes from growing up while maintaining a childlike wonder about the world. Fortunately, he is slowly becoming his father and opening his eyes to the fantastic nature of the life around him.