JUST LIKE ME
When I mentioned a little about my own background while urging people not to watch Russian Dolls last week, it prompted a reader to Tweet me: You should write about this; at the very least a series of posts on the blog. I'd love to read all about it.
I was going to write back and say I didn't think my past as a seven year old Soviet Jewish immigrant traversing Europe by trains and buses sometimes guarded by the Jewish Defense League on motorcycles mounted with machine guns, was particularly compatible with a blog dedicated to remembering and keeping quintessentially American soap operas alive, and instead planned to invoke a soap character that was most like me for reference.
But, then I realized there was no soap character like me. Ever.
As the mom of three kids who are interfaith, inter-cultural and interracial, I am constantly advised by experts in the field that it is imperative my children have fictional characters in books, movies, and on television that they can relate to. The implication is that these characters must be similarly interfaith, intercultural, and interracial.
Well, guess what? That just ain't going to happen.
At the moment, my two younger children are deeply into He-Man and She-Ra (you can thank their mid-30s uncle for introducing those 1980s cartoons into their lives). My oldest loves Diary of a Wimpy Kid and The Hunger Games.
At no point, did anyone say, "Gosh, Mommy, I sure wish He-Man were a Jewish African-American like me!"
While there have been periodic Jewish characters on daytime (OLTL's Nora, GL's Drew and DOOL's Robin the most prominent), I certainly didn't let their scarcity keep me from a lifelong love of daytime drama.
For me, soaps - all of TV, really - was less about seeing a reflection of myself (I learned very early that wasn't going to happen; during my childhood, the only Russian-speaking characters on TV were either evil or foolish KGB spies) and more about finding characters I wanted to be like. (GH's Anna Devane. I really wanted to be GH's Anna Devane. And fight those evil/foolish KGB - no, sorry, DVX - spies while swinging my gorgeous, waist length, raven hair and looking fabulous in a pair of impossibly tight jeans.)
Which, in a long-winded way, leads me to the question I wanted to ask today: What does it mean to "relate" to a fictional character? Do you seek out favorites who are identical to you in external ways? Or is something else more important?
Tell me in the Comments below!