Saturday, 16 July 2011

The Reluctant Geek - Model musings...

So in the spirit of revisiting unto others the crimes that have been committed against you, I asked some of the children I teach this week about their role models.

In amongst the usual cavalcade of footballers, pop stars and reality television celebrities, there were a few more interesting answers. I have a new found measure of respect for the quiet little boy who cited Leonardo Da Vinci as one of his defining influences, and a healthy dose of caution in my dealings with the Alan Sugar wannabe and the Boris Johnson admirer. (If only I were kidding…)

It all got me thinking though, I’m pretty sure that back when my teachers were tormenting me with the same questions, I generally went with the stock answer of "my Mum is my role model" (Oh come on, it was the Nineties, who else was I going to pick, one of the Spice Girls?!) Much as I love and adore my Mum though, if I’d been braver there were other options. They just all had the minor disadvantage of being, well, y’know, not real.

So this week I want to talk honestly about Role Models. Nope, not the LARP movie with Seann William Scott. (Talking honestly about that would only require the one line: “A bit rubbish, but somehow funny anyway.”) I want to talk about those figures from the worlds of science fiction and fantasy who I longed to be like throughout my teenage years, and my twenties, and the very, very small amount (barely worth counting really) of my thirties I have thus far experienced.

The only place to start with this really is the torch-wielding, redheaded skeptic herself, Agent Dana Scully. I think it’s fair to say that as a teenager I loved her. I didn’t care that Scully was a bad ass medical doctor while I got queasy at the sight of someone double jointed, or that she remained steadfast in her lack of belief even as little green men did somersaults across her living room floor. It wasn’t about the bad suits, the raised eyebrows or the ability to run in her (infinitely sensible) heels. In fact, a little bit like first love, it’s sort of hard to analyse what precisely it was about her. But some indefinable spark meant that I spent more than the occasional rainy Tuesday afternoon of double maths fantasing about capering around with Mulder (oh boy, did I fantasise about the capering with Mulder) and about being clever without having to apologise for or hide it. Maybe Scully was the first person to teach me that you could be cool without being ‘cool’ and I will always be grateful for that.

There are some schools of thought that would suggest you are supposed to grow out of the fervent adoration and identification with fictional characters that afflicts you when you’re thirteen. If this is really the case, then things aren’t looking good for me. These days, my role models are a little more eclectic: Arya Stark from a Song of Ice and Fire causes me to cheer, cry and tremble in turn despite the fact that she’s an eight year old girl at the start of the books. Age aside though, Arya is brave and I admire courage more than almost anything else.

Similarly, it might be a bit weird but there are some days when I quite fancy being some kind of female version of Sherlock Holmes. Not the old school version so much as Benedict Cumberbatch’s wonderfully clear-eyed, socially dismissive, flash-minded portrayal. (It’s ok to want to be him *and* want to be with him, right?!)

I suppose one of the differences between fictional and real life is that fiction can act as a magnifying glass, enlarging and intensifying those qualities that are interesting or admirable, and providing characters with a setting which necessitates their demonstration. Ultimately, I’m of the belief that if someone moves you to try to be braver, kinder, cleverer or more determined it really doesn’t matter a single bit whether they are a real person, or the product of human imagination. We see everyone through the lens of our own perceptions anyway, and in doing so almost everyone we know is a fictitious version of themselves to a greater or lesser extent. It is, as they say, hard to know another human heart. The best thing we can hope for is the chance to develop our own hearts, and sometimes the intimacy of storytelling is one of the things that helps us to do this.

This week, Kate is wondering “Why does it always rain on me?” Answers on a postcard...

1 comment:

  1. I identify a lot with Rincewind from Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. He's the coward's coward! I was just the right sort of age, and I found a graphic novel of The Colour Of Magic in the school library. There was no hope for me after that!