Monday, April 11, 2011

Character Development, Not Just For Tween Shows and Sitcoms

Cast of Hannah Montana
So my nine year old daughter Emma and I have been talking a lot lately about the various tween shows on Disney and Nickelodeon - you know them - Wizards of Waverly Place, Sonny With A Chance, Victorious, and of course, the pioneers, Hannah Montana and iCarly.

iCarly Cast
I was asserting my opinion that Hannah Montana was by far one of the best written shows and therefore, I had a tough time watching all the others. Particularly because we know the back story of the characters which is something writers like me call "character development". Nowadays with all the unscripted aka "crap" television - it appears that writers have become lazy and less likely to take time to develop characters which for me leads to less connection to them. 

Let's think about adult sitcoms - again - we  love "The Office" and "Parks and Recreation" - why? Not because Michael Scott is a great boss or Leslie Knope is an effective local municipal employee. We like those shows because we all feel like we know quite a bit about Michael, Leslie and most all the characters on both those sitcoms and it got me to thinking about real life.

How in the world do we truly connect today without knowing the "back story" of those we do life with? 

Much like the shallow writing on most of today's television programming - we live in a time where quick 140 character sound bites rule. People are discouraged from actually talking to one another and are instead directed to email to "make connections." I have read no less than 10 articles since the start of 2011 bad mouthing phones, phone calls and people who make them. Really?

One of my main criticisms about Carly - the main character in iCarly is that I have no reason to stick around for a 1/2 hour and hear her whining or  silly musings because I know nothing about her. There are no parents, or much talk of them. There is a silly brother and two friends and her Internet show. That's it.

Hannah/Miley on the other hand has been "well developed". We know about her deceased mom and her quirkiness. We know about her rock star dad who traveled her and Jackson through most of her childhood. I could go on and on - yeah the show is still annoying but I feel a connection because even on the surface - I feel like I know Hannah/Miley and therefore I am more empathetic to her whining and silly musings for a 1/2 hour.

Can you see the implications of "character development" in our everyday lives?

How much more empathetic would we be to those we work with if we knew their story

How much more willing would we be to help a neighbor if we actually knew something about  them?

How much better would our relationships with those we love be if we knew how their story impacted their behavior and interactions with us?

We spend lots of time today trying to streamline our communications and interactions and I think it's made us delusional to think that we can solve things in 22 minutes - just like on TV.

Life takes time.

Relationships take time.

Any efforts to curtail the time spent getting to know people you do life is dooming you to a sitcom existence. 

Make it a goal to be able to tell at least one story about everyone in your life - work or personal. Take the time to learn about the characters around you.

"Character development" is not just for writers...

1 comment:

  1. i totally understand you mum! even though i love these shows i really understand what u are saying. now-adays, [writers] are lazy. i TOTALLY understand what u are saying (AGAIN).
    love u mum!