Thursday, January 1, 2015

We All Deserve a Storyline

I've been thinking about a difference between two Australian teen shows I've watched—Dance Academy and The Elephant Princess.

Both have a central character and then also friends of the central character.

On Dance Academy, Tara is the central character. Her friends are her fellow students at the academy. The premise of the show is that a dancing girl from a rural community comes to Sydney to attend a prestigious dancing school. She realizes that in the rural community she was a big fish in a small bond. In Sydney, she's a small fish in a big pond. Dance Academy is about her struggle to become the best dancer she can be. Although the show centers around Tara, we get to know her friends as well. They all have their own storylines. Kat struggles with having a famous ballerina mother. Abigail struggles with body image issues. Sam struggles with his father not supporting his passion for dance. Christian deals with the fact that he was a bit of a hoodlum in the past. Ben deals with a childhood cancer past. All the characters are well-rounded.

On the Elephant Princess, Alex is the central character. She's a teenage girl who wants to be a rock star. Then she learns she's the princess of the magical kingdom of Manjipoor. Like Tara, Alex has friends.  She has Kuru from Manjipoor, the guy who's supposed to help her become a princess. There are her two school friends/rock band friends—Amanda and JB. And there's her love interest, Marcus.  I have only one episode left of season one, and though I've come this far, I know hardly anything about Amanda, JB, Kuru, or Marcus.  They don't get any of their own storylines. I've never seen their parents or siblings. I don't really know anything about their life, except for the stuff that directly involves Alex.  

I'm not trying to fault the show, really. Some shows are more simplistic than others. They focus more on one storyline rather than branching off into others.  Supporting casts in these shows are literally supporting. They don't get their own stories. They're just there to support the main character.

My grief is with certain people in my life. Instead of being a Tara, they're a total Alex.  In fiction, it's totally fine to have a main character. In real life, it's incredibly rude and tacky.  In real life, we should all be seen as main characters. It should be understood and expressed that we all have backstories, and we all have our own current storylines.  There should be no people who are treated as simply sidekicks or supporting characters.  

How does one make a person feel like they're only a supporting character in your fabulously interesting life?  

First: Talk on and on about your problems. Then when they ever talk about their problems, find a way to be interrupted. Look bored. Look at your watch. If they write about their problem in an email, don't respond to it.  Whether you read it or not, make it look like you didn't pay any attention by not mentioning it when you write back to them.

Second: Avoid asking your supporting character any questions. Don't ask them about their family. Don't ask them what they've been doing. Don't bring up things they've told you in the past...because that might give them the idea you've actually paid attention and that you're interested in their life.  

Third: Sometimes you can listen and respond to what they've said, but don't waste time asking them questions to show you're interested in them and what they've told you. Don't say anything sympathetic or encouraging. Instead use what they've said as a springboard to go on and on about your own storylines. For example, if they tell you they had a good time volunteering at a soup kitchen, this is your chance to go on and on about volunteering at a camp for sick kids.  Make sure you minimize the amount of conversation spent on their volunteer work. Remember... YOU are the main star.  Not them.

I've dealt many times with being an Amanda, JB, and Marcus. Often, it's been my fault because I've just given up on being seen as anything beyond a supporting character.  I let the person in my life act out the role of princess. Though I secretly don't see them as princesses. I see them as pigs at a buffet table, taking far more than their own share and not caring that I'm taking so little.  

The good news is some of the princess pigs in my life have changed. I talk to them more about my backstory and storylines, and they listen more. They've become much less self-absorbed. I feel now like we're both the main stars.

But with others, the self-absorbed behavior continues. I've been trying to wean myself off of these people; maybe not completely, but I am trying to give them much less attention.  I don't want to waste too much time on people who treat me like I'm their sidekick. Or as I saw someone online describe it...their free shrink.   

If any main stars happen to come across my blog and read this entry...PLEASE STOP treating your family and friends this way.  Yes. What they told you in preschool is true. You are important! You are special! But so are your friends and family. Make sure your actions don't give out the message that you're under the delusion that you're more special and important than they are.  

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