My dad made sure I saw myself--what I wanted, who I wanted to be, that I was fully capable of getting there--in the characters I loved.
Growing up, my dad and I didn’t spend a huge amount of time reading together. Not because we don’t both enjoy reading, but because we have very different methodologies about how to go about doing it. I tear through stories—once I’ve invested in a character I need to know what happens, and what they’re going to do about it right now. My dad likes to start at page one and attentively read each word, on each page, until he gets to the end. Each approach has advantages: I get so wrapped up in the story that I end up inside the world, and the characters, and I walk away feeling like I know them from the inside-out. Meanwhile, my dad has an incredible ability to retain information. Paired with his reading methods he ends up with a very accurate recollection of everything that happened.
One thing we both enjoyed was a good TV series. And, in a way, there’s a similar sense of investment in one of those as there is a novel, or series of novels. As a viewer, you’re asked to invest in characters for what you see them doing now, and you might get their backstory and motivations later. In a book series, you’re asked to invest in the world and situation(s) the narrator finds themselves in, and you [probably] get to learn how everything got to that point along the way. The writers and creators need to build characters that are believable and compelling enough to make us care about them. Whether the story is meant to be read or watched is [sort of] an aside.
My favourite series that we would watch together was, without a doubt, Star Trek: Voyager. I would plan weeknight-playdates around the schedule for new episodes. And my dad, ever patient, would sit with a squirming, six-year-old version of me, let me stay up an extra hour past bedtime, and watch each and every week.
I don’t actually remember how I got started watching the series—only that I watched each episode through the weekly progression, season cliff-hangers and all.
I’m pretty sure it was because of my dad. And for that I am grateful.
As a child I found Voyager much more intriguing than any of the other Star Trek series: I thought Captain Kathryn Janeway (played by Kate Mulgrew) was the coolest thing since sliced bread. Looking back, I see that the cast was not only lead by, but also filled with strong, empowered, intelligent female characters… which was something of a rarity in the 90’s, and is still far too uncommon, even now.
I once read a comedic list-style article (online) which outlined the top ten reasons Janeway was the best Star Fleet captain. The point I remember most clearly was, “because she had more hair than all the previous captains combined.” It’s true, she did. In fact, it was pretty great hair. But what I remember about watching the series is how it tied into the things my dad told me and taught me. He did everything in his power to ensure that I grew up to be a strong, independent woman with the ability and confidence to have informed opinions of my own. Watching a favourite character embody those things, week after week, had a lot of impact.
My dad didn’t just teach me how much fun it is to invest in characters and their stories, he taught me to invest in myself and my story through the characters we invested in together.
Lynette is a writer, musician, and oxford comma purist by night, and a coffee-drinking fiend by day—in that order. For her, compelling characters make the world go round, one cracked-spine, marginalia-filled, dog-eared book at a time.