The Protagonist Takes The Stage

Trigger Warnings – Body image, challenging philosophies meaning this article is not for those unwilling to consider new ideas

The other day, I put up a status on my personal Facebook account about Cat from Red Dwarf and his reasoning as to why the world revolves around him. The Cat had the following in his defence

“Take food, until I bite it, it has no taste. Even when I know what I’m going to say, I don’t bore myself saying it and then here’s the clincher, everything interesting that ever happened to me happened when I was in the room”

Whilst this might seem like an amusing and possibly convincing argument, I’d like to discuss the philosophy of the Protagonist Effect, the idea that your life is about yourself and the world might not necessarily revolve around you but what matters most to you is your own personal world, your challenges, your achievements and such like. I suppose in an age of cinema and story-telling we naturally come to associate ourselves with a central role in the story of our lives, nobody thinks themselves the background character, but whilst you might think of your life, you can easily overlook the lives of others much in the same way you watched Iron Man to watch a film about Tony Stark and his metal suit, not the story of that one journalist who tried to interview him. You don’t know that journalist’s name, whether or not he has kids, siblings, hopes, dreams, regrets – he was just a part of the scenery, an accessory to the Stark story and this occurs in our own lives, passersby become background characters and not people until they do something to directly effect us or attract our attention (And even then they become “Crazy shouty man” or “Twat playing music too loud” instead of “Dave the man who recently got divorced” or “Jeff who is really happy to have passed his driving test”)

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should devote yourself to greeting every single passerby on the street and hugging them and learning three fun facts about them, that’s just creepy and as an introvert and non-creepster, I do not advocate such eccentric social behaviour, all I’m saying is you’re not the star of the show, you’re just another human being and whilst you might be important to you, to the shop clerk you’re a customer, to the policeman you’re a speeding driver and to the postman you’re the bloke who lives at number 43. The Truman Show is just a movie, it’s not your life, you will certainly never discover it was a lie and you’re actually just a lab rat. So, now that I’ve stuck a knife in your ego, allow me to give you some insight

Firstly, being the main character is hard work, you can’t do everything. Sure, Bruce Willis saved an entire skyscraper full of people by himself but one action hero equates to one SWAT team in the real world, one superhero is one small army and so on and so on. In your own life, you won’t fix everything, you won’t wipe away every tear or mend every broken heart, you’ll make mistakes and you’ll have other priorities. You cannot see the problems of others solely as more work for you or you’ll work yourself to death, instead you are a part of the solution but not the only solution there is. I mean, imagine trying to do everything for everyone – here’s a hint, I tried, I still do sometimes, it makes you constantly tired and resentful of others for having these problems. If you are Superman, everyone is Lois Lane to you and that’s not always the case, you’re all a bunch of umm… other heroes. The key here is to go with the flow, accepting your limitations and just moving on with your life. Sure, help others, help them all you can but don’t beat yourself up if you have to say enough is enough and you’ll feel much better and help more people.

On that same token, you know what the inherent issue with being the ‘hero’ is? If you see yourself that way, you see yourself as infallible or the ceaseless survivor, things will just work out for you because they always do so you know, whatever. Reality hits home, however, when you realise things don’t just work out, there has to be some effort somewhere for anything to happen. After all, planes don’t just land and food doesn’t cook itself but hey you turn up at an airport and don’t go hungry so it’s cool right? No, everything around you is the effort of someone you may never meet, even the floor beneath the feet or the screen before your eyes. You have to realise everything takes hard work and nothing is ever truly infallible (For further reference, might I suggest you research the Titanic?). So, where does that leave you? On the same page as everyone else except you know you can be wrong so don’t worry about it, learn something from it, let people correct you once in a while and accept the fact you won’t win every argument or competition in life, just as long as you keep trying your best in all that you do, nobody can demand more out of you

The world is always going to disagree or complain or argue, I think we know that, true freedom for all is impossible because someone’s idea of freedom might be “I want to live in a world without wind farms ruining MY view out of the window” whereas you might counter “Well I want a world that relies on less harmful energy sources so wind energy it is!”. The government struggles with this all the time, conflicting interests and opinions and every single important decision ever in history has people saying it’s a stroke of genius and people calling it utter wank. The right for women to vote? Great for women, not good for misogynists. Adding a bus lane to a stretch of road? Great for those relying on public transport, not good for car users. Making a sequel to Alvin and the Chipmunks? Ok… that wasn’t great for anyone. Hopefully I make my point though, there will always be arguments and disagreements and you can’t be focused solely on your desires or your point of view, people won’t always agree and have their own opinions. I know I don’t always bear this point in mind myself but it’s not worth any less if I say it to you now, maybe it’ll stick with you

And finally, if you’re the protagonist, everything relates to you or everything about you is important. Ever decided against wearing something because you’re worried what people might think? Don’t, wear it, how much do you care about what other people wear – if the answer is you don’t really care, then people don’t really care what you’re wearing provided you’re not arriving to work in a latex fetish suit or attending a funeral in a bikini, you’re fine. You think everyone will judge you for your weight, your dress sense, your smell, your decisions but everyone is as insecure as you and if someone really is judging you, that’s them, not the world. Truth be told, whilst you’re panicking about having really obvious pit stains, the guy walking opposite you might be panicking that he can’t pay the rent or ask out Sarah even though she clearly likes him. Furthermore, you’re not special ok? Not in the grand scheme of things. You shouldn’t get any special rights to play your music louder or drive faster or take an extra piece of cake no matter what your excuse because you’d be pissed if people did those things to you. You don’t have to relate the entire world to you, it’s exhausting, selfish and narrow-minded because the world is vast and full of a billion stories, don’t spend all day reading your own

I hope I haven’t offended you all and I don’t want to infringe on your self-worth, just to wake you from the dream. Remember the little things, your mother, your brother, your milkman and your neighbour are all people with dreams and desires and every single person you bump into has thoughts in their head, it won’t necessarily be about your shirt. You’re just some guy or some girl or whatever, you don’t have to worry what people think of you, things don’t work like that. I mean if nothing else this blog post might convince you to wear that fandom crossover shirt because fuck it, your shirt, what the hey? Just don’t worry about the world means to you, worry about embracing the world and being a part of it, not the centre of it


4 thoughts on “The Protagonist Takes The Stage

  1. I loved the idea behind this article. I think I am responsible for everyone (OCD), and this week my task was to take a break from that! Your article gave me an overview- a bit like superman flying into space and seeing the world in all its glory, carrying on without him for a while. Thanks.


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