Character Essay: Positive Characters
In interview format with R. S. Markel and guest interviewee Lillybeth
Lillybeth generously agreed to be interviewed by R. S. Markel on the topic of positive female characters and role models in books and stories. When first asked if she would contribute an editorial on the subject, Lillybeth suggested the interview format as being "faster" since she and her father are ostensibly absorbed in some sort of mechanical project for yet another expedition into the unknown.
The impetus for this topic stems from the commonly held notion that positive female characters and role models, especially for the younger ones among us, are exceedingly rare in our stories and myths and most other aspects of contemporary culture. Lillybeth, however, being who she is, has a unique perspective on the idea.
The InterviewRSM: Lillybeth, we must thank you for taking the time to speak with us today.
Lillybeth: Sure. I am surprised you asked me.
RSM: Well I certainly do enjoy speaking with you. But formalities aside, any chance of elaborating on the project with your father?
Lillybeth: (smiles, whispers) It is a secret.
RSM: A secret?
Lillybeth: (nodding) We do not want to worry the Mayor.
RSM: I see. Well, I suppose we will find out in time, then?
Lillybeth: (smiles again)
RSM: I can't wait. Moving on to this week's topic...
Lillybeth: I know what a character is. But what is a role model?
RSM: Ah yes, role models. I am not quite certain how to explain but...
Lillybeth: I am sorry, but may I ask for you to describe what a role model is? No one uses those particular words on The Farm.
RSM: I do not have a strictly formal definition but I believe a role model is someone whom others look upon as an example, as someone they might admire or desire to imitate.
Lillybeth: (looks confused, thinking hard) I am not certain about imitating others.
RSM: Might you elaborate?
Lillybeth: There are many things I admire about my friends and family and others I have met, and sometimes I try to use these things when I need to. I think of Marista when I need to do things which might seem a little frightening, because she is very brave, and Doctor Lochswyn and Quillypom know so very much about things, they are quite knowledgeable, as is Lottiebury. But I also admire things about my mother, she is always encouraging, and my father, and Hinsberth and...
RSM: I agree, perhaps thinking about role models, in the plural, seems more appropriate?
Lillybeth: I think so. But I am still not sure about the imitation part, we all have our useful and not so useful parts to us, which come out in different circumstances. Everyone is so different, I do not think one of us somehow has everything we need. I doubt there is anyone who is brave and kind, caring and knowledgable and polite all at once or all the time. I wish I was, but I certainly know better than that. But I do try.
RSM: Hopefully we all do. However, if I may, the topic for this week regards female role models specifically.
Lillybeth: (thinking hard) Well, I am not so sure about that.
RSM: About female role models?
Lillybeth: Yes. I mentioned there are many parts I admire about my friends and family, and not just of those who are female. If someone is intelligent or brave or kind or has a good heart, I do not see where it makes any difference. There could not be such a thing as a female role model for everyone, each of us have a role depending upon who we are, and who we are with and what we are trying to do, I do not see how there could be such a thing as a single female role. Anati and my mother and Doctor Lochswyn and Marista and Lottiebury and Quillypom and I are all so different, how could there possibly be a role model for everyone? RSM: Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and I do see your point. But regarding female characters and role models, I think there is a concern, not necessarily over there being a single role, but that the female role models present in contemporary human culture tend not to be those worthy of admiration or especially of imitation.
Lillybeth: I am sorry to hear that.
RSM: Having a young daughter, so am I.
Lillybeth: (thinks hard, pauses a moment) Well, if you cannot change all the characters and the models, perhaps the simple thing for one to do is to just be oneself. There is no reason anyone must follow a model of some kind, although there are certainly things to admire in others, males and females.
RSM: That is most definitely a simple approach. But the concern over role models is there because some, especially the younger ones among us, can be rather impressionable, even by our fictional characters. I regret having to ask this after our discussion so far, but it is one of my prepared interview questions: Lillybeth, do you think you may be a good role model?
Lillybeth: Me!? But I get into so many difficulties. I would not want for anyone else to do the same. Sometimes I cause a bit of trouble for the Mayor's Office and my parents and my friends. I cannot imagine anyone wanting to imitate me!
RSM: I see. However you certainly have your good points as well. But as you have said, everyone is so unique, perhaps instead of seeking someone to imitate we should all, males and females alike, merely concentrate on our own unique talents and abilities.
Lillybeth: I think so. But that is me, Anati might say something different, or Quillypom or Doctor Lochswyn.
RSM: You are probably correct, but although they might use different words, I think those you have mentioned would agree with the points you have made. Unfortunately I see your father seems to be growing a bit impatient with that gadget he has been toying with, and we are running out of time. Lillybeth, I must say, as always our conversation has been a pleasure.
Lillybeth: That is very kind.
RSM: Well, until next time, when a different topic presents itself, take care, and thank you again.
Lillybeth: (hastily) Sure, I think it is fun that someone, somewhere may be interested in my answers to questions and I do enjoy thinking about them. Goodbye for now, it seems my father might be having some trouble.
RSM: Oh no! Do I smell something burning?
Lillybeth: (quickly departing from the room) Sorry, but I need to go! Goodbye!
Things to Explore
The Morning Conversation
R. S. Markel has invited Mr. Abselard, a dear porcine friend, confidant and resident of The Farm, to share a few thoughts on a wide smattering of topics gleaned from the pig's venerable tradition of the morning conversation. We do hope you enjoy this new addition.
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I am a writer and illustrator of books for young (and young at heart) readers who have a passion for exploring fantastic places, impossible events, and the magic and mysteries of our world. Please feel free to read a bit about my work and peruse the character essays and illustrations. I do hope you enjoy this small glimpse into the world of Lillybeth and Hinsberth.