In interview format with R. S. Markel and guest interviewee Lillybeth.
Lillybeth, our young feathered protagonist from the The Farm, generously agreed to be interviewed by R. S. Markel on the topic of female characters and role models in books and stories. When first asked if she would contribute an editorial on the subject, busy Lillybeth resisted but then suggested the interview format as being “faster” since she and her father are ostensibly absorbed in some sort of mechanical enterprise for yet another expedition into the unknown.
The impetus for this topic stems from the notion that appropriate female characters and role models, especially for the younger ones among us, are exceedingly rare in our stories and many other aspects of contemporary culture. Lillybeth, however, being who she is, has a unique perspective on the idea.
RSM: 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 and hearing what you have to say. But formalities aside, any chance of elaborating on the recent project with your father?
Lillybeth: (whispers) It is a secret.
RSM: A secret?
Lillybeth: (nodding) We do not want to worry the mayor.
RSM: I see. Is it something the mayor would find worrying?
RSM: Well, I suppose we will find out in time, then?
Lillybeth: Yes, in time.
RSM: I can’t wait. But moving on to this week’s topic…
Lillybeth (interrupts): I think I know what a character is. But what is a role model?
RSM: Ah yes, role models. Let me think for a moment on how to explain the idea.
Lillybeth: Perhaps you can describe what a role model is? I have never heard anyone use that particular phrase on The Farm.
RSM: I do not have a formal definition before me 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: (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 those 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. Lottiebury is also very knowledgable. But I also admire things about my mother, she is always encouraging, and my father, he is very clever, and Hinsberth is so kind, and I can think of so many others.
RSM: I agree, perhaps considering role models in the plural form seems more appropriate to you?
Lillybeth: I think so. But I am still not certain 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 and 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 has 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 role model for anyone. Anati, my mother, Doctor Lochswyn, Marista, Lottiebury, and Quillypom are all so different, how could there possibly be a role model for all of us?
RSM: Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the subject, and I do see your point. But regarding female role models specifically, I think there is a concern, not necessarily over the existence of a single role, but over the fact the female role models present or promoted in the contemporary human world tend not to be those worthy of admiration or especially of imitation.
Lillybeth: I am sorry to hear that.
RSM: As I have a young daughter, so am I.
Lillybeth: (thinking hard) Well, if you cannot change all the characters and the role 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.
RSM: That is definitely a simple approach. But the concern over role models is there because many, and 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 as 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 to imitate me. 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 do have your good points as well. But as you have said, perhaps everyone is so unique instead of seeking someone to imitate we should all merely concentrate on our own unique talents and abilities.
Lillybeth: I think so, but that is only my way of thinking. Anati might say something different. And so would Quillypom and Doctor Lochswyn.
RSM: You are probably right. But although they might use different words, I think those characters you mentioned would agree with many of 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. I am not so sure I gave a good answer but I hope I have helped.
RSM: It does help, I can assure you. Well, until next time, take care, and thank you again.
Lillybeth: (hastily) Sure, you’re welcome. I do enjoy trying to answer questions and I think it is fun that someone, somewhere may be interested in my answers. Goodbye for now, it seems my father might be having some trouble.
RSM: Do I smell something burning?
Lillybeth: (quickly departing from the room) Sorry, but I really must go! Goodbye!