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Burning Questions: Who Is Your Cinematic Avatar? 

Hey everybody. Michael C. here. Recently I told my girlfriend she reminds me of Holly Hunter's character in Broadcast News. The comparison was meant as a compliment. To my mind Jane Craig embodies the same qualities of intelligence and moxie that I admire in her. Hopefully, when she finally watches the movie she will keep that in my mind during the scenes where Hunter's self-described "basket case" is sobbing for no reason and generally making a shambles of her personal life.

In any case it got me to thinking. It doesn't happen often, but every once in a while you meet a film character that makes you think, my God, the filmmakers must have had me in mind when they made this movie. Now in any quality film we can relate to characters with which we have nothing in common, at least on the surface. I couldn't be further away from the character of Clarice Starling, for example, but I relate to her every step of the way. But beyond that level, sometimes we meet fictional creations that reflect ourselves back at us in ways that reverberate and linger.

Characters like this could remind us of ourselves physically or in their jobs or in personality tics we frequently find ourselves guilty of. These may even be characters we catch ourselves consciously – or unconsciously – trying to emulate. Like the way a generation of young romantics set out to mimic the laid back, jaded cool of Marcello Mastroianni in La Dolce Vita, or how many young women in the late 70’s attempted to reproduce Annie Hall’s devastating mix of flighty neurosis and sexiness.

So I guess what I’m asking this week is...

Who is that character for you? Who is your big screen avatar? I can answer for myself easily...

Lloyd Dobler as played by John Cusack in Cameron Crowe's Say Anything. It isn’t difficult to locate the character’s appeal. He is smart and a bit of a dreamer and prone to be hyper-verbal, especially when nervous. He wins the affection of the beautiful Ione Skye despite lacking traditional leading man looks, because she senses his kindness and core decency. He knows he wants something more than a typical career path, although he can't quite pinpoint exactly what that is. I can’t have been alone among brainy suburban guys who came of age in the 90's who found Lloyd an unlikely hero.

Beyond finding affinity with his personality, Lloyd Dobler gave you something to aspire towards. Something writer/director Cameron Crowe referred to as “optimism as a revolutionary act.” Lloyd attacks life with eagerness and positivity. Even when he gets kicked in the teeth – as when Diane breaks his heart – he doesn’t let it defeat him. Don’t we all wish we would have the resources to reach for the grand romantic gesture, like Lloyd does, instead of surrendering to the urge to crumple to the floor in a ball of self-pity?

So I’ll turn it over to the floor: What movie character is your ideal cinematic doppelganger? Are you like me in that you reach for John Cusack in Say Anything only to fall short most of the time and land on John Cusack in High Fidelity? Let's hear it in the comments.

You can follow Michael C. on Twitter at @SeriousFilm. Or read his blog Serious Film.

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Reader Comments (47)

OK, that's really funny because yesterday I was watching The Green Ray and I was thinking that I'm like Delphine. I don't cry all the time, but I do find it difficult to connect to people. Also, I'm a vegetarian too.

But really, every messed up woman you can find in a movie is pretty much who I am. :p

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

No fictional character exist that's comparable to me. Although, I desired to be Anjelica Huston as a kid, and, Susan Sarandon as an adult, but in actuality, I'm Whoopi Goldberg, wrinkled shirts, blue jeans, ugly shoes, saying things that makes others uncomfortable: Streep bashing / Nathan baby — these days I have Julia Roberts moments when I hear theme music in my head and smile with a sh*t eating grin like its the early 90's all over again.

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful

Forever and always, Annie Reed in Sleepless in Seattle. It's weird, because I've related to her in different aspects of my life for years and years, and as I get closer and closer to Meg's age in the film (32), I feel like I connect more with her wayward search for love and purpose, and slowly revelling in my inner quirks.

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

I'm almost certain that this might be a fairly common choice for any other asexual identifying readers, but Boris Lermontov shook me to my core when I watched The Red Shoes.

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I haven't found my cinematic avatar yet... but my TV avatar is undoubtedly Daria Morgendorfer.

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHannah M

"Are you like me in that you reach for John Cusack in Say Anything only to fall short most of the time and land on John Cusack in High Fidelity? "

hee. most of the time...

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterremy

I don't know why but I always see Margo from MARGO AT THE WEDDING as one of my cinematic equivalents. I know, I must be a joy to be around ;) One other recent character that people really seem to think shares some similarities with me is Jesse Eisenberg's spin on Mark Zuckerberg.

However, the characters I relate to the most are from TV: people that I know always say I remind them of one of the following three: Chandler Bing, Chuck Bartowski or Seth Cohen. I guess it's a compliment when people compare me to them since I love all three.

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJorge

Celine and Jesse from 'Before...' series. In equal measure.

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBeau

I always thought of Xander Harris from Buffy as mine, but that's television.

In movies, I sadly can't think of one.

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Z

I think I've always felt a personal connection to Dr. Vinkmen, Bill Murary's character in Ghostbusters. He goes through life with a cynical, confident aloofness, always ready with a jab or a joke, and when he does express some extreme emotion of rage or fear, you know how serious it is. He's so very charming, and has the ability to bend other people to his will, even if he can be a bit of asshole. He's a lover, a humanist, a liar, he's selfish, he's selfless, and he's always there for the people he cares about. Even when they have transformed into monstrous bestial heralds for the evil goddess Gozer.

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJeremy

Joel from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, almost exactly. I am yet to find my Clementine...

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

For me, it's easy. :) I'm almost completely like Michael Dorsey from Tootsie. I'm equally an impulsive, passionate workaholic maniac with almost crazed dedication and I tend to ignore things if there's something more important coming up. Seriously, I'd also become Dorothy if I needed to and would consider it a great mission of mine. I even went through a very similar Julie/Sandy relationship. Weird. :D

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdinasztie

Max Belmont in Kicking and Screaming.

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterScottC

Not sure if this is the same thing....but when I watched MAGNOLIA for the first time, I kind of freaked out. That is exactly how I see the world. Exactly. I felt like PT Anderson invaded my psyche (perhaps via a wormhole like in Being John Malkovich?) and stole my essence and shared it with the world.

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCorey


What's wrong? Share.

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful

It's funny because Holly Hunter in Broadcast News is totally that person for me. The crying, the occasionally grating superiority, the obsessiveness...it's like she was created just for me.

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTB

When I was watching Jenny in An Education, sometimes it really was like seeing myself. Albeit with retro-glamorous trappings that have no reflection in my personal life... Reading the short book upon which it was based also revealed some occasionally unflattering similarities, too. (And at that point before Carey Mulligan got that bleached pixie cut, we had the same hairstyle as well.)

And on a shallower note, I would love to have Dominic Cooper and Rosamund Pike as my best friends.

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmes

I think my closest avatar might actually be Dustin Hoffman in "The Graduate". In addition, I can see definitely see myself growing into Paul Giamatti in "Sideways". Not sure if this is a good thing, but it's true. Strange avatars considering I'm a young black man!

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSquasher88

That's easy for me - Miranda Priestly of The Devil Wears Prada. All of my staff will agree.

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commenternewyorker27

How recent should I have seen a movie for its character to be my cinematic avatar, because I just watched Tiny Furniture and I think Aura or any character Lena Dunham writes speak to me so closely.

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPaolo

Hard to say because sadly, there aren't that many Asian portrayals in North American cinema and I haven't watched enough Asian movies to see if I'm more accurately reflected there. However, I do have a friend who is Clementine from Eternal Sunshine: the hair colors, the appetite for liquor, the tendency to get biting and mean when something bores them, the appetite for life that they have when things interest them. My friend is very much "a fucked up girl who's looking for her own peace of mind."

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFlicker

This is going to be TERRIBLE, but for me, Tom Ripley from The Talented Mr. Ripley. He does horrible things throughout the movie, but at his core, i fully understood and sympathized with him. I've had several Dickies in my life and i know what it's like to want love and security.

TV? Betty Draper-Francis and Peter Campbell from Mad Men. I'm not exactly like either of them, but i do see aspects of myself in each of them. With Betty, her dissatisfaction with her life and being trapped at home in the earlier seasons and with Pete (especially this last season), the fact that he always wants more.

Oh geez. lol. i can relate to three totally awful people.

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDerreck

I think that, right now, my cinematic avatar is Albert Nobbs.
Yes... very sad,

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterferdi

I don't think I've found my avatar yet, and I sincerely hope I never will. No matter how fast reality is changing, it's still really hard to find a gay character one can relate to or identify with.
I talk fast, so sometimes when I'm with someone walking on the street, I'd like to believe I'm a Woody Allen character talking about artists, writers, etc. But then I realize I belong more into Dumb & Dumber. .. I get into the conversation so deeply, I have a tendency to bump into things or people.

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteriggy

I guess I would like to think of myself as Sandra Bullock's character in Blind Side. I like to help others, I am stubborn about doing it my way, and I often include my family unwittingly in my plots to see the larger picture often without consulting them or eliciting their opinions on the situation. But always remembering that my looks have never even come close to being similar and I more likely represent Kathy Bates in the movie physically and temperament-wise as well.

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCCBallew

Maybe Sally Bowles in Cabaret?

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip

In the interest of fairness, my girlfriend says the character I most remind her of is Carl Fredrickson from Up

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichael C.

William Miller from "Almost Famous". Who knows my mum and my friends knows it's true.

I watched the movie a couple of years ago and I got an instant connection with Patrick Fugit's character: my mum/his mum, an older friend of mine/his sister, my group of male friends/Stillwater and my best female friend/Penny Lane.
Even William Miller's musical tastes are the same of mine and "Almost Famous" is just an awesome and feel good movie!

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEd

Philip -- omg. i so wanna hang with you know ;)

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

Who do I strive to be more like? Elwood P. Dowd from Harvey, because of his combination of genial good will and steely determination to be left to do as he likes - and Howard Roark, because his fanatical artistic integrity was very appealing to me when I was a teenager and though I'm not a fan of Ayn Rand's now, that idea of never, ever compromising yourself - no matter the cost - remains very appealing.

That said, most of the time I think I'm closer to Larry Gopnik in A Serious Man, alas, or one of the schlubs from Glengarry Glen Ross ('cause I curse a lot).

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

Might sound weird but Miranda Hobbes.

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFernando Moss

The first time I saw Woody Allen's "Hannah and Her Sisters" I considered Dianne Wiest's Holly as representing me. Addictions, insecurities, broke, talented but not living up to everyone's expectations, and losing the comparison game with her sister. I still watch that movie with love for that character.

Now that I'm older, am I an older, settled Holly or is there another character? I'm in my 50s now, and face it, there aren't that many middle-aged cinematic women that I identify with. I'm not a mother, grandmother, or hard-driving career woman.

Hey, you know what? I think I'm any of the multitude of roles that Eve Arden played. Single, wise-cracking, and cynical about life describes me pretty darn well.

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterErin in Flagstaff

Erin -

Eve Arden in Anatomy of a Murder. Now there's a character I would love to see at work every day.

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichael C.

I can't think of any atm. but my girlfriend always tell me she has a special connection to Scarlet O'Hara. It makes sense for me, as they both contradict themselves over the way they feel and they way they behave; and at most how they put their pride over anything else.

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commentertombeet

Max Fischer - Rushmomre

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterscott

Off the top of my head, Julianne from My Best Friend's Wedding. Everything she said and done would be exactly what I would do in the same situation :D @Derreck, no worries, I see myself as a bit of Mr. Ripley too.

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJi

Mavis Gary (Young Adult). Less literally, Todd from Dead Poets Society.

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJacob D

Tom Ripley. Mavis Gary. Larry Gopnik.

Wow. There is a lot of honesty happening in the comments right now.

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichael C.

Great question, and I think what's great about something like looking for your cinematic (or any other artistic creation) equivalent, is that it doesn't need to be someone who is your same gender, race, age or even from the same period.

I was in my first year of University when I saw AN EDUCATION and it's bizarre how much I related to Jenny Mellor. From that first almost condescending way she answers that question in her English Lit class which no one else seems to know...or care about. From her ostensible "niceness" to the more off-putting aspects like her vague pretentiousness, occasional apathy and ultimately naivete it made sense to me.

Also, Oliver from BEGINNERS last year.

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew K.

I'd LIKE to be a combination of Audrey Hepburn and Sidney Poitier, with both inner and outer grace. But the characters I completely understand are more like Edward Norton in The Painted Veil, and Ashley Judd in Double Jeopardy.

@Derreck- I just finished re-reading one of the Ripley books, Ripley Under Ground. I see something different in those every time I read them. Tom Ripley is one of my favorite characters, and I always feel satisfied that he got away with it, and got his beautiful house, and the home life that is perfect for him.

August 8, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteradri

Duckie from "Pretty in Pink". Got it in high school all the time. I'm 41 years old now, my 9-year-old recently saw the movie on TV and said, "Dad, is that you?"

August 8, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterrobert

Michael C.: Don't forget, I cited Boris Lermontov. More as an "how can I not be like him" thing, but ace film characters are RARE and, even with all his issues, he's still the closest to an out and out "sympathetic" one.

August 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

easy - the joseph gordon levitt character in "500 Days of Summer."

August 8, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjimmy

I think I remember one. I always find such a personal connection to the character named Ricardo Morales (the guy who his wife been killed) in The Secret in Their Eyes. I would do everything exactly the way he did, thus I completely understand his passion and his revenge for love.

August 8, 2012 | Unregistered Commentertombeet

Patrick Bateman from American Psycho

August 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCristhian

Miles, from Sideways. The fact that my best friend is a total Jack doesn't hurt either.

August 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEmil

Hmm... I think I'm half Clementine Kruczynski from Eternal Sunshine half Charlotte from Lost in Translation.

August 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBabyBearStrikesAgain
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