“What are you?”
“To define is to limit.”
-Duchess of Monmouth and Lord Henry Wotton (Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray)
“It’s a good thing when a man is different from your image of him. It shows he isn’t a type. If he were, it would be the end of him as a man. But if you can’t place him in a category, it means that at least a part of him is what a human being ought to be. He has risen above himself, he has a grain of immortality.”
-Yurii Andreievich Zhivago (Boris Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago)
Roles, stereotypes, they have long interested me. Seeing others fill them, seeing myself take part, I find it all fascinating. It's liking we're trying to make reality and our everyday lives more like some TV show by playing a role, or, perhaps, we're just trying to make our lives and relationships simpler. If we can cast ourselves as one type of person and others as others types of people, then we know what is expected of them and ourselves. Less thinking is required in our words and actions then. In effort to appear more educated than I really am, I now suggest that this all has something to do with Baudrillard's hyperreality and refuse to elaborate further. Fear the dropping of a French philosopher's name! Fear it!
Of course, it's possible that roles are so plentiful and contain so many variations that they lose much of their meaning. There are so many roles that the people we define as someway may very well fit the concept entirely because the role was made for them.
I doubt either extreme is the case. They both exist, and I do not believe that either dominates.
But I stray from my point. The two quotes which opened this post are the best I have yet seen pertaining to roles, as far as they eloquently put into words my own beliefs that is. The first is one of the few lines Lord Henry delivers in The Picture of Dorian Gray that isn't insidiously amoral. I hate roles, and that is one of the reasons why. Setting down what a thing, a person, is necessarily places limitations upon it and limits its potential. The nerd can't go to a dance without acting the fool. The jock can't get a decent grade without cheating. Screw that. Do what you want and can (while following the Golden Rule, of course). Define yourself by your ambitions, not what you are at this moment.
Second, we've got some thoughts from the inestimable Dr. Zhivago pertaining to Lara's husband. The authentic people are the ones who, no matter how hard you try, simply can't be defined. You can't call them "the goth" or "goody two shoes" or whatever because they don't fit. If you insist on it, you'll never understand them and their actions will constantly surprise you. These people live according to their own ideals, not those grafted on by others. None who preceded them were like them and none will be. It's the highest of compliments to not be "one in a million" but "the one." (Again this is all assuming that they believe in altruism and act according to it. I imagine psychotic killers are unique people. Scum, no doubt, but unique.)
3 years ago