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Davis, California

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

The fictional characters we all need

We could use a lot more people like this in society

As an avid reader and Netflix binge-watcher, I have come to the conclusion that series are made by their characters. I will always stick around and finish something if I love at least one character. Don’t get me wrong, the plot is important as well, but the characters are truly the heart of a story. And a good character can have a lasting impact on a person. So here is a list of characters that I feel make the show/movie/book worth spending time on. 

Tiana from “Princess and the Frog”

As a first-generation student, I had to go through college alone. I had to figure out the system by myself, I had to learn how to talk to professors by myself and I had to figure out how to get an internship, raise my grades and better my writing, all while dealing with the possibility that maybe UC Davis made a mistake in accepting me because everyone else seemed so much more put-together. As silly as this may be, watching Tiana go through her struggles during “Princess and the Frog” helped me through my self-doubt. 

While I love Mulan, Moana and Merida, Tiana deserves special appreciation. She’s a Black woman working to own her own restaurant in a time where everyone looked down on her and racism was rampant. Throughout her life she dreamt of having her own place and when she finally was able to get it, it was ripped right out of her hands. But she kept pushing, and I find that so admirable. Characters that overcome countless obstacles to achieve their dreams is inspiring. 

Peeta Mellark from “The Hunger Games”

The amount of times I have heard someone say that they favored Gale in “The Hunger Games” because Peeta is weak is heartbreaking. Peeta did not deal with physical and emotional abuse from his mother, go to The Hunger Games, confess his love for Katniss and give up his life for hers in “Mockingjay” to deserve all the hate he gets. 

There’s a part in “Mockingjay” (the book, not the movie) where Katniss is thinking about Peeta and thinking about her anger. She comes to terms with the fact that both her and Gale are fueled by rage, but Peeta is the complete opposite. Katniss realizes that what she needs is a dandelion in the spring, the sign of rebirth after destruction, and that is Peeta. What I appreciated about Peeta is that he showed an immense amount of kindness. People hate Peeta so much for how “little” he did in The Hunger Games. But the amount of strength it takes for someone to push through trauma and still be kind and empathetic is immeasurable.

What we need to take away from his character is that there are different types of strength. Where Katniss is so important to young women, Peeta is important to young men. Everyone preaches about how society should be kinder, and yet Peeta is bashed into the darkness for being just that. That’s something we need more often in characters, and in real life; we need people who choose to be kind. 

Sokka from “Avatar: The Last Airbender”

What I most appreciate about Sokka is his beautiful character growth. Sokka starts off the series being a sexist jerk who lacks any character depth other than being the comedic relief. It’s very clear that he finds men to be more capable in every aspect of physical strength, but as the series progresses and he faces the Kyoshi warriors and meets more fierce women he finds the errors in his beliefs. He removes himself from his views and apologizes for being sexist, something we don’t see often. He also moves on and learns from women. 

What I value the most about this character is his ability to apologize and learn from his mistakes. What’s disappointing about our culture is that everyone has a need to be right all of the time and of course, I am no exception. But with characters like Sokka, we can hopefully take a closer look at ourselves and understand that it’s okay to be wrong sometimes. 

Miles from “Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse”

I used to be the person that never had a favorite movie. But then “Into The Spider-Verse” came along and I met Miles. This was such a perfectly executed character and movie that I got a physical copy just to always have it. 

Miles gave superhero characters the representation they needed. He is a biracial character that is awkward and lanky, but thoughtful and social—I loved every second of it. There are so many kids who grew up not being able to see a superhero like them, which is why when we have superheroes like Black Panther and Miles, it’s a monumental step. What was unfortunate about “Into the Spider-Verse” is that it is not as valued as the average superhero movie. People turned their nose up at the movie solely because it was animated. But this movie was better than any live-action Marvel film. It maintains the comic book aesthetic with wavy lines to signify Miles’ Spider Sense, thought balloons and the clever animation of having Miles move at 12 frames per second (fps) where his other superhero friends are at 24 fps. As Miles matures and grows into the Spider-Man figure, he moves on to be animated at 24 fps, too. 

Captain Marvel from “Captain Marvel”

Walking out of the theatre after watching “Captain Marvel,” I had never felt more powerful in my life. It’s no wonder men are often on a power trip—I felt like I could take on the world with just one movie about a female superhero and men have 20 to be represented, and empowered by. Captain Marvel was so important for women, not only because she was the first superhero we saw in the Marvel Universe that got her own movie, but because she was portrayed beautifully. She was snarky, confident and stubborn. We don’t usually get to see those traits in likable women characters. We see them in male superheroes and they are praised for it, but women are shamed for it. Captain Marvel takes these traits and makes it so that young girls can look up to a powerful character. 

What was so important about Captain Marvel was that she made it clear that you don’t have to prove yourself to others to make yourself competent or worthy. You carry your own value, and I love that about our superhero. 
Written By: Itzelth Gamboa — arts@theaggie.org

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