Is it the character or the player we love?

I’m planning to see “Shopgirl” later today. I’m going because years ago when Claire Danes was a teenager I loved her in a TV show. Think about that. Do I like her because I liked the teenage character she played, or because I like Claire Danes herself? I’ll watch anything Blair Brown is in, simply because I loved the character Molly Dodd. I’ll watch anything Sela Ward is in, simply because I loved her character in Sisters. So perhaps I formed an attachment to the actress because I liked the character she played. Is the role the thing? Or is it the person?

I’ve been pondering women who may or may not kick butt on the web because I’ve been asked to participate in a panel at SXSW Interactive 2006 about it. (The other women on the panel: Dori Smith, Kathy Sierra and Shelley Powers.)

Women play many roles on the web. Some of those roles make them very public, butt-kicking figures: standards diva, programming diva, creative diva, development diva, accessibility diva, writing diva. The roles women play invest them with some sort of invisible authority related to their roles, rather than to them as people. Molly Holzschlag who’s written enough books to give her the status to be a keynote speaker at Web Essentials 05 this year, recently noted that people don’t like it when she steps out of her role as geek to make personal or introspective comments on her blog. Is it Molly’s role as writer and standards evangalist we like, or it is Molly we like?

I’ve assigned myself the role of teacher on the web. I picked this role for myself because I was frustrated with the books available for teaching web topics and wanted a forum for reviews of books on that topic. Once I started filling the role of critic of other peoples books about web topics, I built up enough frustration to lead me to write a book of my own using an innovative approach to teaching. Did this clarify or muddle my role on the web? Does the book help teachers teach, or is it putting me in some other character’s part? Is kicking any butt part of my role?

I hope all this public mulling over will give me some fabulous insights to bestow on the people attending the panel discussion at SXSW. Maybe I’ll see you in Austin in March and you can let me know what you think. Or maybe I’ll see you watching “Shopgirl” this afternoon.

2 thoughts on “Is it the character or the player we love?

  1. I do the same thing – I loved Claire Daines in My So Called Life. I think you do form an attachment to an actor thru the characters they play.

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