Finding Yourself on Television

By Atinuke | Dec 9, 2022

“You are what you eat” is a metaphorical expression that implies that what we eat affects our health and lives. In some ways, we are also what we watch, read and listen to. The entertainment and media we consume can have lasting effects on us even when we do not realise it.


Mediums of entertainment, like music or movies, can be a powerful tool for enlightenment and propaganda. As seen in the survey Document Women put out, it is not uncommon to relate to and connect with characters in the stories we consume and the stories themselves. 

Certain tropes and themes have become storytelling staples; through these, we can broadly group the stories we consume and feel our way towards what we enjoy and what suits us. Four responders feel especially in tune with the theme of self-discovery; other responders particularly like romantic themes, friendship, religion, inner conflict, self-growth, gay and lesbian themes (Bl and Gl), revenge, adventure, exploration, self-sacrifice, redemption and many more. 

Our responders are also partial to coming-of-age themes.

Grace says, “I think I enjoy them because they portray experiences that I didn’t get to have and that fascinates me”. They also enjoy good-vs-evil and feel-good media and happy endings. 

Oyinkansade says she enjoys “Good versus evil, physically strong dominant women who can protect themselves and their love interests, himbo hero, soft hero, sisterhood, friendships, strong female friendships, self-fulfilment and happy endings,” and Annie says she’s partial to happy endings and drawn to themes and tropes that resolve peacefully. 

Feminist themes and tropes are also popular in the responses. Dooshima says she enjoys them because “I can live vicariously through these individuals I deem to be strong and confident enough to find themselves in trials.” Friends-to-lovers, whirlwind romances and found family themes and others also resonate with us. 

Sometimes, we latch on to certain characters because we see ourselves in them, relate to their journey, or admire what they represent. Beyond character experiences, we may also relate to the messaging in the media itself, like song lyrics or book and movie themes and tropes.

The most relatable story Dooshima has ever consumed is ‘The Diary of a Teenage Girl.’ 

“Amazing work. It cemented my already growing belief of women being independent and not needing a man to find themselves. Also, how girls’ teenage years are challenging and trying time to deal with and to escape unscathed or reasonably okay is amazing. It also explores how much girls need safeguarding by the women figures in their lives (we’re in this together) from the men seeking to take advantage of their vulnerability," she said. “The main character Minnie Goetz, whilst my life never played out like hers; I could very much relate to her sense of loneliness, awkwardness and ugliness. Whilst I didn’t FEEL the need for male validation, I very much understood how it felt to be finally deemed attractive/ desirable by someone you admired or respected or thought was cream-of-the-crop or had high social credit.”

When Edna was having relationship troubles, ‘Come Over’ by Jorja Smith (featuring Popcaan) reflected her feelings. 'The lyrics say, “tell me what I did this time, why is it I work so hard for you? I wish I could read your mind; I don’t know if you want me to come over.” When I first heard it, it reflected exactly what was going on in the relationship I was in at the time. Like, to a T.'

Kene, a musician, relates to "Atlanta". “It is relatable because I am also a struggling musician. The characters get a happy ending, so it gives me hope for myself.” 

Fleabag’ was a popular favourite in the responses. Grace says, “The weirdness and quirkiness appealed to me, and it spoke to the genuine awkwardness of real-life experiences. The way the character talks to herself uses humour as a crutch, and her rocky relationship with her family made me find her very relatable.”

Perez finds ‘All about love’ by bell hooks and recently Fleabag incredibly relatable. 

“It just shows how dynamic humans are, how love is such a big thing that we chase but don’t know exactly how it’s supposed to feel like or look like. I enjoy things that make me feel deeply but in a good way.” 

She also thinks ‘The Sex Lives of College Girls’ and all the characters had elements to them that she could deeply relate to. “The closeted gay girl with control issues, the ethnic comic obsessed with getting laid and zero moral compass, the geek who is really awkward and the tall black girl with mommy issues.”

The character Sewuese sees herself in is Cha Si-won from ‘Blueming’. “His complex relationship with his mother as he understands her struggles with being a single mother and her placing rigid standards that she expects him to live up to. He may be a guy, and I’m a woman, but this is the closest I feel to a character having the kind of relationship I feel like I have with my mom.”

We may also enjoy stories and characters with a sense of detachment. Stephanie says, “I try not to self-insert; I much prefer to watch like a scientist watching over her ant colony experiments. I can think of how I’ll react differently in certain situations, but I can’t bring myself to embody the whole character.”

It can be comforting to see stories and characters that are reminiscent of our lives, and the stories we love can also be impactful on us as we draw inspiration from characters we admire. 

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