History That Never Was

Home of Dawn Vogel: Writer, Historian, Geek

How Do You Know You’re the Protagonist? The Weird Stuff Happens to You

Mold-O-Rama at the Brookfield ZooThe other day, one of my co-workers came by my desk and asked about the plastic penguin that I have there. It came from the Mold-O-Rama at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, and I had to explain to him the backstory of WHY I had to have a critter from the Mold-O-Rama, which involves the short-lived Bryan Fuller TV show Wonderfalls. In the show, the gift shop at Niagara Falls that the main character, Jaye, works at, also has a Mold-O-Rama, but their Mold-O-Rama creates a lion with half of his face melted. After she refunds the customer for the defective lion, she keeps it on the counter. And then it starts talking to her.

The talking inanimate object theme continues on through the show, but Jaye is the only person that the things talk to. Everyone else just goes on living their normal lives. And in a lot of ways, I feel like that’s what marks her as the show’s protagonist–the weird stuff happens to her. In reality, someone to whom inanimate objects started talking might seek out medical or mental health help. In the show, she just sort of runs with it.

I feel like this is a trope for a reason, but it also makes me chomp at the bit to want to divert from that trope. What would it be like to have a story in which weird stuff happens to all of the other characters EXCEPT the main character? Or would that just be flipping the trope to the point where it’s weird that nothing weird happens to them?

At any rate, it’s something to think about. Is your protagonist there because they are best suited for the job, or are they just the one that the weird stuff happens to?

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