As we grow up, it can be tough to feel like we’re okay. We’re constantly questioning the things we do, the words we say, the people we spend time with. We doubt the clothes we’re wearing, that our friends are actually our friends, that our hair looks okay. We worry we’re weird and ugly and unlovable, even though we’re all totally fine how we are.
For me, what sometimes made me feel better in moments like those was fictional characters. It may sound weird for a kid to get validation from a fictional character, and maybe you can even argue that it shouldn’t be that way, but I read a lot, and I watched even more television, so it was inevitable that I’d start to look up to these characters who weren’t real. Sometimes, that meant looking up to beautiful, perfect, popular kids. But sometimes I found characters I could relate a little better to.
As much as I loved and idolized characters like Kelly Kapowski, Kelly Taylor, and Kelly Bundy, I felt I couldn’t measure up, especially because I wasn’t named Kelly. But there were some fictional characters I could connect with. Here are four of them:
Matilda Wormword, “Matilda”
As much as I wish I’d read the book as a kid, the truth was I was too busy reading sappy young adult literature by Lurlene Daniels to give classics much thought. It was the movie that swept me away into the world of Matilda Wormwood, a 10-year-old, slightly magical, sassy, smart bookworm. And I loved her. To Matilda, a library card was like a credit card with no limit. I felt the same. As a kid, I was always at the library checking out books. I especially loved the Boxcar Children and The Baby-Sitters Club series, as well as the Wayside School stories by Louis Sachar, the picture books of Tommie DePaola, and the poetry of Shel Silverstein. I couldn’t get enough of Amber Brown and Amelia Bedelia and Ramona Quimby. I much preferred burying my nose in a book to playing outside – and Matilda helped me feel not-so-alone in that sentiment.
Khadijah James, “Living Single”
“Living Single” was easily one of my favorite shows growing up. I loved them all. Although I may have wished I was as fashion-forward as Regine or as sweet as Synclaire or as sassy as Max, it was Khadijah who I most related to. Played by Queen Latifah, Khadijah was the editor and publisher of a magazine called Flavor. She was smart and funny and powerful, but she also had a softer side, where she sometimes had trouble putting her needs first and being too nice to people. Similarly, Khadijah had a habit of spending most of her time working rather than hanging out with other people. As somewhat of a loner, I could totally relate.
Sabrina Spellman, “Sabrina the Teenage Witch”
Sabrina did not have it all together. Even with a boyfriend, she was constantly put in awkward situations, like that time she accidentally turned the kid she was babysitting into a grown man. Or that time she kissed Harvey and he turned into a frog. Or that time her best friend, Jenny, wandered into her closet and was subsequently transported into The Other Realm where she was transformed into a grasshopper. Basically, Sabrina could not catch a break. She didn’t have many friends and instead spent most of her time with her family. I didn’t have a talking cat, but I did like the company of my family, as well as the solitude of my own room. I liked that even though Sabrina had magical powers, life wasn’t rosy. And I still secretly hoped I’d also wake up at 16 and find I was a witch just like her.
Rory Gilmore, “Gilmore Girls”
Rory Gilmore was a perpetual worrier. That’s me in a nutshell. She also loved writing and dreamed of becoming a journalist. (I feel like it’s no coincidence that three out of the four characters I loved growing up were journalists — Rory, Khadijah, and Sabrina. Matilda probably grew up and became a writer, too. I’m just saying.) I was fascinated when I first learned of Rory’s existence because I, too, liked school and writing and learning. I studied hard and I liked getting good grades, but often felt like the oddball for feeling that way. Rory was completely content cozying up with a book rather than going to parties and was guided by a strong moral compass, making decisions that felt right for her rather than basing them on decisions everyone else was making. Oh – and she loved food. That’s a girl I admire.
Did any fictional characters resonate with you as a kid?