As I am writing my book, I constantly think about the reception that it would get and who the audience would be. The reaction to "Falling Star", a book that I reviewed last week, really prompted me to think more about an audience's need to "relate".
I've always been a person who just consumes whatever sounds interesting; I'd have read about 6 books, seen 2 movies, and watched 1 tv show if I only was entertained by characters/situations that were relateable to my real life. Among my favorite books/movies we have these characters: an English white male wizard (Harry Potter), 1500 hundreds scheming beautiful white women (The Other Boleyn Girl; A Woman of Passion), a farmer from ancient china (The Good Earth), an AIDS infected 90s hispanic drag queen (Angel "Rent"), etc....none of those people have anything in common with each other nor me, but I loved the stories. Even with the story that got me thinking about this post, I am not a 40 year old white blonde woman.
How important is it for you to "relate" to a character in a movie/book? Must the story or people in it reflect your life? That is ALWAYS given as the excuse for non-diverse lead characters in books/movies and have you ever wondered how much you play into it? "Oh, audiences won't relate to her" is often given if a black female lead isn't leading the stereotypical 'black' life of drama and instead was written as a main character/love interest. Why not? sounds like most romantic comedies or something, but then audiences don't see it because they don't see 'themselves' in the character even though the life situations are the same. Same for most other minorities, yet it's assumed that we all can relate to a white hero/lead. So the same people lead/tell the same stories and the cycle continues because of course other stories won't sell if they aren't promoted/put out there. Instead we get 60s black maids (The Help) instead of modern day beauties leading a modern day 'regular' movie. Nope, more slave narratives or "feel good" jim crow maids' stories. Woohoo /sarcasm. I guess people can "relate" to that.
So, what say you? How important is it to see yourself in a character? Must they look like you in order to "relate" to them or their story?