Why I Love the Audience Avatar

Image retrieved from TMDb

I always appreciate movies about making movies or the power of filmmaking. Whether it is something which is symbolically about movies like Inception, The Prestige, or Inglourious Basterds, or more literally about the process itself like Adaptation, King Kong, or Singin’ in the Rain, I love having my passion for moves ignited. Since movies mean so much to me and teach me so much about life, I love to see them double down on their own meaningfulness.

It’s really a tendency of stories in general to have this effect on me, but of course, movies hold a special place. I get to experience the lives of incredible characters in incredible circumstances and see the world through someone’s eyes other than my own. 

Within these meaningful, symbolic stories, there is often an audience avatar, or surrogate. Basically, they are the character who stands in for the audience. In a world where things may need explaining, the surrogate is the one who asks the questions, is learning about their surroundings, or reacts as we would, were we to be in their exact situation. A few good examples would be Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit, Everett Ross from Black Panther, Tim Canterbury from The Office (U.K.), or Dr. Watson in Sherlock Holmes stories. Basically, if the character is played by Martin Freeman, there is a good chance he’s functioning as the surrogate.

I actually got the idea for this post while watching an episode of Sherlock, which incidentally co-stars Freeman. 

The character of Sherlock is extraordinary. He’s a genius, “high-functioning sociopath” who gets a rush off solving brutally dark crimes. As an audience member, I’m in awe of what Sherlock is capable of. It’s obviously not typical human behavior or capabilities. So when Watson is amazed by everything Sherlock does and is able to deduce, I’m happy to see someone bring it up.

We long to see ourselves onscreen, or to be represented in some way. For me, this could be by seeing a twenty-something guy live in America. Or for many others, it could be a Black superhero finally portrayed in a major franchise film. But at the most basic position, we are all audience members watching stories which are often larger-than-life, and that is why I love audience surrogates.

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