By Rasmus Lykke
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;”
– William Shakespeare
All of us, in our everyday life, play certain parts in certain circumstances. As the Bard said, we’re all players – actors – in a way. We’re all pretending to be something, all the time.
Society places certain expectations on us and it’s up to us to live up to them, to the degree that we’re comfortable with and deem necessary. We’re doing the same thing an actor does, when they’re getting into character. We’re trying to find our motivation for acting this particular way.
Your job might require you to act professional (whatever that might mean for each job), to put on a specific register, that might reflect the job, but not yourself: whether you’re negotiating million-dollar sales, trying to make a customer supersize their McMeal or speaking with a co-worker about how to best solve the task of the day, chances are you’re going to act in a different manner than you do with your friends. And when you’re with your friends, you most likely act in a different way than with your family. And so on, for every interaction with another person. We’re always acting, trying to play a part that society has placed upon us or that we’ve taken upon ourselves.
Because a lot of these parts we play are ones we’ve taken on ourselves. The motivation for these may be harder to find. Sometimes there are other factors at play as well (we want to impress that cute person in accounting, etc), but overall, it’s usually something that’s easy to figure out. Society has said that if we want to do this thing, we have to act this way and then we do it. Our motivation is simple.
It’s often more complicated with the parts we choose to take on, outside of society’s clear influence. I’m not talking about how you behave with your friends or family. In those groups, there’s often still an amount of acting, as we play predefined roles, usually shaped by our past or our position within the group. If we were – to name just one example – the funny one in our friend group, it’s a role that’s hard to escape and often becomes something we slip into when we’re with those friends, often even subconsciously. It doesn’t matter that we may have evolved past it, that’s the role we have and it’s the role we’ll often continue to play, without really thinking about it. Our motivation might be comfort, fitting in, making other people happy or something else entirely. It’s not really something we think about, it just happens.
There are, however, those brave few that rebel against their preconceived roles.
Garfield (nope, didn’t forget about him!) actually fulfils a lot of the typical cat traits. He acts like a cat: He sleeps a lot, he doesn’t like dogs, he loves eating, he has a love/hate relationship with his owner and so on. It makes sense that Jon would assume that Garfield would like a ball of yarn. Cats love that stuff. But not Garfield.
Garfield doesn’t just play his role as cat, without asking questions. He questions the role Jon – and society – has placed upon him. He stops and asks “What’s my motivation?”, the question all actors must find an answer to, while getting into character. He doesn’t just accept the predefined, stereotypical role that Jon is trying to force on him. Garf doesn’t want to be a mere player of roles. He wants to be himself, not caring if that makes Jon like him less. Being himself is more important.
In this act of defiance, he perhaps inspires us to do the same. To question our role, if we truly want to just be a player on life’s stage or if we want to go beyond, to transcend the stage and be something more. He dares us to ask ourselves “What’s my motivation?”.
Rasmus Lykke is a writer and critic who has written for SKTCHD and is a regular contributor to PanelxPanel. He also wrote the book “Style and Substance” about Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s Young Avengers. When not writing, he spends his time with his fiancée, their daughter, and their cats, usually thinking about writing. You can find him on twitter here!
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