Character Development Is Hard

There is something about comfort television in the morning. The peace it can create is as important as sinking into couch cushions in the evening. For over a year, my dad and I started our mornings with Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. Watching began as something I liked, and he teased me about. Then the second, or maybe third time, through the series, it became something my dad also looked forward to. By the fourth round he recognized the episodes enough to know ‘it wouldn’t be a good one’ or ‘hold his interest’. At that point the subject of teasing shifted. The new joke was rooted in lamenting lack of ‘gun play’ in the western genre he embraced since childhood. This time, we had the time, between sips of morning coffee to add a more literary hypothesis.


“Of course, you don’t like this one. It’s about relationships,” I stated. “The writers are showing character development.”


Dad smirked and chuckled. Sure, character development. Words. Emotions. Paying attention scene after scene that sometimes stretches across days, we try to understand, even when the story isn’t told in dialogue, much less action, why characters react or respond the way they do.


If my dad is any indication, character development is hard, at least hard to sit through.


Dr. Quinn’s warm blanket was stripped away after 7:00 a.m. The news. For my dad, and for many, the news was an unrecognized form of drama with its own storylines, confrontations, and character development. While the tension had lessened since Biden’s election, it was completely absent. Recently, the confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court was the dominant story.


Dad focused on book list brought forward, particularly Antiracist Baby. He asked, “Why would a baby be racist?” He didn’t mention the other children’s book highlighted, Stamped (for kids).


I avoided details he wouldn’t know because he hadn’t lived them in the same way he chastised the children on the western for their feelings and lack of stamina. I stated the general, the way he would have about California writing on Dr. Quinn. “Children make observations very young.”


“Well, not like she had read all those books. What difference does it make anyway? Why can’t you just talk about what you read? What are they afraid of?”


I laughed to myself thinking of all the ‘talking’ he sometimes grew tired of in Dr. Quinn, or otherwise. However, the burning books episode was one of his favorites to analyze.


I shrugged. “Their own fear. Having to manage the conversation. You know that movie that’s been released, “Turning Red”. Some don’t like that because it talks about puberty.”


“Yeah no one will talk about sex.”


Or race.


I continued, “But violence is okay, right.” Especially when those who deserve it get what they deserve, and the dominant ‘we’ knows they’re on the winning side. It's logical. Gun play. Savages. Lazy Mexicans. Reasonable. Animals. Only characters in black and white. Hats.


“Yeah, violence has always been okay.” He confirmed.


I stared down at my empty breakfast dishes. I tugged my knee down against the dining room table, preparing to take a shower and change for work. “Well, you know.”


His head turn back toward me.


I finished, “Character development is hard.”

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