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📰 Main Character Energy — Real Life

Author: Coco Klockner

Full Title: Main Character Energy — Real Life

URL: https://reallifemag.com/main-character-energy/

Highlights from March 7th, 2021.

Main characters have an impeccable magnetism to them. They’re creative. They don’t play by the rules. They’re a little ugly but in a hot way. They’re full of themselves but humble at the right moments. They’re self-aware but unanxious. They’re not perfect, but if they stumble, a lesson is learned. Perhaps foremost, a main character emerges as someone who can pull off the paradoxical feat of conveying interiority in a world of surfaces. Main character energy is not a matter of being “individualistic” or singular but rather a matter of being extremely legible.
Through a refinement of genre and other formal conventions — framing devices, non-diegetic sound, and continuity editing methods — cinema constructs an image of a subjectivity for its protagonists that is exteriorized yet private. It shows what interiority is supposed to look like from the outside.

Highlights from March 7th, 2021.

In the novel, subjectivity is presented as an interior monologue; theater grounds it in communal practice and builds the conventions of subjectivity around the gradient between spectator and stage. But watching movies invites a different kind of identification. Its rendition of subjectivity is structured not in language or community but in a vicarious projection into a “main character” who is centered by the camera’s focus.
One can no longer be socially present without taking on these cinematic forms of self presentation, which have become the default mode of being, the overriding “presentation of self in everyday life” (to borrow Erving Goffman’s term) that structures all the others.
Subtle gestures of asserting main-character energy also serve to stave off its opposite condition: the non-playable character. Regularly abbreviated as NPC, the non-playable character has become a familiar signifier for the automaton, the AI-controlled robot with eyes glazed over to indicate that there is no “inside,” no interiority or self-consciousness.
If we are constantly performing the self to the ubiquitous and persistent audiences that social media platforms provide, then interiority is no longer central to selfhood and no longer assumed in the same way. Instead, our performances establish ourselves for others, and how those performances are received conveys a sense of selfhood back to us. That brings main character energy perilously close to NPC-hood.
When our interiorities are so thoroughly excavated for extraction, qualitatively and quantitatively, a sublime quality to the NPC ontology emerges. We might make a case for the opacity of the NPC as a subject position that, beyond its nullity, affords legitimate leisure, a position from which interiorities are not regularly excavated and from which self-referential performances are not demanded. The real story is elsewhere.