My favorite game is “Who Are We In This Franchise?”
“Okay, guys, who would we all be in Harry Potter?”
“Which Pixar movie is everyone?”
“Who is everyone in our office in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?”
“Who Are We In This Franchise?” has rules. You can’t say what character you think you are; that has to be determined by those around you. If you pick the character yourself, you’re just going to ultimately say who you want to be or who your favorite character is, and that is a boring game. The integrity of “Who Are We In This Franchise?” depends on an individual’s allowance to see themselves through the eyes of those, ideally, closest to them. This is a best friend game. A close and familiar co-worker game.
I suggest playing this game CONSTANTLY. I am desperate to be told by others who I am. I cling to the nuggets of identity that are revealed to me through “Who Are We In This Franchise?” I don’t like myself very much, but I love the characters in all of my favorite fictional worlds. To be able to relate to a character that I do like and admire provides me a little, nerdy respite from self-loathing.
When a friend tells me that, within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I most resemble Groot, what I hear is: “You’re a specifically sized, amusing creature who is good for a laugh, but is also capable of being a badass when your friends are threatened.” I like that. I like Groot. If I’m like Groot, transitive-geek-property proves that I like myself.
When my college best friends and I engage in a group text to determine who all of us are in “Stranger Things,” I am hoping to hear that I’m our Eleven, because she’s the character that I love the most. My best friend wisely identifies me as our team’s Mike Wheeler. She sees to the core of me, and knows that I am an impulsive, romantic nerd. I tell my boyfriend this assessment, and he scoffs.
“Oh? Who do you think I am?”
“Dani. Come on.”
He thinks I’m Dustin. As Walt Whitman wrote, we are large, we contain multitudes.
It’s been about two months since I starting taking medication for bipolar II disorder. My biggest fear remains that “feeling better” won’t feel like being me. For good or bad, my depression and my self-hatred are pillars of my identity. They have been with me for so long. I logically know that it would be better and healthier for them to crumble, but I am also terrified of being lost without them.
Being myself is not half as fun as being a patchwork quilt made up of Groot, Mike, Kermit the Frog, Rapunzel from Tangled, Nathan Lane in The Birdcage, Dory, and Neville Longbottom. Being myself doesn’t really mean anything besides being sad and angry that I’m not who I think I should be– more productive, more successful, more organized, thinner, wealthier.
What gives me a little comfort about “Who Are We In This Franchise?” is knowing that, really, the best part of playing is spending time talking with my best friends about silly nerdy stuff. For example, being Groot wouldn’t feel as special without knowing who my Star-Lord and Rocket Raccoon are. Being the Leslie Knope to my actual best friend makes me happy, because I really do love my best friend as much as Leslie Knope loves Ann Perkins. Seeing not just my individual self, but my relationships reflected back at me via pop culture reminds me that, even if I feel like a failure in every other aspect of my existence, I’m succeeding at being a friend.
Playing “Who Are WE In This Franchise?” means that I’m part of a We. Of a team. Above all else, this is the thing that keeps me from disappearing not just into a fantasy world, but altogether. Logically, I know that I can’t be as awful and horrible as my brain thinks I am, because, I mean, I’m someone’s Groot. That’s pretty awesome. Maybe I still don’t think I know who I am, but I at least know what I bring to my friends’ lives, be it my sense of humor or my berserker tree rage.
I will never stop suggesting “Who Are We In This Franchise?” I highly recommend it to you, if you’ve never played! Grab all your favorite people, go to your favorite haunt, and figure out who you all are in Game of Thrones, in Star Wars, in Lord of the Rings, in DC Comics, and so on and so on. Try to find a balance of being excited about all of your fun new fictional doppelgängers, but also recognizing your own unique worth as You to this team of people you love so much. These alone are your win conditions.
I believe in you.
We are Groot.