You begin watching a new television series, and you immediately find yourself strongly relating to one of the supporting characters. You’ve never before experienced a TV character that seems so similar to yourself; this fictional person dresses, behaves and talks exactly like you. And – slowly, over the course of several episodes – the similarity grows spooky; on two separate occasions, the character recounts personal anecdotes that happened in your real life. The actor portraying this character begins mimicking your mannerisms. In at least three different episodes, the character’s dialog quotes things that you have said (verbatim) during casual conversation. You become convinced that this is neither coincidence nor mental illness: somehow, this character is being actively based on your life. The show’s writers generally depict the “you” character in a positive manner, but – as far as you can tell – you don’t know anyone involved in the show’s production or creation. It’s totally inexplicable. You have two friends who also watch this show. One of them is certain that your theory is correct and that (somehow) the character is, in fact, based on your life. She tells you to get a lawyer. The second friend concedes that many of the similarities are amazing, but that the whole notion is ridiculous, impossible, and egocentric. He tells you to see a therapist. How do you respond to this situation? Do you do anything?
Part of me says to just laugh it off and enjoy watching my hi-jinks played out as part of a TV show (a silly dream of mine, actually; a friend and I have plans to create a sitcom out of my previous job at a watch kiosk. We’re COM kids, that’s what we do) because it’s not as though it’s causing me any harm. The only way this would really start to freak me out is if they deviated from my life history by jumping into the future and showing what my life was supposedly going to be like, or killed me off. I’d definitely need a therapist after that, especially if what the show portrayed started coming true.
The other part of me agrees that I should get a lawyer and go after them for some royalties. I’m not sure I’d have much of a case because of that “All characters and events portrayed are based solely in fiction, and any resemblance to real life is purely coincidental” disclaimer thingy they put at the end of shows — but, then again, I highly doubt the lawyers who came up with that statement anticipated anything quite like this. If I have a strong enough case that EVERYTHING happening on this show has happened to me in real life, that’s probably an entirely different story. Who knows, maybe they’re getting all “Truman Show” on me and secretly taping me, and then we’ve got invasion of privacy suits and a whole bunch of other junk, and before you know it — poof! I’m winning lawsuits left and right and becoming a millionaire without even writing my sitcom (or my best-selling novel…I have plans) — but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Then there’s the other part of me that says that my life isn’t possibly interesting enough for a sitcom, so why are we even talking about this? There are certain humorous parts and thoughts, but those fit well enough in writing that a TV show just isn’t necessary. However, if anyone would like to follow in the path of Jen Lancaster, Julie Powell, David Sedaris (hysterical, by the way, and sums up everything I ever felt about working retail in “The SantaLand Diaries,” which I just read/heard for the first time today), the chicks that wrote “The Devil Wears Prada”, “The Perfect Manhattan” (woo! for a Nardin grad — but I forget which one) and “The Nanny Diaries,” etc. etc., and make my writing (with my consent) or my life (without my consent) into a New York Times best-seller, by all means, have at it.
If you do the latter, though, be prepared for some big-time lawyers at your doors. You’ve been warned ;P