This week made me feel a bit like Jekyll and Hyde. We were asked to take on a different personality and create an inauthentic character. Then, we were instructed to make a campaign speech (for whatever political position our new character decided to run for) and put it into a video blog. Parts of this were easy for me because of my background in theatre. In school, and now in my free time, I perform in shows and very often take on the role of becoming someone else. I tapped into my imagination and developed a personality and experiences that I figured would help fuel my character to her current situation.
A bit of background: The person I invented is named Liza Smith who hails from Kentucky. Liza is a single mother of a 7 year old boy named Issac. She works as a social worker in a local elementary school, a position she has held for about 6 years. Liza finds her position to be hectic, emotionally intense at times, but incredibly rewarding. She loves working with the young children and their families and helping to shape their futures for the better, but does feel bogged down at times due to her workload. On top of that, she struggles with taking care of Issac, who was recently diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. Having only one income, it is difficult for Liza (even with her job as a social worker) to be able to maintain her household bills, doctor and medicine costs, and pay for after-school care for her son. Liza works at a different elementary school than her son attends and often times ends up working late and has to pay to keep him in child-care until she can pick him up.
After working in the school system for a few years, she has noticed a decline in the lunch options offered to the students and it worries her. Her pediatrician warned that feeding children of such a young age with processed, sugary, and starchy foods leads to obesity, diabetes, asthma, growth development problems, and a slew of other medical issues. It truly hit home though when Issac was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes, putting him on medication at the young age of 7. Menu options were junk food like pizza and taco boats, and while the portions were considered “healthy”, there was a definite lack of nutritional value. Liza brought the issue up repeatedly at board meetings, but the current superintendent told her that the school lunches were “fine as they are” and that there was “no money in the budget to revamp an entire school systems food process when there hadn’t been any complaints about it”. This sparked Liza’s decision to run for superintendent and make a positive change for the overall well-being of children everywhere.
See Liza’s campaign speech (and don’t mind the horrid accent- I apologize in advance!)
I decided to create a female character (not just because it was easier for me to make the video) but because, as our text book tells us, the feminine voice tends to be more persuasive due to it’s underlying tones of care and concern. One of the interesting theories we recently read about that would apply to my characterization is trait theory. Trait theory is the study of distinguishing qualities that influence how we think, feel, and behave. John Digman describes the five factor model (the most popular model of trait theory) as including neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. These five general trait factors combine in various ways to create a person’s specific traits. Applying trait theory to my character you can see that she is: moderately neurotic (a concerned parent who is worried about finances and her son’s health), moderately extraverted (willing to run for public office to affect positive changes), moderately open (a reflective thinker who can see issues that need addressing in her community), heavily aggreeable (a well educated person who is sympathetic to others needs and wants to help), and heavily conscientious (well-organized and willing to see her mission through to the end). (Littlejohn & Foss, 2011, p.80-1).
References: Littlejohn, S., & Foss, K. (2011). Theories of Human Communication (10th ed.). Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, Inc.