Los Angeles, CA

Becoming the Carrie Bradshaw of Los Angeles

Michael Loren

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I’m sitting at the chicest new outdoor coffee shop in West Hollywood sipping on an almond latte and nibbling politely on a very French-tasting almond croissant. I’m wearing some trendy new billowing pants and a slightly annoying but expensive-enough-to-be-appropriate fuzzy sweater and I’m hammering away with my newly gelled hot pink nails at a laptop.

I’m also typing with enthusiasm because I am being paid to review this fun, fresh new café in Los Angeles. I’m doing exactly what I always wanted to do and I am exactly what and where I always wanted to be. As I wax poetic in my article about the way this establishment pivoted from nightclub to coffee shop, I have a sudden realization.

This wholly jarring awareness is that my ideal life had not been purely generated by my imagination. In fact, my dream life is straight-up based on a fictional character from television.

I have always just wanted to be Carrie Bradshaw from that well-known HBO show.

Now that I have inadvertently appropriated myself as much as I can to the stereotype purported by the long-running HBO show, I ask myself — was it such a good idea to aspire to be like the stylish but klutzy woman who keeps shoes in her oven and overly shares about her train wreck of a personal life? Hmm. Maybe. Maybe not.

The fact is, whether you chose your vocation based on Grey’s Anatomy, you planned your vacation after watching Under the Tuscan Sun, or you got a dog after seeing Marley and Me, if you’re like me, the characters in the stories cooked up in Hollywood have had more of an effect on you than you might have imagined.

How Fictional Characters Influence Our Lives

It’s an interesting thing — the films and television shows that we watch literally shape our lives. Whether you’re a Monica, a Lorelai, a Michael Knight, or even a Newman, you probably have identified with at least one or two iconic characters. And I have a theory that our minds are just suggestible enough to shift our choices ever-so-slightly to mimic those characters which we have seen as so aspirational.

Do the television shows we watch actually alter the trajectory of our lives?

Definitely. When you’re like me and you have watched and rewatched six entire seasons chronicling the escapades of one very fleshed-out character, they’re at least a part of your thoughts from time to time. I think of Carrie Bradshaw when I feel stylish and smart and when I’m out on the town in Los Angeles with my girlfriends. So, what if I watched Seinfeld or The Sopranos as much as I watched Carrie Bradshaw and her friends? Would my life be any different? Maybe.

Everything we invest in influences us on some level — including fictional characters. An article in Psychologist World says, “We seek to emulate the personality traits we admire, assimilating their attitudes, whether they belong to a real-life role model or a fictional character.” So, at least I’m not alone in my quest to be the Los Angeles version of Carrie Bradshaw.

There’s also something called narrative transportation where “audience members feel so involved in a storyline that it can influence their attitudes and behavior in reality.” I don’t know about you, but I am one of those people easily transported by the emotional roller coasters of television and movies. Perhaps that has made me more susceptible to the influence of 90s television shows.

And Carrie Bradshaw isn’t necessarily the worst character to emulate. Terrifyingly, according to the Oxford Encyclopedia of Criminology and Justice, one in four adult male offenders has attempted a copycat crime in their criminal careers. I guess I’m glad I stuck with the tamer shows on HBO.

Becoming Aware of Our Influences

Television and film characters aren’t all bad. We can all stand to take a lesson from a few of them…just maybe not the serial killers. So, how do we become aware of how much we are being influenced by the characters on our screens? Here are a few signs you might be taking the actions and lives of the folks on television and film a little too much to heart:

  • You often think of fictional characters when you’re doing things other than watching television or film. (You walk into Whole Foods and think, What would Bob Harper buy?)
  • You liken your real-life relationships to fictional relationships and perhaps feel disappointed when they don’t measure up. (Why can’t my marriage be as steamy as Simon and Daphne’s in Bridgerton?)
  • You attempt to make your actual life mimic what you have seen on the screen and secretly expect the same results as the fictional characters. (I’m going to take that job offer in Paris so I can have a group of awesome friends and a hot French boyfriend like Emily in Paris.)

An article in North Valley News puts it perfectly — “While the character may not be real, the emotions associated with them are very much so, and this can lead to loneliness being alleviated, reduced stress levels, and can help people develop their sense of self-identity.”

The Takeaway

I truly believe that we can all soak up a significant amount of inspiration from fictional characters. I love writing and I’m glad that the possibility of someday being the Los Angeles version of Carrie Bradshaw motivated me to pursue a career in sharing my words.

However, I also believe that some of us can take this a little too far. The key is to be both aware of the things that are influencing you and your decisions and to also make sure you don’t take those influences too far.

At the end of the day, I will always take inspiration from anywhere I can get it, fictional character or not. Now, though, I will be much more aware of the influence my screen habits have on my decisions and I’ll work on creating my own original and fabulous character

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Professional writer and journalist with concentration in data analysis. I specialize in interpreting data to give you unbiased, understandable information related to the state of California.

Los Angeles, CA
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