Influence. On who you are. What you think. What you like, hate, want, aspire to be.
There’s so much of it. Advertising. Social media. News media.
Family. Friends. Your work environment.
Before all this, though, there’s TV.
Fiction. Non-fiction. Animation.
Before you join the work force, or the social media realm, or even the dating world, these influences have prepackaged you to an extent.
Like to partake in fisticuffs and treat your lady as a prize? Perhaps you watched a fair share of Popeye.
Live in a land of make-believe, and change your shoes when you get home? Maybe you were a product of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.
Find yourself chasing your rival with mallets, butcher’s knives and explosives? Watch Tom & Jerry or Roadrunner much?
I avoided a life of reality avoidance and violence with blunt objects and blades, but fictional characters definitely made their presence known to me.
Whether it was for better or worse is up to society and a handful of therapists and perhaps local law enforcement to decide.
Here’s four fictional characters – and one real person – who made their impact on my impressionable years. Honorable mention goes to the likes of Maddie Hayes of Moonlighting fame, Jesus, and Cookie Monster, incidentally.
1. Maxwell Smart.
Why? When I was a kid, I just thought he was funny. And still successful. As an adult, he proved to me that you can bumble a bit, and still be a champ. Belittled by your peers, but still crack the case. Botch the works, miss it by THAT much, and still have an Agent 99 just roll her eyes and say, “oh, Max!”, and love you anyway. The gadgets helped. If T-mobile offered a shoe phone with a two-year renewal, I’d sign up. Even if they didn’t come with the cuff link cameras.
2. Jim Zorn.
Why? First off, he’s left-handed, like me. Second, he played for my favorite childhood team, the Seattle Seahawks, an expansion NFL franchise that played in a dome and uniforms in my favorite colors. Check out the video. Before I knew what the word “improvisation” meant, I watched Jim Zorn scramble and sling and slide and lead the Seahawks to, if not victory, at least a pretty decent highlight reel. That’s me, in life: I might not always win, but it’s usually an entertaining attempt.
3. Indiana Jones
Why? It feels like I’ve talked about Indiana Jones every week. My parents said when I was a little kid, I wanted to be Steve Austin – you know, the Six Million Dollar Man. I even told a grocery store cashier my name was Steve Austin when she asked me (nothing like getting a head start on awful pickup lines). But Indiana Jones represented more than good machinery – he’s brave, intelligent, quick on his feet, and, I’m convinced, could kick ass against a trio of Crocodile Dundee, Honk Kong Fooey and Slater from Saved by the Bell, even.
4. Judy Jetson
Why? My first official crush. See, my friends didn’t have cute big sisters. Two had mean big brothers. They taught me a lot of stuff I’m glad to have forgotten. Judy, though … she was flighty, had that dreamy/obnoxious voice, flitted around like a teenager. I wasn’t even jealous when she drone on and on about one cute boy after the next at her star school, but maybe I should have been. Maybe she would have noticed. Being a 20th-century kid never felt so tragic.
5. Agent 99
Why? Understand, I was a 70s kid, watching something simultaneously cool and funny in “Get Smart.” Agent 99 was, well, an agent! She had all the special-agent gadgets and tools, and all the fashion impeccability a kid younger than 10 could understand. And she was all girl. Those eyelashes. That voice. Now, though, I realize the most endearing thing she did, for me as an 8-year-old or me as a 40-year-old, was that whenever Max screwed something up, was utterly wrong, or managed to combine both foibles into one, she’d just shake her head, bat her eyelashes, and say, simply … “Oh, Max.”
If you’re a guy who aspires to becoming a bumbling hero someday, you like things like this.