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Main character energy: Should we be romanticising our lives?

PHOTOGRAPHY BY SIMON FITZPATRICK

WORDS BY LOUIS HANSON

I’m the main character, and so are you.

The year? 2009. The mood? Dramatic. Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Breakaway’ has just started playing on my fourth-generation iPod. Rain is trickling down the window. The stage is set.

To the outside world, I’m a 9-year-old boy in the backseat of the family car, coming home from a road trip. But in my fantasy, I’m in a music video, imagining a scenario in which I’ve been dramatically hard done by.

“I’ll spread my wings, and I’ll learn how to fly,” I whisper, looking out the window, making sure the imaginary camera catches my best angle. “Though it’s not easy to tell you goodbye.” 

Cut to March of this year, as I catch a flight down to Melbourne for my brother’s wedding. As I board the plane, hoodie over my head, I imagine walking to the tune of Britney Spears’ ‘Piece of Me’. 

I simply do not care that my carry-on bag is bursting at the seams because I refused to pay for check-in luggage, or that I’ve secured a back-row seat beside the toilet. In my mind, paparazzi are in tow. I am the moment. A true jet-setting icon. 

This, my friends, is main character energy, the phenomenon in which one feels as though they are the protagonist in the film of life, where imagined grandeur supersedes mundane surroundings.

This concept arguably gained traction on TikTok back in May, thanks to user @lexaprolesbian’s viral ‘Main character song’ and @ashlaward’s harp-fuelled speech imploring us all to start romanticising our lives. 

The two TikToks, which garnered 5.8 million views between them, subsequently prompted a sea of fellow users to come forward, discussing what constituted main character energy for them. For @fairyonaberry, it meant “sitting on a windy hilltop staring at birds dramatically”. For @drewwilson_ it was “driving through the rich neighbourhood in your ratchet car blasting obscure indie music.”

 

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A post shared by Louis Hanson (@louishanson)

Users inevitably flocked to the comment sections, laughing at the ridiculousness of our united, protagonist thought processes, asking “why are we all the same?” As it turns out, we’ve all fallen victim to main character energy – we aren’t as unique as we all once thought.

Although some may view main character energy as a self-indulgent fantasy, I’d argue that it’s just human nature – a universal byproduct of the human imagination, as we dream, aspire, mourn and remember. 

After all, isn’t it normal to be caught up in the various narratives our minds manufacture, narratives driven by our own fears and desires? And given the current dire state of the world, don’t we all deserve to feel like the main damn character?

I thought about this yesterday as I caught the bus, taking my usual inner Sydney route.

I’d normally throw my earphones in after finding a seat, staring into the abyss while daydreaming about various hypothetical scenarios. But this time I didn’t. I looked around, observing other people.

One man, perhaps in his 60s, was staring at the ground, deep in contemplative thought. Another passenger, dressed in a sparkly red jumpsuit with matching red headphones, was gazing out the window, the corners of their mouth slightly raised, half-smiling.

These two were protagonists in their own music videos, imagining vivid narratives, scenarios and relationships that I’d never know of. To them, I was merely a passerby, someone who might show up in the background of one frame, only to be cut from the scene as they continued on with their respective plotlines. 

This bus, I now imagined, was being surrounded by various camera crews, filming each passenger’s respective inner monologue – music videos the other would never watch. A bus filled with main characters and extras, simultaneously. 

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