There’s this funny thing that happens when you aren’t presented in the media you consume: you start to relate to roles and tropes that aren’t relatable, and you empathize with characters that are marginally connected to your experience. It’s probably unhealthy or something, but I’m sure that too many of us had that happen. When I was young, I related to Moses in Prince of Egypt (little Val thought he had a hot wife, and big Val agrees), and to Aladdin, and to Mulan, and to Jim from Treasure Planet, and the little racoon from Pocahontas (he just had that vibe I appreciated). I was a little tomboy, and all these characters had that in some capacity, but that’s where the similarities stopped. I wasn’t into the whole calm-Moses-who-grew-up-and-became-a-prophet, or street-urchin-with-a-girlfriend-who-is-capable™, or pirate-ish-space-surfer-with-angst, (Mulan and the racoon are still chill). But you know what? It was what was available, and yes those are the characters I wanted to pretend to be when I would play with my friends.
With time, I had to do that less and less, and mostly it’s the diversity that is getting more normalized with each passing season, but also I never had to let this skill go rusty on me. As a person going through a fairly intensive English Masters program, there are a lot of things that I have to read all the time with my every free moment, that are so far from what I experience in my life that it really takes the full stretch of the imagination to endear myself to the characters. But I kinda have a system now because of all the practice I got as a child. I just make the characters queer.
Oh, a novel about a straight dude falling in love with a woman he’s spoken to once, that also feels pervy? Just make him a lesbian in my brain dome and voila, I no longer want to gouge my eyes out. A woman pining after a boring average guy that everyone is in love with for some reason? What if he’s trans or an enby? Now there’s more dynamic to play with! I have never been so thankful for the amount of reimaging that fanfiction has trained me in, because there’s only so many times I can read about straight people, and men who always get boners at least once in their story for mundane reasons, and women who sleep with the husbands they don’t love and are either bored the entire time or are experiencing sexual violence that’s for the plot and for the character development. Thank you lack of diversity for preparing me for this lack of diversity!
So yes, it sucks that we have to apply our experience into boxes that are so out of our lines, but on the bright side, it makes the boring stuff so much better.