I’ve never wanted to be a parent. Also, it’s cliche to refer to characters as your children, so let me back up. No, wait; let me just continue on. I get really protective of characters I spend a lot of time with, whether I created/wrote for them or not. The hallmark of a successful show, for me, is characters that resonate and have depth.
How do you do that? Well, if you’re lucky, characters spring fully formed from the thigh of Zeus and you just plop them into a story and watch them go. I’ve had this happen before, and it’s a strange kind of magic (as opposed to the normal kind of magic). They’ll say things and do things seemingly on their own, and you end up surprised at how autonomous they are.
But sometimes it takes real work. Sometimes a character is stubborn, and obstinate, and contrary for the sake of being contrary (which I’m honestly surprised I have a hard time understanding). Lori has been one of those characters for me. On the surface, her defining traits are clear enough. Brought into the fold by Captain Harrison when she’s a young, homeless orphan, Lori is willful, independent, self-righteous, but also wholly devoted to those deserving of her respect and love. She’s the one that keeps the Rogue Winds together, who stepped up to assume leadership, lest she lose her makeshift family and find herself an orphan again.
But she keeps her emotions very close to chest. And as a writer, I find myself afraid of getting too close to her, like she’ll lash out at me if I pry too hard. That’s a ridiculous thing, I know, but still, I have a hard time writing her. That’s why I’ve been working with her more than any other character. I have yet to be really comfortable with her.
There are other difficulties, too. There is, unfortunately, a lot of baggage that comes along with being a white dude writing a female of color. Even though the universe we’re endeavoring to build is devoid of much of that baggage, and I should therefore be able to write whatever I want, the viewer isn’t from that universe. The viewer is from our universe, and will use the shorthand of popular culture to determine who these characters are. This means we have to work against stereotypes. Lori is a strong female character, but it’s important that she not be a Strong Female Character. The difference is that a strong female characters is a human being, and a Strong Female Character is a stereotypical female character who also happens to be assertive (see also: “shrew”). A male character has the advantage of being seen by the bulk of an audience as already commanding some authority by virtue of his gender. A female character has to work harder to come across as strong, but still likable. It’s very angering. It’s too easy to make this type of character a “mother hen” type” (like Katara in “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” who took a nurturing, controlling role in the group dynamic, which was really annoying at times).
But I don’t think Lori would care what you think of her. Lori’s not a born leader. She’s trying to keep her family together, and trying to live up to the legacy of her adoptive father. She’s not catering to some sort of internal desire to be mothering, and is actually pretty bad at taking care of people. In some ways, she’s the least suited to be in charge. She’s trying to prove to herself that she’s worthy of the faith her companions have placed in her, worthy of the second chance she was given to make something of herself. Whether this leads to success or failure, well, only time will tell.
Written By Dave Shapiro
Story By Paul Dodson, Dave Shapiro and Vince Medellin