In her article over at fallingskiesblog, fellow author BethTX makes a strong point for why Ben Mason is one hell of a character. I agree about this fact; the writers and actor Connor Jessup do a damn fine job there. However, while reading the article, I found myself realizing that the reason “we viewers can identify with Ben” doesn’t apply. And that, on paper, it really should apply.
I do not wish to bore anyone with tales from my teenage years, but I need to go there for a short moment to explain. So I was a rebellious teenager who, like any other teenager, thought the world would never understand the first thing about me. Now I’m over 30 and the world is still mostly at a loss, which may lead me to think I got a point back then. Truth is, I don’t know and I also don’t care if the world gets me. However, to put things in perspective: I ran away from home at age 14, lived on sofas and in alternative communes with punks, anarchists and (red/S.H.A.R.P.) skins for years, “grew up faster than others because I had to”, am diagnosed with schizoid personality disorder and defy all odds with the triple A – being asexual, aromantic, agendered. I do get the grasp of feeling like an alien, in every nuance available. And without playing my own experiences up or other people’s teenage years down, I think my past qualifies for something else than “omg my parents are so mean, no-one understands me” teenage issues.
Ben Mason, a teenager who lost his mother in a freaking alien invasion, got captured and brainwashed by aliens and then turned out to develop scary levels of superhuman powers, should give me something to connect with. If nothing else, the feeling to be different and the attempt to fit in, the pretending and hiding of things others wouldn’t begin to understand. I have spend the better part of my youth pretending to be something I’m not. Most of all, however, I pretended to give a shit. Because, usually I don’t. Any attempt to fit in was for my convenience, not to really “fit in”. Tired of explaining that I don’t have “crushes” or any aspirations to be in a romantic relationship? Pretend I’m your average straight person, randomly pick some celebs people around me find “hot” and claim I find them “hot”, too. Tired of explaining that yes, I do appreciate this birthday gift, but my appreciation doesn’t inspire me to jump around and hug people? Fake a smile, play along, be done with it. It boils down to “being tired of explaining things you don’t get anyway” and “yeah, whatever, leave me in peace”. I never had any illusions people would sit down, hear me out and be okay with it at some point.
Ben Mason, he is truly desperate to make people understand how he feels. For acceptance, trust and community; proving his loyalty and that he only wants the best for his people. I give a shit as long as people just don’t get on my nerves and I frankly don’t bother with “what’s best for them”. “What’s best for me” is perfectly enough, and that is usually “I don’t get what the fuzz is about, so go tell your problems to someone else”. It’s not out of spite or because I’m such a cold bastard. It’s because I really, honestly don’t understand those things. Breaking up with a partner of 3 years? People will go through weird phases like trying to analyze why the relationship didn’t work out, worry that they “can never love again”, being allround sad and crushed. Me? Find new sofa to crash on, end of story. I know, I know, it sounds sad, but it isn’t – for me, it isn’t. I get it, I’m pretty different from the majority when it comes to such things. And that’s fine, I don’t expect the majority to change for me. It’s not all bad to be different anyway. One of my very best friends comes to me for relationship advice specifically because it will be rational and brutally honest. That is because I couldn’t give any other advice – I’d never say “listen to your heart” because people suspect I don’t even have one. (I do, I once saw it on an x-ray.) So in a nutshell, I cannot relate to Ben’s desire for understanding because I never had it, despite my being different.
I can also see what Ben is doing when he hides his glowy spikes or pretends he didn’t watch the time when he did 200 freaking push ups. He tries to not scare people; to fit in and be part of a group. Well, that’s the very thing that drives me nuts. My reaction to getting weird ass superpowers? Yay, now I can run off into the woods, survive on my own without depending on others to find food, weapons and shelter and other humans will run from me in fear! That’s awesome! You see, whenever I faked to be a sane, average person, I could keep it up for a while. I became quite efficient at it, down to faking to be a social butterfly who knows everyone and their mother; all while truly giving a damn. It was the neccessary thing to do to be good in my job, so I made the sacrifice the situation demanded. And then, I went into major burn out syndrome because a social butterfly is simply not who I am and playing a role almost 24/7 wears you down. Getting the magical ability to be efficient at what needs to be done – in case of an alien invasion, that would be “surviving” and “fighting for my life” – without the need to deal with people would be a freaking revelation. And what Ben did for the better part of the show was the exact opposite of what I would do.
Enter Pope – here’s the character I do relate to, along with the bits and pieces of Dai and Anthony we were shown so far. No, Pope doesn’t struggle with alien superpowers that make people fear him; he doesn’t have the entire inner conflict of being different and trying to fit in. And that’s the point: He doesn’t try. People percieve him as a jerk and he’s okay with that. That is who I am. Sure, I’m likely percieved as a jerk for different reasons – I have the psych evaluation to show for it. But I have never thought of myself as a freak, as “ill” or that “something is wrong with me”. At best, I thought something is wrong with everyone else, because hey, I’m fine with the way I am. I am, indeed, okay with being kind of a jerk. Pope is more likely to ask “what the hell is wrong with you people” than having some inner monologue about his desperation regarding people not accepting or liking him. To me, he doesn’t give off a “what an asshole” vibe. I get a “ah, finally, sanity!” vibe from him because he does pretty much what I would do. Call bull when the situation warrants it, regardless if people want to hear it. Fend for himself and himself alone. Not having true loyalties, not even his own brother. (My brother isn’t quite the jerk Billy was, but damn, he’s close.)
So, if the world went to hell, I wouldn’t be like Ben. I’d be a chain-smoking version of Pope, and I’d be making more sarcastic remarks with pop culture references. And you’d better pray I wouldn’t get superpowers like Ben, because I’d be the most unlikely person to use them for your sake. While you were out there, afraid and alone, in an alien infested city, trying to find something to eat… I’d be jumping from roof top to roof top, in a silly, over-the-top superhero costume, throwing plasma TVs from skyscrapers, for the lulz. You need this fuel to transport your merry band of survivors to a safer haven? Well, fuck you, I need the fuel to make a flaming Punisher skull on this public place because it will look awesome at night. You need this canned food to feed starving children? Well, fuck you twice, I need the cans to shoot at them because I’m the Amazing Super Redneck (until I make a new costume).
Oops. I got sidetracked by my world domination fantasies up there. In a nutshell, I’d be a total jerk in a post apocalypse scenario. I’d be worse than Pope. And he’d be the one I’d come back for to save his ass, because he’d be the one most likely to become my supervillain sidekick. I’m not a hero. (Well, not that kind of hero.) I’m not someone struggling to fit in. I’d be mayhem, as irresponsible and “bad” it would be – from your point of view, heroic survivor with nothing but the well-being of your followers in mind. And that’s why I can’t identify with Ben. He’s a hero, I’m a jerk. And that’s my saving grace: At least, I’m honest about it. You’re warned: Do not, under no circumstances, depend on me if the world goes to hell. Because I’ll go with it.