How female fictional characters influence us

Stefanie Scott and Hayley Kiyoko, who portray Lexi Reed and Stella Yamada, respectively. Source: By Estescotttefi (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons By Adam Bielawski (Photobra) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

Taylor Easter, MYP Journalist

I used to believe that all TV characters had an influence on me, and that said influence was positive. I didn’t think that any of them really had a negative influence on me. For example, the character Stella Penn (renamed Stella Yamada in the movie) in the novel Lemonade Mouth taught me that it’s okay to stand up for what you believe in, and she taught me that everyone has a voice. The way that she refused to let the administration shut down her band and take away their voice was really inspiring. She didn’t even let the fact that the other band members were initially convinced they would not succeed let her down.  Even with positive characters like Stella, there are still some negative influences in the media. One particularly negative influence I have noticed is A.N.T Farm character Lexi Reed.

While I was watching the show as an eight-year-old girl, Lexi just seemed to be another snobby, self-obsessed, queen bee who treated everyone as her slave, which is already setting a bad example for young girls. It’s a good thing that I didn’t grow up to be like her. Watching the show again as a thirteen-year-old, I realize that Lexi’s actions go deeper than a typical queen bee’s actions. In the final season of the show, when she is revealed to be a math prodigy, she does everything in her power to not let people see her as smart. In the premiere, she leads the other students to believe that she is a musical prodigy by lying about her audition, telling everyone that she had been accepted because of her musical talents, not her math skills. On one occasion, she even says that she wants to be known for her beauty and not her math genius. Her actions tell young girls that they should want to be pretty instead of smart. Women already represent a low number of people working in STEM jobs (for example, only 7.2% of women are mechanical engineers) yet they represent 47% of the U.S. workforce. Perhaps using a TV character to tell girls that they should be pretty instead of smart isn’t helping at all.

At this point, you might be thinking, It’s just fiction. No one takes it that seriously. The group of researchers from Ohio State University who came up with the sensation known as experience-taking might disagree with you on that. Experience-taking is when you get lost in a character so much, that you develop some of their thoughts and attitudes. In a study done by Ohio State University, they discovered that when people read about people of a different racial background or sexual identity, they tend to be more accepting towards people of that racial background/sexual identity. However, if the people were reading in front of a mirror, it was harder to adopt the characters’ thoughts and feelings. According to Geoff Kaufman, the leader of the study, “The more you’re reminded of your own personal identity, the less likely you’ll be able to take on a character’s identity.”

The examples mentioned above had to do with college students reading books, but children and adolescents are more impressionable than college students. Lexi’s behavior could have a major, negative impact on young kids. She isnot the only character that has a bad influence on kids and teens, since she’s not the only mean girl on TV. There’s Alison DiLaurentis (antagonist of the Pretty Little Liars novel series), Regina George and the rest of the Plastics (antagonists of the 2004 movie Mean Girls), Cordelia Chase (antagonist from the 1997 TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Georgina Sparks, Blair Waldorf, and Jenny Humphrey (antagonists/protagonists from the popular 2007 series Gossip Girl), just to name a few. All of these girls are bad role models for different reasons–Alison caused a girl to go blind and then forced her friends to lie about it (not to mention using her friends’ secrets as blackmail), Blair revealed a damaging secret about one of her classmates at a public gathering as revenge (twice, about two different students) and is well-known for her schemes and Jenny is a social climber who ended up sending a compromising image of her brother to a popular gossip blogger.

All of these actions are not actions we should be taking, but these girls are all characters from popular TV shows and movies. Experience-taking means that we are more susceptible to following their actions. Is that really what we want?