The Five: Most influential characters
I'm not even going to pretend to narrow down the five most influential television characters ever... I'll just give you the list of five TV characters that had the biggest effect on me. Interestingly, none of mine are from cartoons. List your Top Five in the comments.
5. Anne Shirley, Anne of Green Gables. In 1985, PBS aired a spectacular version of the Anne of Green Gables series of books, starring Megan Follows and Colleen Dewhurst. Anne was a real fish out of water among the high society folks of Prince Edward Island. What I admired was both her frustration with the fact that she was different, but also her determination to remain true to herself amongst so many pressures to conform to society.
4. Elaine Benes, Seinfeld. I actually managed to pick up some of Elaine's mannerisms and I still find myself using them today. I think I was influenced by her confidence in herself and her ability to hold her own with the boys. She isn't a woman who has a lot of female friends and I can identify with that. She's a woman living in a man's world.
3. Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House on the Prairie. The television character that I identified with most as a child was definitely Laura Ingalls Wilder. Just like Laura, I was always getting myself into uncomfortable situations. Whether it was feeling bad about telling a lie or wanting to do the right thing... I was Laura Ingalls Wilder. Plus, I grew up in Montana, which felt like Walnut Grove compared to the rest of the world.
2. Heathcliff Huxtable, The Cosby Show. Cliff Huxtable was a very influential father figure on television during my impressionable years. The way he disciplined his kids -- partly with humor -- sent the message to viewers that a father can be an authority figure but can also love his kids very much. The Cosby Show is also considered legendary for portraying a successful African American family, which I'm sure is buried in my psyche somewhere, too.
1. Kermit the Frog, The Muppet Show & Sesame Street. Although Kermit is not my favorite Muppet character, he embodies everything that I learned from The Muppets, including comedy, humility, kindness and understanding. Not to mention my ABC's and 123's!
*The most influential character from my childhood was not from television, but from literature: Ramona Quimby.