What is a main character, really?

Here we look into what a main character is, taking a deep dive into where the concept came from and how you can become one too

Hero image in post
Hero image in post

Here we look into what a main character is, taking a deep dive into where the concept came from and how you can become one too

By Rhys Thomas23 Nov 2023
7 mins read time
7 mins read time

The idea of a main character is first documented in Ancient Greece. Initially these were dancers who stepped out from the crowd of performers, like a soloist. Eventually, as the concept of drama evolved, a poet called Thespis (this is where we get the word “thespian” from) invented a person who stepped out of the chorus and engaged with them using dialogue would be called the protagonist.

Now, the idea of being a main character, except Off stage and in real life, where the cameras aren’t rolling, is a far more recent phenomena. But it’s also a very real and widely tapped construct. #maincharacter has more than 9.3 billion views on TikTok at the time of writing.Here we have videos of people showing visual representations of times where they’ve looked, or felt, like the main character in a movie: wind flowing as you ride through the streets of Beverly Hills with the top down, a little cigarette on the fire escape on the Lower East Side of New York City, headphones on inside a bus trudging through rainy London, droplets and conversation trickling down the window reflecting the tears on your cheeks. These are all main character scenarios.

In a world where people are increasingly into ideas of manifesting and romanticising the life they want, a desire to channel ‘main character energy’ is only natural, it’s a projection. A framing of the mind and situation. All of these ideas stem from the same place: we’re getting spiritual, ethereal, hoping for our dreams and wishes to come to fruition. Essentially, we’re looking for light in less tangible ways, because the world makes less sense than it has for generations. In a world that tends to only highlight celebrities, and provide gifts to the wealthy, creating our dream lives and feeling less inferior than others are concepts people have to grapple with more than ever in order to find good wellbeing.

But this doesn’t make main character energy anti-celebrity. It’s aspirational, and it’s also inherently taking a gaze we typically give to those in the spotlight (as we have since Ancient Greek times). Main character energy also isn’t about necessarily being ~cool~. Nerds rule the world, and introverted characters are more popular on the screen than ever before. So whether you relate to Otis in Sex Education, Rue in Euphoria, or are into more traditional main characters like Barbie in… Barbie, all of these main character energies are welcome. If you think about it, they all exude the same energy within different personalities – it’s always clear that the lens is on them, and that we are in their authentic world.

How to find your main character energy

Authenticity is important when challenging our main character energy. "I think this idea of main character energy has to feel authentic to who you really are for it to be powerful enough." Says Holistic Life Coach, Nichola Henderson. Henderson adds that there’s a genuine importance to being able to tap into main character energy: happiness. Main character energy is about being happy. Present, in the moment, all those blissful things where the world feels like it’s yours. Often, if we can’t access main character energy, it means we’re less than cheerful, or at least not quite living our best life.

Knowing who our own authentic self is, is quite difficult. “Not everyone really knows who they are. These can be difficult questions, you have to be brave enough to get to know yourself on a deeper level.” This is why culturally, we enjoy trying to fit ourselves into categories. They’re a half-way house between knowing ourselves and having no idea who we are. From deciding some Myers-Briggs test results are more desirable than others, to horoscopes, to finding out whether we’re Type A or B. In the manosphere, people have a fixation on being Alpha: there’s even a wikihow on it. But main character energy is a little different. It requires us to go deeper and more personal.

“Identify your obstacles. What are the things that are holding you back?” Henderson says. Common obstacles to living the life we want include a fear of failure, being disappointed by not making it, and doubting your ability to do things at all. “We have to make a commitment to not shy away when it gets tough.” She adds, stressing the importance of pushing ourselves and leaning into being uncomfortable. Finding main character energy is a bit like breaking out of the crowd and starting your own narrative, which is nerve-wracking for many.

Roscoe also agrees that finding this frame of mind is about letting go, but in addition to letting go of concerns, she says “letting go of what's not serving you and then giving yourself love has to happen before you can get out there and do what you really want.” Ultimately, if this is our life to live, and we want to feel good within that, we do need to responsibly curate the world we want to exist in. This might mean spending time with certain groups of people more than others, it might mean changing up your ways of working, it might mean moving somewhere new altogether. We have to trust our instincts to be the main character in our own lives, the scenes have to revolve around us (but not in a narcissistic way).

Tune out of the world, and into yourself

Roscoe says she spends a lot of “time in nature and exercising”, connecting with our body in ways that are very specific and personal is incredibly helpful, while Henderson says “social media and technology infiltrate so many different aspects of our lives and mean we often get caught up in other people's energy”. In both cases, they are suggesting that switching off from the things around you can help you to reconnect with our own way of seeing the world.

Small changes

The key is to just start. There is never a specific way to do anything, our lives and thoughts and feelings are highly specific and nuanced. But one thing we can do is say “I'm going to do something about it right now, I'm going to start taking care of myself, I'm gonna start looking at things in a different way. I'm going to get my own vision board and the board somewhere that I'll see every single day” says Roscoe. Henderson adds that “momentum creates momentum” and small changes often end up making a huge difference. They can take us from feeling like a supporting role in life to the main event.

So main character! It isn’t necessarily about being assertive or loud -though many are- it’s more about feeling present, and central to your own world. It’s about walking down the street and embracing the idea that things revolve around you. Ultimately, the idea of being is tied to ego, which is more universal and less prescriptive than being a ‘type’. Just as you can get villains and heroes, introverts and extroverts alike can be a main character too. Finding yours can be very important, especially if life doesn’t feel like a movie for you right now, because it’s your life. You should be the star.

Main Character is woo's original comedic series featuring an artist, a rapper and a dancer from the Dublin underground, telling three interwoven stories of personal growth in a candid stream-of-consciousness docu-drama. Watch the full series here.