Thoughts on Content and Identity

Much like many people all over the world, COVID has given me the opportunity to pause and think, to reflect on who I am, where I am, and what I want to be. This coupled with my graduation last year and some friends’ graduations this year has pushed this thought process into overdrive. And… The more I think about it, the more I realize that I am the content I consume.

This becomes more and more clear to me the more I speak with Hadia. Hadia is a newer friend of mine I met towards the end of my college journey. She was born and raised in Syria with very minimal contact with the rest of the world. As far as I understand it, she hadn’t had the exposure to the same media the rest of our friends have growing up. She has never seen High School Musical, Twilight, or even the Princess Diaries… Or really, any of the iconic movies or shows of my childhood.

At first, my deep dive into my childhood started off as a way to introduce her into all of the things some of our friends tend to reference on our outings, but then I realized I was introducing her to all of the things that have shaped me as an individual, from the Harry Potter universe, to why the some of the most famous shows of our childhoods can now be seen as problematic.

Just like everyone else in the world, my identity is encompassed in the memories, the experiences, the friendships (and other human relationships), and the values I hold near and dear to my heart. All of this brought together can help each of us create a steady sense of who we are over time, even as new facets are developed and incorporated into our identities.

It is also shaped in the content I enjoy and choose to consume. It’s interesting to look back on now as an adult. When I was younger, I was more likely to divert away from the certain genres I enjoyed and would watch and read anything I can get my hands on. As my sense of self developed and my free time became shorter, this diversity began to shrink. This is not to say I don’t break away from my patterns, but I now find myself more opinionated, more rooted in my beliefs, my values, and my understanding of what’s right and wrong… and most of this goes right back to how that one movie hit a nerve, or that one book changed my life.

Glee was my introduction into musical theater, Mammia Mia solidified it, and Waitress changed the game. Now, anyone riding in my car with me knows I am most likely defaulted onto my musical theater playlist. Harry Potter was the start of fandom culture, introducing me to many incredible people I still hold near and dear to my heart. Taylor Swift is the reason I write, she taught me the power of words and narrative when you break the rules set upon you by them. The list goes on and on and on.

While the importance of representation is a conversation for another time, it is also important to recognize that our sense of identity does not always stem from that. I am a Saudi girl. I am also a Disney kid, an appreciator of songwriters, and a rom-com aficionado. I have loved Taylor Swift since 2007, and I sing along to broadway even if I don’t have the voice. I know spells from the Harry Potter universe for no apparent reason, I know exactly what I’d do in the Hunger Games Arena, and I am the first to stand by how incredible the Twilight soundtracks were. None of these things represent me as a Saudi woman in 2021, but all of these things have contributed to the person I am today.

I asked Hadia if all of this helps her understand a little bit more of who I am as an adult in 2021. She responded with a quick laugh and said “everything makes so much more sense.”

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