When I was a kid, my step-sister had a poster of Elijah Wood on her wall from LOTR and thought he was just the cutest damn guy ever to live. I-of course-made fun of her for obvious sibling reasons. This just makes things really awkward now, because who would’ve ever thought that years down the road, Elijah Wood would end up saving my life.
Especially when I’m so ready to speak about people I admire who I relate to in the film or entertainment industry, like Trey Parker or George Carlin or Larry David, it’s incredible that Elijah Wood would be the one to make the impact necessary to keep me from killing myself.
But somehow, he’s turned Ryan Newman into the most relatable character I’ve ever encountered in all my years of watching television. Even with other great shows and great characters I love and relate to, like LOST and John Locke, Elijah as Ryan takes the cake. Severe depression, intense father issues and especially suicidal tendencies, it’s almost like I’m watching someone play a scripted version of myself. Maybe that’s why it’s been so damn easy to relate to him. That isn’t to say it’s just Elijah though, because Ryan would be nothing without Wilfred, played by Jason Gann, as would I. I need Wilfreds advice just as badly as Ryan seems to, and this summer especially.
This season alone Ryan has been confronted with the reality that he doesn’t let others see him as he really is, the way he did with Amanda. When Wilfred tells him that he will never find someone to love him the way she did, it really hit home as I was recently left by my girlfriend of 5 years this summer suddenly. In a later episode this season, Wilfred tells Ryan once again, “You may not know what you want to do with your life, but at least you know what you DON’T want to do.”
Wilfreds advice is critical to my own emotional state of well being because much like Ryan I am aimless, confused and lost.
But it’s the scene that the picture I included at the beginning of this that made me really realize how close Ryan and I actually are. He’s so open to just flat out admitting that he’s sad. Really sad. I’ve never seen a more honest moment come from a television character regarding their feelings, and usually even Ryan himself is covering his emotions to people other than Wilfred (and sometimes even to Wilfred) which I do to the people around me as I’m sure so many people do to the people around them. But this moment…this one little moment…it just makes me realize that I want to see Ryan get better because I want to get better. This isn’t just fanboying. This is therapy. This is actually helping me not end my life. Seeing someone like Ryan, who’s as shut in as I am and as alone as I am and as FUCKING SAD as I am, really helps me realize that sometimes you just need to shut out everything else and work on becoming happy.
"I’m sad Wilfred. I’m really sad."
As am I Ryan. As am I.
And while the writing for the character of Ryan is crucial for how relatable he is to me, it would be all but lost if not for Elijahs performance. I see so much of myself in the way Ryan holds himself. His sense of humor, his emotions, his inability to admit how screwed up he is until he’s forced to come to terms with it face to face. I’ve never been a big fan of Elijah Wood, honestly. I mean, I liked LOTR well enough, but that was about the only thing I really knew him in. But this is something where had it been anyone else I think the effect would’ve been lost. There’s something about his acting-his ability to hide his sadness under a thin veil of “everything is ok”-that makes Ryan so god damned relatable. I have bad father issues like Ryan, I nearly killed myself like Ryan, and I am really fucking sad like Ryan. Elijah Wood was never one of my favorite actors. He wasn’t even someone I really registered as being an actor I’d enjoy. I thought he did well enough in what I’d seen him in but he wasn’t someone I followed.
That’s what makes the poster situation so damn ironic.
Here’s a guy who I never really watched, never really paid a lot of attention to and made fun of my step sister for being in love with…and now he’s saved me from ending my life.
I understand it’s odd to be speaking so passionately of a character who’s a manic depressive possible schizo and his man in a dog suit friend who gets paid to hump stuffed bears for a living but…I really don’t know this time where I would be without the two of them. Or even IF I would be.
There’s been some shows in the past that have helped me deal with things, like Dead Like Me making me not as afraid of death and accepting that it’s something we cannot stop, or Daria for not feeling as much of a loner as I thought I was. But I never in a million years thought that a show about a man and his friend in a dog suit would be the one that would come along and help me therapeutically. I need Wilfred. I need Ryan. I need them far beyond a generic fanboy need like I have for other things and people. I need them because they keep me sane and keep me alive, and I’m terrified of what might happen to me emotionally if they leave before I get better. Ryans journey of self help is also my own. Weekly therapy sessions through the eyes of Elijah Wood are helping me come to terms and cope with things in my own life that I’m really sad about.
So thank you Elijah. You may never know what you’ve done for me but I felt the need to thank you anyway. Because of your portrayal of Ryan Newman, I am alive today. Thank you. And thank you too Gann and Wilfred. Because without you, Ryan and myself would be nothing.
You’re DAMN RIGHT he is.