The protagonist of the new Netflix series The End of the F***ing World might seem familiar to anyone who has enjoyed a series with an unsympathetic main character. James is a self-proclaimed psychopath who has lived a numb life until classmate Alyssa comes into it. Still, he decides to kill her just to test how deep his lack of feeling goes. In a world of Walter Whites and Dexter Morgans, James could fit right in. But is he one of a type or is James from The End of the F***ing World based on a real person?
It doesn't seem like anyone real inspired James, though there were a few different sources of inspiration for Charles Forsman, the author and artist of the graphic novel on which the show is based. After finishing a visually complex comic called Celebrated Summer, Forsman wanted to explore a format that was more minimalist and less heavily planned. Thus The End of the F***ing World was born.
But Forsman told The Comics Journal that he didn't know where he got the idea for James' character. "I'm not really sure where James came from," he said, adding:
That first issue kind of just came out of me very quickly. It was almost like I was setting up the rules of a game that I am still playing. Sometimes I think I might have been inspired by that show Dexter, with the sociopathic crime scene investigator who also happens to be a serial killer. I liked the idea of a character like that. Someone who is so unsympathetic and has to learn how to function in reverse.
It seems as though Forsman developed James as a tool to tell the story he wanted to tell, just as James' girlfriend Alyssa provided a different point of view and a tone that contrasted James' deadpan, disaffected voice. They're fictional characters, so they serve the story and themes; if there are similarities to other fictional works or real people, then it appears to be purely coincidental.
It has been noted that Forsman's work often explores teenage alienation, as well as anger and violence; The End of the F***ing World is no different. Forsman was asked about that during an interview with Comics Beat, which he answered by saying:
I think a lot of it comes from the frustration of the teenage years. Certainly my early work drew a lot from that time in my life. I think it's just me working out that feeling of not feeling comfortable in my own skin and having to grow up a bit too fast and feeling like everything is a sham.
In another interview with The Comics Journal, Forsman speculated that he was drawn to writing about teenagers because during his own teenage years he was "very insular and depressed." His father died when he was only 11 years old, which drove home to him at a young age that life could be impossibly unfair. Though he noted that one's teenage years also result in a lot of discovery, they were frustrating at the same time and could be painful.
Like many authors, it seems like Forsman took aspects of his own life and different media influences to create something wholly new. James or Alyssa may resonate with audience members who have shared similar experiences, and they may at times seem to reflect very real emotions. But that doesn't mean there's a true story that spawned the series, or inspired the creation of the characters. James is a fictional character his author is using to express specific things and to tell a specific story.
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