Twitter user kawí brought the idea of featureless protagonist in video games. There is a reason I didn’t make that connection before and that reason is a presupposition. Video games, to state the obvious, brings the question of games into the discussion. Then when we ask the question if the audience can identify with the reader insert, we have more than one answers: not only they are encouraged to see themselves in the character but they are the one committing their actions. The way the reader is encouraged to identify with y/n is also through this lack of features. But this character has their actions fixed in texts by nature which mark their preferences, they have bodies with which they commit these actions and these can easily differ from the reader’s.

When it comes to a story, a reader can find places that they can occupy. The Avengers have not travelled to their country in canon yet, maybe when they do, they will save them from an attack and become friends from then. If the barricade boys from Les miserable reincarnated, they could be an exchange student coming to their school. Their favourite idol could go on secret trips to a hole in the wall restaurant where they are already a regular but they don’t recognise them and maybe that’s what attracts the idol to ask if they can share a table… In reader insert, these places are already filled up as the position of the reader is fixed, the meeting of y/n with the fictional world is set. Maybe, there is actually less freedom for the reader to see themselves in the narrative this way.

What do you think, y/n?

The Man with Qualities