Is it good or bad to imitate someone?
It’s good, if by imitate we mean emulate the good behavior
of someone we admire, whether a real person or fictional character.
I’ll admit to having done this myself from time to time. Here is one
example, from an old blog post.
Emulating Johnny Malone
Every time I read Lenora Mattingly Weber’s books about the Malones, I find myself wishing that I knew as much about the history of New York State, especially Brooklyn, as Johnny Malone knew about Colorado, especially Denver.
Well, I could always follow his example:
Research and read.
And I have at least one advantage over Johnny Malone. He did not have access to the Internet!
And how many children were taught to be truthful by being told that George Washington, our first President, never told a lie?
Of course, emulating people or characters we admire can be dangerous.
When I was a kid, one of my young cousins tried to copy Superman.
Yes, he could wear a cape.
No, he could not fly.
Fortunately, he wasn’t seriously hurt.
Then there’s the type of imitating called mocking.
Years ago, I was in a store, and I heard a salesman imitating,
mocking, making fun of a little girl who stuttered.
She ran out, sobbing.
I yelled, “MANAGER!!!! MANAGER!!!” until the manager came and
asked me to leave because I was creating a disturbance.
I said, “You’re damn right I’m creating a disturbance, and I’m not leaving until I tell you why.”
I then reported the incident, and several other people corroborated my story.
The manager ordered the guy into his office.
The salesman gave me a nasty look and asked me why I had to butt in,
since I wasn’t related to the kid, and I answered, “It’s lucky for you I’m not!”
I once saw some little boys silently mocking an elderly woman by copying the
way she walked and laughing.
A very little girl, holding onto her mother’s hand, pointed at the boys with her free hand and said, “TAME on you!”
(Good for that little girl!)
And I’ve actually heard potty-mouth parents ask where
the BLEEP did their kids pick up those BLEEPING words.
But I want to get back to the better ways of imitating, of copying.
Dancing school student, for example, learn by copying, as well as
they can, the movements of their instructors.
Artists, composers, writers begin by copying the styles, the techniques, of
others, until they develop their own personal styles, their own techniques.
I’ve incorporated various writers’ techniques into my own writing style, as
well as using certain techniques that came naturally, so naturally, sometimes,
that I wasn’t even aware of them until a teacher asked me where I’d learned them.
People have always imitated others, for better or for worse.
And for most of us, the first ones we imitated, the first ones we
copied, the first ones we learned from were Mommy and Daddy.