My Role Model: Gillian Foster (Lie to Me)

As TV fans, we are not strangers to the idea of favorite characters. I have at least one per show that I watch, sometimes more. However, even among our favorites, there are some we love just a little more than all the others. They aren’t always played by the most talented person on the show, they aren’t always the main focus, and sometimes they aren’t even that popular with other fans of the show. But we love them anyway and keep them in a special place in our hearts. They are “our” characters, they ones we love, identify with, or look up to so much that we just want to shout about how great they are to anyone who will listen. So today, I want to introduce you all to one of my characters and everything that makes her great.

Gillian

Meet Gillian Foster, from FOX’s Lie to Me. She is a trained psychologist and used to work for the CIA before joining The Lightman Group. She doesn’t have all the experience and background in lie detecting that Cal does, but she uses her ability to understand and relate to people to get her job done. She has shown herself to be very good at her job and is also the person at The Lightman Group who is best able to handle the people-focused aspect of their work.

She is kind,compassionate, dedicated, and determined. She is the emotional grounding point of The Lightman Group team. She gets overly involved with cases sometimes, especially when they hit a little too close to home, but she’ll always find the truth. She’s a fighter and so much stronger than people give her credit for.

What I love most about her is that she knows exactly who she is and she is comfortable with that. In the first episode, she is in Cal’s office talking to him about a case while eating chocolate pudding. Cal was a little disgusted at the thought of eating pudding at 10 in the morning, and when she is asked who would eat pudding so early in the day, she simply replies “People who like pudding”. It’s a small comment and in the first episode, probably wasn’t expected to mean much but it became indicative of a larger character pattern. This is the woman who has a huge sweet tooth, reads romance novels, and likes pink dresses because they all make her happy. While it seems like a simple thing, it is incredibly powerful to both know what makes you happy and then actively choose to engage in those activities even when those around you don’t understand them.

So much about Gillian is associated with a fairly traditional view of femininity. Her interests are more traditionally feminine and the way she interacts with the world, while not passive, is more emotionally driven than the way Cal interacts with the world. Yet the show never uses that against her or uses it to imply that she isn’t strong and capable. When she is injured on a case and Cal (being more than a little in love with her) wants to shield her and protect her, she refuses and pushes on because it just makes her more driven to seek justice for her clients. Her emotions give her drive and passion, they don’t make her weak. It’s not a terribly common portrayal of a successful woman on TV and it makes her stand out to me all the more.

Gillian Foster is my #1 fictional role model. She’s strong, talented, knows herself, and knows that she is valuable to others and demands that recognition and respect. She feels deeply and she loves deeply. Once she is your friend, you know that you have a friend for life. She will be in your corner and fight for you when things get tough. She’s the person you know you can trust with anything. She’s the one who will hurt and get knocked down and get right back up again, ready to fight and move on. She has so many strengths that I love and admire, and that’s why, of all of the characters I’ve loved on all the shows, she’s my favorite. She’s mine and she’ll always hold a special place in my heart.

Who are some of “your” characters, the ones you love just a little more and a little differently than all your other favorites?

 

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8 thoughts on “My Role Model: Gillian Foster (Lie to Me)

  1. This post speaks to my soul. Before I go any further, I just want to say I love how much you love Gillian Foster. Everything you’ve written about her makes me believe she’s an excellent role model to have, and I can see a lot of who you are in what you wrote about her. It’s not hard to see why she means the world to you. ❤

    I've always held Kate Beckett closer to my heart than most other characters. She's a woman who denied herself happiness for a long time because she felt too imperfect to be happy. That spoke to me deeply at a time when I struggled with embracing and creating my own happiness. Watching Beckett come to accept herself for all of the complexities that make her who she is helped me do the same. And seeing her finally happy continues to inspire me to embrace the idea that strength isn't having a stiff upper lip and never letting anybody see what you're really feeling; it's opening your heart to happiness and owning every facet of who you are.

    Then there's Snow White. Snow is so special to me because so many people want to write her off as naive, "infuriatingly optimistic," or annoying, simply because she dares to find strength in hope instead of cynicism and tries to encourage others to do the same. Snow's optimism isn't without realism; she knows all too well that life is painful sometimes, but she chooses to hold onto the hope that things will get better even when times are beyond tough. Snow has moments of crippling self-doubt, but she manages to dig inside herself to be an encouraging voice for others when they need it. Snow is a woman driven by a fierce sense of hope, an optimism literally tested by fire. I've always believed it takes real bravery to be kind, hopeful, and open-hearted in a world that shuns those traits, and Snow inspires me to be that kind of brave every day.

    And, finally, there's my Leslie. Leslie Knope became my #1 fictional role model with two sentences, "If I seem too passionate, it's because I care. If I come on strong, it's because I feel strongly." I've still yet to hear a quote that better sums up who I am. Leslie isn't as physically strong as Beckett and Snow, but she has a strength to her sense of self and her convictions that is unmatched. I'm a person who can never do anything casually; I put my whole heart into everything I do. And I love that I can see that part of me—the part so many people don't understand—reflected in Leslie. I love that, in Leslie, I have a role model for the kind of friend I want to be—someone who encourages others to be their best selves, someone who fosters the passions of others, someone who never stops believing in the people she loves. Leslie never forgets that life is about love, and she never hides how much she cares about everything that matters to her. She makes me feel proud of the fact that I don't know how to feel in a way other than strongly.

    1. I love the common traits shared by all three of these characters. All are so positive and open to love and life and I am so happy that these are the women you look up to. It’s been so rewarding to see the strong woman you have become since I met you and I love that these characters helped get you to where you are now.

      You may have made me tear up a bit with your paragraph on Leslie. You just are my Leslie in every way. Everything you said about her is so perfectly you and I love it.

  2. Yay for fictional role models! Here are my top 4:

    The Planeteers. Yes, I was brainwashed by ‘Captain Planet’. My first dream job as a child was to pick up trash on the side of the freeway. My mother had to explain to me that only criminals had to do that, but I told her I would do it for fun. In High School I did a senior project on less wasteful gift wrapping. And then I got a bachelors degree in Environmental Toxicology. I am pretty sure all of this is because I watched ‘Captain Planet’ as a child.

    Clarissa Darling. I watched a lot of Clarissa Explains It All as a kid, and I always thought Clarissa was an awesome role model. She did her own thing. She got frustrated with her crazy parents but still found a way compromise with them. Her friend Sam had divorced parents (which I related to). And she was good with computers. Clarissa taught me it was cool for a girl to be into computers and programming, and I never once thought growing up that liking computers and playing video games was a “guy thing” and I think a part of that was because of this show. I have been watching old episodes from the early 90s and I am still really impressed with the positive messages this show gave young girls.

    Dana Scully. After I realized I couldnt pick up trash on the freeway for a living, I decided I wanted to be an FBI agent. I loved Dana Scully. She was strong, and super smart, but also vulnerable and caring. One of the things I loved about her character growing up is that she had an M.D., but she decided to join the F.B.I instead of practicing medicine. My high school self thought that move took an incredible amount of courage, and I always admired her character for that. And I wont lie, my etox degree also was chosen with the possibility (no matter how far in the back of my mind) of going into forensics and working for the FBI.

    Leslie Knope. Leslie is my current TV role model. I work with local government employees, and sometimes you do run into the Rons and the Jams of the world and it can frustrating to a point of wanting to cry and quit all together. But then there are Leslie’s that truly believe in what they do and want to make their town better. Thats who I try to be, and I am not alone. And those are the people I try to think about when I am slaving away to get my reports finished or I am spending my free time working on a volunteer event.

    Loved the post and the opportunity to discuss this!

    1. I really love your choices. I didn’t know who the Planeteers were so I looked them up and that sounds like an amazing show to inspire children to be passionate about taking care of the world around them. I love that it influenced your degree and that it’s clearly still something you care about.

      I love that you and Katie both have Leslie Knope on your list. I don’t work in government but I do work for the fundraising department of my local university and the people who believe in the goals of the university and have a genuine desire to see the students who attend succeed are so inspiring to me. They probably go unnoticed a lot of the time, but they really are making a difference with their passion so I know you are too.

  3. Oh my this has had me thinking all day. Like many above, it is nearly impossible to narrow it down to just one. I have loved many characters over my TV viewing history and aspired to embody others. However, over time there are clearly characters who rise to the top at different stages of my life. I related to the parallel of their character or what they represented in the world they inhabited.

    Childhood – For me Laura Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie was where it began and ended. She was a loyal friend, marched to the beat of her own drummer. Could do anything boys could do (often better) and never let herself be defined by being a girl. This didn’t mean she wasn’t susceptible to the yearning of being accepted by your peers or being part of the inner circle. She did and often made the choices that she regretted when knowing it went against what she knew to be better. She wasn’t as altruistic as Mary and had a temper that mirrored my own, but she was fiercely loyal, adored her family and thought her father was the center of her world. For me, that was a kinship I felt growing up and watching Laura grow up too.

    A close second was Jo from The Facts of Life a show that used the ‘fish out of water’ trope by putting a girl from the Bronx in an upstate boarding school. She was the scholarship kid and didn’t automatically fit in with her classmates. Quite the opposite she rebelled against what people thought she should be. I viscerally understood Jo’s fierce determination to hold on to her identity and her stalwart pride in her heritage while proving everyone wrong about the preconceived stereotypes about ‘people like her’. I didn’t go to a fancy school, but being an ethnic kid in a predominantly white school and then sitting in the honors track made certain that I wasn’t like the other spanish kids nor was I like my more affluent peers. When I watched The Facts of Life, I watched a girl who understood who she was and learned that she could adapt to her environment without giving up the things about herself that made her proud. It was a life lesson that continues to serve me to this day.

    My 20s — Piper Halliwell from Charmed was strong, certain, determined and fiercely protective of her family (she also had the best power in freezing people). She was also slightly insecure while being the glue that held everyone and thing in her life together. Surrounded by free spirited and daring sisters Piper was the pragmatist of Charmed. It made her the most grounded of the sisters and the character who possessed what I thought was the perfect balance of skepticism and faith. In spite of the terrors and tragedy, she held on to faith in the people she trusted. She never wavered in that instinct and I always thought it made her the soul of that family.

    Kim on Sports Night remains the woman I aspire to be. She was the perfect balance of determined, ambitious and confidant. She didn’t give a damn that she was playing in a field dominated by men and wasn’t intimidated by anyone from Issac to her male peers. Among the many moments that I adore in the series my favorite is when they are trying to determine play of the year and she has a repeating cadence of “Who gives a damn” for every idea Jeremy or others have that she doesn’t agree with over the course of the episode. Aside from it being hilarious, I love that she doesn’t cave. She doesn’t back down and she doesn’t justify her choices or disagreements. Aaron Sorkin has a tendency to write smart, savvy yet flighty insecure women. Kim is all the former and none of the latter. She is also someone who is deeply invested in her work and the family that puts together Sports Night. You see it in reaction shots and throw away moments, there is a distinct tenderness and humility that she possesses for the moments that are real and she can deftly put the bravado on the shelf to make way for it. Kim is a character that is less showy than some of her counterparts, but she is the most grounded and fierce of them all.

    My 30s — I will forever want to be a short CJ Cregg on The West Wing. CJ was immensely talented, knowledgeable, a healthy dose of crazy and cynical with a dogged ability to carve out her voice and be heard while surrounded by ego, chaos and no small shortage of other smart people. She did it with humor, style and touch of humanity. As I built my own career I tried to balance many of these traits and what made CJ extraordinary she did so in a manner that always allowed her to maintain her dignity and while holding on to her moral core. In a world that runs inside the Beltway that is easier said than done — fictional or otherwise. CJ wasn’t without her flaws, she simply didn’t let them define her or cloud her excellence. That is a balance I always sought to achieve in professional drive.

    While all these characters reflected and/or resonated with me at the end of the day the one character whom I found deep kinship with as a parallel to my own outlook and emotions was Miranda Hobbs on Sex and the City. Yes Miranda was the most ambitious and practical of the four kindred souls and yes she shared my deep love of sarcasm, Chinese takeout and Yankees baseball. She was also a lawyer, the occupation I’d always thought I would take on. And ultimately when Miranda decided to go forward with a pregnancy as a single parent, I also related both to her process in whether or not to have the baby and the absolute chaos of raising a baby and trying to manage a career. All those things are true. But for me the thing that I most adore about Miranda Hobbs is that she is the truest of friends. Her friendship is ‘all in’. She is the friend who will say the thing everyone else is thinking but afraid to say. She is the friend who will tell you what you don’t want hear without consideration to how angry you will be. She is the friend who will be there to listen when you need it most, seek forgiveness when she knows she is wrong and more than anything she is the friend who will walk through fire for you to remain by your side when you need it most. She may not always have the highest opinion of herself, but she accepts who she is and in doing so accepts those she loves for who they are.

    1. I love the image that these characters paint of you. These characters all know themselves and are secure in who they are. They may be sarcastic and cynical but they are deeply loyal and caring to those around them. It is a fantastic set of traits for a person to have and admire in others.

      I’ve been meaning to do a Sex and the City rewatch and this may have finally inspired me to get around to it. I first watched the series 7 or so years ago during my freshman year of college and I know I’ve grown and changed a lot since then so I’d like to see how my opinion about the show and the characters has changed. While Samantha will probably always be my favorite, I can see Miranda being a close second. I don’t think I fully appreciated her the first time around but looking back, she seems like someone I would love.

      1. I have been doing a lot of that lately. Shows I loved in my teens/early 20s have different meaning and relating now. Sex and the City is one of those shows that I was about 5-7 years behind the characters age. So I have landed just past where they ended and 10 years later, I do look at it differently. In my 30s I related to Carrie’s relationship with Big however I realize over that decade I have changed enough because life taught me similar lessons to Miranda. Always fun to revisit stuff but I see very clearly that I am just going to have to find time to watch Parks and Rec.

  4. I remember Gillian! I watched one or two seasons of LTM, I think, and I remember liking her quite a bit. It was so interesting to hear about why you love her and I think if that show had grabbed me more I would’ve loved her as well, she sounds awesome.

    For me, there’s a couple characters who I would probably consider favorites above all the others. I’ll start with what was probably one of my first television loves, Gilmore Girls (I’m just gonna put a sidenote in here – parts of S6 and then most of S7 of Gilmore Girls felt out of character to me, so I kind of ignore those when I think about the show). Lorelai Gilmore was always a character who, while I didn’t necessarily see myself in her, I really looked up to and admired. She is unique in a way that I think is still unique to this day, and I haven’t seen many female characters like her, ever (maybe I don’t watch enough TV? :p). She is witty, enjoys being feminine, has a great head for business and runs the inn, and is an incredible mother. She raised her daughter from when she was 16 and did everything she could to give her daughter the best of everything, even when it came with a high cost for herself (emotional and/or financial). She is hilarious and sometimes covers up her emotions with her use of humor, but also has moments of great emotional genuineness. She was hurt by so many people in her life, but still was able to build a family in this little town where she has many people she trusts. Lorelai is full of characteristics that I feel like aren’t always paired together in one female character, and it was wonderful for me to see such a complex character on TV when I was just sixteen myself. She’ll always have a special place in my heart, and I think her relationship with Luke, with Rory, with Sookie, will always be some of my favorite relationships ever. (Also, now I really want to do a rewatch!)

    The other character who I would say probably stands out for me is Allison Argent from Teen Wolf. She was full of wonderful characteristics that for a long time were seen as contradictory – feminine and a strong fighter, etc. I see some of myself in her because of how she was both sporty and feminine, how she loved archery and wanted to learn to fight in order to not feel weak but also loved wearing dresses. She says it so well when she asks “Why can’t I be strong and go to prom?” She is a love interest but wasn’t defined by being one, she had her own struggles and while her love for Scott was an important part of her life, it wasn’t the only part of her life. She was thrust suddenly into a world where her family lied to her and abused her, a world full of prejudices and blind hatred, a world where she would have to deal with literal life or death situations, and came out on top. She was flawed and made mistakes but tried to make them right in the way she knew how. She was put into a leadership position and used that power to change the way her family worked, to right what she saw as a wrong – coming up with the new code, “We protect those who cannot protect themselves.” Despite being lied to by almost everyone she loved – her aunt, her parents, her grandfather, Scott – and those lies having a great affect on her life, she didn’t blame them for her own mistakes, and she took control of her life. She stood up to her family, to her father, and stood by what she thought was right. I hate, hate, hate that they killed her off because to me, she was one of the best characters on that show and had one of the best overall storyarcs in the way her character grew throughout the series.

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