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The Impossibility of Loving Max Evans; Liz Parker’s Identity Confusion in Roswell’s Theme Song “Here With Me”

Roswell (1999–2001) original TV series tells the story of Max Evans (Jason Behr), a half alien/half human teenage boy who died in his home planet and was manufactured to come to Earth to save the world. He falls for Liz Parker (Shiri Appleby), a human teenage girl who gets involved in his countless alien shenanigans throughout the three season series. The show takes us through narrow escapes with alien hunters, supernatural teen drama and a whirlwind of Max, Isabel (his sister) and Michael (their friend) attempting to discover the truth of their existence.

Even if you have not seen the original Roswell, you might recognize the catchy refrain of the theme song, Dido’s “Here With Me.” The song got radio play and haunted our late ’90s/early 2000s teen angst with fantastically emo lyrics and electronic explosions of despair. The lyrics of “Here With Me” surely describe Max’s challenged journey of reconciling his half alien existence and life purpose with his love for Liz on Earth.

But I hear this theme song differently. The soundscape that begins the show can be read as an illustration of the exhausting swirl of pain that Liz lives and resides within. The lyrics describe Liz’s upsetting impossibility of loving Max Evans. The words echo Liz’s addiction to the pain and unrest of chasing after a love that can’t be actualized.

I didn’t hear you leave
I wonder how am I still here
And I don’t want to move a thing
It might change my memory
Oh, I am what I am
I’ll do what I want, but I can’t hide
And I won’t go, I won’t sleep
I can’t breathe, until you’re resting here with me
And I won’t leave and I can’t hide
I cannot be, until you’re resting here with me
I don’t want to call my friends
They might wake me from this dream
And I can’t leave this bed
Risk forgetting all that’s been
Oh, I am what I am
I’ll do what I want, but I can’t hide
And I won’t go, I won’t sleep
And I can’t breathe, until you’re resting here with me
And I won’t leave and I can’t hide
I cannot be, until you’re resting here
And I won’t go and I won’t sleep
And I can’t breathe, until you’re resting here with me
And I won’t leave and I can’t hide
I cannot be, until you’re resting here with me

Liz and Max reflection in window

Now, we can totally be down for Max and Liz’s steamy teen love that heats up the screen. With Max’s unapologetic heroism, his chivalry, his quiet unconditional adoration of her (oh and his abs), and with Liz’s brilliant scientific mind, her adorable idiosyncrasies and her fierce determinism of being with him despite all odds, this is seemingly a match made. 

  • But what do you do if your first love is half alien/half human from another planet?
  • What does loving Max actually mean for Liz?
  • How do you define a love that is unavailable, all consuming and a secret?

Dido’s words in “Here With Me” may very well represent many teen girls of the early aughts’ distress over absent and clueless teen boys, and the soundtrack provides the perfect backdrop for this distressing heartbreak. As Liz seeks to discover her sense of self and how she can exist without Max, we watch her wrestle with identity confusion and the ultimate question of who she is in the Roswell galaxy. 

Identity Confusion: Oh, I am what I am, I’ll do what I want, but I can’t hide

Liz Parker at the Crashdown Diner

Who is Liz Parker? 

Season 1 begins with Liz sharing her journal entries in a voice-over narrative, framing her as the protagonist and the holder of the story. In the pilot episode, she works as a waitress at the Crashdown Diner and is shot in the stomach in a random crossfire fight between customers. By putting his hand over her open wound, Max uses his healing powers to save her life, and the confusion of who the protagonist is begins here.

The pilot does in fact hold Liz as the main character; after all she is the one to test Max’s DNA in Biology class and to come up with the plan to divert Sheriff Valenti from the alien trail, thereby temporarily saving the lives of Max, Michael and Isabel. But quickly the story moves from Liz as the centralized focus to Max, who now becomes the lead character in the narrative. In some of Season 1 and 2 we hear stories from Liz’s perspective; the journaling putting us into her world. But by Season 3 it drops off completely and viewers can forget almost entirely that she is the hero. 

Liz Parker holding gun with Max looking down next to her

As Max is now the focus, Liz becomes inseparable from him, and yet there are major forces keeping them apart. First off, Max’s unprocessed trauma from being tortured by the FBI is a huge barrier to emotional intimacy, as well as his allegiance to his destiny as alien King who saves the world. Let’s not forget his future self returning to current day to tell Liz to break up with him in order to save the planet. Even in an alternate reality they can’t be together! Remember when she and Max are arrested for armed robbery when holding up a convenient store where the spaceship is housed? Or when Max left Liz to pursue Tess (another half human/half alien) and he got Tess pregnant? In the real world these are pretty unforgivable betrayals. In the world of Roswell, Liz accepts these to be part of his fate and thus her fate too.

Nowhere is their impossible relationship more evident than in Season 3, where Max leaves for LA and goes offline. He does not call or text her when he says he will. She finally gives in and calls him right when he and the shapeshifter are about to take off in a recovered spaceship on the military base. He looks at the phone, sees it is her calling, hesitates and then declines her call. Essentially he was going to go back to his home planet and not even say goodbye! When this plan goes awry, he comes back to Roswell, apologizes and at first she does not accept this, but then quickly caves and tells him it is alright. This type of behavior from him has become acceptable and expected at this point.

Liz laying on Marias shoulder sitting on couch

Liz has a failed attempt at individuation when she goes to boarding school in Vermont and wakes from a dream knowing that Max has died. She must return to him and to Roswell immediately, returning to a life that continues to be defined by his existence. “Let’s go home,” she says to Maria (her best friend), knowing that both she and Maria can’t make it on the east coast without their men. Maria had also left her boyfriend Michael in Roswell to pursue a career in music, but they were always meant to return to Roswell. Otherwise the show would be called Vermont and that just wouldn’t work.

Liz’s identity confusion is summed up in (“…I am what I am, I do what I want…”) reflecting her pull to be with Max and do his alien bidding under these seemingly strongly worded but falsely independent lyrics. She is not complete without him. True individuation and identity formation can’t happen unless they are apart, which feels impossible to her. And yet the truth of the situation is that they are apart. She is living in a dream—a fantasy of being with him—and putting herself at risk left and right to try to actualize him in her life. She wants to present to the world as someone who is self-sufficient and assured, and yet inside she can’t hide” her truth. She can’t hide her love for Max which is all encompassing. She is intoxicated by his love. If kissing someone could send you literally flashing into the Whirlwind Galaxy, who can blame her for being so hooked? 

Alien Fusion: I cannot be

Max Evans pointing up to sky

Liz Parker pointing to sky

The theme song is called “Here with Me” because she needs him to be there with her. I wonder how am I still here?—she has no sense of being alive and believing that she exists if he is not somehow by her side (physically or metaphorically). The irony of this of course is that their relationship is mostly fantasy. He is never really there—even when he is present. His mind is elsewhere (the land he rules, the son he has on another planet, whether the FBI will find him and catch him). So he is never truly there with her. Or if he is, it is only for moments, and in temporary segments.

The Season 3 Opening Credits change from Max’s finger pointing to the sky (probably my favorite part of the show) to Liz’s finger pointing to the sky. This iconic imagery of the scene where Max demonstrates he is from another galaxy, is now scripted to Liz; the fusion is real. The symbolic finger point moves from him to her, illustrating that they are now one and the same.

“I cannot be means she is not a person, she cannot exist—she cannot be unless she is relationship to him and I would say in relationship to his chaos. This is also true in the sense that she would literally be dead if not for Max. His life saving act in the pilot creates an indebtedness to him from the beginning. As she becomes a half human/half alien herself, the fusion of their identities takes an even stronger root and her life trajectory is essentially written for her. This is the sacrifice that Liz has to make: in order to survive, she has to become him.

Reimagining Liz’s Narrative Resolve: I won’t leave

So that’s the end. Our life in Roswell. What a long, strange trip it’s been. Will we ever go back? I don’t know. Even I can’t see everything in the future. 

Liz Parker Journaling at the Crashdown Diner

The last episode of the final season (Season 3) circles us back to Liz’s voice in the form of journal entry first person spoken narrative. As if Roswell wants us to remember the story is hers and she has agency. As if we have forgotten that early in Season 2 Liz stopped journaling completely and Max’s narrative took over. 

The show ends with Liz marrying Max. She is carried over the threshold, wearing a mid-drift wedding dress (naturally), and into a VW Van, sealing their life on the run. Now I know it is not Max’s fault that he was born half alien/half human and that humans are terrible people who would seek to capture, dissect and destroy alien life. I would not wish a life on the lam for Max either. But certainly Liz’s life of now half alien/half human existence on the road, is exactly the same as Max’s and this is a problem. 

This is a life of instability and fear, of constant unrest and disruption of sleep, of always holding your breath. This is a challenged existence, and leaves us wondering if Liz will eventually become/come into her own. The hope for Liz to be an individuated and actualized self will be all the more impossible when she is now Max merged, identity conflated and alien integrated. How will she ever find anchors and systems of support in an anti-alien and terrifyingly nomadic world? 

She can’t leave because she can’t leave Max, and thus she can’t leave herself. Her existence is now alien too. So they are all outsiders. She is one of them now, not of this earth, and may not ever be able to return. Roswell is reminding viewers that being a teenager is the ultimate experience of being an outsider.

Is being an alien in Roswell a reflection of the archetypal dream for young girls to individuate from their caretakers only to marry a man? In this paradigm, women start a new life where they become wives and otherwise lose their identities. Is this Liz’s fate too? Will Liz be forever stuck in the Identity/Confusion Stage of Development, being that she can only exist in an identity connected to Max? 

While teens (ages 12-18) arguably may go through the terrible and sometimes fantastic exploration of rebellion (as demonstrated in Erickson’s Psychosocial Development Model) the process of finding self or identity is ongoing throughout our lives. Erickson posits that strengthening identity during the Identity/Confusion Stage of Development happens by: 1) identifying personal values; 2) spending time alone to get to know yourself better; 3) practicing self compassion; and 4) becoming skilled at things you enjoy such as hobbies. Engaging in these processes will be key to Liz’s pathway to a new sense of self discovery and growth. 

Liz journaling

Liz deserves more than what “Here With Me” crafts in her reality. Certainly she does not need to attend Harvard or become a famous scientist to become her true Self or to be” in the world. Existing is not about accomplishments or fame, but about finding our place, of understanding who we are in relationship to others. None of us do this perfectly, we are all a work in progress, but Liz’s identity development process is almost solely defined in relationship to Max and ultimately completely disrupted. Thus the theme song of Roswell reminds viewers not only of the impossibility of loving Max Evans, but the impossibility of Liz Parker’s position of fully being/becoming in the world.

  • What could true reclamation of Liz’s agency in the narrative arc of Roswell look like? 
  • How could we redefine love as self love for Liz in her own galaxy? 
  • How could a love for another manifest without Max’s literal handprint on her being? 
  • What could real “rest” look like if Liz is reimagined as the true protagonist of Roswell? 
  • What is a new theme song that is meant just for Liz? 

“Here With Me” is a D Major song that ends with a minor shift, the last notes a repeat of the strangely haunting sequence: F#, C#, G#, A. In the ending of the song, Dido evokes emotional landscapes of longing, needing, asking, hurting, pain, but the A music note at the end curves the musical sequence upward. The loneliness and slew of emotions summoned before are exchanged with a hopeful sound, an inclination of something different, of a new prospect for the listener. 

In a topography of a new narrative resolve, where Liz is re-situated as the protagonist, her memories will change or evolve (“…forgetting all that’s been…”), things will move (“…I don’t want to move a thing…”), and she will wake from a dream (“…they might wake me from this dream…”). Waking up is then about leaving/individuating in the truest sense. Not just returning to her parents or to her life in Roswell, but perhaps about something else entirely—a new paradigm by which her surroundings are her choice, her story is reauthored, and her hero’s journey is re-soundtracked.

This is the ultimate way to end the cycle, to rest, to finally breathe. 

Written by Emily Marinelli

Emily Marinelli is a psychotherapist and Graduate Professor in Counseling Psychology in California. She hosts the Twin Peaks Tattoo Podcast, where she interviews folks on their Twin Peaks ink and what it means to them. She also teaches a class on depth psychology and Twin Peaks. When not immersed in Twin Peaks (which is rare) she enjoys 90's teen dramas, sketch comedy, queer YA and tap dancing. https://twinpeakstattoopodcast.com

2 Comments

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  1. Invigorating, thoughtful, reflective, and personal with a candid approach to storytelling for any type of reader regardless of background or knowledge level of the content! I was immersed into a vivid experience and seemed to feel as if I was the embodiment of Liz and wanting to make decisions for her and/or remove her from the hold keeping her immersed in a pathway whereby she had no control over her destiny. I wanted desperately to send her a full range of possibilities for her future because she did not seem to have those pathways accessible within her mind or body. Thrilling piece of literature, kept me spellbound with a very dry mouth and an unusual desire to “adopt” Liz and set her free to be her own person. Perhaps my desire and feeling for assisting Liz is as unrealistic as her own feelings of who she wants to be. Overall, I was captivated by the writing and the unusual perspective of the writing. I felt as if I was Liz and understood her dilemma. She seemed to have few choices. I wanted to open the window for multiple choices for Liz and the old cliche of any person may become whomever they wish to be with patience, understanding, and desire.

    Beautiful work– thank you for sharing.

  2. This is brilliant. You are talking about something so relevant thru the lens of a 20 yr old teen soap opera. I know so many people stuck in relationships like you describe – this article is not only a pleasure to read – but it is full of insight and wisdom that will help people. What a cool integration of pop culture analysis, fun writing, and gifts of skills for people to help individuate themselves. It’s a liberatory piece of work – thank you!!!

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