Wednesday, May 22, 2013

If You Prick Us, Do We Not Bleed?

One day in my graphic novels class, shortly before the semester ended, a friend of a friend of mine contributed to a class discussion, saying something along the lines of how it didn't matter to him about relating to the characters in a book we had read because he never related to fictional characters. My reaction felt a little bit like this:

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And something a bit like this:

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My first judgmental reaction to this comment was something along the lines of "What the hell is wrong with you how do you not care about fictional characters WHAT KIND OF BEING ARE YOU?!" Half a second later I got off my high-horse of derision and forced myself to calm the hell down and think about this.

I have a relationship with fiction which I didn't realize until more recent years of my life that everyone may not develop. I sympathize immensely with fictional characters because, for me, they never seemed any different from real people. I believed them easily (as my acting teacher expressed about becoming characters, it's about being a believable person in a imaginary place). I have always blurred the line between fiction and reality because I found stories so similar to my own world and characters that I tragically realized I knew better than some of the people close to me in my life. I'm a big fan of the liminal space between myth and history, between the perceived and the actual, "the knife-narrow borderland between those two kingdoms, the Empire of Lies and the Republic of Truth" (Chabon 210).

Basically, if something doesn't exist outside of my mind or the pages of a book or off of a movie
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screen, it never made it any less "real." However, not everyone has developed these sort of disregard for such metaphysical things, which I can certainly understand. But even those who firmly separate between fact and fiction can still sympathize with fictional characters. This division lies in something different. What exactly? I'm not entirely sure.

The problem is, I could empathize with anything. I was the sort of kid that felt bad when I didn't give my group of stuffed animals equal attention. I couldn't bear to see toy animals in the store with sad little faces that hadn't yet been bought (especially if they were cats). A lonely pen laying on the ground could send me into a narrative spiral of wondering who lost it, where it came from, and whether anyone was missing it. The fact that all of these things are inhuman, unfeeling objects is completely irrelevant. Welcome to anthropomorphizing the hell out of everything 101.

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Does a stronger tendency of anthropomorphication correlate to empathizing more with fictional people? I have absolutely zero data to prove it. But it seems to be a plausible link. I'm not saying that everyone who sympathizes with fictional characters had weird issues with stuffed animals and dropped pens. But I do wonder if there's some link there, something about ways of thinking in which talking animals took a certain believability in thought that caring about someone who is made out of ink and air does. It's a different way of seeing that not everyone has.

It does make finding lost objects a whole lot more complex.

On an administrative note: Remember back when I said that I wasn't going to put ads on this blog, despite the fiscal gain it might provide me? Well, I'm in a bit of post-graduate nervousness, quickly realizing that I might want to think about ways in which I can make money that I am committed to and enjoy. This blog is that exactly. And because I want to be able to do this a whole lot more, I'm going to do that thing I said I wouldn't do - bring in ads.

I know, I know. I'm a traitor. The Google Overlords have won. But hopefully it won't be irritating or annoying or utterly distracting. But we're going to give it a test run and if having ads here isn't all of these things and you don't feel like I'm selling out, then I might be a little less worried about my totally foggy future. (Why does Totally Foggy Future sound like a band name? And why am I being such a hipster about this?)

Anyway, be aware of ads coming your way. I can only imagine what they might advertise...

Citation from:
Maps and Legends: Reading and Writing Along the Borderlands by Michael Chabon. 2008, Harper Perennial.

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