It happens to the best of us. When we watch TV, read a book or watch a film, we always find ourselves getting close to certain characters, coming to care about their feelings and actually becoming upset when something bad happens to them. It seems that no matter what you are watching, there is always a character who you will somehow relate to.
So why do we get so attached to fictional characters? In reality, they are just words in a script, brought to life by the actors that play them, but it is not the actors that we become attached to, it is the person they are portraying.
In the words of the great Howard Sklar, “The way we respond to fictional characters has a lot to do with our ability to connect with others and to feel for a person’s situation.” He also states “As anyone who has watched an engaging film or read an engaging novel knows, we invest ourselves deeply in the experience of living with those characters; we tend to respond to them as though they were real individuals.”
As we watch a movie, a TV series or read a book, we find ourselves subconsciously filling in the gaps of the character’s lives and making up fictional stories about them to make them seem more human. The narration of the novel or storyline of the film or episode allows us to stare through the window and into the personal lives of the characters, somehow making us feel closer to them.
Then when something bad happens to our beloved character, they either get hurt, they die or are written out the series you have loyally watched for years, it is like losing someone close to you. It literally hurts.
When we see our ordinary characters go through extraordinary challenge sometimes coming out on top, we look up to the character as a role model and an example of how we should be ourselves. When reading a book, we get to see the inner thoughts of our beloved characters. Even watching our favourite TV series or a movie, we learn so much more about that character than we would know of the real people that surround us every day.
Because we get to know them on such a personal level, we gain a connection with them where their success, becomes our success.
An example of this would be my own attachment and borderline obsession with a certain character in the US television show called ‘NCIS’. Ever since the first episode of season three, I found myself becoming more and more drawn to a certain female character called Ziva. She is an Israeli Mossad agent, with very bad temper and a love for all things deadly. Not only did I find myself becoming attached to this character, I also found myself feeling upset and hurt when the actress decided to leave the show.
I am not saying that I can relate to this character on any level – I did not grow up in Israel, I did not work for the Navy and I am not a kick ass assassin (and even if I was, I wouldn’t tell you ) but there was always a sense of familiarity between myself and the character. A sense of comfort.
Another example would be the countless fandom’s floating around the internet, or the innumerable armature fiction dedicated to characters from books, TV shows and Movies, or the privately funded conventions where fans dress up as their favourite characters to go meet more likeminded individuals such as themselves.
In a nut shell, we are all human, we crave companionship when we are sitting alone in front of the TV, and we create that companionship with the fictional characters on screen.
If you are sitting there reading this article with a strange disbelieving expression on your face, just think about it… when was the last time you got so engrossed in a film, or a TV series or a book, that you actually cared about the characters?
Next time you sit down to watch your favourite film or TV show, or read your favourite book, keep this article in mind.
Which character are you attached to?