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Psychologie & Mindset

Why do fictional characters affect us?

Lesedauer: 2 Minuten

(Disclaimer: this is my opinion, so it’s only as factual as you wish for it to be)

Once you get invested in a story (show/movie/book), it’s hard not to care about the people living in those made-up worlds. It’s not uncommon to get so attached that one or two tears roll, either. But why is that? The feelings of the characters in your favorite story are fairly inconsequential, as they’re fake, so why do you care? 

Therein lies the question, why do we get emotionally attached to something that we know isn’t real? How come that the one thing that is consistent in art throughout the centuries is how it makes us feel? Perhaps, especially with fictional characters, it’s because there is something special about seeing someone’s story unfold. Seeing every beautiful and ugly thing that has happened to someone, how it affects them, how they change with time, how they change the course of a story and vice versa. It’s unique, because unlike a real person, you do know why they act in a certain way, how they feel and why they’re feeling that way. It’s inherently intimate to know everything about someone, not to mention fascinating. 

However it’s fascinating in more than one way, because sometimes relating to a character can help us better understand ourselves. When a character goes through something we have gone through in real life, we tend to feel understood, especially when the character acts like we did in that situation. Sometimes it can even help us reflect on our past behavior, and how we might’ve acted selfishly or otherwise immoral. Most of the time, the most interesting characters are flawed ones, because we can see our own imperfections reflected back to us. It’s something we tend to ignore in real life but love to examine in the fictional realm. Personally, flawed characters that are trying their best to be better are as fun to watch as they are tragic, mostly. 

Now, does that sound a little silly and like I’m overcomplicating things? Maybe. But I’m sure everyone can name a work of art that has left a deep impact on them, and I do think there are reasons for that. Are they the reasons I mentioned above? Again, maybe. Surely it depends on the individual. So, in general, why do we care so much about the fake feelings of fictional characters? Because we get to see every aspect of them and they remind us of very real feelings and we tend to be empathetic. But maybe I’m wrong, who knows?

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