Reality shouldn’t be replaced by fiction

knight

Every year, sensational fictional stories and dramas create a tidal wave of die-hard fans and commercialized products.

“Harry Potter,” “Twilight,” “The Hunger Games,” “Star Wars,” “The Justice League” and “The Lord of the Rings” are a few of the most popular best-sellers.

Each new saga not only entertains millions of consumers, it leaves people analyzing characters and plots for weeks, months or years.

According to an article published in the Boston Globe in April 2012 by Jonathan Gottschall, “… research consistently shows that fiction does mold us. The more deeply we are cast under a story’s spell, the more potent its influence. In fact, fiction seems to be more effective at changing beliefs than nonfiction, which is designed to persuade through argument and evidence.”

Fiction teaches people about the world.

On basic and complex levels, it helps consumers distinguish between good and evil. It has the potential to teach morality. It can be a force for good.

Literature that endures for centuries promotes values that bring the world together.

However, when taken to an extreme, a fascination with fiction can lead to unhealthy obsessions.

A simple Google search reveals many websites devoted to obsessed fans.

For example, www.pemberley.com is a website for Jane Austin fanatics.

The home page states, “We, all of us, remember only too well the great relief we felt upon discovering this haven for Jane Austen Addicts. If your eyes did not widen, if you did not gasp in recognition, if you did not experience a frisson of excitement when you discovered a whole campful of soldiers — er — a whole website full of fellow Jane Austen Fanatics, then this place may not be for you. We are The Truly Obsessed here and have been known to talk for weeks about Jane Austen’s spelling quirks and Mr. Darcy’s coat (‘No, no — the green one.’)”

“Jane Austen Addicts” may feel relief upon finding a group of people who can talk for weeks about fictional Mr. Darcy’s fictional coat, but miss opportunities to cultivate satisfying non-fictional relationships in the meantime.

When people become obsessed with fiction, they can lose their view of the beauties of reality.

Fiction is important, but when real boyfriends are expected to live up to the status and masculinity of unreal Mr. Darcy, real relationships are doomed to failure.

Other obsessions with fiction may not sabotage relationships, but waste time on gaining trivial knowledge.

A book entitled “Obsessed with Star Wars: Test Your Knowledge of a Galaxy Far, Far Away” by Benjamin Harper is an example.

According to the www.amazon.com book description, “With 2,500 original questions covering little known facts, entertaining quotes, and tough trivia from all six episodes, Obsessed With Star Wars will have readers dominating the galaxy in no time.”

Readers may fill their minds with 2,500 little-known facts about a fictional galaxy, but know very little about the non-fictional world in which they reside.

They may miss learning valuable information about the sciences and arts in exchange for information about the science that rules the imaginary Empire.

Instead of wasting time obsessing over unrealistic expectations and imaginary sciences, take time to cultivate real relationships and garner real knowledge. Take a walk. Have dinner with friends. Audit a class.

And when indulging in fiction, look for the lessons to be used in real life, rather than pretending real life is fiction.

1 Response

  1. While I understand the points being made, I seriously disagree with lots in this article. Since there is lots of passive “it can” cause problems, not “it will” (although it’s heavily implied) I’ll just stick with one point.
    “Other obsessions with fiction may not sabotage relationships, but waste time on gaining trivial knowledge.

    Readers may fill their minds with 2,500 little-known facts about a fictional galaxy, but know very little about the non-fictional world in which they reside.

    They may miss learning valuable information about the sciences and arts in exchange for information about the science that rules the imaginary Empire.”

    No. Just, no. Who is anyone to decide what is a waste of my time burt me? I am a writer. I live and breathe in the fictional worlds I built, just as much as I do in this one. They are a part of me. I think that knowing exactly how characters in different parts of my fictional world is important to the story. I can’t make a mistake in a minor character’s description, because that jolts the reader out of the world and then I haven’t done my job.
    Meanwhile, I know nothing of Quantum Physics. I think it’s trivial. I don’t use it in my work, I don’t think about it. It’s a waste of my time to try to learn about it. But to someone else, what one of my character’s would eat for breakfast is the same as QP to me- useless. S/he would consider it a waste of time. But it’s vital to me as a writer. And if it’s something that someone really enjoys- then that’s not a waste of time. It’s time well spent. Just because you aren’t a rapid fangirl like me doesn’t make your interests or mine any less worth while.

    Plus, if anything, my rabid fangirlism has been a blessing in my relationship. I’m dating a rabid fanboy. We spend hours- yes, hours that we could spend in prayer or learning about why the sky is blue or something “worth while”- talking about how Sherlock might have survived his Fall, or about my latest digimon fanfiction, or agreeing with each other that the ATLA movie doesn’t exist. Bringing fiction to life and living in it, playing pretend- that is what brought us together.

    I won’t get into how good it was for me to completely abandon reality for two years in middle school. Long story short, I said, to heck with reality, didn’t do my math homework and lived in fantasy novels for 20 months. If I hadn’t, I would have killed myself. I was that close. Falling into fiction, bringing it to life, getting emotionally involved in the lives of fictional characters- befriending them- was the only way I was able to survive. I learned enough about the beauty of the world through fiction. All reality taught me those two years was not to trust anyone. It was fiction that taught me everything good I learned between the ages of 12 and 14, everything beautiful about the world.

    But I’m just a rabid fangirl, doomed to bad relationships and never seeing the beauty of the world. What do I know?

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