Watching a TV show or a movie demands that we become, to a certain extent, irrational. Depending on the show, we’re expected to let go of what we believe in or what the world actually is like, and to believe, for 20, 40 or 90 minutes takes, in a world that is in large part fictitious. Family sitcoms are the ones that are the most realistic, since everyone has a family and can relate to situations portrayed on the small screen. But shows that take us into other worlds, be it professionally (medicine and law being two of the most popular ‘real’ worlds we are taking into) or other (supernatural, paranormal, conspiracy theories or just worlds in galaxies far, far away).
As a viewer, we therefore become a little irrational when we accept to be drawn into these different worlds. We get drawn into them and accept the rules regulating them as normal enough to watch this show. Sometimes, we even come to believe in that world, which can be a good thing or a bad thing. After all, while being inspired to go study medicine and become a great ER doctor or to become a detective solving crimes and keeping the world safe is a great thing, getting the urge to pull a Jack Bauer isn’t. Except for Kiefer Sutherland.
Even more potent that these stories are well-played characters who, if charismatic and intriguing enough, can become icons spanning years, sometimes generations; who can forget the Bradys, still America’s ‘perfect’ family, or James Dean, the rebel teenager? This can also be positive or negative; looking up to someone who is doing good (or at least trying their best to do good!) can inspire us to do the same, while admiring someone whose contribution to society is limited to murders and spreading mayhem… Not quite so useful.
But where do we draw the line? Some people thinks it’s ridiculous having any form of attachment to a character (I cried when Dr. Greene from ER died of a brain tumour a couple of years ago; one of my friends wore black for a couple of weeks and another just laughed at us). Some people can’t help but develop a form of obsessive adoration of the character, imagining themselves as being part of their lives (has anyone seen all the ‘Mrs. Cullen’ posters lately? Disturbing in that a, he doesn’t exist, b, he’s a vampire and c, he’s married!).
The problem of excessive attachment to fictitious characters has exploded in the last decade as studios have branched out into massive merchandizing of their characters. Harry Potter might not have been dangerous in that it made children believe in black magic, but rather in that it made children discontent with their ‘real’ lives. The books were charming, the movies riveting, but the merchandising was unhealthy. To eat, breathe and live Harry Potter was definitely a form of black magic called ‘excessive materialism’.
Personal opinion on brand merchandizing aside, character worship becomes a problem when it interferes with real life. One thing that merchandizing does is to blur the line between a ‘healthy’ attraction to a fictitious character and an obsessive, unhealthy worship.
Since we are bathing in a society bent on consumption, materialism and branding, the solution might be to prevent such an obsession from developing in the first place. For example, if you start even thinking of doodling ‘Mrs. Edward Cullen’ in margins, then maybe, just maybe, you are about to take that fatal step. Take a couple of weeks away from it all; remind yourself that he isn’t real; even if he wasn’t a vampire, which don’t exist, he’s still a fictitious character; and, just to really make the point clear, remind yourself that even if he wasn’t a vampire and that he was real, he’s married, which means all bets are off (sorry if I ruined the ending for anyone). Form a support group of people who want to get over their Edward-mania; ask your friends never to mention him again. Do what you can to get him out of your system.
If it’s hard, remind yourself that, ironically enough perhaps, purging an obsession with a character might be what you need to fill the void hero worship fills. In the case of Edward-obsessed young girls, who want to meet someone gentlemanly as Edward and live a wonderful love story, perhaps focusing on their lives and making the best of it, travelling, serving, doing their best at school, living real-life adventures will make them meet someone like that. And perhaps, wanting to be treated the same way Bella is treated by Edward, they will be inspired to act like young ladies rather than, well, just look around you and you’ll know what I mean.
And for all you married women out there? Perhaps focusing on your lives rather than on Edward might help make you happier. Your husband might never change (or at least, not become a gentleman vampire sparkling in the sun), but you will become yourselves a lady of respect, and there is one thing that someone really deserving of respect gets… Why don’t you take a guess?
It’s a win-win situation. Why not give it a try?