News

When fiction becomes reality

By: CHRISTINE AIKEN
Columnist
aikenc@umail.iu.edu

It is amazing how an individual who doesn’t truly exist in reality can become a hero or an enemy to so many. When you think about it though, the reason for this is less about who they are and more about what they represent.
Think about the commitment fans have to some characters. Some build shrines in their homes to fictional characters. Some people get the image of the character tattooed on their bodies. I plan on naming my first-born child after a fictional character.
How much sense does this make when there are actual heroes in the real world risking their lives every day to save others? To be perfectly honest, many of those heroes have Iron Man tattoos or Batman bumper stickers too. As I said, it is more about what the character stands for.
People identify with characters whether it is because they would like to be more like that character, they see similar traits in themselves or recognize those traits in someone they know. Who wouldn’t love to be able to fly like Superman or create things with their mind like Green Lantern?
When it comes to fame, in many cases, you could argue that it is healthier for a child to look up to fictional characters than some of the actors and actresses who portray them. Wanting to have super powers, while a far less achievable goal, is much less damaging than trying to attain a perfect body or getting mixed up with drugs or alcohol.
Of course, to some, the intended hero of a comic or a movie is not always who they see as the hero. My own fiancé, while generally on the side of good, believes that Megatron is the true hero in “Transformers” and has a large tattoo to prove it. I also have a couple of Sith-loving friends who think Darth Vader was really the hero in “Star Wars” and mourn the loss of the Death Star.
The real point of all of this is that a great writer can create a character that is just as real as anyone we encounter in everyday life. Sometimes, certain character personality traits are based on people the writer knows or even on the writer themselves. The true gift is the ability to use those traits in a way that creates someone or something unique and memorable.
I will end with a story about the first time I ever watched “The Princess Bride.” The book it is based off of is not considered a literary classic by any means, even though the movie has a huge following. I loved Westley as much as Buttercup and I hated the Six-Fingered Man as much as Inigo Montoya, though I wasn’t even ten years old. More than twenty years later, the characters still seem just as vivid.
While it is important to stay grounded in reality, it is equally important to lose yourself in a story now and again.

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