How is it possible to love something that doesn’t exist?
I guess that’s the magic of the movies. And TV. And theatre. You get what I mean.
Everybody loves somebody. We love our parents, our children, our siblings, our friends, our dogs. But how can you love something that is make-believe? Something that doesn’t exist in the realm that we inhabit? A writer creates something out of pure imagination, writes it down on paper, and then an actor breathes life into that character. That person doesn’t exist. But we love them anyway. How can we feel such powerful emotion for someone that is not even real?
It’s even common to love people we don’t know. Movie stars, for instance. Even though we don’t know them, we still love them. We know enough facts about their lives to think we can form some kind of opinion about the kind of person they are. For instance, I love Drew Barrymore. Not just as an actor, but as a person. As the person I think she is; the person I perceive her to be. I know that she had a troubled youth, got hooked on alcohol and drugs at a young age, and overcame all that to become a successful actor, director and producer, among other things. I imagine her to be a kind, gentle, fun person who genuinely cares about other people. I love her.
I also love Liam Neeson, but for different reasons. Would I love him to rescue me from a burning building or from crazy Albanian kidnappers? Of course, what girl wouldn’t? He’s handsome, rugged, and a total bad-ass. And that hint of a brogue…how can you not love him? I know that he lost his wife in a skiing accident. And although I haven’t had that same experience, I can imagine what that must be like. The pain that must have caused him is a relatable emotion, and it makes him seem more human, even though he is a “movie star.”
But Drew Barrymore and Liam Neeson are real people. And as naïve as it is to think that I might know what kind of people they are, when I really don’t have a clue (I mean, Drew could be a total monster bitch, Liam a complete douchebag and I’d never know it……) is kind of funny. But nevertheless, I love them.
I also love Jesse Pinkman. Only thing is….he’s not real. He’s made-up. Fictional. Only exists in the world of my imagination. Yet my emotional attachment to him is no less than it is for Drew or Liam. (By the way, for those of you who don’t watch Breaking Bad, Jesse is a character on the show.) I don’t know jack shit about the actor who plays him, Aaron Paul. In fact, I never even heard of him before I started watching Breaking Bad. But the character that he has created has a death-grip on my heart. I’m totally head over heels. Watching this poor kid after his girlfriend dies, witnessing how he pulls the trigger and has to kill an innocent person so he can stay alive, and all the inner demons he has to contend with because of these things that he has gone through. Jesus Christ. It rips your heart out. You just want to hold him and take away his pain. All this emotion, and he’s not even real. Funny thing is, on paper, he’s not even a likeable guy. Actually, he’s kind of a scumbag. He’s a junkie who makes and deals methamphetamine for a living. What’s there to love about that?
Needless to say, my husband and I are totally addicted to this damn show. We watched the first 4 seasons in like 2 weeks, thanks to Netflix. We end every sentence with “Yo!” or “Bitch!” and can’t wait to get home from work to watch another episode. Obsess much?
Dexter would be another good example. I mean, the guy kills people! On a regular basis! Granted, they are “bad guys,” but still, how can you find yourself rooting for someone like that? And I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who watches Dexter that doesn’t love him. Or at least like him a lot. He is a likeable guy, after all. Even if he does chop people up into pieces and throw their bodies in the ocean.
I guess I’ve always had a soft spot for the bad boys. But, I’m talking bad boys that ride Harleys and have tattoos, not ones that make meth and shoot people in the face. So, I guess my question here is twofold: How can we love something that doesn’t exist and how can we love such a “bad” person, even if he is make-believe?
What is it about the human psyche that allows us to sympathize, empathize, and even love characters like this? Surely, if we ran across someone like Jesse Pinkman in real life, we would be disgusted, appalled, and insist he be locked up and the key thrown away. But for whatever reason, we are “allowed” to love these people without any guilt. I guess that’s just the magic of the screen. Or maybe it’s something more. I just don’t know what.