Thursday, March 7, 2013

Following Fiction

The other day I came across two really fascinating articles about how we, as readers and viewers, assimilate fiction into our daily lives. Please take a moment to check them out here and here, as they are both fun and enlightening reads.

The gist of both is that people tend, consciously or otherwise, to incorporate the things we love from fiction, in many ways for many reasons. Some of it is pretty straightforward- "Gee, Legolas looks like he's having fun with that bow, maybe I'll archery a try!" Or "everyone looks better in a greatcoat, maybe I should get one." Another reason is to participate in the culture of a show/book/movie/video game/radio play, to identify yourself to other fans. "Hey, that girl is wearing an 'I'm a Slayer, ask me how!' button! I think I'll go say hi."

Other reasons go a bit deeper. As one author suggests, "maybe it’s a little bit about courage. About reinvention. About taking charge of yourself, and becoming the person you want to be. When you drink Earl Grey, maybe you feel as though you’ve gained some of Captain Picard’s enlightened perspective. When you take archaeology classes, maybe you’re certain that you could be the one to discover Tannis."

I love that idea. It reminds us that our love for fiction is a cycle. We identify with the characters we like because we see ourselves in them and/or aspire to be more like them. I love the character of Liz Lemon on 30 Rock, for example. I can see myself in her devout nerd love, her casual wardrobe, her obsession with food and her sometimes crippling overthinking. To follow the cycle, I aspire to her success, her feminism and her ability to do her own thing.

When I started thinking about this idea, I found so many examples in my own life. In high school, while sharing a Tolkien obsession with friends, we learned to write in Cirth, the runes of Middle-earth, to pass notes. I picked a prom dress that wouldn't have looked out of place at Netherfield Park or Pemberley. When it came time to choose a career, I'd be lying if I claimed my choice of "librarian" had nothing to do with Sunnydale's own action librarian, Rupert Giles, or that my personal folklore collection isn't at least partially because I have a fear hope that one day I may need to look up how to defeat a _________ . 

While we're on the subject of his great and mighty Whedonness, even the way I express myself is a result of the fiction I've absorbed. I defy anyone to OD on Joss and/or the great Amy Sherman-Palladino and not come away speaking too quickily, snarkily, and mainly in pop-culture metaphors, or to immerse themselves in British television and not pick up a slew of interesting new words, as well as a fondess for hyperbole, absurdity, sarcasm and a well-phrased insult (or maybe that's just down to Richard Curtis and Jeremy Clarkson?)

There are just so many ways, small and large, that fiction has had an impact on my life. On the small scale, the first three drinks I ever ordered at restaurants were an Appletini, a Seabreeze, and a White Russian (double bonus points to anyone who can name the sources for those). On a larger scale, there are things I've borrowed that have had a noticeable impact on my life. I'm so grateful to Scrubs and, later, Community for championing the fun and importance of imagination as an adult.

Even my moral compass and worldview have been shaped, partially, by fiction. Doctor Who reminds me of the importance of bravery, wonder, exploration and compassion. Firefly- loyalty, doing the right thing because it *is* the right thing, not because of religion or society. And, ok, I may not be great. But I'm pretty good. Well, I'm alright. 

As you can see, I had a blast excavating my own experiences with fiction for this post. What impact has fiction had on your life?


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