This is how I started off my first blog (which is still live and I ransack for stuff at times), and my second blog (which died an ignoble death). So maybe third time is a charm.
The world is going virtual. I will be there waiting for it to catch up.
What is identity when a fictional character can have a concrete and real presence in the world?
Let me rephrase that. Can a fictional character influence the real world?
And as long as the answer to the second question is yes, then the answer to first is yes as well.
For instance: Not all the world religions can be right. Some exist in diametrical opposition to each other. Even if some of them are fictionalized accounts of deeper underlying truths, they are still fictions, or at least myths.
Look at the impact they all have had.
But let’s avoid religious debates, which I just flat out refuse to engage in with anyone who professes to actually believe anything. When that happens I find myself face to face with someone willing to defend their very identity, violently if necessary, against the great and horrible threat of questions. Ones that might cause them … doubt.
Let’s try a less contentious example.
How many of us were influenced by the stories of Dr. Seuss?
How about Winnie the Pooh?
Alice and her trip through Wonderland?
Alice, in particular, has become a global meme that has spread like wildfire, infecting, especially, Japan, or so it seems. The Japanese love Alice. She is a fictional character, but the sheer number of morality plays they have teased out of her …
The benefit of fictional characters is that they allow us to step aside from ourselves and explore morality plays in the safety of the written word, or the movie, or the theater play, or any other media where people can be fictions created to entertain and to instruct. From fiction we learn without being threatened by the reality of what we see.
Perhaps one of the greatest failings in the newest computer media, like games, both online and stand-alone, is the loss of the character. The actors in the game are not longer characters, but mere placeholders for the people behind them, or place holders for some single-dimensional concept, such as “something I have to kill before it kills me”. Many online games allow players to become actors that are nothing but mythic versions of the players.
A fictional character is a character. They have dimension and depth. They are their own people. Even when the actors portraying them are not present, they are still there, simply being, as a shadow that reflects the real world back at itself for introspection. How do we avoid losing something that precious in the trend away from communal media and toward more shallow forms as individualized entertainment, as well as the backwash of this trend back into communal media.
Marshall McLuhan said that electronic media will destroy plot and narrative. Will it also destroy the fictional character, the people who are not that we turn to for wisdom?