How Can I Care For Someone Who’s Not Real?

How Can I Care For Someone Who’s Not Real?

Erika Lewis

Sometime or another in your life you’ve probably fallen head over heels for a fictional character or at the very least become so attached to them they feel like a best friend. Do not worry, this is actually a very common thing. The article Why We Get so Attached to Fictional Characters stated, “Karen-Dill-Shackleford, PhD, a media psychologist based in Santa Barbara, CA, says that while some people who are more casual fans might think it’s strange to be so attached to fictional characters, it’s actually natural to find these characters important.” It’s completely healthy and natural to find these characters similar to real people. 

Personally, I too used to worry about whether or not I was just really weird for liking fictional characters as if they were real people. My earliest fictional crush was definitely either Link from Legend of Zelda or Luke Skywalker from Return of the Jedi. As the years have gone on, I have slowly become more attached to other fictional characters as well. Some are from TV shows and movies while others have been from books that I’ve read. 

With that however there is a difference between falling in love with the movie actors vs. falling in love with the characters that they play. When you crush on the movie actor, a large part of that is probably their appearance or even their voice. You find them attractive and it’s completely normal for people to have a crush on actors, that’s why they’re cast in the first place. When it comes to being attached to the character that’s a whole different story. You love them for their personality and not really for their looks. That’s why when you watch a movie or show you have to sit and ask yourself Do I like this character because I like the actor or do I like this character because of their characteristics? Not that it’s super important to differentiate, but one is considered more “normal” than the other. 

Now more onto why we get attached in the first place. The article From Page to Your Heart says, “As often is the case with Psychology, the answer lies in our brains. To be more accurate the answer lies within our right-hemisphere supramarginal gyrus…This small section of our brains forms part of our mirror neuron system and deals with empathy.” So falling in love or deeply caring for a character who isn’t real just shows that you have a lot of empathy. That’s an argument you can use next time someone tries to chastise you for your attachments. 

Part of the reason we are so empathetic towards these characters is because, at least when it comes to reading, we get a chance not just to watch their actions but also see their thoughts and feelings. We learn to feel these emotions with them and almost become intimate with them through their thoughts and feelings. We feel closer to them because while the other characters cannot hear the thoughts of the character, we are able to. We are able to get a view of not only their dreams and hopes but also of their inner demons and struggles the other characters are oblivious to. Do you have that one friend who always tells you everything they’re going through and you feel closest with them because you understand them better? Well it’s a very similar thing with these fictional characters. 

The article Why We Get so Attached to Fictional Characters also touched on the fact that these attachments can also come from depression and anxiety making you feel lonely. It’s been proven that just the thought of watching your favorite show and seeing your favorite character can automatically make you feel less lonely. This isn’t the case for all people but it definitely is something that can contribute to why you are as attached to the characters as you are to real people. 

Moving along with what I previously said, there have also been many studies explaining that your brain can sometimes find it difficult to see the difference between fictional characters and real people. Therefore our brains view fictional characters as real people and so, naturally, just as we attach to real people it only makes sense to attach to fictional ones as well. 

And it’s not just characters from movies and books and shows but also characters that you create. It’s entirely possible to attach yourself to your OCs. For those who don’t know what an OC is, they are characters that someone creates that are completely original to the creator. The reasoning behind this is because our characters have pieces of us in them that are traits that we like about ourselves. They are also something that we are able to control and we can make them perfect which only attaches us to them more. Along with that since they are something that you personally created it means more to you. It’s like when you finish creating something for school or just as a passion project and you are proud of it because you made it from nothing. 

Personally, as an author of many stories, I have become fairly attached to all of the characters that I’ve made. Whether they’re heroes or villains I love them because I see them as people since I know their entire story. Even the ones I didn’t originally like I’ve come to adopt as my “children” because I realize that I’ve created them and they’re mine. That doesn’t always mean that I’m kind to said characters but I do love them nonetheless. 

Although the things in this article don’t necessarily apply to everyone it’s still something that I believe is interesting to know. At some point or another in everyone’s life whether it’s your childhood or adulthood you’re going to probably be attached to a person that’s not real. And if this still isn’t you, at least you can now understand some of your friends.