What it’s like to love fictional characters

When I started this post, it was going to be a review of a show I’ve been watching lately – True Detective 2 (WARNING – spoilers ahead!)

While it’s been somewhat panned by critics, I really loved it – I found it compelling and thought-provoking, and the noir cinematography haunting. Yes, some of casting wasn’t brilliant – Vince Vaughn the most obvious example – and some of the scenes overwritten, but I really, really liked it and binge-watched it over the period of just a few days.

Afterwards, when I was thinking about why I really liked it, I realised it boiled down to the affection I felt for the two main characters – Ray Velcoro, played by Colin Farrell, and Antigone Bezzerides, played by Rachael McAdams. While the mini-series is a psychological cop thriller, essentially it is a love story, about two broken people finding their salvation in each other. Ray is an alcoholic, corrupt cop, thwarted in his attempt to connect with his son by his own rage and the memory of having killed the man who raped his wife many years ago. Antigone is a shell of a person, deeply traumatized by having been kidnapped and sexually molested as a child. When these two people finally come together, it’s exquisite. Which of course, makes the inevitability of Ray’s tragic end so heartbreaking.

It’s funny how we can become so attached to the characters we read about or watch. It happens to me all the time – after the ending of True Detective I wandered about in a distraught haze for a day, just so completely gutted for Ray and Antigone. I did the same thing after I read The God of Small Things. When I look back on my “real” life, it is marked by emotionally impacting events – birthing my children, being at my nephew’s funeral, experiencing the sadness and joy that comes along as part of life’s journey. Similarly, my life also seems marked by the times I experienced vicarious tragedy and happiness– when Beth died in Good Wives, or when Anne lost her baby in Anne’s House of Dreams; when Dorothea realised her love for Ladislaw in Middlemarch, when the giant’s heart opens for the little children in Oscar Wilde’s The Selfish Giant or when the mentally disturbed Cyril is executed in Oz.

This is why I love good writing, whether it be a TV show, a play, a book or movie – I feel as though I’ve lived through these experiences right alongside some of my favourite people. It doesn’t matter if I don’t actually know them in the flesh and blood sense – they are real. Sometimes they are a reflection of who we are, or who we were, who we could have become, or who we want to be. And I’m glad there are plenty more waiting for me – in unread books and unwatched shows. Waiting for me to discover them 🙂

2 thoughts on “What it’s like to love fictional characters

  1. janinejackson

    I physically and emotionally miss characters when I farewell them at the end of a good TV show or book. I think about them and dream about them all the time.

    I remember when my favourite show, Fringe ended – I was actually depressed.

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