I have found myself missing fictional characters. Show cancellations, off-season times, or even a busy few days when I haven’t had a chance to watch something I am currently into – have actually made me miss the people on a show. This is just crazy. They. Are. Not. Real. I do not really know them. I do not have a relationship with them. And, yet, there it is. I miss them all the same. For cancelled shows, I miss the times we had together. For current ones, I ache for more times together. For deceased characters, I mourn. This is ridiculous, right?
Incredibly, I’m not alone on this. I have spoken to others who have similar experiences. Are we all crazy? More importantly, do we miss the real people in our lives as we spend our time with the imaginary ones instead? Probably not. There is something strangely comforting about our TV friends – to feel you know these “people” – how they feel, how they will react – that you see their inner thoughts and emotions – that you have a connection with them – you feel safe with them.
Not always with reality. Ever feel like you know your favorite TV characters better than you know your friends? There may be some plot twists, but you can usually predict a TV-friend’s behavior based on their previous character development. Not those real people in our lives. You think you know them, then realize you don’t. They are simply unpredictable. Suddenly what you thought was an episode of Friends is an M. Night Shyamalan movie. It makes you yearn for a good rerun.
I had someone ask me once if our real-life relationships shouldn’t be more like those on TV. Thirtysomething was used as the example. It seems the characters can say whatever they want to each other and still remain friends. Relationships remain intact because they care about each other. Unfortunately, no script ensures we all make up and continue in a loving manner within the hour. Each character can choose how the story progresses. There are no guarantees that what we say will be received how we want, or that forgiveness will be given. No director is forcing those things to happen. Our big blow-up may not be resolved by the end of sweeps week.
Still, I guess that’s what makes the shows appealing. We see on the screen what we wish would happen in our own lives. We see people who are more appealing than the ones around us. We can fall in love, burn with hatred, weep, or laugh uncontrollably, with no risk of how that person will respond to us.
The problem is…what? Oh yeah. It’s. Not. Real.
Real life involves risk. Real people can hurt us back. (But real friends can also love us back.) Real relationships are less convenient than watching a prerecorded show at your leisure. Real dramas aren’t always neatly resolved. Heck, some of our plot lines may end up as convoluted as a Lost finale. Who knows?
So, where does that leave us? Are our imaginary bonds unhealthy? Do they hurt our real ones by making them less appealing? Do we live too much on our Fantasy Islands? I’m not sure. Maybe we should ask Frasier?
I’ve started working on what will, God willing, turn into a book on biblical friendship. Perhaps this strange TV relationship topic will find its way onto those pages where God can help me sort it out more through His truth. Meanwhile, I guess we should try not to neglect real relationships in pursuit of a place..where everybody knows your name.