As humans, we experience and express emotions or strong feelings in certain situations to make life more satisfying and less dull. Emotions are what make us human and not bureaucratic. But, when it comes to studying the things we get emotional towards, we face a philosophical problem known as the Paradox of Fiction. For humans (1) feel emotional only towards characters/situation they believe to be real; (2) they know that fictional characters/situation are not real, yet, (3) they are moved by them (fictional characters/situation).
This paper will discuss how this paradox can be solved by rejecting the third premise (We feel towards fictional characters).To begin with, when it comes to fictional characters, we don’t feel moved towards the character itself. Consider the example of the fiction character Batman. In the movie, Batman died in a car accident; the person who watched the movie will feel moved by the death. Now if that same person read in the newspaper the following: We are deeply sorry to inform you that Batman died in a car accident; he wouldn’t care at all.
In both cases he knows that Batman is fictional character; in both cases Batman is still the same character who died in a car accident. So, if it’s true that the person is moved towards a fictional character, then he should be moved towards it despite the changing of the context (he should be moved by Batman’s death in both cases).It can be argued against this argument because it considers the case of feeling emotional towards characters and doesn’t apply when it comes to situations. Consider horror movies for example. They put less emphasis on the characters and focus strongly on the situation these characters are placed in. People actually feel scared because of the scary situation the characters are witnessing but it’s weakly connected to the characters. But this counter argument can be refuted when considering why we are affected by situations in the first place. The answer is that there should be something to trigger the emotions. It’s mainly dependent on how skillful the artwork is done. Regarding the example of horror movie; if the person watches the movie without sound effects at all, there’s no way he’ll feel scared. It’s mainly the sound effects and the scary music that makes the person panic and terrified. Although the looks of scary characters might also terrify the viewer, but with the sound effects horror movies use, even the innocent and pretty characters can look as creepy. Consider another example where 2 movies portraying the same story; the first is excellently done (artwork speaking); the other has no music, no skillful actors, bad lighting, etc. The first movie will for sure make the viewer more moved. So, if premise 3 is true, and we are affected by both the situations and characters, the viewer should feel the same thing because the situation and the character are still the same despite the change both in the artwork and context.Another argument that denies premise 3 is that feelings, along with art settings, are also triggered by how much reality the actors are capable of portraying (Radford, p.73-73). The more reality the artwork conveys, the more convincing it is, the more touching it will be. For example, if a person watched a fictional movie about someone with cancer who dies; he will be moved for sure. If later on, a relative or a friend or someone close he knows developed cancer, he’ll be much moved by that than the first time because he might imagine this happening to the person he knows. The emotional level changed although the movie and the characters are still the same. This shows that the more we are able to relate to reality, the more emotional we get. IN some other cases, the person might put himself in the character’s shoes and highly relate to his situation, which will also trigger emotions. Speaking of reality, consider this example of a person started a movie or started to read book then someone spoiled the ending telling him that the hero will die in the end. He will feel irritated for knowing the ending because it’s won’t be as entertaining and mysterious; but he won’t feel as moved; it’s totally different when the person witness it himself with its details and follow up with the events. That is because details help the person create a better image of the situation and hence connects it further to the detailed realistic world.However, someone might say that not everything can happen in real life or a person can relate to, which make this argument weak; as, for example, a movie with aliens raiding other aliens in some planet in the outer-space or a fantasy movie with witches and wizards and magic, or even cartoon movies portraying non-human. No one can relate to that or know some alien or a wizard or even feel scared that that might happen.Although the preceding counter argument is true to some extent, it fails to consider the following. If a person is moved by that alien movie, it’s not the fact that the aliens are being raided or hurt that’ll get him moved. The idea of raiding and the idea of being hurt, which is something any human experiences or can experience, is what triggers emotions. In Maleficent movie, when Maleficent had her wings cut; it’s a very touching scene because the viewer sees her in a painful situation where she’s expressing pain, and not the pain of getting your wings cut which of course might never happen. If Maleficent instead of screaming, laughed and expressed happiness, the viewer won’t feel as emotional. The screaming, the tears, and the body movement, gives the viewer the impression of agony and pain, and that’s why he’s moved; otherwise he won’t, because he doesn’t know if having the wings cut is painful. Hence, the more the person can relate the IDEA to reality, the more emotional he’ll get. Thus, no matter how fictious movies can get, and even though they are cartoon; they still imply real ideas and real themes, both in which every person can relate to, experience, fear wish to experience. Now, one might say that people not only feel emotional towards the fictious characters/situations, they sometimes build a kind of attachment that’s more than just feeling towards a certain idea or theme they’re portraying. This attachment can get as far as obsession. So, if we really feel emotional towards the character or the situation in the sense the preceding arguments claimed; this emotional state is supposed to end as soon as the fictional work ends.Nevertheless, the way we deal with fictional events is quite different from that of actual life. And the attachment, if supposedly built, is totally incomparable to real relationships. Consider the worst cases; death of a fictious hero in which a person is supposedly attached to. It’s is very probable that the viewer will be moved to tears and feel sad. It might as well get him as far as depressing for some time; but there’ll come a time soon enough in which the feelings will die away. In addition to the fact that he won’t be delivering the news of his death or seek comfort from a friend or even make/attend a funeral of that character. However, this is very different when it comes to real life, for if someone we care about dies, they never seem to leave our mind; even though we move on over their loss and get used to living with their absence, whenever we remember them, we grieve and feel the emptiness they left behind. We also share the news of their death with others and seek comfort, attend their funeral and express remorse. Even when it comes to happy scenarios, it’s pretty the same. If someone knows a cancer patient who overcame cancer, they be excited, throw them a party, or share the news. Unlike a movie with the same scenario, a person might feel excited and happy for the idea of recovering and courage, but it’s not likeable that the he will throw a party or celebrate for the fictional character.In conclusion, humans do feel moved when they watch fictional movies or read fictional stories, but it’s not the fictional characters/situations they feel emotional towards, but towards the ideas presented by them; ideas that conveys reality. Hence, the paradox of fiction can be solved by denying the fact that humans feel towards fictional characetrs.