There are many different kinds of love that people experience: familial, friendship and romantic to name a few. These tend to relate to real people. What about the kind of love a person feels towards a person who isn’t real?
Love. What an incredibly convoluted, densely packed, completely subjective word. In the 21st century, we seem to be coming to terms with the idea that no one person loves exactly the same as the next. And that’s totally okay.
There are some things not everyone understands about love. My mother, for example, can’t fathom why I love so many fictional characters.
“There’s no reciprocation,” she once said to me in confusion as I professed my undying love for one Draco Malfoy of the Harry Potter franchise. This profession occurred for the umpteenth time as I re-read my favourite Drarry fic (A Harry and Draco fanfiction story).
“He’s not real! How can you love him?”
A very good question. How is it I can love a fictional character?
Fictional or not, fantasy is fantasy
I like to think of it the same way people love celebrities. Fictional characters represent an ideal. Good or bad, but nonetheless an ideal.
A connection occurs when a person finds their favourite character, much like there’s a connection when a person finds their favourite song. If a character is well developed, the choices, humour, personality, fashion and arcs of the character hit deep.
The attachment created between a person and a favourite character can be a representation of a person’s own experiences. Sometimes the character represents a romantic ideal. Emphasis on the word ideal.
But this begs the question: is it love? My answer is yes.
Love in its many forms
Love comes in so many different shapes and forms (kind of like people). Each person loves wildly differently from the next.
There are kinds of love that people choose such as friendship. We choose friends based on how well we click or bond over shared experiences, to create a kind of friend love. There’s the love a person feels for parents and family — which isn’t chosen and stems from familial affection. Romantic love may or may not also be tied to sexual love, both a form of chosen love (for most).
The same is true of the love of a fictional character. It’s a chosen love, and we feel safe and protected by imagined interactions. We create our own safety net with a favourite character the same way we might with a best friend or significant other.
Obviously, there are people out there who might think this is all ridiculous (like my mother). Maybe because they simply don’t understand how an emotional attachment can be formed to a person that doesn’t physically exist.
A world of pure imagination
There’s so much power in imagination. When the real world gets boring or isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, we can escape in imagination. Be it through movies, television, novels, anime, fanfiction or just plain old daydreaming.
It’s good to remember not everyone deals with stress the same. Escapism, in any form, is just one way to handle it. This seems to be my case. And when I tell my mother I’m in love with a fictional character (or when I wax poetic about Draco Malfoy or River Song), she usually chalks it up to my stress.
I tend to dive headfirst into the Drarry tag (search keyword for Draco and Harry stories) on ao3 (Archive of Our Own) when I’m trying really hard to avoid schoolwork. It doesn’t take away from the fact that I feel something towards the ideal these characters represent.
Human minds are powerful things, and I believe our imagination is our greatest strength. So, yes, I believe the love people feel for fictional characters is real — even when the person is fictional.
Love is love
There’s nothing weird or strange about having an emotional attachment to someone who doesn’t exist in 3D. Just like there’s nothing wrong with being in love with your favourite singer’s voice.
We all go through life searching for that thing that makes our souls sing.
What kind of job satisfies us? Which person makes us feel safe and loved? How can we dress to feel confident enough to leave the security of our bedrooms? All these things are a kind of love that we feel on a daily basis, so why not for fictional characters?
Which character do I need to think of to get through my day today? Maybe it’s a Prince Zuko kind of day, where I need dry wit and deadpan humour to get through it? Who knows?
Love is love, be it real or fictional.