Relating to Characters - Two types of fans
So there are two kinds of reactions you can have to any show, book, anime, something with characters. You can become emotionally involved in it, or not. I never thought much about this before, although I'd heard people saying sometimes that they can't sympathize with movies. It wasn't until I had a conversation with one of my cosplayers that I really thought deeper about this.
The point defining whether you become involved or not is highly dependant on how much you can forget it's a book or a movie or whatever, and see the characters as real people. I think this is called something like "suspension of belief." There are different levels of that. For instance, there are some people who can sympathize with live action movies, but not with drawn characters. That's why some people don't understand anime. The majority of people, I'd assume, have a hard time sympathising with anything other than live action, as live action movies are more popular than anything. And for some people, not even that. Like the people who laugh at Clockwork Orange and the guy who sat behind me when I watched Titanic. I went to watch it in the theater and the guy behind me chuckled a little when DiCaprio died. It wasn't because he thought it was funny, or trying to mask anything, it was more like, "Ha! Look at that! Wasn't expecting him to die that way. Hmph." Just a complete lack of internalizing the character there. No emotion. I would also say this is why RPGs don't sell as well as first person shooters.
I don't think it's exclusive, though, one can Learn to sympathise with things, but I'll get to that later.
The second thing is humor. Humor is universal. Everyone finds things funny. So like.. newspaper comics, you may not be able to sympathize with the funkily drawn people, but the humor makes you like it. More people read Penny Arcade than Megatokyo. More people read Megatokyo than Kagerou. And yet, all these people will claim to love comics.
And people will claim to LOVE anime, but won't understand why I like Now Then Here There. This is a little different than above, because people get really, really into anime. You can have die hard anime fans, or two people who absolutely love the same series, and yet one can sympathise with the characters and one can't. They'll like the same thing for entirely different reasons. Like Kenshin. You can like Kenshin 'cause there's bad ass fighting, hot guys, cute girls, and there's also a lot of humor. Or you can like Kenshin because of the depth of the characters, the pain of the past, the strength of the present, and the deep understanding of everyone on an emotional level.
Have you ever had someone tell you that people like tradgedy plays because on some level it's satisfying to know that that person is not you? That's sortof a standard, I think, as an explanation for Shakespear in schools.. I was always taught that. But now I think that's BS for people who can't sympathise with characters. When I'm drawn to a tradgedy, it's because I WANT to feel that suffering. And maybe I don't like some things that other people like because I sympathise too much and can't take the situation lightly.
So people can learn to sympathize with characters. One of the people in my cosplay group says they usually started out watching only humor, and then as they became more involved with anime, suddenly found a serious one that they liked a lot. There was a defining point where they went from one side to the other. I wonder if the anime I usually reccomend to people is subconsciously chosen because I think it can draw a person to that other side. Like Cowboy Bebop, or Evangelion. A thing that starts out funny, then turns to being serious and deep later on.
The defining point for two of my cosplayers was Utena.
I don't have a defining point. This is because, I think, I got into the whole Japanese thing with video games. Starting with Final Fantasy games got me involved before I started anime and comics. I already conceptions of what I like and don't like on deeper levels before coming into anime. And then the first one I watched was Evangelion.
Video games have their own kind of appeal. There might be the same thing, with a defining moment, but it's not the same situation at all so I can't say that there was any real moment for me. I haven't done further research on this. A lot of people in my survey said they can't sympathise with characters in video games. There's another appeal to games, something about your hand motions being satisfied with a response, and having to work through challenges to get somewhere. And if that comes along at the same time as sympathizing with a character, then I think it's very gradual.
I can't play video games unless I have sympathy for something. I had to make elaborate fantasy stories about the different worlds in order to play Mario.
I think one first learns to sympathize with characters through fiction books. Out of the forty or so people who took my survey, only one of the respondents said they couldn't relate to people in fiction books. Maybe because when you think of a fiction book, it's all in your head, and so it's as real to you as anything else in your head.
It was pointed out to me that I shouldn't be using the word 'sympathize' and should instead use the word 'relate to'. I'm not really sure how they differ at this point, and haven't felt the need to rewrite this rant.
I found out that a lot of people can relate to anything but live action movies, and I realize that I'm also this way sometimes. The reason is most likely that you know the people are actors. The more you recognize the actors, the less you can really feel for their character.
Funny story about survey results
Survey Question Analysis
My final paper
The ability to Relate to Characters
Zip file of presentation
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