T(V) & Sy(E)mpathy

Patrick, Offspring, Offspring tv show, Patrick & Nina
It's Wednesday afternoon and I've just got back from getting groceries. The whole time I was shopping I couldn't get her out of my head. How hard it must be to be raising a daughter by yourself. To have lost your partner not quite a week before giving birth. I thought about how sad it is that he will never get to meet his daughter, see how beautiful she is and how much joy she brings everyone. What must it be like to be going through the happiest and the saddest moments of one's life, at the same time?

The thing is, last Wednesday I wasn't thinking about real people. I was thinking about Nina and Patrick from the TV show Offspring. They are make-believe. Fictional. The events that have transpired in Nina's life have played out soley on TV, for the enjoyment of people watching at home.

So why do I get so choked up when I see the fantasy scenes of Nina with her daughter's dead father?

A couple of weeks ago my sister and I were discussing our favourite guilty pleasure show of the moment, My Kitchen  Rules. We were talking about who we liked, who we didn't like, who we thought should have been kicked off and who we thought should win. My step-dad looked over from the kitchen and asked who we were talking about.

When he realised it was a TV show, and people we didn't actually know, he smirked and made some comment about us being so invested in it, as if it was somehow going to affect our lives in some way. He remarked something similar later on, when Mum and I were discussing Downton Abbey (a show I only recently watched three seasons of back-to-back). He couldn't understand why we got so passionate about it and discussed it all so fiercely.

"They're not real people!" he exclaimed.

Mum and I just looked at each other and rolled our eyes. We know why.
Downton Abbey, Downton Abbey Season 4, Mary Crawley, Tom Branson
Offspring and Downton Abbey are two shows guaranteed to have me feeling something!
{Image Found Here}
The thing is, it's got nothing to do with whether or not the people are "real". In that time and space of watching the show they are real enough. It's nice to have people and things to discuss that aren't a part of reality. To be able to enter a world of make-believe. To be able to discuss people and their lives without having to feel guilty for it or having to actually deal with any of the drama ourselves.

And when it comes to feeling real emotions for these characters, these make-believe people? What it really comes down to is empathy.

The real reason I got so choked up watching the first episode of the new season of Offspring? I can't watch what the character Nina is going through without thinking about how it is I would feel if I lost my husband a week before my daughter was born.

I watch, and I inevitably think about how horrible and hard I would find it to lose Dave. To have to bring up my beautiful girls all by myself. And it's those thoughts, that wondering, that produces emotion in me. It would be the hardest thing I would ever have to do.

To a lesser degree (and this is not to elevate the emotions or feelings of fictional characters, don't get me wrong), it's the same kind of emotion that wells in me when I watch or read the news. I see and read about horrible things that happen to ordinary, every day people. People just like me. I think about what they must be going through and then think about how I would feel if it had happened to me.

I imagine that their hearts must be broken. I feel but a tiny percentage of the emotions that I imagine they would be experiencing.

The empathy I feel for fictional characters in a TV show is not to the same degree as that which I would feel for a real person that I read or hear about. But it's empathy all the same, and I'm not afraid to admit it. It gives me an excuse to release some of the emotions or feelings that I may have been repressing in my real life, an excuse to just let a few tears flow. Because we all know how good it can be to have a little cry every now and then.

I would much rather care about fictional characters on a TV show, or feel a small part of the sadness and loss of real people with real problems, than feel nothing at all.

If I'm allowed to cheer and get excited about a sporting event or someones personal achievement, then by rights, I'm also allowed to care and empathise with the flipside of those emotions. The things that real people, and yes fictional characters too, might be going through.
good fiction quotes

Do you find yourself being sucked in to the emotion and drama of fictional characters on TV and in books? Do you struggle to watch or read the news sometimes because the thought of what these people must be going through hurts too much? Or do I need to suck it up, get my head out of the clouds and only worry more about the things my own life?

{First image of Patrick from Offspring found here}


Kylie Purtell said…
I think you have to allow yourself to be sucked in otherwise there isn't any point in watching the dramas - you know it's not real life but you can still empathise. The news and documentaries are a little different and I think we tend to appreciate that. If a drama really gets to you then it's doing it's job well.
Kylie Purtell said…
Funny you mention this. I think it's the familiarity. I am a devout Kimi fan and then Vettel (which I know is UnAustralian but I don't care, he's exception). But I also follow Nico on FB & Twitter, and he uses the social media platforms exceptionally well (way better than the older 2). So yesterday I discovered I have grown very fond of him and want him to do well - I felt disappointed for him at how Spain turned out (he sends out little videos off his phone after the race, sitting in the bus going back to the hotel). Which is ironic because it turned out better for him than my 2 faves, (though I was happy Dan finally got his podium). So all I can put it down to, is I actually hear more of his experience and thoughts than the others, so I feel more connected to him...(businesses, if you want to see how to use SM, he is definitely the guy to watch)
Kylie Purtell said…
My hubby doesn't get why I cry when reading or during movies either it's all just fiction, but sometimes, they just draw you in so emotionally you just can't not feel something. Because these are things that might just happen to you, and it's relatable. That's what makes a good story, right?

Ai @ Sakura Haruka
Kylie Purtell said…
I find myself completely drawn into the Mad Men world and emphasizing with some of the characters even when their behaviour is appalling. (eg Pete Campbell brought all his troubles upon himself but I still feel slightly sorry for him). That is the power of good writing. Meanwhile I wish I knew the FOTC boys IRL and Rollo of the Vikings is welcome to jump out of my TV screen any time.
Kylie Purtell said…
I get so invested in TV shows. With Offspring, it was everything. My dad actually died following a stroke and mum said she went through it all over again watching that. The acting was spot on. I have never cried so much watching a TV episode. Or anything on a screen, actually. It's being able to put yourself in the position - whether you've been there before or not - that hits you in the guts.
Kylie Purtell said…
A often says to me "It's only a movie" but that doesn't make the emotions any less real. I get that most times those exact things won't necessarily happen in real life but I do invest time and emotions into movies and shows. And when I am hormonal (which is about 95% of the time at the moment) - anything is likely to set the tears off - news, great achievements in sport, sad incidents in sport, movies, serials - just about anything !
Have the best day !
Kylie Purtell said…
I am SO much like this - it's like I morph into these fictional characters and feel what they feel - ugh it's so heartbreaking! Downton always makes me weep like a sissy. You are not alone in this!
Kylie Purtell said…
Oh I am 100% invested in TV/movie land thanks to a ton of empathy and sensitivity in my DNA makeup lol. With you all the way. And I love nina lol
Kylie Purtell said…
I used to be like that with Buffy the Vampire Slayer! Oh how I bawled when her Mum died and Buffy was all alone. I don't really get into soap dramas at all. I do suffer cultural cringe a lot and I just can't watch Australian dramas. I am a sci-fi fan and otherwise, love news, politics and documentaries.
Kylie Purtell said…
I'm a total sucker for soppy movies and shows. The best drama is meant to make us feel like this - to humanise us regardless of what we encounter in real life and make us more empathetic for our real lives. Pass the tissues.
Kylie Purtell said…
I can't even watch those Offspring ads without getting teary! I can't even imagine what that would be like, to lose your world, just as something so amazing is about to happen in your life.
I love that we can escape into TV and movies, we all need some fantasy x
Kylie Purtell said…
I completely agree Kylie, I love a bit of drama myself, as long as it's on my TV screen. I always cry at movies (which can be embarrassing when I go to the cinema) but I think it's healthy. I can't help feeling Nina from Offspring must be one of the unluckiest in love characters we've seen in quite some time. But I'll still be watching:-)
Kylie Purtell said…
I've been moping for the last few weeks since HIMYM finished because they are my friends and I miss them!
And then Grey's came back on last night, and I've been thinking about it all day! I definitely get caught up in TV shows.
Kylie Purtell said…
I totally do this. I bawled my eyes out probably more than Nina when Patrick died. Not so much for the character but because I imagined what it would be like if Trent died, and it didnt help that I'd just had a baby when it aired.
Kylie Purtell said…
The thing is there are a lot of clever writers out there who make it so familiar and real that we can't help but be drawn in and emotionally apart of that world. Also, it is someones reality. Sadly and I agree, now that I am a Mother I can't help but put myself in those shoes and pray my family never has one of those accidents or misfortunes.
PS - I couldn't help but bawl my eyes out at Offspring. It's a womans worst nightmare really isn't it??
Kylie Purtell said…
I do this all the time. You're not the only one and it hits home when you have children and think how would you cope in the same circumstances on tv. I couldn't believe when Matthew died on Downton Abbey!
Kylie Purtell said…
Oh I seriously get myself completely absorbed in TV shows. I spent a lengthy proportion of today wondering how princess Aslaug on Vikings must have felt when everyone was telling her to leave her baby to die last night. I get completely invested into storylines of various tv shows. I feel like I'm living it with them. Lol. Ahh, yes. It's fun though, isn't it?!
Kylie Purtell said…
Oh my goodness Kylie I was in bits last Friday. I was out of the country for last years Offspring Season and I caught up last friday. I was heartbroken. It is why these shows are so popular, they are mostly so real. We love the drama. I guess similar to why people enjoy blogs to make them feel normal about the crap we must go through in life.
Kylie Purtell said…
I'm so the same. I don't watch Offspring, but I am so paranoid something is going to happen to me or my son, because you see it in the news ALL THE TIME! And I am an emotional wreck watching TV shows!
Kylie Purtell said…
I think if we didn't feel something for the news we hear every day then we'd have to worry that maybe we didn't have any empathy. I don't watch the news often because it upsets me too much. There feels like there is so much bad going on in our world at every moment and there seems to be no good to balance it out. I know that sensationalism sells but I for one am sick to death of it.

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