I know how that sounds, especially given the amount of times I’ve screamed “Noooooooo why must you hurt me like this….” at a piece of storytelling.
What I’m talking about here isn’t the absolute devastation of a character death or a piece of fiction killing you with feels as two characters fall in love.
I’m talking about the kind of hurt that runs deep. The betrayal when a favourite piece of fiction disappoints.
First things first, you should know, I become obsessed with shows and movies a lot, or at least I did. I think the kids would call it hyper-fixating. When I love something I will find out everything about it; world, language, weird bits of trivia no one should really know. Fiction makes me feel connected in a way nothing else does and until a few years ago I thought it was going to be the solid unchangeable thing that would always be there, no matter what…..
Now I’m not naïve, I’ve been doing this obsession thing for so long now that I know how shows, movies, series can disappoint their fans. Can hurt their fans in a way that cuts deep.
It’s happened in a lot of series I’ve watched. They get new writers in or writers who want to put their stamp on things and they change things, which you know, can be a good thing: When the changes track with the rest of the shows history and the characters personalities. Now I’m not talking about fanon that becomes so widespread it becomes canon.
I’m talking about the Canon of a series (be that book, movie or tv), when characters do a 180 for no apparent reason or become inconsistent it grates against what we as an audience have come to know and love. I’m talking about when authors, when creators, who seem to follow the values of their creations, who seem to be an encouraging voice in the world, who talk about values, turn out to be…. well only telling half truths.
Even with my experiences with shows like Gotham, OUAT and Game of Thrones , hell even Sherlock. I still didn’t think fiction could hurt me. Not deeply. Not enough to leave a scar. Not enough to make me reluctant and avoidant about finding NEW things to love. (Don’t ask me about Harvey Bullock -Gotham version- because I will cry with character analysis of him.)
Yet here we are….
I’ve been trying to unpick a block I’ve been feeling lately. When it seems I might really like something, I can feel myself pulling away, taking a step back rather than leaning into it full force and letting the obsession take over me. Because obsession is the place I thrive (and not just because I’m an OCD sufferer 😉 ).
Naturally this ties into a revelation I recently had, that I’ve come to hate being vulnerable. I never used to be that way, not really. There have been hints of it peppered through life, but I was always able to be vulnerable with myself or with fiction. In recent years though even that has become something I loathe.
Fiction was always the one place I allowed myself to be vulnerable. In terms of opening my heart to love new characters and worlds that once written are pretty much everlasting. Fiction was always a place I could turn to, I was never lonely with a head full of characters, references or quotes. Never bored when day dreaming up scenarios in which I could maybe solve a murder with Sloans & Co.
Over and over I’ve been betrayed by real people but I never thought fiction could really hurt me.
And then She Who Shall Not Be Named decided to go all T*RF and suddenly one of the few places I could always turn to became…. not a place I could turn to. That world was created by her, which means her values sidle over into the good of it.
As a writer I love the idea my characters and worlds can take on a life of their own, but the worlds I create still have, intrinsically, at their core, values of equality and acceptance. Even shorts about murderers and cannibals exist in worlds where equality and acceptance are at the core good of the world, because they’re at the core ‘good’ of my world.
When ‘She’ not only tweeted, but then reacted and doubled down by writing a 3000 scaremongering word essay, that fictional world was ripped away from me, because in that moment I realised that, that world wasn’t built on equality and acceptance. Everyone would be accepted there apart from a certain sector of people.
Of course there are a multitude of other problems that make the world not the one I idealised it into being.
This hurt. At first I was angry, then I went through a sort of grief. I packed everything up and cut myself off from that world. Cut myself off from the new things that world was starting to offer, because there was always something new but familiar.
Now it seems my heart is only open to things I know are not going to break it, and yet there is a tentativeness too. A worry that something may destroy those worlds for me too.
This strange sort of hurt stretches it’s black tendrils along the lines of my fiction heart and poisons everything. Seeping into spaces it shouldn’t go. Spaces meant for me and me alone.
So now, now I am left with the knowledge that Fiction, my one true love can break my heart, can betray and disappoint me just like real people and I don’t know what to do with that knowledge. Where do I put it so that it stops being a problem? How do I break through this wall?
I’m not sure. The funny thing is I can handle people disappointing me a lot better than I can this. Unlike my trust issues with people though, this is something I want to work at. Something I need to work at. I don’t want to live in a world where fiction doesn’t make me feel things so intensely it’s hard to contain it. I don’t want to be in a place where I never fall in love with a world so fully that I know all of it’s ins and outs again. I want to allow myself to open myself back up to a place where I care so much about something I want to shout it from the rooftops.
I am trying. That’s a good thing. When I started to feel things watching WandaVision I stayed and forced myself to stare at that vulnerability it made me feel. When I started to watch Winter Soldier however I ran away. When I started to watch Loki, I forced myself to really indulge in those excited feelings.
So it turns out Fiction can hurt me, deeply, just like people. At least fiction is a wide and wonderful filled world though. At least with fiction there is always something new to uncover or find, at least with fiction there is solid things I can revisit, solid things frozen in time not marred by creators who want to make it clear that not everyone is welcome in their worlds.
The one thing I’ve learned from this though, from even just writing this post, is that I never want to be that creator. I never want to make someone feel that hurt. It makes me want to push back, to indulge, to fall in love again and more importantly to throw that love back into my own work. Throw that message and healing back into my own work. The real world may be a mess, in the real world the bad guys may win. In fiction though, in fiction everyone is welcome and the heroes save the day.