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Art is a form of escape, so to speak. It’s a powerful medium for artists or people in general to express themselves in a way that words could never get across. The second we get a chance to escape from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, we leap into a world of creative imagination where life and art intertwine, and tap into the unexplored crevices of our mind and soul.

As we relentlessly explore endless content in the media library, we’re bound to find something that we’ll invest our time in (mostly years), that hits all the right buttons of our psyche.

If you’re a self-confessed binge-watching queen like myself, then I’m absolutely positive that you’ve spent countless hours glued to your couch, stuck in a fictional universe, shamelessly eating your feelings away – more than we’d like to admit. With the rise of beloved streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBO, you name it, we easily get access to a cornucopia of films and TV shows. As we relentlessly explore endless content in the media library, we’re bound to find something that we’ll invest our time in (mostly years), that hits all the right buttons of our psyche. There are many reasons as to why we get more emotionally involved in fiction than the lives we lead.

Art as a looking glass

As part of our basic human needs, we all just want to create genuine connections with the world, society, and ourselves. We have that constant craving to be understood emotionally, but sometimes it plays out inversely when the people around us cease to empathize with our circumstances. Thus, when we find that perfect show that mirrors different aspects of our lives, we get invested in it especially when we relate to the characters’ journeys.

Whether it’s Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, Friends, Suits, or This Is Us, all stories across various genres exhibit human emotions and attributes that we yearn for. Our fascination with these stories paved the way for fandoms, conventions, social media reviews, analysis, and conspiracy theories. The magnitude and reach of these hit shows spread like wildfire throughout diverse countries and cultures, and it’s a fire that’s difficult to put out once you’re emotionally devoted.

Our fascination with these stories paved the way for fandoms, conventions, social media reviews, analysis, and conspiracy theories.

How and why do we get attached to these characters? The answer is simple: they fill in the missing pieces in our lives. The void that we feel from reality is often satiated by the experiences and conflicts that these characters face on a daily basis.

While there’s a whole science behind the art of crafting compelling characters, plots, and stories dating back to Aristotle’s Poetics, writers are simply able to create multi-dimensional characters because they look deeper into themselves and find inspiration from personal experiences. A brilliant writer and showrunner, Shonda Rhimes, who is responsible for some of the longest-running scripted shows on TV, believes in the power of creating characters that she would love to watch and could relate to. In Grey’s Anatomy, which is running for 14 seasons now, Rhimes created strong and empowered female characters that were thought to be groundbreaking the moment they were brought to life.

…we often look into art to seek solace, freedom of expression, and representation.

The biggest and most significant effect TV shows have on us, especially the youth, is the power to discuss complex social and personal issues that are usually kept under wraps in real life. It gives us the motivation and the will to proactively change our lives for the better. We tend to use art to manifest the raw emotions we feel in hopes of opening the eyes of an individual who has been in hiding for too long. This was evident in Netflix’s hit series 13 Reasons Why, which bravely tackled mental health to break the stigma towards this controversial topic that society refuses to acknowledge. It successfully started the conversation and raised awareness in our society to a certain degree that benefited thousands of people who have been suffering from this unfathomable condition by seeking help from professionals and their loved ones.

In a nutshell, we often look into art to seek solace, freedom of expression, and representation. The audience simply embraced the complexities of the stories and characters because they were authentic and purely unapologetic for their actions – something that finally puts a face and name to our internal struggles.

Life imitates art or art imitates life?

Nowadays, sometimes it’s hard to separate fiction from reality. They feed off each other in such a way that none of them would exist if one aspect is missing. Therefore, creatives in the industry must be cautious as to what kind of stories are told, how characters are depicted, and why it is important for us to incorporate these fictional narratives in our lives.

…there are people who are so engrossed in the media that they’re unable to differentiate between the two worlds.

Art and media have the potential to positively and negatively influence a person’s mental and emotional development. There’s a tendency for creatives to kick it up a notch when it comes to dramatizing reality and there are people who are so engrossed in the media that they’re unable to differentiate between the two worlds. After months and years of exposure, some people adopt these characters’ personalities that could be both beneficial and problematic, depending on which kind of character they’re patronizing.

Consequently, storytellers and creatives in the industry must take all of this into consideration before releasing content containing violence, sexuality, and profanity; they have the capability to shape and alter our being as we go deeper into the episodes. As an audience, know the fine line between fantasy and reality because no matter how flawed our lives may be, it will always be the most extraordinary and exceptional story that has ever seen the light of day. The best part is, you’re the artist who is constantly shaping and creating it.

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