Fictional characters are people too

By Tyler Panlilio , Columnist

Two Sundays ago, millions of fans watched their screens in horror as if they had just seen a close friend’s head get pulverized over and over by a barbed baseball bat.

With a viewership of 17 million that Oct. 23 evening, it was difficult to not come across something related to the show throughout the day.

On Twitter, it became the number one trend, with hundreds of thousands of people tweeting their thoughts on what would happen. Even more impressive, the show was the most-watched program on broadcast and cable for that day.

It was the premiere of the seventh season of “The Walking Dead.”

On a surface level, the show is about the zombie apocalypse in modern-day America and how people survive in response to it. But to any seasoned fan, the show is not so much about the zombies; it’s about humanity and how people deal with each other in the absence of society.

Among the entire cast, the character that felt the most responsible for his actions and decisions propelled him to be a fan favorite, simply because of how relatable his conscience was. A would-be father of his unborn baby, he was selfless, kind-hearted and absolutely irreplaceable.

Glenn Rhee was someone I looked up to; a fictional character who I admired and who resonated with me.

It’s important to note that fictional characters help us understand reality. People often go about their lives with a need to empathize and relate with others. Everyone wants to be understood; and yet, as simple as it may seem, it’s a lot harder to actually accomplish.

And this is where they shine the most: fictional characters can bring out emotion in anyone.

It starts off when you’re young; you see a young man with a lightsaber on the big screen or read about an orphaned wizard with glasses, and part of you wishes you were in their world instead of yours.

But the days pass by, you get older, and all of a sudden you find yourself empathizing with the very same characters you thought were invincible. Even though some of them may have superpowers, they’re just as vulnerable as us.

For some, it can stem from a lack of some sort of figure in their lives. For others, it could be as simple as sympathizing with a fictional character’s problems and experiences. Either way, it shows us the importance of good storytelling; despite the fact that it never really happened, fiction can be just as powerful — if not more — than real life experiences.

After the episode was over, I had to reprocess what had just happened. Everyone had, at the very least, some sort of idea that Glenn would be the one. But knowing is nowhere near the same thing as seeing.

It was as if someone I personally knew for several years had just passed, and I couldn’t have been more upset because of it. I wasn’t even able to focus on my homework.

“The Walking Dead” is just one of many fictional storylines where complex characters deal with their own problems in one way or another. Relatable, likeable characters can be found almost anywhere. You just have to look a little.

So whether it’s Peter Parker or Holden Caulfield for those who feel like outcasts; or maybe Atticus Finch or Philip Banks for those who never had a father figure — it’s easy to understand that fiction tells us that we can’t live life without emotion; in fact, it tells us something more.

It reminds us that we’re human.

Tyler is a freshman in Media. 

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