The Fiction of Fictional Characters

Three years ago I wrote about how Americans like zombie plots in film and television because these motifs mirror our own reality—one with boredom and addiction as main life/career choices and terror as a national health-care policy. I think this phenomenon is still mostly true, although I often think that the importance of movies and TV is overstated, especially when gains in movements or civil rights are claimed simply because of increased representation in media—as if Orange Is the New Black changed the prison system. This notion reaches its most annoying manifestation when delusional actors think their portrayals actually move any needles (pun intended). But then again, maybe I’m wrong about that, too; fictional characters do serve to normalize otherwise radical situations (which is why they’re so useful for propaganda machines). Yet, I just don’t see how Breaking Bad will actually change drug or health-care policy, or how The Wire will change journalism or the criminal justice system.

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