Modern pop-culture is almost entirely media driven. Literature, television, film and now internet content is interwoven into the fabric of the human experience. This is because fiction, or more specifically, stories, are an undeniable part of the way humans perceive reality. Fiction resonates powerfully with people, despite the fact that it is not real.

Stories are a practical vehicle for humans to contextualize their own experiences and the world around them, and they provide an avenue for people to live out their worst fears and their greatest desires from a safe and comfortable distance. Fiction allows the imagination to run away with infinite potential scenarios that can relate to the lives of the audience in different, and sometime strange, ways. The more a story affects a person, the more the spirit of that story is channeled into everyday situations.

Stories resonate so powerfully with some viewers that it impacts the way they carry themselves in the real world. Tattoos, cosplay and fan art are great examples of exterior expressions of commitment to the spirit of a story. In turn, fans gain a satisfying means of escapism from negative aspects of their own lives as they form vicarious connections with the avatars in the stories they love.

Ultra-die-hard obsessive fans of anything ranging from “Harry Potter” to the “Walking Dead” to “Naruto” experience a full range of human emotions right alongside the characters in their favorite series. That mutual experience creates a bond that appeals to the way the viewers wishes they, or the world as a whole, actually were, in some sense or another.

This propensity to escape into fiction is often in response to the vast complexity of the world and the frequent obstacles people encounter throughout their lives. With fiction, you can live out all the despair and success imaginable, without actually having to risk anything as you sit on the couch. If there has been an increasing number of people losing themselves to fiction in the last decade, the hostility of the current political climate and the rapidly changing nature of technology and pop-culture is responsible for it. The more complex things become, the more people will want to return to narratives that make them feel comfortable and properly oriented, even if that means sacrificing their progress and position in reality.

The benefits of stories are using a fictional scenario to help gain a perspective you might not otherwise have had access to. To use that perspective wisely, however, is to take it and put it into practice, instead of dwelling in a bubble of vicarious comfort. In this way, stories make catharsis reachable through proxy.

The vicarious release people achieve through fiction is so significant that it brings the qualitative realness of fiction into question. If Bugs Bunny isn’t real, yet he has influenced more people than you and I will ever even come in contact with and will be around long after we are nothing but worm food, then how can we deny the real world impact of Bugs Bunny?