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Fiction as a representation of RL

06/29/2009

genshikendakimakura

In actuality, realism has a inverse relationship with what a viewer wants…

After reading a post by sdshamshel regarding the realism of Genshiken, which was also a response to another post on Reverse Thieves, I’ve decided to invade my own opinions on this matter. I suggest you read both articles before reading mine. I will tell you the font color used over at Reverse Thieves, however stylish, is rather distracting; especially at the amount of text they managed to write with it.

Very few things anger me. I see it all the time, people on the internet bickering over how they hate this and hate that. To me, hate and anger are all very strong words, and people nowadays use it too lightly. Though, I will say that I am annoyed by a fair share of things, and one of them is the never ending comparison brought upon fiction and real life.

The discussion itself is not irritating to me, it is the arguments and contradictions people bring in to the discussion. I’m going to copy the comment I posted over at Ogiue Maniax because it’s kind of pointless to word something differently when I just wrote it myself…

To me, Genshiken was just an instance where a group of otaku somehow managed to find happiness in their lives. The “otaku are sadder, uglier, more socially awkward, never will be happy” notion doesn’t have to dictate every single otaku in existence, that in itself is very unrealistic. I am annoyed by criticism that points out how characters in a work of fiction do not portray their stereotypes accurately enough. It’s ironic that society shuns stereotypical views and yet we expect characters in fiction to adhere to that stereotype.

Whether you like it or not, a big part of criticism in fiction deals with its credibility in realism. If a work that is supposed to portray real life is not believable, then it wouldn’t be considered a success. The gray area of this discussion comes into play when we try to define realism. The term is very subjective, for we all have our own lives and build our own ideas about what is reality and what is fantasy through our experiences. An average middle-class dweller might consider something fantasy that a wealthy man considers real. Similarly, a poverty ridden person might consider something fantasy that a middle-class man considers mundane. It is impossible to paint a scene which could be universally accepted as real. To alleviate this problem, authors are encouraged to portray their characters as general as possible (otaku are disgusting, good looking people are jerks, life is miserable, etc.), because if the characters become too specific, there is an increase in chance for some random hick to point out how they are not like the characters, therefore it is not realistic. Works that follow this rule tends to be more highly praised, and works that portrays life in a lighter fashion i.e. Genshiken (life is actually good?! get out of here, that’s a fucking lie) often gets bashed for “a lack of real life ideals”.

The second point I want to bring across is that fiction needs to have some elements of fantasy in it (even for fiction depicting real life), for if fiction somehow managed to portray real life 100%, it loses its definition as fiction. The happy endings, the clichés, the wind in the hair/dramatic music/rain when something sad happens are all there for a reason. I for one would be bored as fuck if I had to sit through a showing of someone’s “real” life. “Oh great, he’s taking a shit now. This is truly realistic; therefore it must be the epitome of fictitious works and therefore deserves my attention. Why can’t all fiction be this true to its audience?” If real fiction were really like this, fiction wouldn’t have been invented in the first place. The audience wants to be fooled, they want to be immersed in a different world, and fiction does that the best.

A few of my friends question anime’s propensity to only allow attractive people into its gates. They are blessed with ideal figures, smooth complexion and blue hair and green hair that actually complement their look rather than make them look retarded. And I have a simple answer to that question, because the fans demand it. If you are not totally close-minded, you will agree that it is understandable for people to generally not want to look at ugly people all day, it’s in our genes. Therefore, anime spares us of this dread. The best fiction always caters to what the audience/fans want, and I’d say anime is a top contender as a medium when it comes to giving the fans what it wants.

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