Fiction as Emotional Porn?


#1

So here’s what I’ve been thinking about lately: the reason the Church is opposed to pornography and masturbation is that it’s a self-serving and unfulfilling way to experience arousal without having to actually connect with another person. I recently came across this comment in a youtube video: “In the same way that pornography is designed to make people sexually excited, fictional characters are designed so you latch onto them and create these emotional attachments.” I feel like a lot of the emotional books, movies, TV shows that we enjoy are really the same thing: a self-serving and unfulfilling way to experience, joy, grief, affection, pity, etc. without experiencing them the way they’re meant to be experienced: in connection with another person. When you cry over a character’s death, or when you’re happy because a character has found love, that person becomes an object for you to attach an emotion to; he or she is never meant to reciprocate. In extreme cases, it can even become a substitute for an actual social life; you channel your emotional attachments into fiction instead of the people around you. So what justifies reading/watching these kind of stories?


#2

[quote="Hanna_C, post:1, topic:287044"]
So here's what I've been thinking about lately: the reason the Church is opposed to pornography and masturbation is that it’s a self-serving and unfulfilling way to experience arousal without having to actually connect with another person. I recently came across this comment in a youtube video: “In the same way that pornography is designed to make people sexually excited, fictional characters are designed so you latch onto them and create these emotional attachments.” I feel like a lot of the emotional books, movies, TV shows that we enjoy are really the same thing: a self-serving and unfulfilling way to experience, joy, grief, affection, pity, etc. without experiencing them the way they’re meant to be experienced: in connection with another person. When you cry over a character's death, or when you're happy because a character has found love, that person becomes an object for you to attach an emotion to; he or she is never meant to reciprocate. In extreme cases, it can even become a substitute for an actual social life; you channel your emotional attachments into fiction instead of the people around you. So what justifies reading/watching these kind of stories?

[/quote]

It is good, to a point. For example, Jesus clearly meant for us to identify with the characters in His parables. But yes, there is such a thing as too much.


#3

[quote="Hanna_C, post:1, topic:287044"]
So here's what I've been thinking about lately: the reason the Church is opposed to pornography and masturbation is that it’s a self-serving and unfulfilling way to experience arousal without having to actually connect with another person. I recently came across this comment in a youtube video: “In the same way that pornography is designed to make people sexually excited, fictional characters are designed so you latch onto them and create these emotional attachments.” I feel like a lot of the emotional books, movies, TV shows that we enjoy are really the same thing: a self-serving and unfulfilling way to experience, joy, grief, affection, pity, etc. without experiencing them the way they’re meant to be experienced: in connection with another person. When you cry over a character's death, or when you're happy because a character has found love, that person becomes an object for you to attach an emotion to; he or she is never meant to reciprocate. In extreme cases, it can even become a substitute for an actual social life; you channel your emotional attachments into fiction instead of the people around you. So what justifies reading/watching these kind of stories?

[/quote]

Because literate, thinking people need a life of the mind.

My favorite quote about reading comes from St.Jerome: "When we pray we speak to God, but when we read God speaks to us."


#4

[quote="Hanna_C, post:1, topic:287044"]
So here's what I've been thinking about lately: the reason the Church is opposed to pornography and masturbation is that it’s a self-serving and unfulfilling way to experience arousal without having to actually connect with another person. I recently came across this comment in a youtube video: “In the same way that pornography is designed to make people sexually excited, fictional characters are designed so you latch onto them and create these emotional attachments.” I feel like a lot of the emotional books, movies, TV shows that we enjoy are really the same thing: a self-serving and unfulfilling way to experience, joy, grief, affection, pity, etc. without experiencing them the way they’re meant to be experienced: in connection with another person. When you cry over a character's death, or when you're happy because a character has found love, that person becomes an object for you to attach an emotion to; he or she is never meant to reciprocate. In extreme cases, it can even become a substitute for an actual social life; you channel your emotional attachments into fiction instead of the people around you. So what justifies reading/watching these kind of stories?

[/quote]

There is a significant difference between being attached to a fictional character and pornography.

Pornography and Masturbation are degrading to God's creation. It is taking creation and its purpose, and substituting beauty and fullness for simple use and pleasure. It is a degradation of what is good. The same can be applied to gratuitous violence in film as entertainment: it is degrading to what is good.

Having an attachment to a fictional character does not inherently fall under these same categories as degrading that which is good.


#5

I have wondered about this myself, esp wrt romance stories.

I think it depends on how much fiction reading *replaces *the real thing: it may indicate a lack in one's real life, or it may be a good thing, bringing something to one's life that is needed, but in our society, where our relationships are so tenuous and superficial, it may just mean that we are using the easy substitute for the real thing, which is often so much messier.


#6

Just a few thoughts from one of the greatest Catholic fiction writers of all time... hope they are helpful:

“I wish we could sometimes love the characters in real life as we love the characters in romances. There are a great many human souls whom we should accept more kindly, and even appreciate more clearly, if we simply thought of them as people in a story.”

“People wonder why the novel is the most popular form of literature; people wonder why it is read more than books of science or books of metaphysics. The reason is very simple; it is merely that the novel is more true than they are.”

“Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

G.K. Chesterton


#7

[quote="Hanna_C, post:1, topic:287044"]
So here's what I've been thinking about lately: the reason the Church is opposed to pornography and masturbation is that it’s a self-serving and unfulfilling way to experience arousal without having to actually connect with another person. I recently came across this comment in a youtube video: “In the same way that pornography is designed to make people sexually excited, fictional characters are designed so you latch onto them and create these emotional attachments.” I feel like a lot of the emotional books, movies, TV shows that we enjoy are really the same thing: a self-serving and unfulfilling way to experience, joy, grief, affection, pity, etc. without experiencing them the way they’re meant to be experienced: in connection with another person. When you cry over a character's death, or when you're happy because a character has found love, that person becomes an object for you to attach an emotion to; he or she is never meant to reciprocate. In extreme cases, it can even become a substitute for an actual social life; you channel your emotional attachments into fiction instead of the people around you. So what justifies reading/watching these kind of stories?

[/quote]

Wow. As a professional book editor that's helped create fictional worlds and characters for a long time - there is no comparison at all.

People can become addicted to TV or supermarket tabloids as a way to escape from their own life and substitute doing something with embroiling yourself in what Brad, Angelina and Jen are doing, who they're having relationships with, a baby on the way, etc.

I know from speaking to people that real art is meant to inspire and the way to do that is to create characters the reader can relate to. That makes the reader or viewer feel: "I relate to that character and his struggles, and just like I struggle with my own problems, and know how hard it is to overcome them, I am encouraged and made happy when a fictional person triumphs."

People die in real life. And a fictional character that has shown great moral conviction can be cried over. Even though he's a character in a book or movie, we all know that death is difficult, but he gave it his all before death claimed him

Real fiction inspires, educates and emulates the real world, and even in fantasy and science fiction settings.

The bottom line: When we see ourselves or people we love in fiction, we are moved because we can relate. And the more strongly we relate, the more emotional we will react.

Peace,
Ed


#8

Also, here's a relevant quote from St. Augustine.
(Can I edit the original post?)

“I have not yet ceased to have compassion. But in those days in the theaters I sympathized with lovers when they sinfully enjoyed one another, although this was done fictitiously in the play. And when they lost one another, I grieved with them, as if pitying them, and yet had delight in both grief and pity. Nowadays I feel much more pity for one who delights in his wickedness than for one who counts himself unfortunate because he fails to obtain some harmful pleasure or suffers the loss of some miserable felicity. This, surely, is the truer compassion, but the sorrow I feel in it has no delight for me. For although he that grieves with the unhappy should be commended for his work of love, yet he who has the power of real compassion would still prefer that there be nothing for him to grieve about. For if good will were to be ill will–which it cannot be–only then could he who is truly and sincerely compassionate wish that there were some unhappy people so that he might commiserate them. Some grief may then be justified, but none of it loved. Thus it is that thou dost act, O Lord God, for thou lovest souls far more purely than we do and art more incorruptibly compassionate, although thou art never wounded by any sorrow. Now “who is sufficient for these things?”
But at that time, in my wretchedness, I loved to grieve; and I sought for things to grieve about. In another man’s misery, even though it was feigned and impersonated on the stage, that performance of the actor pleased me best and attracted me most powerfully which moved me to tears. What marvel then was it that an unhappy sheep, straying from thy flock and impatient of thy care, I became infected with a foul disease? This is the reason for my love of griefs: that they would not probe into me too deeply (for I did not love to suffer in myself such things as I loved to look at), and they were the sort of grief which came from hearing those fictions, which affected only the surface of my emotion. Still, just as if they had been poisoned fingernails, their scratching was followed by inflammation, swelling, putrefaction, and corruption. Such was my life! But was it life, O my God?”


#9

[quote="Hanna_C, post:1, topic:287044"]
So here's what I've been thinking about lately: the reason the Church is opposed to pornography and masturbation is that it’s a self-serving and unfulfilling way to experience arousal without having to actually connect with another person. I recently came across this comment in a youtube video: “In the same way that pornography is designed to make people sexually excited, fictional characters are designed so you latch onto them and create these emotional attachments.” I feel like a lot of the emotional books, movies, TV shows that we enjoy are really the same thing: a self-serving and unfulfilling way to experience, joy, grief, affection, pity, etc. without experiencing them the way they’re meant to be experienced: in connection with another person. When you cry over a character's death, or when you're happy because a character has found love, that person becomes an object for you to attach an emotion to; he or she is never meant to reciprocate. In extreme cases, it can even become a substitute for an actual social life; you channel your emotional attachments into fiction instead of the people around you. So what justifies reading/watching these kind of stories?

[/quote]

Television makes people stupid and books probably don't. If you read Fahrenheit 451 you can see that the author Ray Bradbury (he died to day R.I.P.) considered books the antithesis of television and that is why in his novel books were burned.

laweekly.com/2007-05-31/news/ray-bradbury-fahrenheit-451-misinterpreted/


#10

Pornography isn't wrong because it's fake, it's wrong because it incites lust, exploits the human body, and misuses the gift of sexuality.


#11

[quote="prodigalson2011, post:6, topic:287044"]
Just a few thoughts from one of the greatest Catholic fiction writers of all time... hope they are helpful:

“I wish we could sometimes love the characters in real life as we love the characters in romances. There are a great many human souls whom we should accept more kindly, and even appreciate more clearly, if we simply thought of them as people in a story.”

“People wonder why the novel is the most popular form of literature; people wonder why it is read more than books of science or books of metaphysics. The reason is very simple; it is merely that the novel is more true than they are.”

“Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

G.K. Chesterton

[/quote]

Also, there is Epic by John Elderidge. Not Catholic, but a wonderful book nonetheless.


#12

[quote="mini_me640, post:10, topic:287044"]
Pornography isn't wrong because it's fake, it's wrong because it incites lust, exploits the human body, and misuses the gift of sexuality.

[/quote]

Nobody's saying it's wrong because it's fake. I'm asking if it's wrong because it misuses the gift of emotion, just as pornography misuses the gift of sexuality. As for inciting lust is just misapplied sexual arousal, with all of the personal connection stripped away from it. Sexual arousal is not wrong in itself, but only when it's misused. I would go so far as to say that no emotion is wrong in itself, but only when it's misused. The question is, are we misusing them?
And learning from a character's experiences is a good point (Samwise Gamgee holds a special place in my heart as a role model). But that's not always the case; far from it, really, depending on what you're reading.


#13

[quote="Hanna_C, post:12, topic:287044"]
Nobody's saying it's wrong because it's fake. I'm asking if it's wrong because it misuses the gift of emotion, just as pornography misuses the gift of sexuality. As for inciting lust is just misapplied sexual arousal, with all of the personal connection stripped away from it. Sexual arousal is not wrong in itself, but only when it's misused. I would go so far as to say that no emotion is wrong in itself, but only when it's misused. The question is, are we misusing them?
And learning from a character's experiences is a good point (Samwise Gamgee holds a special place in my heart as a role model). But that's not always the case; far from it, really, depending on what you're reading.

[/quote]

First, I would hope that people are reading (/watching etc.) good fiction regardless of genre (witty, stimulating, challenging).

The situations are not quite comparable -- there is a biological aspect to sex; it is ordered toward procreation. The purpose of emotions is not so limited. Furthermore, literature can be used for a variety of purposes, from entertainment to satire to commentary. Are we to say that our emotional response is disordered when we read Homer? No, because we learn something about ourselves from our emotional and intellectual response to literature.

Of course, withdrawing from society and escaping into fiction is problematic; then, your line of thinking has much to offer.


#14

[quote="Hanna_C, post:12, topic:287044"]
Nobody's saying it's wrong because it's fake. I'm asking if it's wrong because it misuses the gift of emotion, just as pornography misuses the gift of sexuality. As for inciting lust is just misapplied sexual arousal, with all of the personal connection stripped away from it. Sexual arousal is not wrong in itself, but only when it's misused. I would go so far as to say that no emotion is wrong in itself, but only when it's misused. The question is, are we misusing them?
And learning from a character's experiences is a good point (Samwise Gamgee holds a special place in my heart as a role model). But that's not always the case; far from it, really, depending on what you're reading.

[/quote]

Misuse? How so? What is so wrong with emotionally connecting with a fictional character?

As with other people, you're comparing apples with oranges. Just because stripping personal connection from sex is wrong, doesn't mean you can't relate to a fictional character. To say otherwise just doesn't make sense because there's no relation between them. What you're arguing makes as much as sense as saying eating chopped meat is wrong because the act of chopping is reminiscent of a murderer chopping his victims with a machete.


#15

[quote="Hanna_C, post:1, topic:287044"]
I feel like a lot of the emotional books, movies, TV shows that we enjoy are really the same thing: a self-serving and unfulfilling way to experience, joy, grief, affection, pity, etc. without experiencing them the way they’re meant to be experienced: in connection with another person.

[/quote]

Here's another false comparison from your very first post.

Emotions =/= Sex

There is a reason why sex and personal connection need to go hand in hand.

It's not the same with emotions. Compared to sex, they are theologically insignificant.

P.S.

Connecting with people in the way that you're implying is also way overrated.


#16

Jesus was a storyteller. Good fiction tells a good story and a truth.


#17

Jesus himself used fiction (parables) to teach. Therefore, there is nothing inherently wrong about fiction. God tells us that sexuality is for marriage only, He never tells us that emotions are for real human relationships only.


#18

[quote="Lost_Wanderer, post:15, topic:287044"]

Connecting with people in the way that you're implying is also way overrated.

[/quote]

What do you mean?

And there's definitely a difference between types of fiction. You're not getting emotionally invested in "Let's pretend a guy has three coins..."


#19

It’s just that your post sounds like the many speeches I’ve heard from anti-escapists who advocate ‘socializing’, ‘getting out’, ‘make friends’ etc, etc.

Granted, I’ve seen the value. However, I’ve also realized that there’s an element that’s always outside your control. As much I admire MLK Jr., not everyone can (or will) ‘just get along’.

Some people are just natural enemies. Even within their own family. Furthermore, there will be moments when your own principles, your own faith will be the cause for bitter enmity.

If trying to ‘connect’ with such people (and torturing yourself everyday in the process) is morally and spiritually superior, then the Church should scratch out that part of the Bible which says, “Shake the dust off your feet.”

Am I smelling a reference to the parable arguments here? You think people aren’t required to emotionally connect to the half-dead man after he was abandoned by two religious but rescued by a Samaritan?


#20

[quote="Lost_Wanderer, post:19, topic:287044"]
Some people are just natural enemies. Even within their own family. Furthermore, there will be moments when your own principles, your own faith will be the cause for bitter enmity.

[/quote]

God calls us all to love. Never should the enmity be two-sided. If there is antagonism, it should not be us as Catholics who are responsible for harboring it.

The Catechism explicitly speaks on man's role in society:

We are called to involve ourselves in the community. We are called to kindness; kindness requires sacrifice for others, which, with the Catholic mindset, will in fact be a joy.

Fiction is not meant to replace social interaction; living through fiction is a false life. That being said, each of us benefits from fiction and social interaction to varying degrees and in different ways.


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