The conversation about the complexities of fictional stories can be daunting. Some people may think these stories are irrelevant to the real world, while others may view them as moral lessons. What can’t be overlooked is the impact fictional stories can have on our understanding of the world.
Fictional stories can often be problematic. They can reflect negative stereotypes and outdated attitudes. A few decades ago, we saw this in racist and sexist characters, or villains that were deemed unintentionally funny by later generations. Fictional stories can also be interpreted as dangerously normalized versions of reality, contributing to the already existing status quo.
At the same time, some fictional stories, though flawed, do have the potential to provide an alternate version of reality that may reflect parts of the truth. Creative works such as these can often be seen as sympathetic if they are considered carefully. For example, if a villain is portrayed as a product of his or her environment, or if a hero’s struggle is a reaction to systemic oppression, then these characters can be seen as more than just out of touch stereotypes.
In some stories, we can find ourselves. Maybe not a perfect reflection, but one that is close enough that we feel seen. We may need to be critical of this type of fiction, questioning why it is presented in a particular way and how it can be improved. Negative stereotypes need to be challenged.
Fictional stories can create a bridge between fantasy and reality, presenting us with questions that may not have been asked before. As an audience, we can acknowledge these stories’ problems, but also piece apart the truths embedded in them. We can walk away from them with new perspectives on the world, allowing them to become part of our realities.