An interesting point has been made today over at the Vox Day blog. In a discussion about “literal readers,” Vox cites the Italian, Umberto Eco, for a discussion on how many readers are unable to disassociate an author from the author’s fictional characters. Most notable was this paragraph:
“What happens instead to the readers of whom I speak, those who don't absolutely distinguish between fiction and reality? Their situation does not have aesthetic validity. To the extent they are inclined to take the story so seriously that they never ask if it is told well or poorly, they are not looking for instruction and they do not identify with the characters. They simply manifest that which I will define as a fictional deficit; they are incapable of suspending their disbelief. Since there are more of these readers than we think, it is worth the trouble to consider them because we know that all the questions of morals and aesthetics will elude them.”
Many interesting points have been brought up. One blog contributor, davidofone, labels this trend as Superlusionality--the capability and the inability to suspend mental and emotional vestment (active) in the relating to fictional characters or events. Davidofone attributes this quality more to women, citing soap operas as a potential example of this phenomenon. Another blogger, O.C., takes the discussion further, stating that this phenomenon springs from “that same piece of psyche that lets people believe that actors have something important and intelligent to say when they're not reading a script.” Another regular poster, Pax, claims that this phenomenon of “literal reading” is generated from the sheer volume of media available to readers or viewers.
But near the beginning of the posts for Vox’s blog entry is this statement from “the abe”:
“Personal experience and observation have led me to conclude that a traditional religious grounding seems to harness our irrational/unconscious nature in a healthy fashion. It makes me wonder if people who are susceptible to such disassociation (in a general sense) Ecco describes are more prone to be either irreligious or generally haven't cultivated any irrational elements in their life (e.g. scotch and water Christians, non-practicing jews, etc).”
After considering this statement from the abe we can consider using the cliché: “If you believe in nothing, you will fall for anything.” If the society at large is irreligious and people’s minds are based on a materialist philosophy, it very well may be that individuals will look to anything to replace the spot where religion would ordinarily be in their lives. And in that sense, characters and fictional plots become the religion. It is the pop culture that they believe in—they have more faith in the media that is fed to them through books, magazines, or video. And with the sheer volume of so much fiction being fed to “literal readers,” who could deny the truth of media? It must be real. “There is no God, but perhaps these people are.”
If this is the case, one could argue that a “literal reader” has severely misplaced their practice of faith, and that they have a grave spiritual deficit. Instead of having a proper place for the Divine in their lives, the spiritual growth of these people has mutated into something more deformed.