Obsession is usually depicted as something negative or costly in the mainstream media. The negativity becomes greater when one has to deal with people’s love for fiction. Annie Wilkes almost killed writer Paul Sheldon in Stephen King’s classic Misery, due to her uncontrolled love of the latter’s fictional stories. Don Quixote made up his own worlds and loved them so dearly that he ended up a symbol of all paranoia.
In the following article, I will not try to go to the opposite extreme and say that being a modern Don Quixote should be an acceptable lifestyle choice, but I wish to prove this simple claim; as there are harmful ways to be obsessed with universes that “do not exist”, there are positive paths too -and I have lived both.
Chapter One: Collective Addiction
Obsession; according to The Urban Dictionary, the term can be defined as a. something that you think about or do all of the time over and over, b. something that you can’t stop doing because you are officially addicted with it, c. An almost insane desire, longing, or burning lust for someone or something. or -this is my favorite- d. nature’s way of telling you, “This Rocks!”.
That is the general definition, but I want to mention specified examples. A kind of obsession that may be common among readers of this blog is the one we call “fanboy/girl-ism”. People find awesome stories and instead of forgetting them, they go further by repeatedly discussing about those stories with friends or strangers; they write songs, draw fanarts, write fanfictions about them and some even cosplay as their favorite character. In sort, they dedicate time along with spiritual and physical energy in the stories they love.
The closest example I have seen of people being “obsessed” comes from friends. Katan and Phoenix, who have written for our blog during our “Kaori Yuki MMF“, are into Psycho Pass, to the point where this anime is not just a story they love but an important part of their friendship -and of the relationship they hold onto with other people. My friend Megi is the only fellow Jojo’s Bizzare Adventure fan in my circle, so when we talk we always keep on rocking the house analyzing how amazing the Joestars are, how she was crying when she completed Vento Aureo and in general how much we love Araki’s universe. The same thing happens with our shared Nagaism. Such things have brought us closer. Even Foxy Lady, who is usually calm and composed, the living icon of a rational thinker, needed extra care and compassion when Erwin Smith from Shingeki no Kyojin seemed to have died in one of her favorite fanfictions of the series. (1)
The difference between such cases and those of people who occasionally like a story (in any form it may be presented) is the affection they feel for it, so much that it becomes part of themselves. It is the same difference between someone who watches a movie once in a while and a cinephile. But, really, what is it that make fictional worlds so wonderful? I have some guesses; in imaginary adventures one can find memories of a wonderful childhood or perhaps creativity to expand one’s own horizons through creativity. Other people seek answers to their problems or perhaps new challenging questions. Some simply love the people they meet -their character, their way of life, the way they look, etc. There are those who gain inspiration from this procedure and thus manage to keep on through the course of life. (2) And, of course, there are those who simply enjoy the journey. There is something for everyone.
Chapter Two: A little bit of a personal downturn
When I was still around the age of 4 or 5, my favorite game was one I would play with myself (no pun intended); I used to call it “fantasia”. After someone read me a fairy tale or I watched a really interesting anime/cartoon, or when I played a terrific video game I ended up being so into it I could not hold myself still. Instead, I started running up and down, right and left, making up alternative universes.
This way I had new ideas on what and how to draw. The stories that came out were a great part of my joyful days. In a way, by being told of a fictional world I could expand my own internal universe and add new characters, personalities, emotions and thoughts. Right now this seems as something to celebrate, since expanding one’s frontiers is really important to mental growth, but at the time things were not that simple. My parents were always worried that their child was too “dazed and imaginative”, always caring more about nonexistent rather than existing things, staying inside the house way too long for a little kid. (3)
The 1990s were a time of extroversy for Greece, as the country tried to progress in economical, structural and social issues. In other words, not the best time for people wishing to travel in adventures of their own mind. This trend kept on until the time of the economic crisis, 2008 to today. During my student years I had to choose either to give up this habit or my social life. For some time I decided to go on with the first option but that did not work well. That’s because it was a dishonest decision. The cost was great, since for many years I stopped drawing, writing or doing anything productive. Did I get anything in return? Very little but the awareness of my own social awkwardness and how much I needed to learn to communicate. Through this situation I realized that one has to find the right balance; being dedicated to what you love, yet managing to find common channels with the rest of society -or at least the part of it which is willing to understand you. In a few words, obsession can be beneficial when -like most good things- it is under control and when it is not the only thing in a person’s life.
Chapter Three: The elegant art of hunting windmills
In my opinion many people who one would call obsessed with fictional worlds fall into a trap; they become so passionate with what they love that they want their own visions of how this or another should be to be the only ones the world accepts; this way, they end up opposing different interpretations/views. Some are so fanatical that attack other fans. A good example is the current “war” that goes on in the Shingeki no Kyojin fandom or the online clashes about Naruto’s shippings. People who disagree on what sort of couples should be canon argue and insult one another. In some cases fans who may ship an unpopular couple may become the victims of bullying. There are times when even the artist is “under attack”.
For me, these people are missing the point of being addicted to a fictional world/person and sharing this addiction, which is to expand one’s horizon not to destroy the dreams of other fans. That kind of behavior harms a good story, because it keeps people away from loving them and using them in positive ways. It’d be like me trying to kick the asses of all the people in the Devilman fandom who ship Akira x Ryo instead of my favorite Akira x Miki. What would that bring me? I’d only lose a series of good opportunities -to come across great artwork, to learn even more about this story and, more importantly to talk with people who share the same interest.
This is extremely crucial; I will not speak on the world’s behalf, but for me it is important to have people who understand what exactly it means to be addicted to a story and to be able to talk with me about it. I would feel like a crazy person if Foxy Lady was not there to tell me of all the exiting new anime we want to watch this season, or if Katan and Phoenix were not trolling me all the time, or if Megi thought I was madman every time I replied with a “Hinjaku hinjaku!” and so on. There are so many memories of people I met and cherished, even loved, through this journey in the land of imaginary adventures, that I am not able to imagine my life without them being anything but a boring walk through routine. The warmth of sharing, giving and taking, now that is an irreplaceable part of being obsessed. It is a shame to do injustice to it.
I hope I convinced you that you don’t have to worry if you find yourselves playing “fantasia” or passionately thinking about unreal people and places. As long as you can handle the frontier between fantasy and reality, you are on the right track. So, get up and come with us to blow the Shinra factory, to run away from Pyramid Head, to sing alongside Princess Dagger and eat alongside Goku. Find the One Ring, combine with Amon, sneak into Alice’s Wonderland and so many other places. They all will remain inside your heart and mind.
1. For those interested, the fanfiction is called “Audacity” by Shoi and you can read it in this link.
2. The example may be a bit exaggerated, but those of you who watch Samurai Flamenco surely remember the scene in episode 2 where Hazama Masayoshi finds the courage to step on stage only after repeating the opening song from his favorite show, Red Axe. I happen to know many people who are like that.
3. That behavior was a huge exaggeration on behalf of my parents, since I was not the sort of child that stayed indoors 24/7… but that’s how family can be sometimes.