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Why do we emotionally support movie characters romantically?

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Azimov | 23:59 Tue 20th Dec 2005 | Science
5 Answers
OK I know this is a bit "out there" but I've often pondered this question.

In evolutionary terms, what would be the function of man's (and by that I also mean woman's) desire to witness one person getting together with another?
ie, boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy and girl live happily ever after!

I regularly watch movies (not all of this kind mind you!) and find myself willing the guy to get the girl, as I'm sure we all do.

But, I mean, surely if a man (like myself) finds a woman in a movie attractive, then he'd be more satisfied by seeing them fail to get together than otherwise!
Even though these movies are meant to be viewed as fantasy (and we know this on a conscious level) why on earth would our most basic of desires be, not only thwarted but, reversed in this manner?
We actually root for the guy to get his girl!!

That makes no sense to me!
If it were real life we would be outraged and perhaps even become violent.
Yet in the context of a movie we are happy for the couple and contented that all is right with the world.

As movies have only been around for a century or so I can only assume that there is a more basic behavioural trait at work so I ask you, what is it?
Do we regard movie stars as family, because that might go some way to explaining, biologically, why we would support these couplings.

I'm confused!
Have I explained my confusion adequately or have I just muddied the waters even more?

Can anyone help?


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Perhaps it is easier or more enjoyable for most of us to identify with the hero and the victor than with the villain or a victim. Misery loves company, why not the other way around. I find encouragement and motivation in witnessing others success.

maybe it just because we identify with the character and because we know its not real we think "well if he can pull her then maybe i could too" type of thing.

it's not just movies; plays and books before that depict men and women getting together (possibly because men and women do get together, so it's an obvious topic). Shakespeare's plays, not counting his histories, are comedies, which end in marriage and the opportunity for good people to continue their genetic line, and tragedies, in which bad (or at least flawed) people die without children. We may in fact identify with Shakespeare's tragic characters as much as with his romantic leads, because he's careful to make them human.

But to answer your question: I imagine we all need reassurance that the human race will continue. If even movie stars can't find a girl/boy, what hope is there for the rest of us? I think most of us would find that very depressing.

Incidentally, why on earth would I become violent in real life if, say, a friend got together with the girl/boy he/she fancied? Do you really?

i agree with all of these answers. we cant help to think of ourselves as good, benevolent people (despite the views of others) and to this affect we tend to easily identify with the hero's of fantasy. the story could well be the story of our lives, but unfortunately for us, hollywood directors cast a much brighter light on our fantastical lives than we can realistically achieve. as long as we aspire to be the hero's that we see, we will wish the best for them as this could be our future selves.

We root for the man to get the girl, as hollywood makes us identify with the man. Partly we want to be the man (good looking, funny or flash) and partly he has those faults that tricks us into empathy with the character - a crap example being Tom Cruise (irritating bloke actually) good looking, flies jet fighters, but is "dangerous" (as the Ice Man says). It does not always work if he does not have the convincing character flaws which we can identify with. Hence, some men cant stand Brad Pitt, in his worse films (he rocks in fight club - but its not a romance)

However, I disagree that this is a modern phenomenon. Shakespeare's plays are full of this stuff, as were Greek dramas.

On a deeper level, we are social animals, with a structured society. Couples often matchmake and so there is some pleasure in insuring the continuity in the troop by see some other suceed in the love game.

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