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June 1, 2011 @ 12:23 pm

Connections With Those We’ve Never Met

So, I decided to participate in NaBloPoMo for June.  It seems like a good month for it, as far as my work schedule and time availability.  The theme for June is “Fan”.  I’m not sure I’ll stay on theme all month, but it will be fun to try.  Thinking of the word “fan”, though, reminded me of a post I had in my drafts folder for about a month.  Yep, it says my last revision was April 29th.

So, here goes.  I’m going to finish it:

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John Edward, the psychic medium, is someone I’ve admired for quite some time.  (Which makes me a fan.  There.  I’m on theme.)  Sister and I saw him in Orlando back in . . . I think it was 2005.  I like his integrity and I like the way he teaches what he knows.  I also like the fact that he seems so down-to-earth and it’s easy to relate to him.

I’m on the e-mailing list for his newsletter, and I felt that something he wrote in the April 29 newsletter sort of spoke to me.  I hope he won’t mind if I quote some of what he wrote, here:

I must admit to you that I am a little down as I write this. I am mourning the loss of a friend of mine who crossed over this past week from cancer. Yes, even mediums mourn the physical passing of their friends… even if they never met in life.

Now, if you are scratching your head over that statement, let me explain. The person who passed was ELISABETH SLADEN, an actress who fiercely played the role of SARAH JANE SMITH for four decades.

I know thanks to me writing about my obsession with Doctor Who, and its spin offs, you also have watched, and have also enjoyed the adventures.   I am glad, and for those of you “WHO” have not…. You’re missing out!!!!

So, I ask you this? Are you like me and mourn the death/loss of characters as if they were family?  When Bert Bauer died on Guiding Light I remember feeling sad for her family, both on camera and off. The actress, CHARITA BAUER (odd that her character had the same surname) played that role for over five decades I believe and died in real life as well.

Many of you might remember when “SID” died in a car accident on KNOTS LANDING, leaving Michelle Lee’s Karen a widow… I remember being a kid and thinking how sad that was for her.  More recently, when Juliet (my favorite character on the show LOST) (Elizabeth Mitchell – now on V) plummeted to her death in season five, I threatened to boycott the show…(in my own mind of course)

The death of a character can be as real as the death of a family member for some. You develop a “fond” feeling towards whom they portray and they become a part of your “energetic family.” These characters provide viewers with a sense of familiarity, history, and connection. My Grandma and I, as you can see from my writing, were/are very close. She watched her ‘stories’ everyday… two televisions going simultaneously. The families and characters were very real to her and I got a kick out of watching her yell at the screen when they were making choices that were against what she believed to be acceptable. I can remember her yelling at JILL from the YOUNG and THE RESTLESS when she went after MRS. Chancellor’s husband and calling her all sorts of Italian words that I dare not type here.

The death of a character on television can be painful for many, especially when it’s a long running show. Many cases it is a contract dispute or negotiation that fails, and the writers/producers write off that character. They disappear in a plane crash in the jungle or move to another city; all in the possibility that they can come back. Unless of course the actors are Adonis-dna’d – winning –tiger blooded narcissistic individuals… THAT tiger is going to have a tail between his legs shortly…

When the character is written off, or is killed off, the feeling of loss doesn’t linger for me as much. It is a bit fleeting.  ELISABETH SLADEN’S (Sarah Jane) passing, mirrors CHARITA BAUER’S (Bert from Guiding Light) as she died in real life as well.

NOW, I don’t think this is limited to television at all. Whether it is a beloved character in a novel, comic, or movie, the impact the character has on us resonates with who we are and in some way what we are learning about in our lives.

I asked Sandra if she too ever felt this way and she reminded me how crushed she was when Patrick Swayze died. His role in DIRTY DANCING launched her ballroom dancing career…and who could ever forget his legendary role as SAM WHEAT in GHOST?

I, too, have mourned the loss of people I’ve never met.  For me, it wasn’t as often about characters as it was the actors who portrayed them, but it’s also been about characters and even entire TV shows st times.

When John Ritter died in 2003, I grieved as if I’d lost a friend.  I still miss him.  Even though the characters he played are all still preserved in movies and TV shows, I miss him, and I felt so badly for his family.

Currently, I am grieving the soon-to-come loss of All My Children.  Logically, I know that times change and that the general public’s tastes in television changes as well.  I understand that the soap opera genre has been dwindling in popularity for some time now.  But geez.  All My Children has been on the air since I was a very young child, and the characters and stories and actors and actresses have grown and changed and come and gone all through those years.  No matter where I’ve been in my own life since I started watching AMC in 1990, the show has been something I could count on as a constant in my life, no matter what changes I was going through, or what was happening around me.  I recorded it every day, to watch while eating dinner.  Over the years, my methods of recording changed.  First VHS, then a DVD-recorder that recorded onto rewritable DVD’s, and now a DVR.  SS started watching AMC with me back when we were first becoming close, and we still watch it every week day while we eat dinner.

I’m going to miss the actors and actresses, most of the characters, and the story lines, even if so many of them are (a) repeats of old story lines, (b) horribly unbelievable, or (c) ok, downright stupid.  That’s just the nature of the genre.  Dead people are supposed to come back to life, sometimes multiple times.  Everyone in town has been in a coma at least once.  Everyone in town has been in jail at least once.  Everyone in town lies to their partner or spouse, yet believes they have a healthy and solid relationship.  It isn’t like the real world.  It’s fantasy.  It’s entertaining, and it’s fun to try and guess what will happen.

It’s fun to see old footage, whether it’s during a series of flashbacks, on YouTube, or by surprise, when I come across an old unlabeled VHS tape and pop it in (yes; I still have a VCR, but I’m in the process of converting portions of some old tapes to digital format to burn onto DVD’s, thanks to an awesome birthday present from SS).  I’ve been watching these actors and actresses roughly 260 days each year, except for holidays, from the comfort of my home.  Some of them have been on the show for many years.  They feel like friends, even though logically I know that may sound silly, since they wouldn’t know me from anyone else if they passed me on the street.  (I did see several of them at a few Super Soap Weekends, when they used to be held every Fall in Orlando, and some other soap and soap-related events, but that doesn’t count as knowing someone.)

I think that is part of the beauty of television, movies, music, and books.  Even blogs, maybe, and forums and message boards.  It’s possible to be affected by someone (or a fictional character) we don’t know.  Some person (or a character who exists in the mind of his or her creator or creators) who is out there, somewhere, living their life, often unaware of us (except maybe in the case of blogs or forums), yet they have an impact on us that can be strong enough to cause us to feel real emotion, or if they pass, to mourn the loss.

My birthday was Sunday, and it happens to be the same day as Melissa Etheridge’s birthday.  I never met her, but for many years in my 20’s and 30’s, I spent a lot of energy trying to figure out why I found her so familiar, as if I’d known her at one time.  Eventually, that feeling faded, but I still wonder about things like past life connections, and I wonder if maybe I worked through whatever it was that the familiarity I felt was in relation to.  I didn’t know we shared the same birthday until I was a fan for several years, but on Sunday, as I have for the last several years, I spent a moment wondering what she was doing for her birthday.

My mom enjoys reading my novels as I write them.  I don’t share them with very many people during the writing process, but it’s fun, for me, to share with specific trusted people.  In one of the novels, there was an implication at one point that one of the characters was going to die before the story ended.  Mom was naming some of her favorite characters, asking if it was this one or that one, the anxious worry very clear in her voice.  When I told her who it was, she sounded almost as if I’d punched her in the stomach.

It must be a universally understood phenomenon, to feel a connection to someone (or a fictional character) we don’t know and likely won’t ever meet.  I mean, it was the premise for Misery, remember?  Of course, the fan was obsessed and mentally ill, but still, she was so affected by the death of a fictional character in a series of novels that she snapped.

Perhaps that ability to feel a universal connection is present in all of us, whether we react in unhealthy ways like stalking and obsession or we simply accept that it’s a phenomenon we can’t quite explain and we go on with our lives, albeit forever changed and enriched by the lives of certain strangers.


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