The human propensity for making up stories exposes a strange fact about our minds. Apparently we can become embroiled in the fate of the character, feel emotions including fear on their behalf or pity, or terror, while with one half of our minds we know it is all fictional. It is only that we do this, but also that we find it important to do it, even when the emotions themselves would normally be unpleasant. Apart from raising this problem, fiction gives rise to purely logical and semantic issues. How do we succeed in referring to fictional characters, and is reference the right word when we are representing to ourselves something that does not exist?
Critical discussion of viewers involvement with films starts out with a puzzle that has been raised about many artforms: why should we care what happens to fictional character? After all, since they are fictional, their fates shouldn’t matter to us in the way that the fates of real people do. But, of course, we do get involved in the destinies of these imaginary beings. The question is why. Because so many films that attract our interest are fictional this question is an important one film enthusiast or fancier.
The so-called “paradox of emotional response to fiction” is an argument for the conclusion that our emotional response to fiction is irrational. The argument contains an inconsistent triad of premises, all of which seem initially plausible. These premises are: that in order for us to be moved (to tears, anger) by what we come to learn about various people and situations, we must believe that the people and situations in question really exist or existed; that such “existence beliefs” are lacking when we knowingly engage with fictional films/texts; and that fictional characters and situations do in fact seem capable of moving us at times.
Some have argue that our apparent emotional response to fiction are only “make-believe” or pretend, others claim that existence belief are not necessary for having emotional response to works of fiction, since what these work mange to do (when successful) is create is us the “illusion” that the character and situation depicted therein actually exist.