these people aren't your friends

awhile ago there was this thing on this american life about why people love tv. in one of the segments a guy talked about a study showing that tv has the same positive emotional effects as REAL LIFE FRIENDS (i could look for this study but even the idea of it is depressing; i don’t need to verify it and send myself into some sadness tailspin). anyway, tonight i was watching the first half of the third season of entourage (miraculously available on netflix) and thinking just how great it would be if vincent chase (yes, a fictional character) and i could hang out on a regular basis. then, after i finished that dvd, not wanting to take one step towards reality, i watched an old episode of the office. it was as i was watching pam grin at the back of jim’s head as jim grinned at the camera that i realized i have a problem. because this thought jumped into my head: “i am totally in love with jim”.

i know people say this kind of thing a lot. but i am worried because i think tonight i meant it. and i think i mean it with a lot of television characters. jack on lost for example. billy from six feet under. ben hawkins on carnivale and obviously, seth bullock from deadwood.

there are a lot of reasons why it is bad to fall in love with fictional characters. beyond what surface emotional benefits i may receive by watching these guys (it’s almost like i have old friends right here in san francisco!), there is the basic fact that, as the guy brought up on this american life, if you are having a heart attack alone in front of your tv, fictional characters can’t give cpr or even call 911. especially not the cowboys. which sucks because you die. but the bigger problem is these figments of someones imagination are WAY better than real guys. they are nicer (except for billy maybe) and cuter and they speak so eloquently. they are dependable and even though they may be flawed, they are ROMANTICALLY flawed. everything will work out in the end for them, right? because they change just the right amount. AND they are so f-ing interesting. always getting into scrapes and/or saving the day.

the real boys i know are all flawed but in sort of boring ways. they have problems but most of those problems have to do with substance abuse or their families or just insecurity. plus they don’t want to talk about it and if they change themselves, it is rarely dramatic. none of them are sheriffs or guys who pull crazy pranks. mostly they sit around, watching porn or watching tv. same with most of the girls i know, though less of the porn. anyway, nobody ever saves the day.

i kind of wonder if these imaginary attachments are ruining us for each other. if maybe tv isn’t describing our actual culture anymore but instead it is spinning a fantasy culture that no one will ever experience except on tv. even movie stars. even office workers. even cowboys. i mean, real life people are freaking boring. i’m freaking boring. and i look absolutely nothing like a stripper or an old time-y prostitute.

i don’t even look like pam.

but i don’t know what to do about all this. i guess i could join a club or something and try to make some real connections with non-fiction humans. but i did buy the whole season of the office on itunes. and it’s too late to go out now anyway.