My False Heart of Movie Feelings

creatures that occur in us

The phrase “My false heart of movie feelings” is from Alice Notley, and I picked it up by way of its use as a tag on Elanor McInerney’s tumblr, meaning I have no idea what the real context of the quote is. It resonates with me, even though I don’t know the context and may not have agreed with it if I hadn’t found it loose from the thoughts surrounding it. I can give it my own meaning now. My false heart of movie feelings.

In Swann’s Way the narrator muses on characters in novels:

”…It is true that the people affected by [the events of the novel] were not ‘real’, as Francois said. But all the feelings we are made to experience by the joy or misfortune of a real person are produced in us only through the intermediary of an image of that joy or misfortune; the ingeniousness of that first novelist consisted in understanding that in the apparatus of our emotions, the image being the only essential element, the simplification that would consist purely and simply abolishing real people would be an improvement… What does it matter thenceforth if the actions and emotions of this new order of creatures [characters] seems to us true, since we have made them ours, since it is within us they occur… Then see how he provokes within us within one hour all the possible happiness and all possible unhappiness just a few of which we would spend years of our lives coming to know and the most intense of which would never be revealed to us because the slowness with which they occur prevents us from perceiving them…”

Since I spend quite a bit of my time on the internet in fan spaces I’ve witnessed a lot of fighting over these creatures which occur in us, often to the detriment of the real people involved in the fight. I’ve seen theories of abusive behavior co-opted by shippers to discredit a ship they dislike and simultaneously smear those that do ship those characters. Criticism is met by hate. Twitter mentions are flooded by irate fans of x superhero. I’ve seen as much ugliness as enthusiasm and as much incoherent vitriol as innocent joy. Part of it is that these fan communities are not so much communities as town squares where anyone can engage another stranger. The other part is that these characters that need to be defended from these randos are truly a part of them. Someone’s love for a character may be much more personal than you would think. These characters may be aspirational, or reflect part of themselves they rarely see, or be part of an escapist coping mechanism. This is territory to be entered carefully and respectfully. After all, cosplayers can feel so strongly about a character that they want to embody them.