“Real or Not Real?”

A statement said by one confused blonde boy, that made several fangirls (just like myself) inwardly cry out in pain. With this one question, Peeta (sweet, blonde, brainwashed Peeta) conveyed his inability to discern reality from fantasy.

Something that I (and maybe some of you) can relate to.

I remember my friend telling a story about her sister. Her sister had gotten into a huge fight with her husband during Valentine’s Day; NOT because he forgot to get her a gift, but instead of what he had gotten for her.

He got her a bouquet of red roses. Well, what was wrong with that, you ask? It was because it was a bouquet of live red roses. She wanted plastic red roses.

Her reasoning?

She had read a book where its main character had given plastic roses to his lover, as a symbol that he would love her till the roses die. In which, cleverly (and with much suave) declaring his undying love to the heroine. Basically, live roses would mean their love was doomed. So, her husband giving her a bouquet of it? Their love was essentially doomed.

I’m not disputing the symbolisation of the plastic roses versus live roses argument. I’m not even going to elaborate if the husband truly was dooming their marriage or that he was simply just giving a gift. What I’m trying to get across is that, her perception of the event was shaped by a form of fiction: a story.

Putting that example aside, I too have found myself influenced by all the fictional things I take in.

Maybe it’s for those who have a tendency to favour imagination, or those with a preference for escapism, but often than not, I find myself drawing comparisons from books or movies or my current TV shows. Even worse is when I find that I have been creating expectations based on these comparisons.

I’m not in any sense, going against the arts or entertainment. I myself practice escapism constantly and without restraint most of the time.

However, talking about this topic, I’m reminded of my first literature class. My teacher had stridden in and scribbled this on the white board:

Life imitates Art” – Oscar Wilde

To this day, I can still remember that class. With a Cheshire-like smile, my teacher had told us to think about what the quote meant. I still remember how mind blown at the concept I was. Since then, the quote has never really left me.

Now, I know that we were given only a part of Wilde’s quote, but for 14-year old me, the very implication of having reality depend on fiction shook me. It was the idea that art had a life of its own, and that even creating it could change our world, that was awe-inspiring. (For those of you wondering, the complete quote given by Wilde would be this: “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life”).

Not that fiction is in any sense to blame here. There is no sense of playing the blame game, because there is no fault. The relationship between life and art, our world and fiction has always existed. Entertainment has a voice, even a hold, in society that we cannot shake.

But this doesn’t mean we should allow it to dictate the course of our lives.

We can choose to not imitate art.

As consumers of art, the masses can choose to accept or not accept what is portrayed to us. Because we are aware life isn’t at all like what we see on screen or read in the pages of books. We know that life doesn’t have a clean beginning, middle and the end. It’s an array of interludes and messy multi-character arcs.

We are conscious of the fact that although the hero gallops to a rosy sunset ending with his girl by the end of that 2 hour film, a relationship in real life is a lot more different. And that sometimes, despite all the ‘hustle and you can get it’ spiel, we can fall short in getting what we aspired to achieve.

Even for those of us who love fiction and commonly practice the art of escapism.

Art is there to inspire, motivate and encourage society to do something.

But it’s entirely up to society to actually do it.