I've recently been watching Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries on Netflix. Phryne Fisher is undoubtedly a wish-fulfillment character – almost unapologetically so. She is sexy, bold, and intelligent. Whenever a new challenge is put before her, she reveals a previously-unmentioned skill that saves the day (see the above image where she suddenly is able to fly an airplane). She flagrantly breaks the law in her detective work and yet rarely faces repercussions. And nearly every episode, she hooks up with some handsome young revolutionary.
Every time I watch the show, I am completely aware of how ridiculous the whole thing is – and I continue to enjoy it tremendously. The reality is, if you’re not trying to write great literature, wish fulfillment isn’t always the worst thing. Just about every action movie, every superhero comic, every romance novel, and every white-guy-finding-himself novel contains a heavy dose of wish fulfillment. Why? We had a relevant discussion in the comments of my newspost last week on women in webcomics. As KimLuster put it, “We want our Fairy-Tale Princesses to be pretty!” Part of the reason we watch movies and read comic books is escapism. We want to place ourselves in the shoes of people who are richer, better-looking, smarter, and who lead more exciting lives than we do!
The other reason why I am reluctant to bash Miss Fisher as a wish fulfillment character is that there is a gendered aspect to this. Men have been writing wish fulfillment pieces for themselves since forever. Just think about Captain Kirk, Indiana Jones, Scott Pilgrim, James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, Ferris Bueller, Ironman…it's almost too easy to list wish fulfillment characters from comics and movies. I love a lot of those characters, and I’m certainly not alone in that. But it feels nice to watch a lady get up to some of the same ridiculous hijinks that male characters have been getting up to for ages.
The downside to wish fulfillment is that you will probably garner a few eyerolls, especially from people who might not identify as closely with your character. I haven’t had this confirmed, but I figure most men won’t enjoy Miss Fisher as much as women (guys, feel free to chime in on this!). And there’s definitely a point at which suspension of disbelief just becomes too difficult for your reader – hence the hatred for “Mary Sue” characters, which I’ve discussed before.
How do you feel about wish fulfillment in popular culture? Is there an aspect of wish fulfillment to the things that you write?
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HippieVan at 12:00AM, March 18, 2016
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