Tidings Columnist




Recently I have been spending quite a bit of time indulging in my favorite craving; fiction. From the newest Harry Potter book to every romantic comedy and "Grey's Anatomy" DVD at Blockbuster, I have completely submerged myself into the refreshing waters of idealism, leaving the cold air of reality far behind.




The fact that I use fiction to make myself feel better may sound unhealthy or even pathetic to some people, but as far as I am concerned it is an acceptable way of dealing with things. Watching fictional characters have bigger problems than me and then solve them helps, plain and simple, and there is nothing wrong with that. Is there?




This recent indulgence has reminded me of the last time when fiction had this strong of a hold on me. It was the last week of February, and it was one of the most stressful weeks of my life. I bit my nails into oblivion, cried like a baby, and had trouble sleeping. But the stress of that week did not come from finals or homework, nor did it stem from boy or friend or family problems.




It was sweeps week.




If this sounds like an unusual event to become stressed over, then you are an obvious fan of reality, and what happens to fictional television characters does not affect your emotions the way it does mine.




Sweeps week is an event that comes twice a year, when television broadcasting stations across the country present their best and most entertaining television shows in an attempt to win the fight for the most viewers. Television stations are then ranked according to how many viewers they had during each primetime slot. These numbers are the single most important element in determining advertising rates, so the higher the ranking, the more money a station makes.




But all of that is just technical. In actuality, sweeps week means your favorite television characters are going to suffer more scandal, more near-death experiences, and, generally speaking, more drama than ever. The head executives of television stations chuckle as they watch their ratings rise, and we (&

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166; or maybe just I) watch with horror as our fictional characters struggle through the terrifying week, praying that they come out alive on the other end.




Because these characters need to survive. They need to make it through. People like me need to be assured that conflict can resolve, death can be cheated, and happy endings can prevail; even if only in fictional situations. We need to know that things get better, life goes on, and that we too will survive. Fiction gives a glimpse of something worth fighting for while sometimes reality can give us nothing but despair. People need to be reminded that there are things out there worth fighting for.




Because out here in reality, that can sometimes be easy to forget.