Knowing that Daisy Ridley exists has been one of the best things to come out of Star Wars: The Force Awakens for me. Not only did she bring an emotional openness and power to Rey, Ridley is also just a really great person. She recently had some things to say about how fans react to deaths of beloved fictional characters.
Pretty sure everyone knows at this point but just in case, spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens ahead.
Speaking to The Big Issue, Ridley got to speak on why she thinks fans create such strong emotional bonds with characters from fantasy projects.
“Maybe that”s because people are able to express themselves more easily when it”s tied to something that”s not totally real. When you watch something you feel removed from, it becomes that incredible thing of it feeling very close and very far away. You probably have a bigger emotional reaction than reading a newspaper and just seeing facts and figures [because] instead you see someone”s life play out, their soul, and the way they react and respond to the world around them.”
Speaking from personal experience, fictional character deaths have made me have a large range of emotional reactions several times over. And no, I'm not ashamed to admit it. It's why when J.K. Rowling tells me her Harry Potter and the Curse Child play will make me cry, I go buy tissues in bulk. And yeah, people call it silly. But is it? We spend countless hours of our lives with fictional creations, and they're meant to invoke an emotional reaction in us, so why would anyone think it odd when it works?
It goes without saying, real world horrors are much worse, but as Ridley explains it they're actually further away from us emotionally and perhaps something we're looking to escape.
“People die so awfully every day that if you experienced every grief, the whole world would be a dark, dark place,” said the Episode VIII actor. “So many awful things happened last year, and Han Solo dying, which was one of the last moments of the year, is some weird way of people experiencing that.” She went on to say, “People are weighed down by awful things that are happening and what they see on the news. If everybody puts a piece of themselves into Han Solo and Han Solo dies – in the cinema, where it”s dark – you can express it and it alleviates some of the pain. His death is obviously not as important as actual lives that are lost but people probably use it as some kind of carrier for the grief.”
I saw Han's death coming a million miles away. I still cried. For fans, Han's death was perhaps worse because we didn't actually get catharsis. There was a lot going on in the film by that point and we didn't get to truly mourn. (If you're missing Han don't worry, he's got a solo film on the way.)
Considering we've seen some fans take their love of something and turn it into vile behavior it's nice to see Ridley, and others, having deeper discussions on what fictional characters mean to human beings and why.