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Not real, but still powerful

People who never lived exert influence on people who do

People who never lived exert influence on people who do

December 05, 2006|by ERICA COLLIFLOWER

Try to imagine life without fiction and the people who make up that world. It's really hard, because fictional characters play an integral role in every person's life.

For every stage of life - contented child, sullen teenager or stressed adult - there are fictional people who influence behaviors or attitudes. These characters make their audiences laugh and cry. Oftentimes, they represent an ideal to strive for or repulse people with ugly attitudes or conduct.

Brooklyn Needy believes that, historically, fictional characters were created to inspire us. Needy, a sophomore at North Hagers-town High School, says fictional characters "help people work through problems."

She cites the example of Atticus, a main character in the book "To Kill A Mockingbird."

"I think that Atticus can influence people be courageous," Needy says.

Adam Taylor, a senior at Boonsboro High School, says he was influenced by Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, the main characters in "The Chronicles of Narnia."

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"They had cool adventures, saved the day, and I wanted to be like them," he says. "I tried to act like them, and they were sort of role models for me."

Another reason why fictional characters are created is to try and entice people to spend money.

"Kids are really influenced by cartoons and stuff like that," says Anna Cueto, a junior at North Hagerstown High School. "So it's pretty easy to just draw up a little something that can be used to get them to buy junk. It's mostly about getting people to spend money."

Also, take a look at the box office. Typically, movies are about fictional people or real people fictionalized. "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, all about fictional characters, made a grand total of $1,031,169,477 in the box office, according to www.yahoo.com. Amazing, isn't it?

The hold of the fictional world over the real world is really quite fascinating. In fact, so much so, that a book, "101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived" was written. Allan Lazar, Dan Karlan, and Jeremy Salter were inspired to write it after they saw a book written about 100 of the most influential real people.

Lazar, Karlan and Salter compiled a list of who they thought were the most influential fictional characters. Number one on their list was the Marlboro Man. Why? The reason being that his product, Marlboro cigarettes, has killed so many people.

Many other characters made it on the list, some you might have expected, others you might have heard of, and some you might disagree with. Robin Hood is No. 12, for his motto, "Steal from the rich and give to the poor." Robin Hood symbolizes opposition to class separation and inspires those who would like to make the poor richer.

Barbie comes in at No. 43 because of her ridiculous standards of beauty that some girls try to imitate. She also represents the idea of carefree youth with no responsibilites whatsoever.

One of the most highly influential characters, in my opinion, is Santa Claus, who comes in at No. 4. Every year, people spend thousands upon thousands of dollars in the name of Santa in order that he might live on in the lives of the younger generation.

The book includes an explanation of each character and why he or she made the cut. Of course, this is all the personal opinion of the authors, but it is interesting to read.

To conclude, fictional characters don't have to influence people and they can't make people do things, however they do have that potential. They have as much power over us as we give them.

Fake, but kinda real

The fictional characters listed in "The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived," by Allan Lazar, Dan Karlan and Jeremy Salter, are ranked by the authors' assessment of the number of people affected and the depth of impact.

In their preface, the authors stipulate that they did not evaluate fictional characters from all cultures around the world. "We have considered what affects our own culture," they wrote.

The top 10 most influential

1. The Marlboro Man

2. Big Brother

3. King Arthur

4. Santa Claus

5. Hamlet

6. Dr. Frankenstein's monster

7. Siegfried

8. Sherlock Holmes

9. Romeo and Juliet

10. Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde

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