But these fictional stories are too complete; they follow a standard pattern that is predictable in its conformity to the tried-and-tested form of story-telling. There is a beginning, followed by an expository unfolding of events that lead to the climax, after which heightened tensions, sexual frustrations, pent-up emotions are nicely resolved in the conclusion. There is always a beginning, middle, and end; even if the ending isn't a happy one, it still ties up loose ends with a solid resolution that end the story of the characters in one final freeze frame, as if saying, That is all. The character and its story are now complete. You can go back to your regular boring life now.
Suspension of disbelief stops exactly there, for life isn't a series of freeze frames. Life goes on without tying up loose ends; life ensures that there is no such thing as tying up loose ends. When these make-believe dramas no longer suffice, we turn to the stories of real-life people that grace our television sets. They are real people like you and me, and the escapism finds comfort in following their stories, rejoicing in successes that we don't achieve in our own lives. There is David Cook whose drive and determination in pursuing his passion and hurtling himself down the road less travelled inspired many others world-wide. We invest all of ourselves in his story and follow it obsessively. The real-life story of a struggling musician with a college degree who gave up a regular, stable job to pursue his passion is too good to pass up, and when he sings his heart out on stage and wins the entire competition, his personal victory feels like a vindication for all of us who still harbour some hopes of choosing passion over stability.
Then there is Roger Federer, serving up the most unlikely but most palatable underdog story. Former World #1 struggling to win his first major tournament of 2008 when the world is accustomed to seeing him win three every year ever since he broke the Top Ten. The Almost-Legend, accused of being off-form, of being irrelevant, because he failed to break the all-time record of 14 grand slams ever. How close he came, his detractors said. The fact that he failed to make it 15 proves that he's on the decline. Federer must be the only person in the world that understands how lonely it is to be at the top, how little room for mistakes the rest of the world allows you. We feel indignant at such preposterous allegations, and so we follow his major come-back story at the US Open with bated breath, hoping to see him prove his critics wrong, to erase the heartbreak of his epic Wimbledon loss. When he drops to his knees at championship point and rolls over to his side in sheer joy and jubilation, when he hoists up his trophy for the whole world to see, the escapism is complete. It is like we have just won, too, when in fact the victory is Roger's alone.
And yet, these stories enthrall us anyway. These stories suck us in with their unmasked and unabashed ability to bait us, hook, line and sinker, because they know they have what we don't in our lives. David Cook winning American Idol and Roger Federer winning his 5th US Open title, 13th grand slam title, have absolutely nothing to do with us. They don't increase the balance in our bank accounts, and neither do they miraculously up our law degrees to a second-upper honours. More likely than not, in the aftermath of their victories, our real lives are exactly the same as they were before their stories ended.
But the human soul is weak. We are not content simply existing, drowning in the cheerless, uneventful day-to-day routine of our unfortunate reality. We are not strong enough to bear the crashing tidal waves of inevitable disappointments, of heartbreaks, of things going so horribly wrong that we fall to our knees in desolution and hopelessness, convinced that it would never get better. Because real life unfailingly and consistently fails to deliver: the aspiring writer ends up in a job she doesn't want; the ardent law student doesn't get the grades she worked for; the girl doesn't always get the boy of her dreams, and even when she does, it nearly always ends in tears; and two people that genuinely care about each other go years without saying anything true and honest when it counts, because the consequences of an impulsive confessional moment are unbearable.
Is it so unfathomable, then, that we'd sometimes rather repeatedly watch David Cook double over in shock as the new American Idol, repeatedly watch Roger Federer beaming with happiness and joy, in the light of all the things that we want in life, but fail to get? Is it so wrong for us to want to see one success story every now and then to combat all the failures and disappointments that have littered the battered path on which we've trodden, all these years, to get to this day? We're not heroes, we're not gods, and David and Roger are as human as the rest of us. The only difference is, they live the dreams that we want; and through them, we live it too.