Thoughts on the Demise of Lucy : LUSENET : ER Discussions : One Thread

This isn't a question, but just some thoughts I came up with after watching the last episode with Lucy.

When I was a student and regularly exposed to quality literature, I would often find myself completely engrossed in novels. The protagonists would get into my head and I would walk around seeing the world through their eyes. When the book was good the effect was almost like a trance, an altering of reality. While the phenomenon was certainly not negative, it could be disconcerting. Needless to say, the characters in these novels had a certain emotional reality. I would share their joys and mourn their losses. Yet they were only characters in a book, fictions. They didnt exist, but the emotions I felt were real. I always found that somehow disquieting.

Watching Lucys death on ER, I had the experience again. The next day I thought about the episode constantly. I realized Id achieved the nearly trance-like state from my days as a student. I was in shock and mourning over Lucys death. Once again I found myself questioning why my real emotions were directed towards a fictional character. Plenty of real people die every day who I dont mourn.

Part of it was the violent nature of Lucys death. In the same way people can suffer post-traumatic stress after witnessing horrific acts, I was left emotionally exhausted from watching a familiar character die over the course of an hour. I saw Lucy nearly bleed to death on the ER floor, I saw the gaping stab wound in her neck, I saw the ER surgeons cut through her chest with a power tool, heard the motor straining as the blade sawed through bone, and later watched the doctors futilely try to shock her heart back to life until it sounded like they had turned it into ground meat. It was brutal storytelling, as ER often is, and seeing it done to a character I had come to know left me drained.

The episode was one of the best treatments of death I have seen on television. They just did such a damn good job of making it real. Which of course is why I watched. We seek the illusion, even when the illusion is painful. Why do we seek to have our emotions manipulated by something that isnt real? They say humor at the expense of others is funny because it isnt happening to us. With Lucys death however, it was happening to me (in a way). What made her death so traumatic was her familiarity. Lucy was an us as opposed to a them. Is it the feeling, the charge, of the emotion for its own sake that we seek? We have always thirsted for stories; tales to lose ourselves in, all the way back to our ancestors sitting around the fire listening to the shaman. Our imaginations are powerful and need to be fed. They are nearly as real as the world we walk through every day.

Perhaps our imaginations are a sort of dry run for the real relationships and emotions we encounter. In the same way hunger pangs drive us to seek out food, our imaginations drive us to seek out real relationships. Whatever the reason, their reality is pretty basic to who we are. With the result that seeing a fictional character die on TV can leave me shaken. Still disquieting, but understandable.

-- Coolhaus (, March 05, 2000


Coolhaus has some great observations. I used to get the same feelings going to theatrical movies but more and more I'm finding them less satisfying and television programs more so. I think part of why ER is so real is the character development has been so well done (by the writers and the actors), just like in a good novel or movie. I've watched since the first season and continue to because I CARE about the characters.

-- Diana (DILYNNE@JUNO.COM), March 05, 2000.

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