The involvement of Catharism is dated back to Aristotle’s use of the term in his Poetics and defining it as a way to “describe an effect of the Greek tragedy on its spectator; by viewing tragic plays the spectator’s own anxieties are put outward and purged in a socially harmless way”. As such, this employment is elaborated to continue in both, communicative research and artistic purposes in deeming aggressive tendencies or built- up emotions to find release through a patient/ person’s fantasy or mass media; “Symbolic Catharism”. This has further evolved into a tool used in several artistic forms such as the dramatics, literature and fine arts in developing pieces that provide cathartic moments for observers on all aspects of the emotional spectrum. The emotions an individual may identify with are provoked in completely subjective expressions; ranging from anger, pity or laughter. Additionally- this act of communication also serves the purpose of creating a more empathetic audience.
Generations have been immensely invested in plotlines and characters from animated Disney movies they may have seen as children to now, immersing themselves in fantastical worlds constructed by words on pages or through completing quests in video games. These, and more, provide the opportunities for respective audiences to experience expression by connecting with the fictional contexts. Thus, subconsciously, allowing themselves to feel any emotion alongside said mediums; without judgement or fear of consequences. This may further be linked to the concept of “Comfort entertainment” that alludes to an individual’s resonating attachment to a particular piece as they can feel understood by the events taking place but- from a safe distance as to not relive them. A classic example may be that of the tragic betrayal and loss in Lion King, of Mufasa being killed by his envious brother, Scar, that led to the heart-wrenching scene of Simba pleading his father repeatedly to “wake up!” in the aftermath. Such an atrocious event, being part of a “children’s movie”, continues to shock audiences but it does not dull the impactful legacy carried by the film; being a beautiful addition to cinematic history- in part, due to the degree of relatability embedded within it. Through its tragedy, children and adults who have experienced such estrangements and loss may feel empathetically for these character with disregard for what 2D manner they are presented in. As they find a reminder in the euphemistic, but truthful illustration of death, that they are not alone and can carry on.
On the other hand, through the lens of the artists, the genres of “tragic comedies” and “tragic romances” intertwine the dual nature of realities and allow for them to be more easily comprehensible, whilst being profound creations. A tragic romance told countless times, with several reiterations, is that of the star- crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare. The immortalized story contains prominent factors of hope and despair for the unpredictable futures of its protagonists that simultaneously exist to keep readers enthralled. Then, at the end they are left pondering the question, “Can satisfaction be gained in the acceptance of peace within romance; even if it is expressed by such finality?” as the lovers, at long last, achieve happiness together- alas, only in death. Therefore, writers challenge themselves to compose interpretations of realities that are birthed from, some extent, logic and passion that makes such naturalistic, and inherently, complex elements- such as love- become identifiable with readers. Similarly, such components are used by purely visual artists through the manipulation of components like color, technique and observation, etc. to explore the essence of their subject matter in a way that is communicative and produces authenticity in their perception. Allowing viewers to project their emotions onto a canvas that is, seemingly, sympathetic. Van Gogh’s Starry Night is evidentiary of such art being capable to stir intense emotions inside the lookers as the endless strokes hold symbolism for overwhelming moments in one’s life that this grandmaster, himself, took inspiration from throughout his life.
However, in regards to viewing violence as depicted in video games- the Catharism becomes controversial as many argue for such expression to rather increase violent behavior. Alas, the empirical evidence for the latter is much greater than the former statement, with U.S Surgeon General coming to the conclusion in 1972. The debate against this claim is an ongoing one as exposure possible through mass media increases with each technological advancement and thus, indisputably, the need for awareness towards positively impactful cathartic outlets rises.
It is noteworthy that, the term “catharsis” may be defined as “purgation”, “purification” or “clarification”- as derived from its Greek roots. Hence, the interpretations and importance of Symbolic Catharism are forged through shining a light on these meaning; for the experience a person may allow themselves to feel that can give them a chance to unburden a degree of their trepidations through a safe, expressive manner. But it does require a sense of self- understanding in regards to how someone identifies themselves in a particular moment and if that one is needing comfort in sharing a sorrow. Thus, they may do so with Aristotle’s words, “Tragedy is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; through pity [elesos] and fear [phobos] effecting the proper purgation [catharsis] of these emotions”.