I was recently reading an article about one of my favorite shows and the "death" of a character in that show. I put the word death in quotations, because the death happened off the T.V. screen, and the writer of the article noted that fans debated whether the character was really dead and as a result were coming up with their own alternatives to the "death" of the character. What fascinated me about it is that while the people creating the T.V. show will state that the character is dead, because the death happened off screen, there is room for interpretation.
The axiom in pop culture magic that describes this is: If you can't see it, it isn't real.
It probably doesn't help that you'll sometimes see shows where a character "dies" and the actor says that they won't be coming back to the show, and then in the next season, presto chango, the actor has reappeared. We've come to expect that the character will come back, especially if the death isn't shown. We've also gotten use to the misdirection that's put out there...we expect it and we see through it.
However even if the character never does come back onto the show, the fans still have their own say about characters. A character may die on a show, but if it isn't seen, the fans can interpret that and spin it in their own way. They can come up with fan fiction, where they share their own mythological take on what happened to the character. And what's important about that is that when fans start developing their own mythology around a character, they've brought that character to life beyond what occurred with the show. The relationship is no longer just the fan enjoying the show. The relationship is personal and intimate.
Pop culture mythology is never solely built by the creators or the companies that sponsor them. It's true that the creators set the canon and the companies support that canon, but the fans are the ones who bring the mythology alive. Whether you're watching a show or reading a book or listening to a song, you are more than just a passive receiver. Your imagination is what creates the connection between you and the characters you love and your imagination helps you develop the mythology you work with.
If you can't see it, it isn't real.
Pop culture mythology is flexible. The canon is important, but so are the fans and how they respond to the canon. And for the pop culture magician, its important to remember that the very act of doing pop culture magic is also a shaping of the mythology of the pop culture you are working with. So when a favorite character "dies" don't write them off. The pop culture mythology doesn't automatically end. It only ends when the fans stop contributing and believing in the mythology. So you decide...what is or isn't real in your pop culture mythology?