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Escapism in Media

There is a growing trend among (mostly conservative leaning) artistic media reviewers of valuing escapism over meaning. The argument presented can be boiled down to “comics/games/movies are for people to escape from the real world and any deeper meaning which reflects something in the real world breaks that escapist fantasy and defeats the purpose of the medium.”

This makes the presupposition that mediums can have objective intended purposes, and it contains the declaration that applying deeper meaning to narratives decreases story quality because it asks the reader to think critically about what is presented. That thinking critically is something bad.

Content like the Sherlock Holmes series used to be an integral part of pop culture, but it seems media that asks the reader to think is being replaced with vapid stories intended only to facilitate an escape from the drudgery of every day life. Instead of challenging readers to change how they look at the real world, we are inundated with power fantasies, nihilistic edge and saccharine fluff we can use to stop thinking about life. That speaks volumes about the quality of life the majority is subjected to.

Counter to the ideals of the Age of Information, celebrity culture pushes a lifestyle that is both incredibly materialistic and devoid of critical thought. We prize pageants and name brand make up, Gucci bags and designer cars, all opulent waste that is intentionally unattainable for the average person. Creating a escapist fantasy where the lives of celebrities are commodified and sold because they are designed to be unattainable for all but a super minority.

This thirst for opulence is pushed aggressively on each generation, drowning out more educational and constructive media. It creates deleterious goals and values in our broader culture and normalizes the commodification of human beings. It discourages critical thought, pushes for escapism and stops the general population from desiring to think critically about their lives, the things they do or the expectations they have because that entire process is coded as a pain they must escape.

The fact that we have created a society where the need to escape is normal is a problem that needs to be corrected. If the general populations’ lives are so shitty that they feel the desperate need to live vicariously, escape from reality and then freak out when they have to engage with artistic media intellectually, we are not living in a society worth perpetuating.

The far right talks a lot about the degeneration of the “West” (as if that’s a coherent category) and then campaigns for the cheapening of art to mere escapism and fantasy all while venerating the opulence and consumerism that fuels the actual degeneration of society; falling standards of living, rampant consumerism and the idolatry that is the deification of celebrities and millionaires.

It’s easy to understand why they do it, it expands the percentage of the population open to all forms of exploitation, and increases the amount of money flowing to the top of the pyramid scheme we mislabel a “free market economy” but if you point out this basic fact, the premise upon which this degenerate society is built, you’re hit with the same brainless programmed responses: “Communism!” “Venezuela!!1!” “Liberal!” “You watch MSNBC/CNN!”

Because it’s what people have been conditioned to say. Because screaming words they don’t know is the only way brainwashed people have to reject arguments that make them uncomfortable. Because they know they can’t engage with any of the premises as that would require they understand them. Because it’s easy to ignore what someone says when you label them the “other.”

It’s basic tribalism and it’s sad to see that our culture so readily conditions people to behave this way. Which is why it’s incredibly important for parents to educate their children and monitor the media they consume. You don’t have to control everything, but if you don’t give your offspring the skills necessary to solve problems independently before you allow them to explore the world independently chances are they’ll get caught up in the same stupid shitty indoctrination cycles and won’t be able to effectively utilize the number one tool against disinformation and propaganda: the internet. Instead they will fall down a rabbit hole and use social media to insulate themselves in an echo-chamber with no desire to ever engage with reality outside of the most basic requirements necessary to live. And that’s a tendency we need to change if we want to create a better world.

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