Escapism is defined as something which is not so focused on critiquing the world but rather escaping it. While fantasy and escapism do not always go hand in hand, they can, and I will be using the two terms interchangeably.
Fantasy worlds, from epic movies to silly video games to great stories, are necessary. While I always love a good interpretist piece, sometimes you just need to escape and remember that being creative is all about having fun.
During the Great Depression, businesses like the cinema, sports stadiums, and other recreational leisure activities boomed. Because in the darkness of financial despair, there was light in the little things, of remembering how silly the world is and just how enjoyable it can be.
Escapism is important, especially in times like the present, as COVID-19 becomes incredibly dangerous and terrifyingly normalized in our society (for there is no return to normal, when normal implies a level of acceptance of human death, which is inexcusable).
I have been raised by fantasy, by stories so immersive I can learn everything about their world to movies that let me become a superhero.
Sometimes, I think that escapism can take away from the meaningfulness of literature or film or any other genre, really. But then there are other moments when I remember just how important escapism is and just how important it is in emphasizing the meaningfulness of art. Being able to escape dark times allows for us to bring light elsewhere. No; fantasy is as necessary a genre as any because its magical powers of bringing people into other worlds, meaning that, suddenly, this real one isn’t quite so lonely anymore.
Escapist stories may not always be about changing this planet, but about fixing one person’s world. They may not get at the root of what it means to be human, but they are, rather, what makes us human. Because even though escapist stories don’t always mean anything, sometimes we need nothing to truly understand what means everything. They don’t critique the world’s problems, they rather the little ones so that we can handle everyone else together.