I want to break free…
Has anyone ever made an ‘off the cuff’ remark to you that still really resonates with you years later? I remember one such incident. At an undisclosed age, in an unspecified location, after watching an unnamed film (okay, okay, it was part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy but that’s all you’re getting from me), one of my friends told me that apparently fantasy and science-fiction become more popular genres during times of economic and political upheaval as people seek a form of escapism. My initial reaction was to scoff – after all how could one genre be more suitable for escapism than another? However, it did touch a chord within me because I recognised that escapism was often something that I sought from the medium that I was consuming – whether it was Enid Blyton’s Famous Five when I was a child or, more recently, True Blood to help me through the perils of waiting for exam results.
In my opinion storytelling, which is perhaps at the heart of all books, television shows or films, serves a multitude of purposes, one of which has always been escapism. Perhaps the only difference now is that we can package that storytelling in so many different ways. Whether it’s in the yellowing pages of an old book from your childhood or in the pioneering special effects of the latest blockbuster, you can briefly step out of your own life and into another world.
The fantasy and science-fiction genres do seem like the most obvious means of escapism but I would argue that every genre has something to offer. After hours of revising for that truly evil Mathematics exam, you may switch on the television to watch some Friends for a few laughs. Or, perhaps, after a day of dealing with some extremely uncouth members of the opposite sex, you may wish to immerse yourself in Pride and Prejudice where at least the insults are witty and everyone is nicely dressed. If you are a bit of a history geek then you can travel back in time with everyone’s favourite Doctor – I’ll leave it to you to decide whether I’m referring to Doctor Who or Back to the Future…
However, simply enjoying the medium in the first place is not the only way in which fandom can offer a means of escapism. By actively participating in fandom, you can further enjoy the many diversions that it provides. Simply switching on your laptop and hitting the web can enable you to reach out to fellow fans, to develop theories about plot developments or character backgrounds and to make connections with people that you may never otherwise have gotten to know. On a slightly more involved level, there are certain forms of fandom which if you engage in them can really open up further opportunities. Or should I say further distractions?
One form of fandom which allows you to completely immerse yourself within a particular universe is fanfiction. Even just reading that fanfic about Loki’s tragic childhood can help you to gain an entirely new perspective on the Thor franchise. Writing fanfic requires an even deeper level of commitment: you have to be familiar with the canon material, the rules of the verse and the various complexities of the characters before you start tapping away at your keyboard. (Or, maybe that’s just an excuse I use to do research and marathon-watch my favourite television shows/films.)
Cosplay and role-playing are excellent examples of how fandom can offer the opportunity to become an entirely different person even if it is just for a few hours. Now if that isn’t escapism, I don’t know what is! Of course, you may love your job, your studies, your life but who wouldn’t want to wear a fantastic costume and experience the fun of pretending to be someone with super powers? Or, simply to have the experience of acting out a persona which is completely different from your own? That is assuming that most of the time, dear Wanderers, you are NOT a super-villain seeking world domination…
Some forms of fandom, perhaps one of the most obvious being fanart, can also provide a slightly different means of escapism. These forms can open up various opportunities to develop your creative talents. It seems that the vast majority of everyday life doesn’t offer many people the ability to explore and enjoy their more artistic tendencies which is a real shame because there’s clearly a lot of untapped intelligence and talent out there.
It doesn’t matter what form of fandom you choose to seek escapism in, whether, you get your creative kicks from editing fanvids (I’m still waiting for that Young Dracula/True Blood crossover, by the way), writing poetry or producing fanart, you are engaging not just with fandom but with yourself and your individual abilities. In this sense, fandom isn’t just about consumption, it’s also about production, it’s less about escapism as a means of avoiding or getting away from real life and more about fulfilling your own potential.
Red Hamilton (has now got that Queen song stuck in her head!)