Tuesday, June 3, 2008

In My View: Escapism? Don't we all need a break sometimes?

"A lot of people don't like their job Peter. What is important is finding something that does make you happy." – Roughly quoted from Office Space

First before I write this post, I want to apologize to the women for butting into their conversation. But I think they've offered a fascinating range of views on the idea of escapism and how people use anime as both a social tool and a personal tool for dealing with life. In fact, they provided so much material that it's had me thinking about it for two days. (Oh and Paul too.)

That said, I find it strange how people use the word escapism. It's not that I totally disagree that entertainment by its very nature provides an out to the harsh realities that surround us every day. Hell, I'm a 31-year-old phone sales rep. After a day of dealing with people the last thing I want to do is deal with more people. But it seems like we've developed a language that divides "real life" into things that are unpleasant and "escapist" life into things that are fun.

There's got to be a middle ground there. There's got to be room where a hobby is a healthy outlet or at the very least as Gia seems to hint at a way for those people who are less socially adept to interact with other people in a fashion that doesn't involve taking people's orders or working on code (I'm not saying that computer programmers are not socially adept, just that there are computer programmers that are not socially adept.)

This is where I'm stuck. Because escapist implies that we use entertainment to get away from our lives.

And yes, I do think there's a level where we enter into the world the creators have developed and I agree that there's a sense of relief when everything works out (or doesn't work out) in the end. But I don't think that we solely use entertainment (or any hobby for that matter) to get away from our lives, but rather so we can have a life.

Before people start freaking out at me, let me explain my thinking on this. Lelangir was quite right when he pointed out a while back that the Otakusphere has a social structure. Now I'm not sure quite how I'd define it or how it works or what affects it has, but there's definitely a social structure there. For there to be a social structure, that would imply that people are socializing. In fact, again as Gia pointed out, there are various different social structures. You have conventions, fanfic, fanart, podcasts, blogs, forums, clubs, etc. What anime gives people in a lot of ways is a common interest and a common language that we can talk about these things.

And like any community there are going to be some people who don't really fit in, but are they any stranger than the guys who slap on body paint and go to the (American) football game? Are they any less socially proficient than the writers in a critique group who say to the people reviewing them that they just don't get it? Are they any more obsessed than the Chris Crockers of the world? And are there really that many more of them in these circles than in those circles? From my experience, I'd say no.

Now certainly this isn't all encompassing. There are definitely those fans that'd rather spend time with their body pillows than with real people. And there are people for whom anime is a habit rather than a hobby. And I certainly don't want to drift into the territory of whether they're the majority or the minority.

But I will risk saying that they're really not using the hobby to its full extent. So while I'll agree that escapism may play a part in the hobby, it's certainly not the end-all-be-all of it.

1 comment:

itsu said...

There's no need to apologize for cutting into the R-R. I've been wondering what some of the other bloggers thought about this topic. I'm glad you made the point that escapism is too often seen in black and white. I think it's because we live in a society that preaches against running away from our problems [escaping reality] and rewards those who confront their troubles [facing reality], when in actuality the collective "reality" that we function in is so much more complex than simply being a dichotomy of real vs. fantasy.

I agree that there is a middle ground and would push it even further and say that there is an infinite amount of levels on which people can interact with their "escapist" entertainment, because how a person views and responds to anime is something that's deeply personal.

bettynoire wrote an amazing critique on the concept of "escapism" that I think you might find interesting: http://bettynoire.wordpress.com/2008/06/03/round-robin-down-down-down-the-rabbit-hole/