Wednesday, September 23, 2009
I don't know about you, but I've always had a fairly rich fantasy life. As kids we're given a lot of conflicting messages about using our imaginations. It's great in creative writing class, not so good when daydreaming during a history lecture. Luckily, people like George Lucas didn't let the everyday grind of adulthood temper their imagination or we wouldn't have movies like "Star Wars" to take our minds off of our everyday lives. And I think it's the desire for escapism that draws me to fantasy instead of heavy dramas that explore painful family dynamics. I can't imagine that anyone wouldn't get enough of that in their daily lives. Even people who think they aren't fans of fantasy, scoffing at those of us who watch comic book movies, will watch Jennifer Aniston in a romantic comedy and think nothing of it-- and you can't tell me they're not imagining themselves as the heroine in their own romance. I think this is why authors like J.K. Rowling are so popular. They tap into the desire in all of us to have a secret life that is more exciting and heroic than the one we're already living. And if you take a close look into popular fantasy, you'll notice a lot of rabbit holes. The smartest authors of children's fiction understand the need for escapism. Even children with happy lives want to be somebody, which is why I think series' like The Chronicles of Narnia have endured for so long. I remember reading about the Pevensie children and imagining myself going through the Wardrobe to Narnia and having adventures in which no adult told me what to do. But more importantly, Narnia was a world far removed from my own and no one would know me, or have any expectations of me in a place like that. "Harry Potter" continues with the same theme by taking a young boy who is not only ordinary, but lives a virtually invisible existence when, suddenly, he learns of a whole new world in which he is not only special, but has power over his circumstances. As an adopted child, I think "Harry Potter" has special significance because there is always that secret desire to discover something special about where I come from-- though I hardly think I'm unique in that regard. But it isn't just children's fiction that taps into our desire to go through the looking glass. George Lucas understood that when he wrote "Star Wars," didn't he? Luke Skywalker lives the mundane life we all know too well when he is suddenly pulled into an epic battle that literally spans the universe-- and he integral to the story. "The Matrix" takes a milquetoast computer programmer, shows him a whole new world and he finds out that he is "the one." In my mind, the best fantasy is that in which we can insert ourselves. Comic book heroes have masks and it isn't too far a stretch to imagine ourselves behind them. TV shoes like "Heroes" offer up scenarios that take ordinary people who suddenly have extraordinary lives. Sure they're not always easy, but they're often heroic. I don't know that I'll ever have an extraordinary life. Maybe it will never be more than owning my own little corner of the blogosphere typing my thoughts on the page. But maybe... I'll find my path to something special. Until then...I think I'll read "Harry Potter" again.