Media consumption these days is higher than it has ever been in human history. With the advent of the internet and the development of “fandom” subcultures, the pull of fictional media is nigh-inescapable.
Entertainment, alongside other actualizing and creative hobbies, can be a useful escape from the realities of capitalism and the continued alienation we experience in our jobs and social lives. However, the pull and comfort of media is strong enough that many people allow their entertainment to determine their personalities and politics.
In the past few years, tabletop roleplaying games have experienced a surge in popularity. These imaginative and interactive games allow players to do whatever they want within the rules of the system and lead heroic lives and play out wondrous storylines.
The player base of these games — usually portrayed as white males — has expanded to other demographics looking to escape to a fantasy world with new rules and worries. Video games have been expanding their player bases to new groups for even longer.
As the world continues to make less sense and capitalism continues to grind down onto our lives, hobbies of escapism become more popular. Your character in “Dungeons and Dragons” or “Fallout”does not have to worry about paying their student loans or their medical debt, but instead can move freely and actively in however way you choose. Of course you would want to slip into the shoes of a powerful wizard or hardy survivalist, experiencing anything other than the crushing weight of the world as it seems to decay.
Escapism is a good tool for dealing with existential dread in doses, but it is a pit one can fall into and have trouble crawling out of.
Fandoms on the internet are full of people who have allowed their indulgence in entertainment to determine their world views and personalities. A recent, very visual, example of this is the Star Wars fandom.
Vocal groups within this community are single-mindedly obsessed with bits and pieces of the fiction, such as the “Reylo” ship or views on “Episode VIII: The Last Jedi.” They are very vocal nearly all the time, with the internet acting as a mouthpiece for the continuous sharing of views and molding of opinions within closed social circles of like-minded individuals.
You could even look at why these communities are so vocal. Why do people care so deeply about the narrative of a romance in fiction? Is romance pushed onto us that often, and is it pushed to a spectacle rather than a feeling? This is just a small part of how our enjoyment is commodified. With how much entertainment is pushed onto you and how easy it is to consume compared to other hobbies, this becomes a more common observation.
The political or social views of an individual are affected as well, usually stunted to only what they can see on the screen in front of them. Fiction is simplified, and if one consumes too much, their views will shift to be simpler as well. You can only be exposed to so much, really.
Liberals are obsessed with “The West Wing” as an indicator of how they think politics should be, even to this day — calm debate with cool factual dunks on the opposition who is presented as an idiotic straw man. Alternatively, many are obsessed solely with the ideological aesthetics of a piece of media and not the actual message or meaning within it.
Oversimplification is key either way, making the threat of the right a toned-down beast that gets defeated on your TV and Twitter feed.
Entertainment is a good thing, as are active hobbies to keep the mind sharp. No one should ever blame you for sharing fictional media that you are interested in or giving yourself some time to escape with a good show or video game. This is not the issue at hand. The issue is the unhealthy amount of intake that can entrap a person.
We live in the real world, a material world.
There are threats to us and real, challenging struggles in our lives. We cannot simply rely on sassy remarks or more token representation in our media to solve the world’s problems. This is the easy road to take, and it leads to nothing. Solving problems is work, and it is the hard path away from your media consumption.
YDSA is an organization for leftist students at the University of Tennessee. If you have any questions, you can reach out to Helen Law at email@example.com.
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