Aquaman and the Dangers of Escapism

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In the last few weeks of my first term of Uni, I wasn’t in a particularly good place. I was constantly exhausted, depressed and suffering from severe burnout. In the final week I went two respected days without sleep just to complete assignments. It was a miserable ordeal and the only thing that really kept me going was the prospect of seeing that new Aquaman film.

I’m not gonna sugar code it; I’m a nerd. Always have been, always will be. I spent an obscene amount of time as a kid just going through Wikipedia pages of the publishing history and fictional biographies of these characters. From mainstream characters like Batman to the most obscure nobodies like…fuck, I can’t even remember.

I like comics, I like movies- I like a lot of silly stuff. A lot of people do. We’re able to build communities around the things we like, surrounding ourselves with people who have similar interests. You’ll often hear these communities referred to as fan clubs, or more recently fandoms.

Being a part of one, or a few of these communities can be really rewarding. They can inspire people to make art, write stories and even create music. But at times the community can become exhausting and can even become an incredibly toxic environment.

That’s the downside of how groups work. People will always try and clamber for dominance, for a shred of authority. People will always try to control others, hold members of that community to an unattainable standard which they will inevitably fail to reach. Conflict will ensue and people get angry.

All of this of course has been escalated with the internet, the very place most of this community abides. As it turns out, people aren’t too good at interacting with others on this platform. When you communicate with someone in person, you can effectively read the emotions on said person’s face. So if you say something brash or even hurtful, you’ll be wise enough to retract that statement.

The internet doesn’t work like that. You don’t see peoples faces, how your words affect them. Most of the time you’re engaged in an argument with an invisible person and it’s just…exhausting.

What I’m saying isn’t new or even an original observation. The internet’s been fucked from day one. What is new is the deterioration of escapism. That nerd shit I talked about? That was what I used for escapism, to get away from my dull little life. I’m not the most sociable person, never been good at making friends or interacting with people- but none of that mattered when I just watched one of the many TV shows or movies I really fucking loved.

I really fucking needed this new Aquaman movie to be great and…it was. Jason Mamoa is a big bag of sunshine and I just need that kind of energy in my life. Characters were spot on, cinematography was stunning-safe to say that James Wan did a fantastic job with this one.

I think this is going to be like the kids of today’s version of something like the Road to El Dorado or something along those lines. Some kind of kickass, cheesy, fun movie that they’ll cherish for the rest of their lives.

Escapism is vital. You need to be able to switch off now and again. Otherwise you’ll become a tense asshole. It’s kind of why hobbies are important, because if you’re not enjoying any of your time-then what is the fucking point?

I like to think of it as swimming. A piece of media, say comics or a movie franchise, acts as a medium of escapism. In this case a person will leave their normal day to day life on land and go out in the water for a swim. Some people will paddle around, making sure to keep their head above the water. These are the people who will be the first to leave. They had a quick swim and the water served it’s required purpose, but they have no intention to dive any deeper. This is the general audience- the people who don’t pay too much attention to every single detail.

Then there’s the people who decide to go under water. Some dive deeper than others, but all wish to explore the water none the less. These people are the fans of this medium, the people who keep an eye on their interests. But here’s the thing with these people; eventually they’ll have to come back up for air.

People aren’t meant to stay in the water. No matter how much you like it there, you gotta go back to land at some point. But for some people there is nothing left for them on land, so they dive deeper and deeper and eventually- they drown.

Too much of anything is bad for you, and if you excessively consume content meant to act as escapism then eventually it’s effects will wear off. You’ll increase the dosage to better the effects and eventually you will overdose. Besides mixing metaphors, what I mean is that an excessive consumption of anything will make you a worse person.

The next time you go to consume that media and contort with others, conflict will ensue. Because everyone has pent up emotions that they were hoping the media would release, but it didn’t- so now some prick is going to bemoan how shit they thought the movie was, leading to another to retort how they’re wrong and a bad person.

You’d think having a different opinion wouldn’t be too much for people to bear, but you’d be surprised. An excessive consumption of media can turn people into fucking sadists. Like how the Star Wars fandom bullied Jake Lloyd so much that he quit acting and was later institutionalised with schizophrenia. How they nearly drove Ahmed Best to suicide, not even mentioning the countless actors who were forced to delete their social medias after getting hit with wave upon wave of racially charged hate.

Obviously this phenomenon isn’t exclusive to Star Wars. There were a few cunts with Zach Snyder troll accounts on various platforms saying a lot of fucked up shit when his daughter committed suicide. There’s countless examples of shitty fans out there. And while it’s true that there’s always been shitty people on the internet- it never used to be like this.

Like how the fuck are you now able to accurately guess the political persuasion of some guy upon whether or not they liked a movie? This stuff was supposed to be fun, y’know.

I feel like as a people we’re using our technologies to act as an additional means of escapism. You may not watch much TV, but you could be spending an inordinate amount of time online. On YouTube, the various social media platforms- all of that takes away something from you. It diminishes the quality of escapism to the point where you’ve grown a tolerance to it. That’s why you can’t switch off anymore when you consume that kind of media.

I know this is going to sound like the most boomer thing ever- but why are people always on their phones? Like I get it if you’re checking emails or messaging actual people- but why even bother whipping it out if you’re just going to aimlessly scroll through Facebook?

Seriously, I work in a pub and I constantly see people sitting at tables scrolling through their phone, doing fuck all instead of actually talking to the people next to them. I’ve been at parties where people just sit about on their phone, scrolling through Instagram instead of talking to the guy next to them. My fucking roommate scrolls through Facebook aimlessly all the time- even when I’m talking to him.

My point is that if you spend too much time in the water, sooner or later you’ll get lost at sea. To appreciate the water, you gotta stay on land for a little while longer. If you don’t have anything on land, well then you’re just gonna have to find something.

Life can be hard at times. The people who use escapism to an excessive amount are generally the kinds of people who really fucking need it. Like how most nerds submerge themselves into comics or video games cause they got bullied at school, or how that late night host Stephen Colbert became a massive Tolkien fan after a good chunk of his immediate family died in a plane crash when he was a child.

Escapism can be wonderful, but it needs to be used responsibly. It can be dangerous and if you’re not too careful- it can turn you into a bad person.

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