Why it’s OK to step away
26 April 2018
The real world is a stressful place to be in right now, and never in human history have we been more in tune with current affairs. Social media has allowed everyone from around the globe to be connected, sharing happiness and grief, showing their best and worst, restoring and destroying your faith in humanity.
Nowadays, media is dominated by hyperbole. On the internet, the kind of discussions that trend are the ones between two battling extremes, with all nuanced lost in the middle. The same goes for TV news, where presenters and commentators will either criticise harshly or defend blindly based on their respective biases.
But despite the times we live in, it is still important that we retreat every now and then into the world of entertainment.
Escapism—seeking reprieve from an unpleasant reality—will forever be important to how we individually function in society, and don’t let anyone ever tell you that you’re being irresponsible by watching a show on Netflix instead of the news.
Escapism can merely be stepping back from responsibility so you can get lost in a piece of art or entertainment. It’s not a startling fact that it’s actually good for us to rest and alleviate stress through recreation.
When we temporarily withdraw from reality and delve into books, video games, and films, we’re increasing our attentiveness to the world for when we come back.
If you’re always ‘in it’ 24/7, then you’re bound to crash at some point, succumbing to the stressors of unrestrained life and politics.
Obviously, you don’t want your moments of escapism to become days of avoidance. That’s when you have an entirely new problem on your hands, which can’t be fixed by more relaxation.
This is all obvious; however, in the current political climate, more and more people are pushing for entertainment to be either abstained from or altered to suit an agenda, invading what’s meant to take your mind off the real world.
Donald Trump’s unexpected ascension to power has spurred extreme but unwarranted fear about what the future of America looks like. He isn’t going to end the United States. One little orange man won’t cause global nuclear annihilation, and he won’t allow Nazis to take over the rubble.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is a game centred around resistance in a Nazi-controlled America; it plays on the theoretical scenario of Germany winning the Second World War that authors like Philip K. Dick have plundered for years now. The Wolfenstein series has always harboured a layer of absurdism, from Hitler’s mech suit in Wolfenstein 3D to BJ’s romp as a cyborg in the latest game.
The Rolling Stone article, ‘Why ‘Wolfenstein II’ Should Embrace Reality, Not Escapism,’ contends that these unreal aspects of Wolfenstein II hold it back from being some kind of parable for modern-day Nazism in the Donald Trump era.
The author suggests that ‘Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus looks like part of the trend toward anything in video games, absolutely anything, other than our current reality.’
Not everything needs to be directly politicised. Not everything needs to become outdated like South Park season 20, which was written around a Clinton win and then abruptly rewritten once Trump won. Some artists want their work to be timeless. This is especially true for any entry in one of gaming’s most beloved series.
Pure fantasy is not at odds with realism, and escapist entertainment doesn’t need to spark controversy or be directly political to have a strong message.
We live in a time when silence and subtlety are misconstrued as guilt. Gone are the times when a public figure is allowed to stay quiet on politics and not ostracise their audience.
When Taylor Swift, the pop star, chose not to comment on who she voted for, dullards on both sides assumed she voted for Trump. Today, people continue to push for her denunciation of the President, regardless of whether she would actually want to.
All of this is very reminiscent of Hollywood’s brief period under the Hays Code, where filmmakers had their creativity dominated by a moral standard that was not their own. The objective of the code was to only allow films that didn’t ‘lower the moral standards of those who see it.’
The problem with this thinking was and will continue to be that it controls the freedom of consumers and producers. They are limited by an agenda set by somebody else, and their work is judged under that agenda.
Escapism means more than just relaxing. Taking your mind off current affairs, especially in these stressful times, will prime you for a better and more considerate worldview once you come back. Escapist entertainment is not vain and neither is your enjoyment of it. Any kind of recreation will no doubt allow you to mellow out and mull over your opinions.
Being completely entrenched in this endless ideological battle will eventually take more life out of you then it gives.