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In this technologically advanced society we live in, where science rules and anything coming close to magic belief is ridiculed, including religion to an extent, why hasn’t fantasy gone the way of the Western, to a niche group of loyal readers but rejected by the mainstream? Why have movies like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings ranked in millions while the recent Lone Ranger failed to impress (aside from quality issues)? Why is fantasy a viable genre in books, video games, and movies (albeit limited in that last regard)?
I may not have all the answers, but I do have some ideas. First of all, people need something to believe in. So with religion being derided on all sides, or people disenchanted with it, many turn to make believe magic, because really, science doesn’t give a lot of comfort. Science doesn’t tell you what happens to you when you die, except that your body decomposes. Science doesn’t tell you whether there is an ultimate being looking out for you; it can’t even tell you if there is life out there or not beyond our planet. You can’t pray to science or believe that science cares whether things will work out in the end. But what does this have to do at all with fantasy? You may ask. Fantasy books can’t give me that comfort. World of Warcraft doesn’t tell me what happens when I die. I can’t use the Force to get revenge on the kids who pick on me at school. Well, there was one guy where I worked before who talked about all the nerdy things, especially Star Wars, as if they were real. He even asked once the guy who trained me what the difference between the Force and other religions were, to which he got the response, “No matter how much I believe it is real, it can’t be. It was made up by a guy named George Lucas for entertainment purposes, and he doesn’t even believe in it.” That incident got me thinking. In no way do I advocate being like that guy who was kind of deluded, although even he knew that Star Wars wasn’t real. But it served him just the same, filling some need of his to believe in something guiding the universe. The truth is, fantasy often introduces religious ideas that would never be accepted in any other form, but in fantasy, it can be integrated into the subconscious while the conscious mind dismisses it as entertainment, something made up. So while someone might not have organized religion in their life, they might believe subconsciously in some ideas like there is a guiding force, which gives them reassurance.
Secondly, fantasy usually calls back to simpler days, when there weren’t so many people, when technology didn’t complicate things. People didn’t have to worry about 20000 pages of Obamacare that no one’s read all the way, they didn’t have to worry about getting likes on Facebook and Twitter, they didn’t have to worry about navigating health insurance, car insurance, mortgages, credit card debt, remembering passwords, identity theft, software skills, and confusing government forms. Now, obviously things weren’t all great back in the day. There were repression, caste systems, tyranny, wars, diseases without cures, few rights, unsanitary conditions, and overall poor living conditions. But the romantic part of us believes in a world where the peasant can take up a sword and save the world. Where he can find true love with a princess. Where good triumphs over evil. These things that we see in fantasy that we don’t in the real world.
Finally, fantasy allows us to use imagination in a way that would be mocked in other genres. Worlds where people fly on dragons, or can fly by their own willpower. Where flowers grow to be a hundred feet tall. Where other creatures besides humans interact with us. Where the world doesn’t have to be a ball spinning around the sun, but can be flat on a turtle’s back. Fantasy takes us back to our childhood, where things didn’t have an explanation, but that didn’t keep us from exploring them. The world was wonderful, exciting, new. Not drab and gray like we so often see it now.
And the world needs more people who can see and enjoy it with child-like wonder. Image


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