Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sometimes you wanna go...

Pulling up a chair beside Norm is so much simpler now, except it wouldn't be in a bar in Boston. I see so many people now glued to their screens, playing computer games of every sort. And I'll be the first to admit, I do it too, just not as much. But trying to get my brother off of WoW or LOTR Online and actually do a chore or two is like pulling dragon's teeth. I have a bunch of friends (and you know who you are!! :) ) who basically live in Azeroth or in Evercrack or whereever. Heck, I'd live in Midgaard easily as long as I had a Materia or two. :)

I find it all psychologically interesting, that people have to live in more than one world. Escapism seems to be an epidemic of the modern age. And it's understandable, given the luxuries we all have now. In the past, before Bordeom even became a word, people had to work all day long just to make a penny or two to buy food, clothing, shelter. Maslow's lowest rung. But now, since we (mostly) don't need to worry about that, we can ascend Maslow's heirarchy and arrive at the top... but instead of finding self-actualization, we find self-distraction. We find other worlds to challenge us, dragons to fight, since we don't have to worry about tigers and lions in this one.

But we can leave WoW for another time. I want to look at more subtle ways that we can escape for a time. I want to look at the ways people escaped before WoW and MeatMud and all the computerized worlds that are digitized above us.

Of course, there are books. Entire worlds and stories and lives that we can lead through pages of a book. That's why I enjoy reading Anne McCaffrey's Pern novels so much. Pern is the most liveable fantasy world created. No fantastically evil doomsday people waiting to take over the world. Just the annoying political villans that populate our own world. Oh, yeah, and Thread. But one could just as easily live in Paolini's world from Eragon or Tolkien's Middle Earth. And the more books that can keep us in those worlds, the better.

But the main place for liveable worlds has to come from Television. There is no better place to live than on Earth in Roddenberry's Star Trek world. And this, I would argue, is what makes any fictional show worth watching. The stage has to be set to be just far enough removed to make it engaging. Different. We don't actually live in the world of Desperate Housewives because, normally, our upper middle class neighbors aren't very attractive and go around killing dates and stuff. So it's intriguing. Same thing with House. Princeton General is someplace we can identify with, even feel at home in, but House jars it away from reality enough to make us want to come back again and again.

In the sit-com realm, things are even more apparent. Escapism is what drives the most successful comedies year after year. Take three shows: Wings, Night Court, and Cheers. Each takes place in a different place: an airport, a courtroom, and a bar. But each are places we can close our eyes and know exactly what it all looks like. We can pretend to talk to any one of the characters, and know how they'll respond. It's like living with a whole other family. And in some cases, those actors are with us for years, so they become like families to us.

I've been watching recently the Disney Channel, more specifically, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, and have found a guilty pleasure in it. It makes me happy, makes me laugh. Makes me envious of the brothers and their relationship, and of the interaction between everyone in the hotel. Makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. Even if the acting and the plot lines are bad, even if London gets on people's nerves. Even if Kim Rhodes' character sometimes blurrs the lines between being a mother and being wishy-washy victim for her sons' one liners. It can be all overlooked because it makes you feel like you're at home. You can be there, and it'll be all right in the end. I mean, that's what Full House was all about, and it went on forever.

So while we are enjoying the passage of time (James Taylor), let us escape into which ever world we wish to, be it Star Trek, or WoW, or Pern, or the Tipton Hotel. If we emmerge from our little suare into fantasy land, and are happier because of it, isn't it worth it? Make the rest of the world a better place to live by leaving it for a while each day. And go where everyone knows your name.

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