Every past time we have could be seen as being carried out to escape the world we live in, whatever it may look like to us, but not every single one focuses of fictitious characters and plot lines. The decline in the ratings of terrestrial television is interesting, but not for the reasons we may think. The viewing figures for television shows aren’t declining overall, but the way we now view them is instead changing.
It seems like, in general, we no longer want to have to sit in front of a television (or laptop, or phone, or whatever device it may be) at a time the broadcasters want us to, not now we also have the choice to watch a show on catch up services pretty much as soon as they have finished. Then there are those people who prefer to binge-watch; why wait a week between episodes when you can watch them all at once? Streaming services are especially enabled to allow their subscribers to have access to all episodes all at once, which is perfect for when there is a brilliant cliff hanger.
Whatever way we watch these shows, there is no denying that many people watch them so they can escape into another world. Over the years I have heard people talk about how watching TV shows has allowed them to forget about what they are going through in their lives. Escapism is something I would think that every person aspires to have on varying levels, but at some point in people’s lives having some kind of outlet can also be vital. I don’t think escaping is the same as forgetting – perhaps it can be better described as a coping mechanism; a way of dealing with whatever is needed to be escaped from for a bit. Television has the ability to do such a thing; to allow a fictitious story to encapsulate the mind and imagination, and allow the viewer to focus all their attention on it.
Escaping life for a few hours can be a really positive thing to do, but I don’t think it is something that should be carried out for the wrong reasons. Pretending problems aren’t there and walking away from responsibilities only delays the inevitable, but there is a fine line between doing that and being able to deal with them in a manageable way, rather than allowing them to overcome you and then become a further problem.
Of course other things can be used as a form of escapism; hobbies are a good way of doing something different to the everyday life we get accustomed to. Fishing, for example, is an ideal hobby to escape from the clutches of life’s responsibilities. However, I think the way fictional characters, whether that be in television shows, films, theatre shows or even in video games, have the ability to make you care about them, even when it’s not real, is a different type of escapism; it’s about going into something else and focusing the mind on something less taxing…perhaps!
Sarah Keeping MBPsS MSc PgDip GDip BA (Hons)
Follow Sarah on twitter at @keepingapproach