Fantasy Genre: Imaginative Dreamworld Lifestyle In Films, Stories And Television Show
Everybody likes to escape from the real world. Some find it difficult while others live in their imagination. This imaginative dreamworld lifestyle is best escaped to within the fantasy genre. Another description of fantasy, is any work that contains magic or unrealistic settings, normally set in an alternate universe, or involving mythical creatures and supernatural beings as key points to the plot or theme. Fantasy plots cannot occur in real life. “Its plot usually involves witchcraft or magic, taking place on an undiscovered planet of an unknown world,” (Literary Devices par 1). Otherworldly aspects draw viewers and readers into this genre because the plots are much different than their own (possibly) drab lives. Not only does the fantasy genre provide a wonderful escape, it also has the ability to touch on some very important real-world issues. Some perfect examples of the fantasy genre are the films Bedtime Stories and Bridge to Terabithia, the story of “Alice in Wonderland,” the poem titled “Escaping Reality” by Marcellus Watts, the song titled “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Israel Kamakawio’ole, and the Television show “Once Upon A Time.”
One film that precisely encases the key characteristics of a fantasy is Bedtime Stories. This 2008 fantasy flick focuses on hotel maintenance man, Skeeter Bronson (Adam Sandler) who gets a surprise and finds out that the bedtime tales he has been telling his niece and nephew are coming true somehow. Hoping to make the most of this new power, Skeeter tells one story after another, “I’ll have me win in the story, so I’ll win for real. Do ya dig?” (43:01), but the children’s unexpected additions to the stories turn Skeeter’s life into chaos. Stories told by this imaginative trio are about knights in shining armor and great battles in colosseum-type arenas. Personal problems at Bronson’s job are brought to new heights and played out in their stories, but in more glamorous ways. When Skeeter wants to get a job, but his arch rival is already being considered for it, that night he inserts himself into the story with the intentions that ‘the Great Skeeticus’ might win the battle over his enemy and by doing so, succeed in getting the desired job. By slightly manipulating the way each tale plays out, Skeeter can, almost effortlessly, get his ideas to come to life. That is obviously not anything humans can actually do, so people who watch this imagine what they would do if they held this power and were put in a situation like Skeeter Bronson was put in, making this film an ideal fantasy.
Although this movie is hilarious and has some outlandish aspects, it also focuses on issues in the real world that everyday people may face. Skeeter’s sister leaves her children with him because she must go look for a new job, since the school she is a principal at is being demolished. Even if schools are not being closed for the exact reason that the one in the film is, public schools are being shut down for other reasons, leaving teachers and principals jobless. Schools across the country are finding their campuses and classrooms being closed. To improve the performance of students and to aide the shortages in funding, districts are proposing closures and consolidations of schools on a large scale. Despite parents’ and teachers’ voiced concerns about such drastic moves, government and school officials maintain the idea that closing under-performing schools is the best choice (Chen par 1). By including serious elements in this humorous fantasy film, viewers are able to relate to the characters’ problems while dreaming of themselves as actors in the wild bedtime stories.
As well as Sandler’s imagination dreamt movie, Bridge to Terabithia is another example of a film that allows its characters to escape their own reality. It focuses on Jesse (Josh Hutcherson), an 11-year-old, whose life changes when he meets Leslie (AnnaSophia Robb), the class weirdo. The children create their own world called Terabithia, when Leslie tells Jesse “Mind like yours wide open, you could create a whole new world,” (1:23.43). It is inhabited by all the mythical creatures that their minds could conceive. Though hardships like poverty and difficult homelives fill their real world, Jesse and Leslie reign as king and queen over Terabithia. They run to their secret world in the woods when their parents are being too hard on them or when the school bullies make them feel helpless. Afterall, Terabithia makes them feel strong and brave. However, Jesse must search for the hope and strength in their imaginary realm to cope with losing Leslie in the end.
Terabithia acted as the children’s freedom from their very legitimate situations. Poverty, which Jesse faced at home, and death, which he had to face when he lost his best friend, are very common things that children especially, have difficulty coping with and can only wish to get away from. “About 15 million children in the United States – 21% of all children – live in families with incomes below the federal poverty threshold, a measurement that has been shown to underestimate the needs of families,” (NCCP par 1-3). Most of the poverty-stricken children have parents who work, but unstable jobs and low wages leave families fighting to make ends meet. Poverty can hold children back in learning and can contribute to emotional, social, and behavioral problems. Studies have shown that poverty is the greatest threat to a child’s well-being. However, making work pay for low-income families and providing early learning experiences for their children – can make an impact. Children can have very hard lives and not know how to cope with the difficulties they face. By seeing this movie and witnessing a child struggle with problems that they may encounter themselves, it may be an incredible eye opener and a convenient distraction from having to focus on the real world all the time. This movie is an excellent example of a fantasy that encourages imagination while also including real world problems.
In addition to films being ideal vessels for the fantasy genre, stories can provide a great daydream, like “Alice in Wonderland” from Disney’s Storybook Collection. This classic tale is about Alice, a daydreamer who does not enjoy her boring life and prefers living in her imagination. One day, while sitting on the bank of a river, she sees a big white rabbit carrying a large watch. He hurries off, saying he’s late for a very important date. Alice follows him through the forest when he disappears down a rabbit hole. She continues, leading her to all sorts of characters, adventures, and discoveries. Wonderland is a pleasant change from Alice’s normal experiences. Instead of reading poetry and doing schoolwork, she gets to meet talking flowers and peculiar characters. The Mad Hatter and the Cheshire Cat are unlike any person or animal Alice had ever seen, and they make for an outrageous trip. Then, she wakes up only to discover she had been sleeping the whole time. “You’ve been dreaming,” (page 74).
Alice was just a regular girl, facing issues like too much homework, a life that was less than exciting, and an overactive imagination. People of all ages endure the burden of a boring life, in fact, two thirds of millennials are, in fact, bored with life. One in six are sick of social media, twenty-seven percent are bored with T.V. shows, and twenty-five percent of millennials even get bored falling asleep. Boredom is not necessarily the inability to concentrate but it is a lack of interest (VICE par 1). Now, although Wonderland was not occurring in real life or in her wakeful imagination, it did manage to take Alice away from her dreary life as she ventured to a beautiful and mystical land that was by far grander than her own.
The story of “Alice in Wonderland” encompasses the idea of a young person letting their imagination get the best of them. Much like the well-known child’s tale, Marcellus Watts’ poem “Escaping Reality,” tells of a man who simply wants to leave the place he is in, leave his troubles, and leave his reality. “Escaping from life itself / Though be it temporary, it’s enough,” (Watts lines 6-7). The narrator makes expressions of desperately needing a break, short or long. He simply desires to hide from the cruel and relentless everyday trials. However, no matter the break, he says he will never be able to completely escape, life will find him and fill him again with fear and despair. In some fantasies, the character dreams of traveling to a world that is more interesting and thrilling than their own, but in others, like this poem, characters imagine what life would be like without hard times and difficult days, and their fantasies act as a great escape. This poem comprises of a man’s wishes to not physically leave his life, but to get away for a while. Despite the fact that the poem does not say if he finds his escape, only that he dreams of doing so, people who read this can identify with the narrator. They can sympathize with his desire to take a break, feeling as though maybe they are not going crazy, and that other people feel the same way.
An article from Psychology Today, addresses that sometimes the stressors of today’s society, the constant blitzing of negative news, and the never-ending connection to technological devices can make one feel trapped and dying to escape. Perhaps people simply need time alone to heal and take care of themselves. “When we have this feeling, it might be that our minds and souls are sending us messages,” (par 1). Being reminded that it’s time to step away and focus on oneself is something that the author of the poem “Escaping Reality” could have used for himself.
Another form of poetry, that very well incorporates the qualities of the fantasy genre is the song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” by Israel Kamakawio’ole. This number is one of the most well-known pieces of music in the world. Whether the listener associates it with Dorothy (Judy Garland) in The Wizard of Oz or with the calming ukulele of Kamakawiwo’ole, the song is legendary. The lyrics in this song simply represent hope and dreaming of a new and improved way of life. When listening to this song, people can compare themselves to the writer/singer because they may be searching for a better life as well. Many find this song relatable, everyone experiences troubles, but this song takes a new meaning when these lyrics are applied to the Jewish people of the Holocaust. First published in 1939, this was a time when the Jews’ rights were being stolen from them, and their identities being taken away. In a time where there seemed to be no hope for the Jewish people, this song focuses on the good times that are to come. “There’s a land that I’ve heard of once in a lullaby,” (line 2). This song was a reminder to those hopeless in the 1940s, and it is still a reminder now, that though humanity faces uncertain times, there is still hope to be found. This song was written to bring peace of mind to all who hear, introducing the perfect fantasy as something the listener can identify with, if not now, then maybe someday.
Finally, the last example of an exquisite fantasy is the television show “Once Upon A Time.” In this elaborate show, the Enchanted Forest exists, and its residents face a major challenge when The Evil Queen, Captain Hook, and Rumpelstiltskin embark on a mission to bring peace to their world. Fairy tale characters of old and new search for true love, find adventure, and choose sides in the never-ending struggle of good versus evil. Even though in this show, the fairy tales are truly happening and not occuring in a dream or a story, the plot line is still one of a fantasy. Each episode focuses on a classic fairy tale character or the main character meeting one. Being able to talk with people that are normally only viewed from afar (inside movies or books), is impossible, since they only exist in fantasies. So, people watch this show to see how characters like Peter Pan, Belle, and Cruella de Vil would behave and live if they were real people. But they, and the main character, Emma Swan, face difficulties. “People are gonna tell you who you are your whole life. You just gotta punch back and say, ‘No, this is who I am.’ You want people to look at you differently? Make them! You want to change things, you’re gonna have to go out there and change them yourself, because there are no fairy godmothers in this world,” (season 1 episode 4). All kinds of people, in all walks of life, deal with the struggle of not being understood. This episode highlights the fact that even though somebody may feel their life is not going as planned, they can make a change. Inspiring them to, hopefully, stand up for themselves, and be who they truly are. Although this show does involve elements of fantasy and fairy tale, it also connects the aspect of imaginary with reality, which is what the best fantasies should do.
Living in such a cold, cruel, and immovable world can be very draining and escaping for a while could be just what people need. The best type of fantasy invites viewers to imagine themselves in the whimsical plot, while also allowing them to relate to the real-world problems that are depicted. Although a fantasy film or story will not completely erase someone’s problems, it may ease the burden for a short while. The temporary distractions provided by the creators of these works can offer just enough of a mental vacation to help a reader or viewer paddle through some otherwise unnavigable waters of life.