Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Food For Thought: Fantasy Worlds and Depression

On the slant, but this caught my eye this evening: Does Watching "Avatar" Lead to Depression? by Deborah Huso

Hundreds of fans of James Cameron's hit film "Avatar," which has raked in $1.4 billion, are reporting symptoms of depression as well as suicidal thoughts after seeing the movie. The film is set in the future when the Earth's resources have been depleted and a corporation is looking to mine the natural resources of a planet called, Pandora, which is portrayed as a world of beauty, with inhabitants that are close to nature and all creatures are connected. Many attribute their depression to the fact that the utopian world shown in the movie is unattainable here on earth and makes life seem meaningless.

and more...

Crazy as it may sound at first, feeling blue after engaging in some form of escapism, whether it's an especially touching movie or a great book, isn't unusual. But if it's impacting your ability to function, you could be taking escapism to the extreme. Escapism on that level can be a symptom of all kinds of problems from anxiety disorder to clinical depression.

“If a person has such an inordinate attraction to fantasy material and is prevented access to it, frustration, stress, anxiety or depression might possibly result,” said Frank Farley, Ph.D., a professor of educational psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia. “Modeling or identifying with media depictions is not unknown,” he added. “Yet most people make the distinction of reality versus fantasy.”

So does that make Avatar a new fairy tale in the pop culture sense, the one in which the label 'fairy tale' implies idyllic, perfect existence? Just do a news search to see how overused the term is in articles about romances and weddings, sports and politics.

Of course, except for the usual happy endings, we know that the real fairy tales are anything but idyllic, but rather violent and scary with only the hope of a happily ever after ending. It's always fun to compare the public perception versus the reality of what's in the tales, at least the earlier versions before they were made safer for the nursery.

Also applicable since so many of us fairy tale enthusiasts are also lovers of fantasy and science fiction in general. Although I admit I haven't seen Avatar yet and am not really very interested in it despite several rather enthusiastic endorsements from friends. My loss, I know, but I have become insanely picky about movies of late.

Edited: Noticed a few minutes after posting that this is my 350th post. Chugging right along...


  1. Congratulations on post 350!

    This article is quite timely, since another article recently published said that more teens are reporting stress and depression than in the 1930s. Most of the explanations were about how we look outside for happiness, but I think that this fantasy/sci-fi angle (and fantasy has been huge this past decade) has encouraged people to look even further outside for happiness... into "happy worlds" that never even existed.

  2. Interesting article. I will admit that on occasion I use fantasy etc. as a form of escapism, and did at many points in my childhood wish such places as Narnia and Wonderland were real... but of course, I was always in touch with reality enough to understand that stories are merely reflections of reality.

    Interesting stuff!