Escapism: An unhealthy addiction or harmless entertainment?

May 17, 2006 on 6:57 pm | In Anime, *Discussion | 707 Comments

At the risk of duplicating responses and posts, I bring you my own desultory ramble on media addiction. Not otakuism, but anime-watching and escapism in general, as causes of a possible social problem. This isn’t exactly a response to Jeff’s response to Shingo’s response to self-proclaimed otaku Sakamoto, but more of a post that sprang out of a would-be comment over at Jeff’s place. But the comment got a little out of hand and developed a little too broadly, and well. You know how that goes.

  • “Is ESCAPISM such a bad thing?”

Escapism could be defined as “an ‘escape’ from the perceived unpleasant aspects of daily reality” (Wikipedia). Some forms of escapism have existed since humanity was advanced enough to require them, and continue to develop as technology advances. A large boom for the media in the U.S., especially Hollywood, came during the Great Depression. Movie admission became affordable and the weight of the sagging economy on everyone’s shoulders would be partially numbed by the succession of images flicking across a screen. People could not afford to drive a car and buy good food, but, by God, they got out there to see those pictures. It was one of the first times electronic media other than the radio actually played a solid psychological role in peoples’ lives. From the creation of cinema, we have progressed to include all forms of electronic entertainment available today, and a lot are interactive. A dynamic method of escapism. One that could even replace real life…?

I don’t think “escaping from reality” is necessarily harmful unless the means of escape is unhealthy, illegal, or abused. I work very hard every day at school, work, for the city (I’m on two commissions), and in relationships. My mind also tends to be buzzing constantly with things to do. I don’t think there is anything harmful about me “taking leave” after a 12 hour school/work day to watch one or two episodes of anime, even if I blog about it.

But some otaku, American or Japanese, really take escapism to the extreme. I agree with this point. Reality melts away, and a social problem DOES arise. Whether desiring persecution or not, people spend less and less time living, and more time playing, watching, sitting. Alone. Many males would rather immerse themselves in an anime series with idealized female characters and [harem] situations than actually step foot out the door and meet with a real girl. It has gotten to the point in Japan that grown men purchase life-sized dolls instead of attempting ritual human courting—dating a live girl! But it isn’t just anime. People won’t leave the house on certain days at certain times because they might miss their favorite show on TV. Many MMORPG addicts forget to eat while the are at their computer, level-grinding away.

Sure, a problem exists. But it is a social issue that extends to all forms of electronic media and entertainment. Are there antisocial movie enthusiasts? Cult TV followers? Video game addicts? Yes, yes, and yes. Modern entertainment enables an extremely accessible variety of escapism every day. So one could argue that it poses a significant problem. However, anime, moeism, and otakuism are just a tiny speck in the entire spectrum. I think the problem IS excessive “tuning out,” but it doesn’t matter what you’re using to tune out with.

  • So, is delving into anime really that harmful?

To preface, I love to blog anime. I love to talk about anime and I love to watch anime. But analyzing anime (which is what I try to do in my posts) is as pointless as watching anime. Which is already very lacking in purpose. I realize this, so I do think of anime as an escape from reality, as would be WoW or any other video games people become immersed in. It isn’t real life, and it will in no way “advance” your career (unless your career is anime), enrich your life, or any of that good stuff. I strongly believe that PEOPLE matter more than any pop culture, money, or material items. And anime, while it may connect you on a superficial level with someone, will not fulfill you socially. It is a very trivial consumerist enthusiasm , as with the millions of others, that humans have devised to amuse themselves. In the big picture and “web of life,” it means nothing. When it comes to the very end, and you die, every minute you spent watching anime or playing a game could have been spent doing something else. Spent with a loved one, or traveling, experiencing new things, working out those relationships. Not spent with a monitor, TV screen.

That sounds deep liek woah. Am I overthinking things?

Basically, it all comes down to this: Everything in moderation, folks. Spend only as much time watching anime as you do with the people you love or your innate passions. Unlike other addictions, at least anime won’t give you cancer. Yet.

(Wait, when did this become a moral piece?!)

Any thoughts? Or corrections, since I’m not a media expert like some people.

[EDIT:] To clarify some things, as my original post did not do that well:

My main message is not that you need a love-life or friends to be happy. I know many otaku and non-otaku alike who are very unhappy. Ultimately, happiness is a state of mind you achieve on your own through your own actions and decision TO be happy. There is no perfect formula. I realize this. I wasn’t suggesting that you need any of the things I described. I just believe, personally, that a life consisting of only one or too much of ONE thing, (be it anime, video games, or anything else) is unhealthy.

The point of this post is actually to suggest that people should think carefully about how they spend their time, as it is the most limited resource in their lives. Moderation does not mean deprivation. I am not suggesting to anyone that they ration their anime-watching time. I just think people should spend their time wisely. That way, when you are about to die, you won’t wish you spent more or less time watching anime. Or doing anything else.

Are you buying pirated DVDs?

January 19, 2006 on 11:13 am | In Anime | 477 Comments

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