For a long time in history, movies have been used as a method of escapism. In the 1920’s (aka the era of flappers and jazz music) “talkies” were an obvious form of escapism. Hence, as one world war ended, another one was beginning and some people were too glued to the screen to notice.

1920s movie theatre (source)
1920s movie theatre (source)

Sometimes I wonder if a similar phenomenon, if you can call it that, is happening now. I was at a movie theatre a few weeks ago and I noticed that the sign outside the theatre said: “Your escape starts at 7:25.” The word ‘escape’ obviously referred to people using the movies to escape from their lives.

It is great that art can provide an escape for people. Songs, movies, TV shows, and poems (just to name a few) can help people get through difficult times, by describing their situation in lyrics or offering inspiration. With this being said, though, I don’t think this kind of escapism actually resolves a person’s problems.

Increasingly, we are seeing movies that mimic real-life situations and issues. Still though, there is a huge difference between a movie about an issue, and the real issue. We’re escaping into art that mimics life, but the reality is that watching a documentary about environment collapsing isn’t the same as doing something about it (though documentaries do often inspire people to do something about it!).

I think that part of the reason more people don’t do something about issues such as the environment isn’t because they are incapable (because in reality, we are all capable of making a change), or unmotivated. I think it is because we expect someone else to do it.

We see it all the time in movies; a hero comes in and saves the day. Although this hero has often overcome adversity (allowing us to relate to the character), they have often been “made the hero” because of another factor – for example, a prophecy, magic, or super powers from an alien planet.

We expect Superman to save the day. (source)
We expect Superman to save the day. (image source)

We are so familiar with heroes saving the world in movies that we expect them to do the same for the offscreen world. This is a huge part of the problem, because a man in a cape isn’t going to swoop down from the sky and make the world a better place. When we escape into movies, we can deceive ourselves into thinking this is the case.

If we must use movies to escape, then we should look at them with a critical eye. There are huge parallels between movies and real life. If we can look at how a certain problem is solved in a movie it might give us ideas about solving it in real life.

However, typically the solution to the problem in a movie is a hero. So what do you do when Superman doesn’t save the day?

Be your own hero. Step up, and save the day in whatever way possible. I believe if we all did this, the world would mirror the movies in that maybe we would have a happy ending.