I believe fantasy is important to most everybody on some level. We live in a brutal unforgiving world, full of harsh realities. It’s also full of many wonderful and beautiful things, but its human nature to always dream of something better. We look at the world we live in and say to ourselves, even if it’s on a subconscious level, there has to be something greater than this. So we fantasize and seek media that fulfills those fantasies. All media is fantasy on some level. Whether we enjoy full-blown high fantasy with magic and elves, or just the fantasy of a romantic comedy, where against all odds two people fall in love and over come all and live happily ever after with no problems. It’s all fantasy. Maybe our fantasy is one tough cop who doesn’t play by the rules and does what ever it takes, and kills droves of henchmen to bring down the bad guy. Maybe our fantasy is of an epic house party where every teenager in the state is getting drunk and having sex with no adults and no negative consequences. What ever our fantasies are, they are just that. Fantasies. We always have to come back to reality.
I think living our fantasies through media is important. It becomes an outlet for us. It’s a source of relief, a way for us to relieve stress and show emotions we might not elsewhere. It can also inspire us to be better people, build healthy relationships, and overcome adversity. I believe the fantasies we live out through media can influence who we become as people. Growing up I was influenced greatly by the media I was exposed to. I could site many examples of books that changed my life and still influence my thinking today; movies that inspired me to be greater than what I am; cartoons that changed the way I see the world. However, I feel I should mention two sitcoms that basically raised me along side my parents. When I was in elementary school ABC had this event called TGIF, Thank God It’s Friday. From eight to ten they would show four sitcoms that were the best they had. I would make sure I was home on Fridays to watch “Full House” and “Family Matters.” These two shows greatly influenced my thinking, my values, my worldview, and even my actions and talk. I grew up with the kids on those shows. What they thought was cool I thought was cool. When they were sad I was sad. When there was a “Full House Moment” at the end of the show, I learned the lesson right along beside DJ, Stephanie, and Michelle. When Karl and Steve had a heart to heart I did too. I think these two shows meant so much to me because they represented the fantasy of what a family was supposed to be. I still watch these shows with my kids on TV Land.
These shows represent the positive effect of media, but there is a negative effect. I believe that we can consume so much media that the fantasy of it leaks into the reality of our lives. As a teenager I would imitate the behavior of teenagers I saw on TV when interacting with girls. As a result I had an unhealthy view of women. I would treat my girlfriends the way I saw on TV. I would create drama because I was imitating television. I was grown and married before I realized what a real relationship was. I think media definitely has a part in raising our nation’s youth. I see it in my students all the time. They try to live out the drama and actions of characters they see on TV, in movies, cartoons, YouTube, etc.
As creators of media that has potential to be seen by millions we have a moral obligation to do more than just entertain. We must educate, elevate, and illuminate. Through the actions of our characters and situations of our stories we can educate an audience on anything we want. There is no limit to what we can teach through our media. We can elevate the world to a better place through the messages and themes we place in our stories. We can illuminate the needs, the concerns, the problems of any one person or organization, or system, or government, or planet through the stories we chose to tell. Its good to entertain, but we can do so much more.
Where does violence fit in all of this? How do we approach it? When do we use it? How do we use it? All these questions are important and need to be answered when we write. However, I think a more important question would be “Is violence important?” or “Is violence necessary?” I was in eleventh grade when the Columbine shootings happened. It was the first major school shooting that got nationwide coverage. There was a huge uproar about gun violence, and violence in the media. Just like there was recently about the shooting at the Dark Knight Rises premiere, and the shooting in Connecticut. You know what, nothing changed. Violence increased. Why? I have no answer for this question. I believe that violence is so much a part of our human society that we just assimilate what ever comes our way and move on. When I write I don’t think about the amount of violence or if I should dial it back. I just write. I’m not influenced by the tragedies that have happened. I pray for the families and people affected by them, and I pray that they don’t happen to mine. But, as crass as it may sound I accept it as the world we live in and I do my small part to change it for the better. I change the world through my writing, one reader or one viewer at a time. I try to show a better world than the one in which we live. Perhaps I’m reaching one of my eight loyal readers right now.
Maybe we can make a difference. We have a good chance. Our society is head over heals in love with the media. Many spend most of their waking lives plugged into some kind of media. I don’t see this changing. So as writers if we want a better world we have the opportunity to write one for the masses. To influence our world to change for the better.