The following commercial inadvertently highlights some interesting moral and spiritual issues. It is an advertisement for some sort of virtual reality (VR) game and encourages us to “defy reality.” The protagonist is a young man engulfed in the VR world of Star Wars, where he valiantly slays dangerous enemies attacking from all directions. He is then jolted back to reality and confronted by an older man who chides him with “You used to be such a nice boy; now look at you!” The young man responds to the confrontation with reality by retreating back into his VR world.
In the largely adolescent culture that seems to have taken over, norms and limits are seen as undesirable and unreasonable. Those who summon us to reality are viewed merely as hopelessly out-of-touch scolds.
To be sure, games, movies, fantasy, and other diversions have their place, but there isa real word that must be accepted for what it is. Real life can be incredibly beautiful, but it also can be hard; we don’t have light sabers at hand to solve our problems. Indulging in too much fantasy can make us resentful of the real world and its legitimate demands.
Fantasy also reinforces the flawed notions of existentialism and solipsism, namely, that we can just make things up and declare our own meaning. Our culture is currently suffering from these ideas; the most extreme example is so-called “transgenderism,” in which individuals indulge the fantasy that they are something other than the males and females they are. Ideologues who promote this fantasy then demand that the rest of us go along with it, threatening punishment if we refuse. More widely, our culture is also marked by its inordinate focus on the individual at the expense of the common good. Virtual reality games are certainly not the sole cause of this, but they do help to reinforce it.
Finally, engaging in too much retreat into fantasy tends to make reality seem boring by comparison. Most video games are fast paced, requiring split-second decisions and rapid-fire responses. Many require violence in order to “win.” Too much of this can make ordinary human interactions seem dull and slow. A college student going from playing a VR game one moment to taking notes in a lecture hall the next must cross a wide gulf.
Much more could be said on this topic, but Friday posts are meant to offer brief insights taken from the current culture world. Ponder the following advertisement and ask yourself, “Is it really healthy to defy reality?”
2 Replies to “Defying Reality, as Seen in a Commercial”
Reality, …keep us in reality Lord….for us…. in the One Body…what greater reality can we have, I rejoice in our union and love, amen.
Senior, we agree.
» “(A)sk yourself, ‘Is it really healthy to defy reality?'”
It usually isn’t sane (healthy). But it also depends on the How and the Why (or Wherefore) it is done.
Stories from the fantasy (including the science-fiction) genre are very different among themselves. The mediums through which those stories are told (book, radio, film – motion picture –, video game) are also very different (they get people involved at different levels and in different ways). And then the motivations of the people who engage with the stories differ also.
That said, the narrative of the Star Wars series is very problematic from a Christian (which is the only fully true) perspective, because:
• there appear in it a science-fiction version of wizards who, both the bad (the sith) and the ‘good’ (the jedi) among them, obtain their mystical-magical powers through occult practices (to those who say, “But there appear wizards also in Middle-earth!”: Tolkien’s so-called ‘wizards’ aren’t mortal men who’ve dabbled in magic, but embodied angels who simply have those abilities as given);
• there appear sapient extraterrestrial beings in it (who often look like demons) (to those who ask, “Why is that so problematic?”: remember what we Christians believe about our Salvation through the sacrifice of the God-man – God and man – Christ Jesus);
• the character of Anakin Skywalker, who becomes Darth Vader (‘Dark Father’), is sort of an Inversed Christ: he is born of a virgin(?) mother who lives in a desert, conceived by ‘the Force’ – he doesn’t have a biological father – (sounds familiar?), and is expected to “bring balance to ‘the Force'”, but goes mad, turns against the jedi – killing many of them –, and becomes a sith and a dictator.
As for video games: there are many types of video games, but most of those of the ‘action/adventure’ and the ‘role-playing’ types – whether or not their stories or narratives are of the fantasy genre –, are nothing else but prefabricated daydreams of vainglory (among video-‘gamers’ they’re called ‘power fantasies’, fantasies of power).
(By the way, I would like to mention that the reason I use the pseudonym ‘Zorro’ is not to show my appreciation of the Zorro stories – I’m not a ‘fan’ of them –, but that it’s meant in jest – it’s mostly self-irony.)
» “A college student going from playing a VR game one moment to taking notes in a lecture hall the next…”
Or to something even more uninteresting: to household chores.
» “…must cross a wide gulf.”
» “To be sure, games, movies, [novels,] fantasy, and other diversions have their place, but there is a real word [sic: a real Word! :-)] that must be accepted for what it is. Real life can be incredibly beautiful, but it also can be hard; . . . Indulging in too much fantasy can make us resentful of the real world and its legitimate demands.”
Yes. As I’ve already said at the beginning of this (perhaps too long) comment: it depends on the How and the Why (or Wherefore) the ‘escapism’ is done.
Unfortunately the socio-cultural part of the real world often also comes with lies and illegitimate demands. To paraphrase a philosopher: truth and reality are not always and necessarily the same. (Let’s not forget that we live in a world that is sin-fallen from grace.)
As J.R.R. Tolkien has said in a speech, which he has also written down and published (and is often misunderstood and misquoted):
“I have claimed that Escape is one of the main functions of fairy-stories, and since I do not disapprove of them, it is plain that I do not accept the tone of scorn or pity with which ‘Escape’ is now so often used: a tone for which the uses of the word outside literary criticism give no warrant at all. In what the misusers are fond of calling ‘Real Life’, Escape is evidently as a rule very practical, and may even be heroic. In ‘real life’ it is difficult to blame it, unless it fails; in criticism it would seem to be [considered] the worse the better it succeeds. Evidently we are faced by a misuse of words, and also by a confusion of thought. Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls? The world outside has not become less real because the prisoner cannot see it. In using ‘escape’ in this way the critics have chosen the wrong word, and, what is more, they are confusing, not always by sincere error, the Escape of the Prisoner with the Flight of the Deserter.” (On Fairy-Stories, 1939, 1947)
Comments are closed.