“We all need an escape route
From the punches and kicks
The fingernails and the pricks
All the sharp little knives
In the dark pockets of life
From the bitches and bruises
From the burden of youth
The public hangings and stonings
Save us from fellow humans
Just give us an escape route”
– Frightened Rabbit, Escape Route
I’ve mentioned in a lot of earlier posts my recent decent into a perpetual state of television and movie bingeing. I’d even hazard to call it an addiction, on the premise of Dictionary.com’s definition, which is “”
I have wrestled -continue to wrestle- with an “actual addiction”, so that’s gotta give me at least some authority on the matter, right? I mean, okay, that being said this television thing is definitely not as bad as other addictions, and I don’t want to trivialize anyone else’s struggles by implying it’s anywhere near as… well anywhere near as anything to what actual addictions are. And obviously the definition isn’t exactly accurate; for one thing we can definitely leave out the “severe trauma” part, but it’s definitely psychologically habit-forming. And there is a negative aspect to its cessation, although again admittedly not one which necessarily derives from the habit itself.
I don’t want to get all tied up in technicalities for the whole post though, so we’ll get on with it. I watch television to escape my reality. It’s a lot less risky than drugs or alcohol, and (in my case at least) a helluva lot more effective and fun. Okay, again, I don’t want to offend anyone who’s also suffered from a real addiction, so I apologize now if the cynical, sarcastic asshole says something he shouldn’t.
If you haven’t figured as much out by now, my life sucks. It really does. Putting aside all notions of comparing lives and tragedies, and the grey area surrounding my complaining about life when I’m a white male living in a first-world country (which is something I struggle with a lot but which we can save for a later post), I have it tough. I’ve never been one to complain about my problems (although exploring their origins and potential meanings is another matter) but we have to get that straight before we move on.
The concept of art being an escape from everyday life is probably not foreign for most of you. The whole concept of art is the captivation of its audience, of breaking through walls and crossing over time and space to take you somewhere new. Art, good art, transports you to another world. It snatches you up from your mundane existence and whisks you along in a whirlwind of fantastical adventure. Whatever the medium, be it music or movies, paintings or pictures, text or the rest, art provides us with an escape from this life.
But what happens when you need to escape more than normal? What happens when your life gets so bad that the temporary escape is no longer good enough? What happens when your life sucks so much that you want to get away from it completely, to leave it all behind forever and never look back?
Every time the curtain closes and that screen fades to black, the darkness sweeps in again. I’m violently wrenched back into reality, and all my problems come rushing back in with a vengeance. I’m left feeling empty again, like an addict coming down from a high. Exactly like an addict coming down from a high. Because that’s what it is. That’s what it’s become. My escape is fantasy; in fiction I find freedom. I press play and that beautiful array of pixels takes me away from this mundane existence and suddenly I’m gone, and the things that keep me up at night and haunt my mind during the day are all forgotten. Suddenly I’m seeing through someone else’s eyes, living someone else’s life.
Their problems, problems which you’d think would put things into perspective for me, instead seem minor, desirable even in comparison with my own. I want to face a zombie apocalypse. I want to fight for my life in a world with mad kings and power-hungry assholes. I hate this life so much that I’d be willing to trade it for post-Armageddon.
And thanks to television, for everything between eleven minutes to two hours every day, I can. And when those minutes are up, I can simply move on to the next episode, the next season, the next show, the next movie. At least until I’m forced to come back to the real world, and I’m left feeling more hollow and empty inside than ever, just going through the motions of living until I can get back to my escape. My life is a state of freefall, of waiting for the inevitable moment of fatal impact knowing there is nothing I can do to stop it. The only relief comes when I turn to fiction to forget that I’m falling, to pretend I’m somewhere else. The screen comes to life and my eyes light up, and I’m free.