“It is jailers who are always on guard against escapism”

Steven Greydanus, “What we lose when ‘Stars Wars’ goes to the dark side”, National Catholic Register 28/12/16

When Star Wars goes to the dark side, a generation raised on Marvel bad boys may not realize just how they’ve been robbed. Cynics who find it easy to imagine Superman as a potential threat to the planet and hard to conceive of him as a role model — who are suspicious of the very concept of a role model — may cheer for a darker, less escapist Star Wars.

For my part, I’m firmly with J.R.R. Tolkien on the validity of escapism. As he wrote in On Fairy Stories:

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. … In what the misusers are fond of calling Real Life, Escape is evidently as a rule very practical, and may even be heroic. … 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?

It is jailers who are always on guard against escapism. Star Wars was once a notable escape hatch from the pervasive cynicism dominating so much of pop culture as well as the wider world. Under Disney management, the Force may be with us always, but will it still offer young viewers that “first step into a larger world”?

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