The HARRY POTTER movies have earned more than $6 billion. That exceeds the entire annual GDPs of more than 50 countries. Something to give us pause. A triumph of imaginative art or mostly an example of desperate escape?
The World Health Organization’s research may help address the question. Their counter-intuitive conclusion is that residents of rich countries are more likely to be depressed than those in poorer. For example France and the US were the most depressed (21% and 19% respectively). Mexico and China the least (8% and 6%). The study concludes, “Depression is strongly linked to social conditions, aside from any cultural differences.”
With women twice as likely to be depressed as men, could this help explain the popularity of HARRY POTTER among women in rich countries…? Children love escape too, but for different reasons than adults. Perhaps our richer, rowdier cultures exact an emotional price that makes escapism necessary as well as simply ancillary.
When we look closer, these profiles-in-escape among today’s richest democracies include politics as well as movies and television. To really fulfill the role of citizenship calls for a lot of work — reading, researching, weighing all sides of the scale. How much simpler to just escape into one of a dozen different fantasies — handy headlines, simple soundbites, one-note blogger rage, and the ever-popular 24/7 babble from the cable punditry.
Pick any channel, choose any newspaper, check any blog and there it is…! Escape into easy-to-love-and-hate casts of characters. Volderot, Dumbledore, Longbottor, Sarkozy, Cameron, Putin, Obama. Oh, those last four? Right, they’re not fictional characters, they’re actual flesh-and-blood leaders of rich-and-complicated nations. Well, no matter, we master escapists find it jolly-well easy to see them in the same simple black and white, good and bad, brilliant and stupid that we do in our escapist lands like HARRY POTTER.
To again be counter-intuitive, would it be too much for us to distinguish our mind-numbing fantasies from the hard-headed facts? To stop pretending that even our dis-informed bitching is democracy in action? I mean, just long enough to do our homework, thereby realizing that sometimes the problems our leaders seem unable to master have something to do with the size of the problems at least as much as the limitations of the leaders?
Put it a different way. What might the Monday Morning Quarterbacks have to say after actually playing quarterback for a few downs? If nothing else, at least there might be more a restrained respect for the guys out there taking the hits for us. Whattaya say team…???
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