During any time brimming with great pressures, the most natural form of distraction is generally outright escapism. And while this can manifest in many ways, entertainment plays a much larger role today. This is largely due to both the escalating abundance and ease of access, caused by heated competition. However, even escapism can present its own challenges.
Artists across music and film often use the medium to express themselves and earn audience investment. Consequently, entertainment has frequently discussed dire, personal and current issues. Sadly, there are many such opportunities, as of late. They have sprung forth from this oppressive pandemic, injustice and more. Further, outside of current events, there are still more universal conflicts. For example, character deaths and illness are frequently mentioned in movies, occasionally in unexpected places like comedies or family films.
Now, some may feel a heightened sensitivity these days, due to private obstacles that were caused by current events. It would be completely understandable to reject stories that could make you personally bristle at certain subjects. Per my “Coping Through Comedy” article, I reiterate that we can approach diversion in various ways. We can indulge the direct confrontation of our challenges, or refuse these matters altogether. Pure escapism is no different. So, we must each decide for ourselves, to engage or omit.
For instance, the entirety of the disaster genre is predicated on cheesy thrills via mass destruction. While these films can certainly be fun, with ensemble casts and dazzling effects, the majority involve sacrifice and suffering through the mayhem. Casual viewers may not find that particularly entertaining in the context of today’s reality. Still, others might enjoy that the disaster genre is essentially making light of these things, which could undermine and remove its power. Either way, previously simple escapism should now be subject to more consideration.
Again, triggers may appear in strange places. Apocalyptic stories have always been fascinating, as dystopian thrillers often envision some familiar environment that has been twisted by crucial changes. Sometimes, they are indeed caused by outbreaks, as in any zombie film. But they can also discuss shattered politics and divided societies. There may be enough of that sentiment in reality to warrant something else on your watchlist.
Further, entertainment is often shared. Ultimately, I simply feel that we might want to consider being a little more mindful of our choices. And I believe that we can all approach distraction in search of a reasonable balance.
For some, breezy entertainment may ring a tad hollow at times, pandemic or not. However, there are plenty of films that equally offer both playful joy and meaningful content. Some blockbusters and classics can provide inspirational tales and discuss interesting themes without resorting to truly serious consequences for the heroes.
Back to the Future is an excellent example of a family-friendly adventure that still resonates with real stakes. The original film concerns a typical teenager who is accidentally sent back in time, and unknowingly jeopardizes his own existence. He must fix the series of changes he has made, like helping his parents fall in love, before he disappears altogether.
This movie perpetually serves as a time capsule of the eighties, preventing the story from dating poorly. So, while younger audiences might scoff at some of the music, the film’s universal themes remain potent.
The iconic protagonist Marty McFly is forced to confront his fear of rejection, which will free his artistic ambitions. This mainly regards self-confidence, as reflected when Marty meets his own father, who suffers from the same problem. In fact, their similarities allows Marty to form a stronger bond with his father, which is a nice sentiment. The story elaborates on self-confidence by discussing bullies, and how people can stand up for themselves. The film excellently illustrates just how much a simple change of attitude can dictate one’s life. Also, everyone desires the ability to revisit their past and fix its mistakes.
The movie also briefly, carefully touches on deeper issues. By traveling to the fifties, racism is mentioned in an accessible way. A brief exchange between a group of black musicians and the villainous, racist bullies is played for laughs. The musicians quickly scare off the brainless antagonists, in this fitting nod to reality.
Every theme in the film is fueled by comedy, which is bolstered by incredible performances. Michael J. Fox is an absolute treasure, delivering convincing and hilarious reactions to the absurdity of Marty’s situation. The appropriately ticking clock of the film maintains a constant sense of exciting urgency, and Alan Silvestri’s thrilling music is a perfect fit. All together, the recipe of this film is both mentally and emotionally nourishing, yet thoroughly entertaining. And its stakes are certainly high, without feeling upsetting or severe.
And there are many peers that achieve the same level of thematic harmony, even reaching into the eighties again. The Princess Bride gets away with even more testy subjects, like torture and revenge, thanks to its approach. It is a perfect parody of fairy tales, expertly playing with broad tropes and fantasy with boisterous and zany humor.
~ by: Anthony FertinoAnthony is a frequent contributor to both The Gamer and Screen Rant, and the author of two novels. His film analysis and suggestions are part of our regular column, “Making The Day,” here on This American Quarantine.