Art as a Form of Escape

The classic problem of people hiding from their lives and retreating to art has fundamentally changed within the last few years. The typical portrayal was some slightly disillusioned child preferring to read their stories or paint a picture than go to class. This concept is littered throughout popular literature and film, but hardly ever captures the real situation that we are facing. I don’t think any reasonable person would object to a child that wants to spend the majority of their time reading or painting, mostly because we think of this as classical art. The major art forms we see today are radically different and therefore require a different analysis.

To any common observer there are two depictions of modern art. There is the contemporary abstract form of art that we all love making jokes about, where there is always some deep meaning to jumbled up colors and tin sculptures that nobody understands, and there is the online culture of art production. The latter is the more baffling, because it is a phenomenon that is almost entirely unique to online culture but has been seeping into the public frame lately. 

Having you ever been walking around in public and noticed someone with a tail? Not a biological tail, but a little furry tail clipped to the back of the pants. Or perhaps people wearing a headband with ears on the top? From what I have observed this is most popular in cities and college campuses. The reason why is because this stems from online culture, and is therefore most popular with the younger generations. What it really is the trend of online artists personifying animals as people. Any quick look to DeviantArt, Tumblr, or even Facebook if you follow enough teenagers, will reveal the weirdly creepy amount of wolves mixed with humans. I don’t know why it’s always wolves, but that’s the majority of what I see.

Once you fully dive into internet culture the result is unsettling. People write fan fiction for T.V. shows and create fan art as if the characters are real and can talk to them. For instance I knew a girl at the beginning of high school that would write love letters to Harry Potter. This is not normal behavior. The only other example I can give is the boy I knew that thought he was a werewolf. I first heard about it in middle school, but like most things in middle school I didn’t really care about it. But I remember the point in high school when I learned that he still thought he was a werewolf, causing him to stay in on nights with full moons and drawing himself as a wolf for other people to see.

This type of behavior is more widespread than one might think. Now, there are two main factors that perpetuate this escapism. The first being the people that create this art, and the second being the companies that promote this art. The people that create this art are obviously the same victims of it, for which I don’t blame them. I’d rather imagine myself as a werewolf than the broke college kid I really am. I don’t have a doubt that the creators are using it as a form of escape, but that form of escape has distorted their reality. This allows the second group, the companies, to exploit that distortion. They can do this by selling the tails people wear around, the ears they wear on their head and the shirts of animal morphed beings they like.

The type of distortion that this form of art promotes can be highly damaging. Another unsettling way it can manifest itself is with furries, which for anyone that doesn’t know is when people fully dress themselves in costumes of an animal. It’s almost a Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde situation, in that people see themselves as two different beings. There’s been a slew of documentaries on the subject but for some reason I find them hard to watch.

People may want to argue that these weird fantasy drawings aren’t art, but are instead some degenerate pornography that costumes itself as art. At first I was inclined to think so as well, but I realized I only thought that way because of my own feelings toward the subject. I would love to stick with the traditional idea of art, but that would be to misunderstand what art is. What we see today is perverted and unsettling but it is still art, it may not be good art but art nonetheless.

What is to be done with people that retreat into this odd form of escapism? Well the answer would be to say that it is merely a phase, which could be the case. But regardless even if that particular form of escape is a phase it doesn’t stop the same person into retreating into different forms of escape. Even so, the aftermath of an obsession like that could seriously distort that person’s reality from that point on, which means it’s crucial to combat it as early as possible. The only answer I could give is to see what they are escaping from. The girl I knew that would write letters to Harry Potter thought that she was awkward (even if she wasn’t) and for that reason couldn’t find anyone to be with. I suppose anyone that is that entirely lonely would rather be in love with a character instead to realize their own loneliness.

34 thoughts on “Art as a Form of Escape

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  1. Awesome post about the shift in modern art. Dive deeply enough and you can find roots for behaviors that transcend time. How expression takes place may change and evolve, but what it’s expressing likely doesn’t. 200 years ago angsty poets scribbled down their darker and emotionally raw feelings on paper. Now the paper and pen are substituted, but the emotionally raw nature of expression hasn’t.

    Thanks for the great read.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I find this especially interesting because my daughter’s step-daughter got in with some people (older than her, she was 14 at the time) who were sort of recruiting her for this. She began to believe she was part wolf.

    My daughter put a stop to her meeting these older kids. She also believes her gender is “fluid”. I think she learned this in sex education at school, but I could be wrong. To put it mildly, she is confused. She thinks she is bi-sexual now. I guess we will wait and see. I do think the animal thing is dangerous. We may not like reality, but we need to stay firmly ground in it.


    1. Hi BelleUnruh,
      I’m a professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and I just wanted to comment that biology, psychology, and even sociology show that we all have fluid sexual orientations, genders, and sexes. This research has been well established for well over a half-century but is just beginning to fully enter public discourses. Without knowing anything about the situation beyond what you say, I can safely say that your daughter is not “confused.” To many Queer children face depression because they are simply told “you’re confused” instead of having an accepting, understanding ear.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. It is actually my daughter’s step daughter who seems confused. I probably wasn’t clear on that. No one has told her we think she is confused. We accept whatever she tells us about herself. We love her very much. I just sometimes wonder if hearing from a teacher or someone else that we are “fluid” in sexuality we would become confused. When I was a teen, I was crazy about boys. I had heard of lesbians but never felt attracted to other girls that way. Well, whatever it all is, I’m glad society is becoming accepting of gay and every other kind of people. As long as a person doesn’t harm anyone else and sex is consensual – I feel we should mind our own business.

        My two daughters are bi-sexual, but I don’t remember them being confused about that. Of course, they may not have told me about their confusion. I’ll have to ask them.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. Thanks for elaborating. 🙂

          Experience and research shows that generally young people find it liberating when they hear that sexuality, gender, sex, etc are fluid. Generally, they have already heard these ideas some. Too, given the nature of biology and hormones, young people across-the-board generally experience some kind of “confusion” because society teach them everyone is either male or female and that if you are male you are only to be attracted to females, etc, when virtually everyone does not have such a binary-based experience. There is an interesting TedTalk called “Everyone is Trans” that address some of this.

          Have a good evening 🙂

          Liked by 5 people

    2. The real victims in a lot of this are people with genuine medical conditions. They’be took the condition of transsexuality, a heart breaking birth defect that kills people (via suicide), they’ve ran with the whole transition concept and took it further in gender studies. The real victims, will be further geneations of transsexuals who will be fighting a battle with people that started to take their condition seriously, no longer taking their condition seriously, furthering suicide statistics. Mark my words, we are going to terrible a place for these people (I’ve some personal experience with someone in my own life) it’s coming, and the very people who claim to want to help these people will be their undoing. What I’m seeing completely tears me apart. I know i’be taken this into a more dramatic turn. But I seriously feel a need to get these warnings out there. History repeats itself. The human condition it seems is a vicious cycle. We’re leading ourselves backwards.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. there some weirs times rolling for the generation brought up living and breathing online social media and as you say for some it may produce warped personalities which could lead to problems in the real world.depends how they relate to it. I was trying to touch on this lightly in a sci fi story, this idea of technology as a distraction. as the world becomes more violence do we build technology to shield ourselves from our actions or is the technology make us less compassionate ? interest points.


  4. Hey Jordan,
    Hang in there! What society calls art, and how people participate in art is always changing.

    The conditions of modernism/postmodernism and modernity/postmodernity make seeking various forms of escapism more and more necessary and date back over one hundred years. Everyday life and the stress of money, time, speed, etc don’t allow for people to just be. People express their stress, depression, and need for escapism is “odd” ways at times.

    Keep blogging! You’re great at it

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think there’s definitely a place for healthy escapism. Good books, movies, and creative pursuits can help people cope with daily challenges and process them in different ways (and it’s a good thing, too, or else we writers would be out of a job!). The trick is making sure we’re still grounded in reality. It’s perfectly fine to spend an afternoon at Hogwarts or in Middle-earth, as long as you’re able to separate yourself when you’re done. Moderate escapism should be treated as a break from the pressures of reality, not a permanent escape from reality itself.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Interesting post. Of course the assumption is that our point of view is the normal one and that they are abnormal, but from their point of the view we are the abnormal ones. They are just conforming to their own culture. Is it essentially harmful?
    When I was a kid I was in a club where we identified as wolves, were part of a ‘pack’ that was run by an adult that had a wolf name. It was called the ‘Cubs’. Was it normal? Yes, in that loads of kids did it and it had been around for about 100 years, but if you look at it objectively it’s a bit weird.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. This is very true. I read book or listen to music to escape reality (which can be real bitch). However, when I write it has the opposite effect. It’s like I’m grabbing a fist full of my issues and forcing myself to deal with them; only in a more indirect way.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks for this post! It gave me material to ponder on…

    “Art is, like magic, the science of manipulating symbols, words or images, to achieve changes in conciousness.” — Alan Moore

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Very interesting indeed… I know of women who are ‘femme enfant’woman child ‘ …emotionally they don’t grow up. They are mostly infatuated with an idol . They are not lonely,l presume. They are different 🙂


  10. The tails and ears actually come from Japan. It is very popular among Anime and Manga’s. I would take the two examples you gave as two individuals who have mental health issues. ALL children used to pretend be some sort of animal or the like. As they get older, what they pretend to be usually changes, up into adults which I believe we would categorize as role play or usually only participating during certain times or within certain groups. Example; I love cats. When I was a child (like 7-ish) I used to pretend to be a Cheetah. The back of my couch was the limb of a tree, etc. Lol. When I grew somewhat older I pretended to be a vampire! Rawr. And now that I’m into adult hood I do love to role play at comicon conventions and other such places and within certain groups of friends, and also, obviously, for sexual things. The problem ONLY arises when the individual cannot tell discerne the make believe from the reality. But that also goes back to them having a form of mental illness that is/was hard to distinguish or see or sometimes it’s very obvious. I was never harmful to anyone when I was child role playing as a cheetah or a vampire and if someone spotted me doing it I got a red face with embarrassment. I believe those who are not able to tell the difference from reality to make believe have the potential to harm others or themselves. But that absolutely does not mean that they would be harmful or violent either, they may also be passive just as you or I. Anyways interesting POV, liking your blog!


  11. Well written mate. Art also can be seen as an escape from corporate culture. Modern cities are infested with the annoying updates about the newest technology, shabby fast food, and lowest common denominator thought. I see art as vitality in this crazy world where progress can be elusive or poorly defined. Art is breaking the mold of what you are. You can allow others to define you or you can “escape” and define yourself bringing your talents in all their beauty to the masses


  12. Extremely interesting blog and comments. I very much feel that with there being so many bad things happening in the modern world that the younger generation have to escape. They are bombarded constantly with images of all genres from an extremely early age and children are no longer children for the full 15 or 16 years of yesteryear; they have to have some way of expressing their inner child. I’m happy that fluidity and all the ‘isms’ are more acceptable to many people these days as it is better to live authentically and not live by or to others’ expectations or preconceptions. I’m also of the view that self-expression is not a ‘new’ thing, but just different to all previous generations and not so instant or obvious.


  13. Very good article. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the people who walk around with cat ears and bunny tails. I love that app on the mobile that lets you do that to photographs but I never thought anyone would take it further. Perhaps because I live in Europe I have never seen such people doing that. Reference art, all I can say as a trained artist and graduate from university is that art is an attribute, unique and inexorably human. Art requires training, knowledge of technique and most of all, talent. The great United States Jazz pianist, Duke Ellington was asked what are the genders of music are there and he replied that there are only two types, good and bad. It’s the same with all the art forms. All are free to call what they do art but not all of what they do is art. Thank you.


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