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.