The Power of FantasyMay 22, 2014
Fantasy as a valuable headspace
Wish fulfillment. A space where either there’s no problems, the problems are background elements that never really cause problems, or they’re solvable problems with an ending. A space where you can be valued as a person, even if it’s in an unrealistic worshipped fashion.
Roleplaying games are a playground of this space. But it’s always interesting to see what/how these spaces are constructed and for whom.
It’s a very different power fantasy for the person who has none vs. the person who has a lot.
As I always point out, while personal power fantasies can be extremely problematic, they’re ultimately small beans on the plate of “affecting the world”. What I look at more deeply is media, mass publishers and overall gamer culture – that’s where it becomes a wider issue.
How much does it align with existing power narratives?
When someone makes a fictional world in which the “savage natives” are the big threat, and claim “well, in THIS fantasy world, it’s true!”, the question comes up about why real world genocidal narratives would be a fun thing to imagine as true, and what sort of wish fulfillment you’re getting from it. Or, just as poorly, if it’s a bizarro world straw-man idea as a reverse persecution complex (RPG relevant example…).
Ultimately we see both of these cases are examples where either someone wants to create a power fantasy of having that power/status and more importantly perceived moral approval to do such things, OR, is projecting an idea of how heroic and righteous they are to hold these beliefs in a world determined to crush them.
Nevermind, you know, the actual real stuff going on in the real world, to the very people they’re often projecting upon is usually worse than anything they’re imagining…
Which is basically why roleplaying is an amazing space for the marginalized to create space where they can be valued and/or have power to address problems on their own terms. We’ve seen this happen over and over whenever any form of media is opened for people’s use, and just as much, we’ve also seen how this regularly leads to backlash… leading to the next point:
Who do you actively exclude or shut out from participating in having power AS a fantasy?
What’s particularly interesting in this reaction is that it is about as open as it gets to the heart of the problem:
“Hey, can we be awesome heroes too?”
“No! HOW DARE YOU! WE’RE THE ONLY ONES THAT MATTER! If you get to be human we can’t have fun!”
This ranges from the usual spaces of erasure, like having racist colonial fantasies of an America without the hundreds of indigenous nations, so that one can have a guilt-free colonization (RPG relevant example), to the overt backlash like horrid Dickwolves shirts sold to silence folks, or, thousands of men organizing together to harass a woman for talking about videogames.
What you say tells me what you think
What makes this kind of erasure and reaction more telling is that it is primarily backlash to the idea of (POC, women, LGBT) folks even existing, being shown, or asking to have media that includes them in any way. In other words – to have anything that ISN’T focused on straight white able bodied, cismen (or, stereotypical characters in roles specifically to serve as supports to highlighting and centering said whitedudebros)…. is an offense.
Of course, the underlying thinking is not new. It’s the same folks who claim anytime the only reason to have anything OTHER than a whitedudeness is clearly a matter of “political correctness”, “meeting quotas”, etc. …what they don’t say, but clearly is the only way that makes sense, is if straight white men are naturally superior to everyone else and the only reason to include anyone else is a matter of a pity offering…
And that says so much more, right there about the kind of thinking involved.
Ultimately, there’s a massive divide between people whose wish fulfillment is being valued as a human being, vs. people who are unable to even imagine you as such.
The commitment towards stopping people from having that space, of being valued, even in imagination?
Some people are trapped in the reality of forcing their delusions upon everyone else.
It’s no wonder folks look for escapism from that.
ETA: looks like a lot of folks are thinking along similar lines right now-