It’s okay to escape every now and then


(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

The Weeknd performs during the halftime show of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Josie Schuman, Managing Editor

A neon Sin City-scape, shiny black Cadallic, masked choir, underground maze and bandaged-faced backup dancers. Despite COVID-19 restrictions, the Weeknd did not disappoint, delivering a spectacular performance at the Super Bowl halftime show on Sunday. Finishing up the last bits of buffalo chicken dip, my friends and I jammed out to beloved Weeknd bops and enjoyed the eerie yet entertaining show. 

After the game (remember the game?), we fell down the rabbit hole of halftime show performances, reliving Lady Gaga’s plummet from the top of NRG stadium, left shark’s nonsensical freestyle moves and the unlikely Coldplay/Bruno Mars/Beyonce collaboration. 

Why were we all so enamored by 14-minute halftime show extravaganzas? What exactly is so alluring about the glitz and glam of the entertainment industry, from music to movies to TV to books? 

I would argue it’s the ability to escape — even if it’s just for 14 minutes. 

In college, we are trained to be intellectuals, to always ask questions, to scrutinize the world with a critical eye. Don’t get me wrong, I support this mindset. (I am studying to be a teacher after all). But it can be exhausting. What happens when it becomes too much? God knows it does. 

Breaking news: life is hard. 

And that’s coming from someone who has an exponentially easier life than so many people. We deal with constant societal pressure to be the most successful, smartest, richest, prettiest, most well-rounded person in the room all within the context of a global pandemic and impending doom of the climate crisis. We deal with family drama, romantic relationships and existential crises. We deal with the constant stream of bad news. Who wouldn’t want to escape from reality? 

“I’m for elevating fantasy to a higher, more respected status. We humans face way too much reality, more than a body can stand. We need escapism,” said social science researcher Jeremy Sherman in Psychology Today. “Hobbies, pastimes, daydreams and fantasies are how we discharge the tensions that accumulate in our anxious, exposed human lives.”

In today’s world, and in America specifically, productivity reigns supreme. If we don’t use every minute of our time wisely, we are deemed lazy by more “competent” individuals. But this lifestyle is not sustainable. It’s not even realistic. We’re humans, not robots. 

We need to give ourselves a break. We need to indulge. We need to escape. 

I do recognize that escapism is a double-edged sword, as reflected in the American Psychological Association definition: “Escapism may reflect a periodic, normal and common impulse, as might be seen in harmless daydreams, or it may be evidence of or accompany symptoms of neurosis or more serious mental pathology.” It can also mean extreme devotion to a fantasy or pastime, suggesting that once people wander into the deep end for a short break, they are stuck there indefinitely. 

No doubt people can take escapism too seriously, blurring the lines between fantasy and reality or resorting to alcohol or drugs to escape the harsh realities of life. But at the end of the day, we have to face our problems head-on. 

Like everything in life, escapism can be beneficial in moderation. It can bring joy, laughter and levity. It can allow us to tap into our creativity and dream big. 

Reality isn’t going anywhere, so whether it’s glamorous halftime show reels, trashy romance novels or cheesy sit-coms, give yourself permission to escape from the crazy world in which we live — at least for a little while.