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Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?
J. R. R. Tolkien, "On Fairy-Stories" lecture, 1939

Escapism is basically a mental diversion or "escape" from the perceived unpleasant or banal aspects of daily life. Everything that makes us escape from Real Life can be considered a form of Escapism. This trope is Truth in Television; common forms of Escapism are Fiction, Video Games, Game Shows, drugs, alcohol, gambling, and TV Tropes.

This trope applies to fictional characters using escapism in order to escape from their problems and/or not having to face Real Life.

For an in-depth analysis of this trope, go to Analysis.Escapism. Compare to Anti-Escapism Aesop.



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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 

  • Sidekicks is about a sickly and bullied kid who copes by having vivid daydreams — bordering on hallucinations — about teaming up with Chuck Norris.
  • Basically the underlying premise behind Sucker Punch.
  • In Brave, Merida rides her horse, practices her archery and does anything she can to keep her mind off what she considers the boring lessons her mother is teaching her regarding etiquette and managing a kingdom. Things come to a head when time catches up with her and she has to actually deal with matters head-on.

  • Glory Road by Robert A. Heinlein is a Troperiffic parody/ Deconstruction/ Reconstruction/ celebration of escapist stories.
  • In Dragon Bones, the protagonist's mother became The Ophelia by drugging herself with herbal potions so often that her mind isn't clear even when she's sober. She did this to escape her bleak reality, with her abusive husband who would also beat and almost kill her children. It is said that now "She only hears what she wants to hear." Escapism is also used as literary device; instead of someone being tortured, the readers gets to see only dream sequences, which the protagonist is implied to be hallucinating while his brother is being tortured to make him talk.
  • In The Silence of the Lambs series it is said that, while in prison, Hannibal Lecter often lives in the memory palace he has built in his mind.
    "Memory, Agent Starling, is what I have instead of a view."
  • Rudyard Kipling's The Three-Decker is a celebration of the escapist three-volume novel.
  • In A Little Princess, Sara goes from being wealthy, well-respected, and popular to a scullery maid in a single day. She moves from the largest room in the school to the rat-infested attic. How does she deal? She pretends her doll is sentient and that she is a princess and must act accordingly. She continues to pretend and act as if she is a gentle and beautiful princess even as the antagonists treat her terribly.
  • Though Alice's sister accuses her of daydreaming and avoidance and refusing to grow up and 'be sensible', her entire journey through Wonderland and the Looking Glass worlds are a frank satirical examination of the absurdities of British culture, seen from the eyes of a girl expected to earn acceptance into a society she often finds too insane and incomprehensible to accept herself. This makes it an inversion, as Alice looks fully into aspects of British society that her teachers and mentors have blinded themselves to.
  • In Out of the Dust, Billie Jo plays the piano to escape her brutal, unforgiving life.
  • The main characters in Bridge to Terabithia create a fantasy world in order to escape their hardships at school.

    Live Action TV 
  • In Smallville, it's implied that Clark is just a crazy person that created a fantasy world in order to escape reality. Until that's revealed to be a hallucination by Dr. Hudson (a "zoner").
  • The Charmed episode "Brain Drain" has The Source create an elaborate spell to trick Piper into giving up the sisters' powers. He makes Piper imagine that she is really in a mental hospital where Prue, Phoebe and Paige aren't really her sisters and she doesn't have powers. The doctors in the hallucination claim she created her life as a Charmed One to cope with the death of her grandmother. The chilling part is that the hallucination is well timed to Piper regretting becoming a witch so she almost believes the hallucination.
  • Similar to the Charmed example, Buffy the Vampire Slayer gives us "Normal Again" where Buffy gets venom from a demon that convinces her she is really in a mental hospital and that her life as a Slayer is just escapism fantasy.
    • And the season this takes place in has Buffy trying to escape from her depression by having torrid rough sex with Spike.
  • In an episode of Red Dwarf, the crew discovers a long-lost VR game called "Better than Life". It's Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • In Community, Abed frequently refers to his life in the format of seasons and refers to tropes, though instead of Abed actually being meta he's simply building a framing device around his own life. While reality is confusing and unstructured to him, he has a very strong understanding of tropes, and as a result he will not hesitate to start framing reality in the form of pop culture to help him cope with problems (or sometimes just to make his life more interesting). This is deconstructed multiple times as being unhealthy, mainly because of how extreme Abed will take these delusions and how little empathy he has for others in his attempts to keep the illusions going.

  • A common interpretation of the work of Owl City. Perhaps the most noteworthy example is "The Real World":
    Downy feathers kiss your face, and flutter everywhere,
    Reality is a lovely place, but I wouldn't want to live there.
  • "Imaginary" by Evanescence is about a woman who escapes to her own imagination.
  • "Seeya" by deadmau5 can be interpreted as escapist dreaming.
  • Indidious One - Эскапист is specifically about escapism and fleeing into a better world of fantasy.[1]
  • The topic of escapism comes up in the chorus of Epica's "Mother Of Light (A New Age Dawns Part II)":
    Reality is sometimes stranger than fiction
    Whatever happens in my dreams—I know it can't be worse than this
    So I prefer to sleep

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Played with - multiple comic artists have done one shots or simple comics showing fantasy characters such as wizards, warriors and dragons playing a fictional role playing game of our world such as Papers & Paychecks instead of Dungeons & Dragons. (Example here)

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, and its sequel Final Fantasy Tactics A2, although the sequel focuses on it less.
  • Escapism, and learning to overcome it and accept hard truths of life, is one of the key themes of Eternal Sonata.
  • Sumia in Fire Emblem Awakening is an avid reader who likes to pretend to be the protagonists in her novels because she hates who she really is. The Avatar can help her escape this habit in their supports.
  • The protagonist team of Persona 5, spending their nights as thieves as escapism from the limits of daily life. Learning to deal with real life and its issues is the Central Theme of the game.
  • "Simmy" Kim in Shadowrun Returns: Dragonfall is a woman in the Kreuzbasar who's addicted to "Better-Than-Life" simulations. After spending enough time with her, the player can learn that she got hooked after suffering a miscarriage that left her infertile, and Monica suggested she try them out to help cope with the trauma. There's a reason that her preferred simulations all involve her assuming a motherly or childish role.
    Simmy Kim: Monika said I would forget. She thought the sims might help. In there, I'm strong. And I never have to lose anyone. But then I come back out... here. Where children play in the street, and I remember. Where I see Dr. Ezkibel, and I remember.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Gaz of Invader Zim is obsessed with video games. In her world humans are generally stupid, ignorant and repulsive and the world they live in is polluted and unclean. She uses video games and apathy to escape her reality.
  • This is referenced in a Phineas and Ferb commercial were Phineas tells the audience to turn off their computers and enjoy life outside.
  • In the South Park episode "Make Love, Not Warcraft", there is a nerd that is depicted as completely obsessed with World of Warcraft and completely out of touch of reality. He is described as having "no life" by the characters.
  • In Chaotic, the heroes' best friend is constantly avoiding Real Life through a trading card game. Then this trope is subverted when Chaotic turns out to be real.
  • Moral Orel: Nurse Bendy's room looks like that of a little girl, full of bright colors and toys. She acts out the role of a mother to a loving family with a teddy bear husband and teddy bear son. She does it to escape from being constantly used, being utterly alone, and having no one who really thinks about her thoughts and feelings and treats her like a real person. However, once she is reunited with her actual son Joe, she throws away her "son" doll, because she finally has a real son who cares about her a lot. Very arguably one of the most positive portrayals of anti-escapism in television.
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Castle Sweet Castle" is about this: Twilight does everything in her power to stay away from her new castle, which has replaced the old library destroyed by Lord Tirek's attack at the end of the previous season. When the others realize this, they try to make it seem more inviting to her.
  • Discussed during the credits of Gravity Falls episode "Dungeons, Dungeons, and More Dungeons"; Soos, Blues, Durland and Toby Determined are doing a LARP when Durland (Of all people) posits that they're just using fantasy to ignore their real-life problems, and should use the time to better themselves. Blubs just tells him that "Fortresses can't talk" (Durland's role) and the subject is forgotten.
    • In "Weirdmageddon Part 2: Escape From Reality", Dipper realizes that this is why Mabel doesn't want to leave the personal Lotus-Eater Machine; it lets her avoid the Growing Up Sucks trope that's been her character arc for the series.
  • Jem: It's implied that the "Jem" persona is escapism to Jerrica. As Jem she can be free-spirited and do things she normally couldn't do.

Alternative Title(s): Character Escapist Phase, Escapist