What is fantasy?

ImageOn the latest Communicating in Film class we talked about fantasy; about things that make fantasy films/TV shows fantastic. I pretty much enjoyed this class as I enjoy every class, but to be honest, I didn’t really learn anything about fantasies on this 😀 And don’t get me wrong, it’s not the fault of this class – it’s because fantasy is a “genre” or “style” that is very, very hard to describe. As we were talking about the traits of fantasies and stuff, I realized that it’s nearly impossible to say that “Okay. These are things that can only be connected with fantasy films”. Because every time someone came up with an example, they soon found themselves bombarded with other examples proving that their original example was wrong. Once again, we weren’t talking about fantasy as a genre, so bear this in mind! We were discussing certain elements in movies that can be considered fantastic. And we were also talking about these fantastic elements in movies and TV shows that could be considered fantasy by genre. But we were focusing on the traits and elements of fantasy, not the genre itself, if this makes sense to you.

Of course the iconic example of Star Wars had to be brought up – by me, to be precise. I asked whether Star Wars can be considered a sci-fi or is it more like a fantasy? I always thought of Star Wars as a fantasy set in space, because – as Richard, our teacher pointed out – it’s not really focusing on technologies and technical advancements in depth, rather then just having certain sci-fi elements in it. So we could call Star Wars a fantasy with sci-fi elements. But obviously, some people didn’t agree with that opinion in the class. And as we talked about how other movies that aren’t fantasies by genre have fantastic elements, I was beginning to feel that it’s really hard (at least for me) to understand what fantasy really is. Especially when compared to sci-fi.

Take this for example: the concept of time travel is always considered a sci-fi element in movies. ImageBut since time travel is such a distant thing in the future mainly because it’s considered nearly impossible to achieve, then isn’t it a fantastic element? Of course there are lot of movies that feature time travel with a lot of technobabble surrounding it, but obviously they are fake descriptions of a time machine. Because, of course, if they would be true, then time travel would be real. You know what I mean? So, every movie that features a time machine or time travel is only guessing. They guess how time travel could be done, because it’s such a mysterious thing to us. And I’d also like to point out that if I’m right, it’s not really considered an easy thing to do by physicists. So, why isn’t the concept of time travel in movies a fantastic element? Time travel feels more fantastic to me than scientific, at least at this point of mankind’s technical advancement.

When we talked about Lost in class I gave up totally. Some spoilers follow for those who didn’t watch the show, so if this is the case, don’t read along. Now, Lost… were was I… oh, yeah, so… I gave up totally because I always thought of Lost as a sci-fi, at least towards the end. Mainly because it featured time travel and other pseudo-scientific stuff, but… you know, as Richard – once again – pointed this out, Lost wasn’t really about the technical aspects of time travel and other things. These elements were only in the show without any scientific explanation. And yeah, I can accept this opinion. So it all comes down to the fact that Lost was a fantasy? Of course it wasn’t a fantasy, but it was a TV show with fantastic elements. And… yes, I have to admit, this sounds legitimate. So I really have to think about other shows and films I thought of as a sci-fi. I have to re-think them.

So, what is fantasy and what is sci-fi? Is time travel fantasy? Is The Lord of the Rings a sci-fi? No, I was just kidding, of course it’s fantasy, but why? Why do we consider it fantasy? It’s about non-human beings (and sometimes human beings) in distant or non-existing lands in a distant time, also with a lot of non-existing and strange languages. But… doesn’t this description stand for a lot of sci-fi movies as well? Like Star Trek, why is Star Trek a sci-fi? It’s set in the future? Well, I don’t really think that every sci-fi has to be set in the future. And I don’t think that no fantasy can be set in the future as well. So what’s the real difference between sci-fi and fantasy? Apart from the fact that sci-fi movies and TV shows deal with technological advancements in more detail, but I’m sure not every sci-fi show or film does that. Some sci-fis are just set in the future and that’s it. So, even if every sci-fi would deal with scientific and technological things in depth, would this be the only difference between the two “genres” or “styles”? I don’t know; I don’t really have an answer. Some would say that science fiction movies deal with politics and general truths about mankind, but don’t say that isn’t true for a lot of fantasies, too. Just think of Game of Thrones, or The Lord of the Rings. The former deals with a lot of political situations resembling our own medieval past, and the latter just reveals so much truth about us, humans. So it’s a very, very complicated question, at least for me. If you have anything to add to this, please don’t hesitate. Have your say and tell me what you think about fantasy. Or sci-fi. Or both. What is fantasy? If you know this, please, tell me your opinion. It’s an interesting argument nevertheless.

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