Ruining Fantasy?

I talk a lot about writing trends and would like to go into something that has been going on for a while now…

There has been a push in more recent media circles to make fantasy and fiction more like reality…

We’ve all seen this in some way, shape, or form. Be it people who let movies raise their children crying about Disney princesses and the whole ‘Love at first sight’ mentality, to all kinds of different elements being added into fantasy universes that are inappropriate, to say the least.

Fantasy isn’t constrained by real work physics, it’s not confined to our narrow view of reality, and it never should be. Is ‘Love At First Sight’ realistic? No. Does it happen sometimes? Eh… maybe? I’ve never seen it… but whatever. It’s a story trope. It’s something writers do, mostly in movie mediums, when they are constrained by a time limit and need to get the point across about their characters.

But Jim, it’s painting an unrealistic view of love and relationships for our children!

Of course it is… THATS WHY ITS CALLED FANTASY!!! It’s an unrealistic universe… or are you going to tell me that griffons, elves, dragons, dwarves, and goblins actually exist?
(Because I’d be very appreciative if you did!)
Look, its supposed to be harmless fun that was never meant to be taken seriously and can easily be put into context.

But I don’t want my kids to…

That’s YOUR problem, not mine, not anyone who writes stories or creates movies. If you aren’t adult enough to be able to parent your child and put stories like these into context for them, I’d say that you’ve got far bigger problems than a perceived movie narrative. I’m sorry to be harsh, but I have kids too and good parenting is always the best defense against any perceived notion of narrative.

I mean, which is a more appropriate, proportionate response?
1. Sitting down and explaining the reality of the stories they see and read to their children.

2. Writing angry letters to Disney, practically ordering them to change their ways to fit in with your mouth-breathing ideologies?

Well… it seems that most people chose option 2. How do I know? Let’s take a look at Disney’s highest grossing film in a long time… a film that I have grown to despise, because of it’s over-exposure, it’s predictable story, and… of all things… its egregious departure from the original story!

(Sorry, I’m a huge fan of Hans Christian Anderson’s work… to the point that I own a few 1st ediitons of his work)


Wow… Disney’s highest grossing film? YOU HATE IT!?

Yes. Go read The Snow Queen… and then watch ‘Let it Go’ 50 times in a row and you’ll understand why.
No, all kidding aside. When I took my son to see it, 10 minutes into the film when they were talking about true love thawing a frozen heart, I shook my head and thought to myself ‘Please tell me they’re not going to do a fake out, make it look like true love will save the day with via prince, only to suddenly reveal that it’s true love between the sisters…’
Yup… Disney decided to turn the movie into social commentary against their own movie tropes. While some considered this to be clever, I found it shallow and predictable…

Well maybe that’s just you!

Probably, given how popular this movie is. Maybe I can spot these things more easily because of my love for fantasy and the fact that I’m a writer myself… maybe, but then I’d invite everyone to rewatch the movie from an analytical standpoint. Watch and see if you can find the same problem I did.

This is the problem I have with this. The movie, based off of one of HCA’s best books, was ruined because Disney was focused on social commentary and trying to appease the crowd of people (mostly feminists dealing with the princess stereotype, and absentee parents) whining that fantasy is unrealistic!

The ironic part of this whole thing is that if they compare the book to the movie, most feminists would STILL say that the movie falls horribly short of their agenda, because in the book, a girl saves a boy, not a girl saves a girl… So why even bother?

But you know what? I’m going off on a bit of a tangeant.

So what brought all this on, all of a sudden? Well let’s go back a year or two. My wife and I loved a show known as How I Met Your Mother

We watched season after season Ted be a doofus, Lilly be deplorable, Barney be a whoremonger, Marshall be a goon, and Robin be a maniac. It was a fun ride… too bad it was ruined at the end of the series with a finale that completely destroyed several seasons of character build up, and crashed and burned multiple plot threads that we had been waiting to see unfold.

The series creators’ justification for this? Sigh… it was more realistic…

Per Craig Thomas on twitter:

… Craig… here’s the problem… This show is NOT realistic. If it were:
Ted would have been living on the streets or back with his parents for the seasons that he was unemployed because, I’m sorry, no unemployment check is going to cover an apartment in NEW YORK CITY!!

Not to mention that he’d most likely be in jail for any number of indescretions he’d comitted during the show’s run.

Marshall would likely have not lived to adulthood given his family dynamic and the way he was with his brothers.

Lilly would either not have married Marshall or she’d be royally hated by his family… and most likely had other problems stemming from the way she treated people when she was younger.

Robin, at the least, would have been behind bars for assault and then deported.

Barney… would currently be a science experiment at some lab trying to find a cure for sexually transmitted diseases.

Yet somehow these characters are people who have quite a few friends, and have a pretty good life… if that’s not fantasy, then I don’t know what is. So then you’re going to take that show out of context, take the extremely unrealistic life events and lifestyles, and try to put them into a real-world context because… that’s how life works? Do you not see the problem here?

Writers, why do we feel the need to do this? If we’re writing an urban fantasy based around real life places or events, where the narrative has all along been about living by real world rules, then I can understand pushing the real-world context, but in almost any other fiction-fantasy world, this doesn’t make sense.

Because it paints an unrealistic view of the life that can be harmful.

How? Why do you think people like fantasy and fiction? Why do they continue to pick up  books and watch movies based around things that aren’t real? Because they get enough of that real world every day of their lives. Fantasy gives them a chance to get away to another place, it’s something that they enjoy.

Do you really think that people need that dose of reality? Seriously? What’s the harm in letting people enjoy their works without a sudden slap in the face to needlessly remind them of the blantantly obvious fact that what they’re reading ISN’T REAL!??

Okay… you know what… the sheer lunacy of this is driving me nuts. I’m going to go get a drink, everyone… just enjoy the Nostalgia Critic’s rendition of Let It Go…


Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.
I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.
Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

Thanks friends!
Catch you on the flip side!



12 thoughts on “Ruining Fantasy?

  1. Great post, great topic.


  2. Damn. I just wrote an entire blog post here so I might as well write it that way. Thanks for the topic. We should have a discussion on this. My view is a bit more middle of the road but that might be because of the male/female dynamic. I’ll tag back.


  3. Reblogged this on Sara Butler Zalesky and commented:
    Thank you Jim Harrington for a great post.

    While I mostly agree with you, I have some additional thoughts.

    The phenomenon of ‘love at first sight’ is a chemical reaction in the brain that turns otherwise intelligent individuals into idiots. And while it’s a plot device (mostly in romance novels) it is a real thing. It’s the new toy effect. ‘It’s amazing, it’s the best thing ever! I love love love it! I want to play with it all the time!” But then the newness wears off, reality sets in and the high from your brain chemicals subsides. It’s how nature gets humans to procreate.

    I agree that people need to have that fantasy, because our reality is so goddamn boring. TV and movies hype their ‘subtle fantasy’ as ‘reality’ and some people are heavily influenced by this, turning their fantasy into unrealistic expectation. This could be why divorce rates are so high and why too many kids have single parents.

    I think that’s the difference between books and movies/tv. With a book, you have to use your imagination to feel the character’s emotions, hear their voices, see what they see – you already KNOW it’s fantasy. With a visual medium, we SEE it/HEAR it/EXPERIENCE it as ‘reality’. Animation can add a layer of fantasy back in vs. live action, but you don’t have to imagine anything. It’s handed to you on a platter.

    That said, a real relationship can grow from the initial inferno if both parties are willing to work at it. Typically, egos, lack of maturity and unwillingness to compromise are to blame for the death of the relationship.

    [In my novel ‘Wheeler’, the female protagonist is completely swept up by the male romantic lead and the three words came pretty fast. The relationship gets a little rocky but when push comes to shove, they truly care about each other and commit. There’s no romance-ish happy ending, but stories such as this don’t actually end. I think that’s the difference between a true romance novel and the women’s fiction genre.]

    I too hated Frozen. H-A-T-E-D. I wish they hadn’t based it (loosely) on HCA’s story. The singing and the dancing! The snowman and the reindeer!? The trolls? Kids only make a big deal out of it because of merchandising. The only Disney story I actually liked was Mulan. Based on a true story and Disney couldn’t shoehorn in the love story so much.

    ‘How I met your mother’ links back to the ‘subtle fantasy’ of visual media. It was like the end of “Lost”, wholly unsatisfying and ridiculous.


  4. I see your point on this but can’t help but think you may be taking it a little harshly. No matter what perspective you choose to present any story, there is always going to be one person who didn’t like it because (insert reason here). It could have been that it wasn’t realistic enough, or maybe put too much realism on what they wanted to be an escape from reality, or giant plot holes you could drive a truck through; this audience will always exist. I can’t be surprised when Disney molds its movies to appeal to what they think their audience will enjoy, they want the movie to be a success after it’s all said and done. I mean, with Frozen, they rewrote most of the script once “Let It Go” was finished. Really? Were you that upset when the true love plot device was between sisters instead of the prince? Not everyone would have seen it coming, but at least it was different. Love between sisters was fine and just as valid as the prince/princess would have been, maybe even more so. Frozen was a movie made to strike with their intended audience and it worked, much like the other properties that Disney has lately (please see Captain America: Civil War, and Star Wars). Are there points that may not really have worked in story or something else? Sure, but their intended audiences (for the most part) loved the movies and happily handed over their buckets of money in response.

    Using How I Met Your Mother as a more contemporary fantasy is an interesting idea and totally works. The reality of what really happens is seen through a filter of a story teller who can change or embellish a story as they want to and make our characters more extraordinary than they would be in real life. That was part of the fun. I personally didn’t mind the finale, and if there were some story points that were left hanging, that’s just life too. The producers and writers told the story they wanted tell and it sounds like they were happy with their work. Again, it’s up to you to hate it or not.

    The question as to whether this is all destroying fantasy? I really doubt it. It’s not like the success of Frozen may endanger something else that has already been made or will be made in the future. Movie studios have always made movies they thought they could make money from and some choose to stay close to characters and source material (Marvel and say, oh, Lord of the Rings – for the most part, you get what I mean) or they may go far left from what started them and make their own interpretation (see World War Z or Batman V Superman – again you see what I mean). Trends, fads, and audience polls will come and go; I just hope some good stuff gets made despite its opposition. Fantasy will go on, good and bad.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. sfgarbagefire says:

    You see the same argument in science fiction, some want to focus on the “Science” others the “fiction”. I personally feel that as long as the narrative itself is good, it doesn’t really matter if the elements in the story are realistic or not.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. thejander says:

    I’m not sure if Frozen is a strong example for your argument because Disney has done such things before.The only difference is that Frozen managed to captivate a lot of people in this day in age when something becomes popular, it needs to be run into the ground.In my mind, I think it was better if they didn’t bother associating Frozen with The Snow Queen. They’re two different stories in my mind like a few other Disney movies of old. I’m looking at you Bambi. I applaud Disney at the effort of turning their favored trope on it’s head, but it feels like a shallow effort to me. I think too much like a writer to have enjoyed that twist.

    However, I have to vocalize the question that’s been going on in my head for months now. Why does fantasy always have to serve as an escape from reality and if it isn’t, it’s seen as an insult to fantasy? That’s what it feel like to me sometimes. In my mind, fantasy is a huge broad genre and stories of the genre shouldn’t have to have all the typical elements in it. A fantasy story should only be limited by the imagination of the story creator. Yet, it always seems that many want fantasy to be exclusive and that the genre should dictate what the story can or cannot do. And yet in my head that contradicts with the broadness that is fantasy. They’re are typical elements within it, but do we always have to adhere to them?

    That being said I doubt fantasy will be ruined by realism not with so many who protest against realism so much. I’m not a fan of realism in everything I consume. I like fun fantasy novels, but at the same time, I see a place for what doesn’t follow perceived rules. I don’t believe that every story should always follows the course that is accepted and expected. The idea of adding in a bit of realism in a high fantasy setting shouldn’t be shunned. I would think a good writer wouldn’t set expectation for what a story truly isn’t. At the same time consumers of media should examine a story for what it is. Not what it could’ve been or not what it was based on, because that isn’t the story that’s being presented. That a hard thing to follow at times. Most people don’t. I have trouble holding to that, but I try because I don’t want to be an unhealthy cynic.


  7. Great post. Excellent.


  8. Loved this post! 🙂


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