When fantasy worlds are left behind, disappointment persists

The world of Pandora in Avatar makes the real world a depressing scene.

The world of Pandora in Avatar makes the real world a depressing scene.

Yesterday after Potions class, my friends and I grabbed some Butterbeer at Three Broomsticks. We were chitchatting about how excited we were to go to the Quidditch match this weekend – my boyfriend is a starting Seeker. Getting tipsier by the Butterbeer, I began to brag about how good I am at conjuring the Petronus charm when crybaby Draco Malfoy showed up to do some more bellyaching about his father being sent to Azkaban. michelle provencher

Oh wait – that was just another one of my daydreams. I can’t do any of those wickedly awesome things. My only magical powers are a semi-satisfactory ability to do handstands and a knack for Sudoku puzzles.

While my Harry Potter fandom may be construed as weird, being swept up by a special-effects-riddled fantasy – or love story or action-adventure – is more common than expected or admitted. CNN recently reported that after seeing Avatar, some viewers are becoming depressed with the real world.

“On the fan forum site ‘Avatar Forums,’ a topic thread entitled ‘Ways to cope with the depression of the dream of Pandora being intangible,’ has received more than 1,000 posts from people experiencing depression and fans trying to help them cope,” CNN reported, adding that “the topic became so popular last month that forum administrator Philippe Baghdassarian had to create a second thread so people could continue to post their confused feelings about the movie.”

But some of the forum posters go past the wishful thinking stage, where I contentedly sit, wishing I went to college at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry instead of Temple.

Treading dangerously into the realm of taking it too far, Mike, a poster on an Avatar forum wrote: “Watching the wonderful world of Pandora and all the Na’vi made me want to be one of them … I even contemplate suicide thinking that if I do it[,] I will be rebirthed in a world similar to Pandora[, where] everything is the same as in Avatar.”

Dustin Kidd is an assistant sociology professor. He is currently teaching a popular culture class that studies how “media images can crystallize public opinion and influence policy formation,” Kidd explained in an e-mail.

Kidd said he wasn’t surprised about the attachment Avatar fans have formed to the world of Pandora.

“Movies can be emotional experiences,” he said. “But I’m confident that the number of people who feel genuinely depressed by this particular film is quite small. While there is ample evidence that media engagement can influence the way we think about the world, there is no evidence that films in general cause depression.”

Kidd also explained that the self-described depressed Avatar fans who are posting to these forums might be immersing themselves too much in the media world.

“No one film is going to cause depression or other emotional health problems, but a lifetime of media immersion, television, video games, Internet and films, has been shown to influence some negative psychological outcomes,” he added.

I’ll admit to having seen every Harry Potter film twenty times over. I practically know the screenplays word for word and given the opportunity, would “Sectumsempra” slow walkers out of my way when I’m in a hurry on campus.

Perhaps forum-poster Mike had too much of a good thing, or maybe he was a bit of an unstable person to begin with. Either way, there’s a fine line between having a little healthy obsession – I’m sure Edward Cullen lovers would concur – and damaging someone’s emotional health in the name of blue figures and Pandora.

Michelle Provencher can be reached at michelle.provencher@temple.edu.

1 Comment

  1. Hopefully, the depression doesn’t last too longe.

    Lovers of Harry Potter can at least go to Orlando this Spring and sample the new exihibit they are opening at Universal Studios.

    Excellent piece!!

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