Taking My Hacks

Our Fascination with Fantasy

Joe Orlando

I was watching a television program recently where the host was baffled by the growing popularity of fantasy in the world of entertainment. I am sure you are aware of the overwhelming popularity of fantasy-based movies and television shows in recent times. From the box office explosion created by blockbusters like The Avengers to the cultural phenomenon known as GOT or Game of Thrones, there is no denying what genre captivates the public the most.

The question is, why?

Well, let's be candid here. Aside from documentaries and such, most movies and television shows are, in fact, based on fantasy in some way. Fiction is what drives the industry. That said, a less literal interpretation is at issue here. What I am referring to is the difference between a movie or TV show about family life versus one whose main characters are superheroes or vampires, or both.

One of my favorite movies of all time is One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, starring Jack Nicholson. The movie, which was released in 1975, was about everything from mental health issues to relationships. Spoiler Alert - One could argue that Chief Bromden turned into the Hulk when he picked up a sink and tossed it through a window, but the movie was absent any supernatural aspects like dragons or zombies. Amazingly, this R-rated movie ranked in the top 10 highest-grossing films of all time at one point.

Today, it would be unthinkable for a film of this nature to be anywhere near the top of the box office. One of my other favorites is The Shawshank Redemption, but the moral of the story here is that when it comes to generating ticket sales today, Andy Dufresne is no match for Thanos. To be fair, fantasy has been with us for as long as humans have entertained. The original and classic King Kong hit theaters in 1933. That said, there seems to have been an escalation in fantasy interest over time. Why?

Could it be due to the great improvement in technology that helps bring the world of fantasy to life in a more believable way today versus the past? I am sure that plays a role, but its increasing popularity seems to be fueled by much more than that. Is it that fantasy allows us to keep our inner child alive? I think that could play a role too. Does fantasy have a stranglehold on the concept of escape? Sports provides a great escape for many people. In fact, during some of the toughest times in my personal life, sports have clearly helped take my mind and those of my family members off the struggles at hand.

One could argue, however, that fantasy provides an even greater escape. The characters may be flawed, but they are not real. In sports, if the characters are flawed, there's a real problem. It may just be a sport, but these are real people. Maybe it's that simple. Maybe fantasy just takes us away from the human condition or politics in a way that sports can't quite get away from. I don't claim to have all the answers, but there is no doubt that the fantasy world is getting bigger, in entertainment and in collecting.

At PSA, we are seeing more and more interest in everything from vintage sci-fi and comic-related collectibles to modern-era cards like those of Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokémon games. Fantasy is one of the largest areas of growth in our hobby and I don't think there is any reason to believe the interest in this genre is going to slow down anytime soon, if ever. I have enjoyed plenty of what people would call fantasy entertainment, as well as the kind that is more directly related to the real world.

As much as I enjoy reality in entertainment because I feel I can relate to it, that is not what many moviegoers and collectors are seeking. Reality might... it just might... hit too close to home. Fantasy takes you somewhere else for the kind of escape we occasionally need to cope with the hardships of life.

Never get cheated,

Joe Orlando

Joe Orlando
President & CEO
Collectors Universe, Inc.