It’s been months since La La Land debuted in theaters, but I’m still humming “City of Stars.”
Nominated for a record-tying 14 Oscars and winning five (a movie hasn’t received that many nominations since Titanic), and grossing $396 million on a $30 million budget, La La Land has captured people’s hearts—and it celebrates creative thinking. This nostalgic musical is an ode to the golden age of Hollywood and jazz, with nods to classics like Singin’ in the Rain. Two struggling artists, actress Mia (Emma Stone) and jazz musician Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) ignite some serious on-screen chemistry as they encounter the life-changing challenges and rewards of fighting for success as creative professionals in Los Angeles.
As a writer, the concept spoke loudly and clearly to me. The film honors the struggle of the creative professional in beautiful ways, through its whimsical music and cinematography. It’s an escapist’s paradise for the effortless way it transports you out of your life and into a magical world of artistic expression and creative revelry. In the planetarium scene, this symbolism is enacted quite literally, as they begin to sing and slowly float up off the ground into the world of the imagination.
The message I took away from the film is that creative thinking and artistic pursuits can help us escape, both as creators and consumers, and the appetite for this kind of cinematic escapism seems to be ebullient.
A Culture of Escapism
How do we define escapism? Oxford gives us this: “the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy.”
When I started contemplating whether we really seek distraction, I began to realize that the tendency manifests itself all around us. Just think about the rise of the slow movement all over the world, for instance, and the popularization of mindful meditation in the West. Going back to how we define escapism, these movements offer us a way to calm down and refocus our energy by coaxing us to flee from the harmful mental states and physical exhaustion we work ourselves into. They offer “relief from unpleasant realities.”
Seeking Entertainment, Engaging in Fantasy
We’re escaping through our media channels, too. Nielsen’s Q1 2016 Total Audience Report found that daily media consumption for US adults had gone up a full hour in just a year—to a whopping 10 hours and 39 minutes. The uses and gratifications theory in scientific literature on media usage often lists escapism as one of the main reasons we choose to engage with our media, whatever source that may be (TV, internet, phone, etc.).
Monica Kim, writing for The Atlantic, was even discussing how escapism could be a central driver in the adoption and popularization of virtual reality back in the beginning of 2015.
If our desire for escapism is growing, that’s a trend that marketers and content creators need to be watching.
Tapping Into Our Creative Identities
Perhaps one of the reasons La La Land received so much adoration is that people recognized their own creative struggles for identity reflected on screen, and the emancipation potential of creative outlets. Mia and Sebastian use creative outlets to redefine themselves and, in so doing, change their relationships with their environments. That’s what escapism is all about: changing our relationships with our environments.
With a growing creative class, we may be looking at an audience with a stronger sense of how transformative creativity can be. As content creators and marketers, we’ve always conceived of our role as using creative means to produce something compelling, but perhaps we ought to be shifting our thinking to how we can enable our audiences to shape and recreate themselves through creative tools. User-generated content is a great example of how marketers are relinquishing some control over their creative output to very positive receptions.
Allowing audiences a creative role in a brand’s identity does several things. It allows a closer affinity between the customer and the brand, it gives rise to a wealth of authentic content that other customers trust, and it gives people something they really want: a way to creatively escape the confines of their current environment and redefine themselves.
It may be a crude example, but Snapchat filters like bunny ears are one of the most in-vogue creative adaptations of self that exist for the millennial generation. More of a comedic escape than anything else, but an escape nonetheless, and one that is notably self-referential. When audiences get to place themselves at the center of their media, they are engaging in a creative identity escape.
Tips for Marketers to Embrace Escapism
1. Don’t feel like you need to control all your content. It can be tempting for brands to want to keep tight lids on their images, but relinquishing some control can actually draw people into a process of greater interaction with your brand. Experiment with some user-generated content initiatives to see how your audiences respond.
2. Recognize the universality of creative inspiration. Our knowledge economy is shifting the focus toward more creative fields of work, and people are continually embracing new technologies that let them participate more fully in the media process. Remember that consumers are not so different from content creators—we’re all seeking creative escapes.
3. Harness your own desire for escape in your creative process. Oftentimes, creative insights come from places we weren’t expecting. If the office is uninspiring, get out and walk around, or switch up your routine to escape the numbing effect of habit. Try mindful meditation on your own or introduce regular sessions for your teams.
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Featured image attribution: Sebastian Appelt
The post La La Land’s Creative Thinking Reveals Our Desire for Escapism appeared first on The Content Standard by Skyword.
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