A Cultural Explanation for Sci-fi and Fantasy Preference

According to this Atlantic piece, there is a strong cultural explanation for the west’s (in this case, Hollywood) obsession with science fiction and fantasy movies:

Cultural differences are fascinating because even as we learn about others, we learn about ourselves. As an anthropologist, I want to flip this conversation: Why are we so into science fiction and fantasy? Nineteenth-century German sociologist Max Weber had a useful theory about this: The answer may be that we in the West are “disenchanted.” The world in which we live feels explainable, predictable, and boring. Weber posited that because of modern science, a rise in secularism, an impersonal market economy, and government administered through bureaucracies rather than bonds of loyalty, Western societies perceived the world as knowably rational and systematic, leading to a widespread loss of a sense of wonder and magic. Because reality is composed of processes that can be identified with a powerful-enough microscope or calculated with a fast-enough computer, so Weber’s notion of disenchantment goes, there is no place for mystery. But this state of disenchantment is a difficult one because people seem to like wonder.

And in much of the piece she compares Hollywood with Bollywood, concluding that in India there simply is no market for sci-fi and fantasy because historically and culturally the region has a different intellectual history. Can we really stretch the correlation that far? Some useful points to note from this article may be of use for your essay writing:

  • Consider how writers may deliberately choose ‘examples’ that seem to all-too-conveniently support their argument. This is a fallacy known as cherry picking. This doesn’t mean the claim is untrue, but just that its reasoning is flawed.
  • Still, it is interesting to note how the writer draws the links to intellectual tradition. Can you think of how disenchantment might account for other cultural tastes of modern societies today? How it operates in Singapore maybe?
  • Also, when trying to support your points in the essay, consider a comparative approach (like comparing Hollywood and Bollywood for instance) when thinking up the evidence to use.

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