Heisui’s Thoughts: Escapism & Dramas

Heisui's ThoughtsOther


From the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

Escapism: “habitual diversion of the mind to purely imaginative activity or entertainment as an escape from reality or routine”

From trusty Wikipedia:

Escapism is mental diversion by means of entertainment or recreation, as an “escape” from the perceived unpleasant or banal aspects of daily life. It can also be used as a term to define the actions people take to help relieve persisting feelings of depression or general sadness.”

So, as summed up by these two general definitions, escapism is basically escaping from reality by immersing oneself in fiction & entertainment.


This past week, I read a short wiki analysis of escapism that made me think a lot about this topic.  The basic gist of it is that it offers possible explanations for how escapism works & why we seek to escape from reality through fiction.  Of course, these are only possible explanations and some of the claims made are bound to be controversial.  But I couldn’t help but see a bit too much of myself in some of these concepts.

We often choose a certain character bias in dramas.  We choose one or two characters that we like, and then we decide to root for these characters with blood and sweat all the way ’til the end of the drama.  This often holds true whether it’s the second lead syndrome, the fated star-crossed lovers who will tragically end up apart, the secondary OTP that was never meant to be, etc.  We like to live vicariously through the characters in dramas, we fawn over our favorite actors & actresses, we constantly check the web for updates about our biases…sometimes, I look back at my own love for dramas and I do a double take.  I think to myself, what is the point when we are so far away from our favorite celebrities? What is the point, when the story is outside of our world, a fantasy, not even real?



I’ve said before in other Heisui’s Thoughts posts that I watch dramas to relax & destress and to just not think about reality for a while.  That I love living through the characters.  That I am often seeking for dramas that offer a more realistic story, that will get me closer to something real.  That it makes me happy.

But now that I really think about it, I feel like there is something deeper than just ‘I-relax-by-watching-dramas’ reasoning.  I have also been watching dramas as a means of escapism & identification with characters.  On identification:

“Identification is a term used in literary and film studies to describe a psychological relationship between the reader of a novel and a character in the book, or between a spectator in the audience and a character on screen. In both cases, readers and spectators see themselves in the fictional character.” -Wikipedia

I think identification can be equated to vicariously living through characters.  I can either see myself in a character (usually if that character has many traits similar to me), or even if I can’t see myself in that character…I wish that I could.  I wish I could be like that character.  At times, I am totally aware of my viewing certain characters/actresses as role models.  Or other times, maybe I am less aware of it.  There is some sort of subconscious desire to be like some of the characters portrayed in dramas, to have those characters’ experiences and circumstances..even though I know very well that it is all fiction.

Of course, I don’t think we ALL project ourselves onto our favorite characters & I don’t think I ALWAYS use identification while I’m watching dramas.  There are some characters that I may admire but would not want to be in their shoes at all.  But I think identification is a big part of living vicariously through dramas as well as my own motivation in watching them.


^ESCAPE IN SOP QUEEN!  totally justified

As for others’ motivations in watching dramas….I can’t really say for sure.  I can only give my own take on it, but I fear that I am overgeneralizing. >__<  One basic explanation for drama-watching is, ‘ah, we have such HUMDRUM LIVES, we just need some exciting entertainment to brighten up our day!’.  For some, it may be just that–that dramas are a form of entertainment, plain and simple.  For others though, there is clearly some kind of psychological connection to dramas that goes beyond ‘pure entertainment’.  I feel like out of the many drama bloggers I’ve talked to, many of them are going through very stressful and difficult times.  Well, of course, all of us are going through hard struggles in our lives.  But sometimes it is all swept under the rug to the point where we are either spazzing forever or broodingly empathizing with dramas.  Our screennames and blogs often mask the struggles that are going on in ‘real life’.   I feel like blogging & drama-watching are both activities in which drama fans can distance themselves from their troubles & immerse themselves in a story.


I'm heisui, an Asian drama blogger and the creator of My Drama Tea. I love stories and writing, so I watch dramas and blog. I especially have a penchant for Japanese and Chinese dramas, and those hidden gems that are waiting to be discovered. Oh, and I'm Legend of Zhen Huan-obsessed!
Itazura na Kiss 2 ~ Love in Okinawa: Filming for the second season! (Updated)
Anticipated spring tw-drama: Rock ‘n Road starring Chris Wu & Kimi Hsia
  • Well, you also speak for me. Escapism is the basic reason.

    I may love intense dramatic series, but at the end of the day, however heavy the scenes maybe and it may even make us cry – it’s still fiction and we wonder at the acting of our favorite stars. It sort of give us a breather from the actual pressures of RL. That we are not alone. Like Haruma Miura with his ALS – pressure at work seems like too easy to adjust to compared to the life-threatening disease… 🙂 Or those children in the orphanage getting all sorts of discrimination…

  • Your last paragraph… it feels like… why does it feel like… it is directed towards me…? Uh-huh. Should I be guilty? Gulp.

    (quietly scuffles away)

    • DON’T FEEL BAD!!! It was more of a generalization of some drama bloggers I have observed, not directed towards anyone in particular.. >__< um although you are one of them I read… O_o

      • Naww I was just kidding 🙂 But seriously speaking, I’m still the most (self-proclaimed, ha) reluctant drama blogger haha, and I’m honestly more interested to write about Real Life ongoing than dramas, especially at this phase in my life – I’m pretty much done hiding behind screen names and spazzing. I think your last paragraph totally applies to me haha and you’re right! I don’t view drama-watching as escapism anymore though – I don’t know what it is these days honestly, more like an old habit that I’m afraid to break. I wonder if this is just a sign of aging (ha!), or I’m simply outgrowing dramas but yeah, I can’t care less these days and in fact, the drama sphere is so saturated and happy poppin’ pill that I’m like my God, y’know what I’ll be the Grinch round here for a bit.

        OMG I’m babbling, okay I’m off, sorry for the random rant o.o

        • Oh *sigh of relief* I think you are the blogger who can write about your struggles. Other bloggers who are strictly focused on dramas usually don’t. (me) So that is what I mean by the screen names being like masks.

          • Since we’re on the subject… I don’t actually know if this is a good thing or not. It’s like I know it’s a bad thing (or I think it is) but I… can’t stop? o.o Screen names are definitely masks though – everyone’s an anon to whatever degree and the mask is like a costume one dons to an online party haha. What’s more significant is what is being hidden and yup, honestly I think for lots of drama-bloggers because drama-watching IS an escapism – who the heck wants to be talking about (or reminded of) the pain and stress of Real Life? Completely understandable.

            And basically… in short, I’m a difficult person (sorry!) aha.

            • Lol I like how you posted that you would take a break from blogging but….you are not really taking a break. 😛 Well I’m not sure how you feel after you write your entries…I think it is kinda a double-edged sword. You can get catharsis from writing about all your struggles, but always focusing on those struggles might only end up amplifying your negative feelings.

              • That’s what I saying, I’m like not allowed to say I’m on hiatus cos it always turns it the opposite o.o but yes, exactly, about the double edged sword. These days I just go with the flow though, but some subjects are pretty much closed chapters.

  • I think there are many people out there, not just drama watchers and bloggers who have some sort of diversion from real life which really can get you down on occasion even when you try hard not to let it, whether that be writing, reading, music, or movies. When I was a freshman in college and didn’t really have all that many friends yet, I was holed up in my room with the Daredevil soundtrack on repeat writing a book! Although…not sure if that counted as escaping or not, but probably. Now that I’m done with school and my best friends from college have scattered across the country, I’m back to holing myself up in my room and watching dramas and blogging about them. Maybe I should try taking up writing again. On the up side, I have taken up my camera at long last after a harsh and cold winter.

    It seems a few drama bloggers are digging more into the existential questions of late, one was talking about not really knowing your friends and another was talking about living with passion and doing what you love. Nothing wrong with that at all. I save my random life questions for my grandparents who then wonder what the heck I’m even talking about since my questions are VERY random and pop up at the strangest of times.

    I will say this, though, that sometimes dramas aren’t really an escape from life. There’ve been a few dramas that really do call up the things you were trying to escape. Maybe that’s where identification comes in. It is sad to say that a good portion of my own real life has been mucked up as badly as an Asian drama or an American soap opera. While the situations there are fictional with fictional characters… I’ve been there, lived that (unless, of course, it was one of those fantasy/sci fi dramas obviously). I guess that’s why my creative writing professor in college always talked about writing truth and calling it fiction. Truths of life can stack up to be quite unbelievably more like fiction than you can realize.

    And…I think I’m done, I’ve rambled too much, gomen ne.


      Hmm. In the case of dramas being similar to your own life experiences, I wonder if you want to see how the characters react to their circumstances? Like, how others would act if they were in your shoes? Just a thought. 😉

  • Oh you are not wrong in any way. In fact, if anything I think you’ve understated the escapism of the the foreign drama fan (be it K, C, T, J, etc.).

    Think of it like this. The average person watches shows and movies in their own language starring people from their own culture in settings with which they’re somewhat familiar. We on the other hand go out of our way to find some obscure show, starring some actors in another country, another language, in a completely foreign culture that we have little to no actual connection to beyond the internet and our own minds. It’s safe to say that anyone reading this has taken escapism to a whole other level.

    It’s like we’ve dug deep inside the annals of the escapist world to some hidden realm unknown to the average person, rooting around until we find that solitary special drama gem that we can call our VERY own. No, we are not satisfied with just living vicariously through characters that everyone around us knows. It’s like in our minds we’re saying “What? Share my secret drama world with everyone else?? No way! My characters in MY drama are MINE alone, so nobody can know them or have them! I will find a show that NOBODY around me has even heard or or will ever hear of in their lifetime and I can be safe in the knowledge that my emotions therein are untainted by the general masses!”.

    Such is the depth our or delusion. I for one have known this about myself for a very very long time. Even when I was a small child and first was exposed to Japanese culture it was like i had found some hidden special world all my own. When I met someone else who also knew of my world it was though we were part of some special club, above the rest of the general populace. I think some of that still holds true for most of us.

    I for one am unapologetic in this regard. I love my little JDrama world and could never trade it in.

    • Good point about foreign drama fans…I often feel like people really enjoy absorbing the foreign Asian cultures through the dramas/anime/manga, etc. even to the point of obsession. (i.e. foreign otaku)

  • You’ve made me really think about this – why I keep plugging away, watching dramas half of which I’m not even interested in anymore. I think when I first started, sure it was escapism. A rom-com set in a foreign land, an action-adventure. Just hearing something in another language is escapism. Seeing the locales, the culture, the food. Now though that this kind of world seems so familiar to me (in as much as I can be familiar with a setting I’ve never seen IRL), the reason I keep trying new dramas is because I’m looking for- no, craving!- the “psychological connection” you mentioned above.

    I can’t find entertainment in the mild sort of comedies, or in a plain 2D romance, or in bad vs. good plots, whether melo, crime or whatnot. But I’m craving the kind of escapism I can find in dramas that still GET to me. And honestly, I’m finding that these dramas are becoming rarer and rarer to me. I go through so many duds to find just one drama that literally makes my heart pound, in a character or story that I can actually get emotionally invested in. I guess I have ever increasing criteria for what makes the cut, and no way to define or analyze what I’m looking for until I find it. The only dramas I’ve completed in the last 6 months that did this to me were BBJX, Nine Times Time Travel, and Orange Days – all vastly different in genres! And yet each had such a human element that pulled me in.. I keep looking for dramas that do this. Because that’s the greatest kind of escapism from whatever I’m feeling/dealing with in real time.

    • I think a lot of people are also searching for that ‘psychological connection’ that you are looking for. Especially those in drama slumps or those who are feeling less and less connected to the current drama selections. Good point about how “THE” dramas are also the greatest ways to escape since they get you the most emotionally invested!!

  • Maybe it comes back to ‘we always want something we don’t have’? We know certain things are never going to happen IRL but that doesn’t mean we can’t think about ‘what ifs’. I find it funny that actors (whose job is to explore different possibilities, playing various characters) also go crazy for dramas. Heck, even the President of the United States watches them. Guess we’re all human, we can’t all love 100% of our lives and dramas is one way to offer some escape, at least temporarily.

    With ‘real life’ it seems like watching dramas is always seen as something that less important, something of a luxury even because you should only watch dramas ‘if you have nothing else better to do’? But I love that writing a blog seems to give drama watching more of a purpose (even though I do more fangirling than anything else).

  • omg am I among the biggest escapist there is? lol
    that’s why I prefer dramas that are light because real life is already stressful hahaha deadlines, depressing news, deadlines… real life people who we’d rather not deal with even in dramas… did I say deadlines? but aside from dramas, I also turn to music and fangirling in the middle of work. otherwise, I’ll go crazy! (and I miss my deadlines anyway)
    now excuse me while I escape to… fan fiction. hahahaha

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