I’ve only ever heard the terms ‘escapism’ and ‘escapist’ used as pejoratives and, quite often, used to describe things that I enjoy. We all know what these terms mean, and especially what they are implicitly communicating: the notion that escapist entertainment is a crutch, a way of running away from reality. But also, and I think that this is more important, that it has no redeeming value as art or as educational material.
But the whole thing breaks down when you look at individual cases. I think pop singing contests are the worst drek on TV, pure mind-wasters, absolute escapist fare. But most of the fiction I like, books and films, would no doubt be regarded with revulsion by a professor of modern literature who shops at the same bookstore as me. That professor of modern literature’s passionate devotion and minute study of one particular author would be seen as an indulgence in ivory tower academic fantasy by the man who installed the rain gutters on the professor’s bungalow, a man who looks forward every week to American Idol.