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A Great Time to Be a Nerd: Our Obsession with Sci-Fi and Fantasy TV

Why is pop culture so obsessed with sci-fi and fantasy?

Credit: Liu zishan/Shutterstock

With the simultaneous premiere of Amazon’s The Rings of Power and HBO’s House of the Dragon in late August and early September, viewers have been asking why pop culture is so obsessed with fantasy.

Of course, this obsession also extends to the science fiction genre for arguably similar reasons. In short, Hollywood is pumping out high-quality fantasy and sci-fi films, and statistics show that people love them.

According to Kyle Kruse’s article on MovieWeb, because of their close release dates, The Rings of Power and House of the Dragon were undeniably in competition with each other. Kruse writes,

“September 2022 will be a month long remembered in the hearts of fantasy fanatics. There are numerous high-profile fantasy television shows running simultaneously, ranging from a new live-action Star Wars series to a long-overdue trip back to Middle-Earth and an attempt to restore Game of Thrones to its former glory.”

On the day of its premier, House of the Dragon broke HBO’s records by amassing 9.986 million views, says CNBC. However, according to The Hollywood Reporter, 25 million people viewed the premier of The Rings of Power across the world. This is another record-breaking number for both Amazon and television history.

Science fiction films such as Dune and series like The Mandalorian and Stranger Things, have also proven to be extremely successful over the past five years. Additionally, books in the sci-fi and fantasy genres have been climbing the New York Times bestseller list. Interestingly, Stephen King’s new novel, Fairy Tale, is number one on this list as of September. Not surprisingly, George R.R. Martin’s book, Fire & Blood, also made the list, likely because of House of the Dragon’s cinematic success.

Digital Effects Seem More Realistic

Several factors impact pop culture’s increased interest in sci-fi and fantasy, including technological development. Today, sci-fi and fantasy films look better than ever because of our capabilities with digital effects. Just look at the Harry Potter films. Viewers can observe leaps in cinematic advancement over the decade between the first and the final movie in this series.

One of the reasons sci-fi and fantasy films look more realistic is because of the methods used to create them. According to Chase Long, an environment artist for a London video game company, many film producers are choosing to create their environments using video game development software.

Credit: The opening scene from the season 3 trailer of The Mandalorian / Disney+

So, instead of using a green screen, artists photograph pieces of real environments and reconstruct them in Unreal Engine. For filming, actors do their part on a set in front of an LCD screen with the environment already projected behind them. Disney’s hit Star Wars series, The Mandalorian, was created this way. This method makes the fictional environment seem more realistic because it allows the artists and filming crew to perfect the lighting.

The Psychological Benefits of Fiction

Another reason why interest in these genres has increased could be a result of escapism, or the desire to move away from the troubles of real life. With the Covid-19 pandemic and political turmoil worldwide over the past few years, no wonder people want to escape and become immersed in a different story for a while.

According to PsychCentral, studies show that reading fiction can be used as a method to help people cope with depression and anxiety. This is called bibliotherapy. If reading fiction can create a sense of connection with characters and boost endorphins, then watching fiction could also have similar benefits, especially if it offers a completely different experience from the stress of real life. 

Luckily, whether people are looking for comfort or entertainment in sci-fi and fantasy, they will have many opportunities to experience these worlds in the near future. With Disney’s never-ending Star Wars series, and future House of the Dragon and The Rings of Power episodes, the options will be endless. 

Written By

M.A. Beckley is a reader, writer, and traveler - an expat with a lot of opinions. She is interested in anything relating to culture such as music, art, and history. She has taught English for nine years and holds an MA in British Literature and Professional Writing.

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