The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is a powerful illustration of why fantasy matters in the first place. … I bristle whenever fantasy is characterized as escapism. It’s not a very accurate way to describe it; in fact, I think fantasy is a powerful tool for coming to an understanding of oneself. The magic trick here, the sleight of hand, is that when you pass through the portal, you re-encounter in the fantasy world the problems you thought you left behind in the real world. Edmund doesn’t solve any of his grievances or personality disorders by going through the wardrobe. If anything, they’re exacerbated and brought to a crisis by his experiences in Narnia. When you go to Narnia, your worries come with you. Narnia just becomes the place where you work them out and try to resolve them.
Spider-Man is one of our favorite superheroes, but he’s a terrible journalist. At The Atlantic, discusses how Peter Parker and Clark Kent are unethical reporters. “The media is, in theory at least, supposed to be honest. Putting on a costume, coming up with a fake name, and lying to everyone about what you really do are the opposite of that.”
Does a writer need a devoted spouse to be prolific? At The Atlantic, Koa Beck examines the concept of having a do-it-all partner like Vera Nabokov and if this traditional gender role only harms female writers. Koa interviews various writers, from Emma Straub to Ayelet Waldman, on how their literary partnerships work. “I’d fantasized that being his Vera was a way for me to deal with being stuck as a stay-at-home mom—I’d subsume my own ambitions into something ‘greater!’ But that lasted about 48 hours,” Waldman said.
James Baldwin was more famous for being an essayist and novelist, but he was also a film critic. At The Atlantic, Noah Berlatsky argues that Baldwin should be considered one of the best film critics for The Devil Finds Work. “Baldwin shows that criticism is art, which means that it doesn’t need a purpose or a rationale other than truth, or beauty, or keeping faith, or doing whatever it is we think art is trying to do.” For more on Baldwin, read our essay on his epiphanies.
How can science fiction writers invent aliens and entire planets but not include multifaceted characters of color in their fiction? At The Atlantic, Noah Berlatsky discusses the genre’s equality problem and analyzes how race is viewed in everything from The Left Hand of Darkness to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. “When that future unthinkingly reproduces current inequities, it seems like both a missed opportunity and a failure of imagination.”
From Hunger Games's Katniss to Divergent's Tris, today's YA heroines are confident, intelligent, powerful, and always skinny. At The Atlantic, Julianne Ross argues that this scrawny stereotype ends up belittling the heroines’ independence and strength. “Just as women are expected to be sexual but not slutty, pure but not prudish, heroines should be strong but not buff.”