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Monash’s “What Happens Next?” podcast asks if escapism can go too far

Monash University 3 mins read

Could the distracted and disengaged dystopia that Aldous Huxley warned us about in Brave New World become a reality?

We all want to escape daily life occasionally, even if it's just to binge-watch MAFS on the couch. But can we go too far? What are the consequences of losing ourselves in our latest pop culture obsession?

These questions lie at the heart of the latest two-part series from Monash University's award-winning "What Happens Next?" podcast, which focuses on the drawbacks and benefits of escapism.

Hosted by Monash academic and public commentator Dr Susan Carland, the episodes explore concepts such as pseudo-nostalgia, which whisks us away to pasts that never really existed, live action role-play (LARP), video games, reality television and even drug addiction. The series investigates the profound power of escapism, the hazy line between fiction and reality and the delicate balance between healthy indulgence and potential addiction.

Dr Carland’s guest experts bring diverse perspectives to the discussion. Monash Business School Associate Professor Davide Orazi, a leading researcher interested in how escapism can affect consumer behaviours, offers insights into how these activities provide an essential respite from the monotony of everyday life, and how they can even contribute to personal growth and well-being.

Dr Whitney Monaghan, a lecturer in Monash’s School of Media, Film and Journalism, underlines that escapism involves a nuanced and multifaceted engagement with media. She argues that escapist activities can provide a powerful source of hope, entertainment, and connection, especially during trying times such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cultural critic Dr Clem Bastow emphasises the importance of using escapism to explore different facets of ourselves through fictional characters. In a world that often encourages the monetisation of hobbies, Dr Bastow advocates for embracing activities that only bring joy and relaxation.

Finally, Professor Michael W Clune, a US-based author of the memoirs Whiteout and Game Life, discusses the faults of conflating video game addiction and drug addiction, and his view of escapism as a critical aspect of the human condition and a form of “spiritual hygiene”.

  • “I think that that was really something noticeable about the last two or three years, was that there was a couple of years there where escapism was just, ‘imagine if the world was nice’.” - Dr Clem Bastow
  • “People's memory of the pandemic is going to be sitting down and watching Tiger King and posting Tiger King memes, which is incredible... We were in lockdown time, and so those that were staying at home and binge-watching were doing a civic duty.” - Dr Whitney Monaghan

Please feel free to re-post, embed, or refer to the podcast where it can support your stories:

What Happens Next? explores some of the biggest challenges of the day. Dr Susan Carland steps through the sliding doors with global experts and thought leaders to find out what could happen if we don’t change, and what the world could look like if we do. 

It is a two-time winner of gold awards, and the winner of both a bronze award and a listener’s choice award, in the global Signal Awards, alongside other high-profile podcast creators including Michelle Obama, Oprah, Netflix and media powerhouses such as the New York Times, Bloomberg and the ABC.

What Happens Next? is available on all major podcast platforms. Explore the podcast’s back catalogue.

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Dr Susan Carland, Lecturer of Language, Literature, Cultures and Linguistics, Monash University
Dr Davide Orazi, Associate Professor of Marketing, Monash University
Dr Whitney Monaghan, Lecturer of Film and Screen Studies, Monash University


Monash Media
T: +61 (0) 3 9903 4840

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