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What qualifies a series or film as "fantasy?"

Discussion in 'Film & Television' started by Black Dragon, Jan 28, 2011.

  1. Black Dragon

    Black Dragon Staff Administrator

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    I've been giving this some thought as of late. When we use the term "fantasy," what do we really mean? Is the key aspect of fantasy the use of magic? Or is it extreme imagination?

    Would a series such as Doctor Who qualify as a "fantasy" series? Or would it automatically fall under the category of sci-fi because aliens and space travel are involved? Where would Star Wars fall on this spectrum?
     
  2. Stewpot

    Stewpot Acolyte

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    I believe that for a film or series to be counted as a fantasy, it has to have magic included. Series like Doctor Who are counted under the science fiction because it doesn't contain magic.
     
  3. chris7

    chris7 Dreamer

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    Fantasy makes me think of something like Harry Potter. There not my kind of films but some of the fantasy stuff in there is pretty epic.
     
  4. Black Dragon

    Black Dragon Staff Administrator

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    Yes, I agree that magic is part of it. But this raises another question: where do we draw the line between science and magic?

    Allow me to explain. In Doctor Who, the Doctor time travels and does all sorts of incredible things. He controls minds, moves objects at a distance and even flies on occasion. All of these things, though, are "explained" through the presence of alien "technology." But really, there is no true explanation given. Whenever something is explained in passing, the explanation given is scientific gobbledygook with no actual meaning.

    So really, how is this different from magic?
     
  5. kjjcarpenter

    kjjcarpenter Minstrel

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    Fantasy is defined by an imagination unrestricted by reality (Collins Dictionary, 2008). However, the term fantasy when related to fiction is referred to as this (and bear with me, as it is a fairly broad definition):

    "Literature having a large fantasy content."

    Essentially, if a series has only small themes revolving around the unrealistic it may not be classified in the fantasy genre. Then, of course, you have the question, how does this differ to science-fiction? So in retrospect the meaning is blurred. Another wrench in the cogs would consist of questioning where the threshold lies for determining when a series has enough unrealistic themes to be classed as "fantasy" and when it doesn't. What is too much?

    Indeed, a very good, debatable question.
     
  6. chris7

    chris7 Dreamer

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    Hmm yes a very good debate, One that could go on and on and on lol without ever understanding.

    Unrealistic to me would mean fantasy, But like you said there are a lot of unrealistic things that could be nothing to do with fantasy :)
     
  7. kjjcarpenter

    kjjcarpenter Minstrel

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    After thinking about it last night, I find that fantasy and sci-fi genres tend to limit their audiences. People are very biased. I was discussing this with my publisher last week, we agreed that people tend to stay away because they have this image in their head of dragons, spells and whatnot. It seems too "nerdy" and "unappealing" to them. That is probably why we see many television shows, books and movies that, by all rights, should be under the label "fantasy" instead of listed under "Adventure", "Drama", "Action", and so forth.

    The massive influx of sub-genres would explain it also. If anyone has ever read Stephen King's "The Stand" you would know it falls under the "Post-Apocalyptic" genre. There are many themes and occurrences throughout that could easily place it in fantasy, though I would imagine, had it been listed as such, it would never have become King's most well-known book among his readers. His Magnum Opus, "The Dark Tower", consists of his least-known books ever written, and it's quite disheartening.

    I suppose this would explain the cloudy definitions of said serials. A bit off topic from "what qualifies", I just get carried away with myself. Haha.
     
  8. Juiceman

    Juiceman Scribe

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    As someone who has experience in the field of television production, I must say that it is very important when producing to target a given demographic. Unless a network finds the package as being a money maker, it will go nowhere, no matter how good of or compelling a story it may be.

    We have seen so many films lately that delve into the fantasy realm, and most of them target younger generations. It is more difficult to draw an audience from the key television demographic of 25-40 when it comes to fantasy.

    The younger demo definitely enjoys magic being part of the story. The older demo seems to prefer a fantasy world.

    Personally, a little magic mixed in with true fantasy worlds is a personal favorite of mine. It just seems to open up a new realm of being. Too bad it seems difficult for me to turn my fantasy imaginings into actual productions.

    Despite knowing that a great production can start with simple story boards, it is often troubling to know the expense that goes into making a full-fledged rough-cut for a film or series just to be reviewed for possible production makes it a lot harder to pursue one's dreams. This kind of goes with the other thread's topic of making a living at fantasy.
     
  9. Greybeard

    Greybeard Minstrel

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    Clearly labels are important to the bottom line. If a book isn't labeled with a genre, people won't know where to look for it at the bookstore.
     
  10. Graffikgal

    Graffikgal Scribe

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    Simply put, I think that 'fantasy' is anything that deviates from what we consider reality. IMO, Die Hard is as much a fantasy to me as Lord of the Rings, Ladyhawke or the Wizard of Oz. My criteria? It certainly doesn't represent reality as I experience it. LOL

    The entertainment industry seems to define 'fantasy' as anything that pertains to swords, sorcery, Medieval garb, wizards and magic.
     
  11. Gisella

    Gisella New Member

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    I tend to see Graff's point; though what typically is considered fantasy in today's standards generally includes magic and imaginary worlds.

    I have only seen a few short pieces of Die Hard, so I don't know much about the film.

    According to a WikiPedia article: "A fantasy is a situation imagined by an individual or group that has no basis in reality but expresses certain desires or aims on the part of its creator. Fantasies sometimes involve situations which are impossible (such as the existence of magic powers) or highly unlikely; or they may be more realistic...Another, more basic meaning of fantasy is something which is not real, or cannot be real."
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2011
  12. kjjcarpenter

    kjjcarpenter Minstrel

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    However, if you submit to the idea of anything unrealistic being labled as "fantasy", then you would have to do the same for every other genre as well. If there is one scene of action in a romance story, it would then be classed as an "action". Same would be said about a war movie that has the main character in a harsh relationship, separated from the one he loves—would it be classed as "romance" under this scheme?
     
  13. Legerdemain

    Legerdemain Troubadour

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    Though I would agree with some posters that Sci-Fi and Fantasy are both "fantasy", here's the line I would draw between science and magic. The explanation of the science makes sense to the characters. For example, Scotty on Star Trek doesn't think the ship soars at faster than the speed of light through fairy dust, he know the tech, even if we do not. Some authors go way out of their way to try to explain tech, Michael Crichton for example tries to include the reader "in the know" of the tech, which is why most people don't see his work as fantasy. Though one can argue there are explanations for magic as well, that well may be, but those explanations are impossible to recreate in our reality, where Sci-Fi always implies there is some connection to ACTUAL physics as we know them.

    Fantasy is technically "not reality", but my post-post-modern definition leads me to say that though "fantasy" and "fiction" should be synonymous in definition, Wiki- "the Definition Sledgehammer" -pedia says the difference is "fantasy" has magic, and I generally agree.

    That said, I treat elves and orcs as fantasy, robot-sexin' and spaceships as Sci-Fi, and try not to get the two mixed up.

     
  14. Graffikgal

    Graffikgal Scribe

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    See, I don't agree with that, because for example, small things can happen under a greater umbrella. For example, there can be romance in an action movie, comedy in a romance movie, etc. Chances are though, unless you're watching a documentary, just about any film you watch contains elements of untruth/or unreality (is that even a word?). LOL.
     
  15. kjjcarpenter

    kjjcarpenter Minstrel

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    This is where I differ, and it's mostly for personal reasons.

    In my book, there are no elves or orcs or even magic; yet, being placed under any one genre, it has to be fantasy. Why? Maybe because it just has "the feel" to it, or it might be that it doesn't take place in our world, but in another where technology is at a different stage than our own. To be honest, I don't like labeling my story as a "fantasy", and it's a discussion me and my publisher are having. We're in the midst of deciding how we can market my book without strictly limiting it. People are biased; they see "fantasy" and they think of magic, dragons and orcs, so what do you do when you have a story—movie or book—not carrying any of these qualities but still fits into the same genre?

    As for you Graff, yes, unreality is a word, haha! You learn something new every day. :) As for what you're saying, it is true, much liberty is taken in realism for movies; however, there is always a divider between flat-out lying and being quasi-duplicitous. Some of our favourite movies don't step over this line and keep us in a suspension of disbelief, where others soar right over and we're left thinking, "That's stupid, how can Indiana Jones survive an atomic bomb in a fridge?"
     
  16. Juiceman

    Juiceman Scribe

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    I know that this has nothing to do with fantasy writing in most sense, though there is quite a bit of lore. But, World of Warcraft was excellent when it came to fantasy in a rich nature environment.

    Expansion sets have seemed to delve into more sci-fi aspects in a bigger variety of worlds, some of which are also sci-fi in their design.

    Once the expansion sets turned more toward sci-fi, my interest in the game waned considerably. I found myself playing it less and less, with the only thing I started doing was exploring the old world further rather than questing or dungeons in the new ones.

    My favorite areas from the 'Wrath of the Lich King" are the few that were still designed as natural settings. The 'Cataclysm' expansion has gone back to nature a bit by going submarine, but I still find it hard to play like I used to do.
     
  17. Black Dragon

    Black Dragon Staff Administrator

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    I didn't know that Warcraft was venturing into sci-fi. What science fiction elements have they included? Aliens? Spaceships?

    Those would seem really out of place.
     
  18. kjjcarpenter

    kjjcarpenter Minstrel

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    I don't necessarily think that Warcraft is heading toward science-fiction, I think it's just another level of fantasy.

    As for it's lore, extensive as it may be, the game is not focused on it, and that is where it falls short. By aiming to the gamers there is a significant lack of complexity in the storyline and it becomes very straight-forward so anyone can follow it. While the backstory may be rich and diverse, the actual gameplay does not so much lean on it's lore and tends to weave you around quests and storylines that ultimately lead you nowhere.
     
  19. Juiceman

    Juiceman Scribe

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    They always had flying mounts known as griffins to transport players from one zone to another. They added them for players personal travels in the area of the Outlands. This was fine and welcomed, but they started to incorporate a lot of mechanical mounts like helicopters and motorbikes. One nice addition, though, were flying carpets which could only be made and ridden by tailors. Of course being an herbalist and alchemist, that did not affect me.

    The worlds went from a rich nature environment with beasts and such to a lot less "realistic" environments. I guess that this is indeed a new type of fantasy added to the game; but for someone like myself who does not enjoy science fiction, it took away from my own fantasy world and the expectations which came from the many years there were no expansion sets.

    For a long time, the game provided a magical world to enter as my own character that I was able to play almost like I was on an RPG server (without assuming a personality), though I was on a PvE one.

    I guess my personal choice and preferred world still contains a hint of reality.
     
  20. Vita Numinous

    Vita Numinous Scribe

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    Oh yipe! Dreaded genre discussions. ; )
    It really seems to depend on perspective. Okay, to be more fair, it really seems to depend on marketing as to how these things get labeled. I tend to think that perhaps "fantasy" should be defined from the wider catagory of straight "fiction" by fantastical and unreal elements. So your sci-fi and supernatural horror are, technically, fantasy. They all have elements that just don't exist in the world. We don't have unicorns at the zoo. Fantasy. We don't have warp drives on our vehicles. Fantasy. But you can also subdivide sci-fi, horror, high fantasy or sword-and-sorcery style, supernatural romance... etc.
     
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