Sunday 25 August 2019

Nerd Church - Escapism, Reality, the Power of Stories, and Brigsby Bear

Films, books, media, stories.

They’re how we talk, communicate, connect with each other, with the world around us, and how we understand ourselves. 

At least, that’s true for me, maybe it’s not for you.

Or maybe you just think it’s not the way it is for you 😉

Title graphic: 'Escapism, Realism, the Power of Stories, and Brigsby Bear' with cute cartoon bear on right-hand side
...when I was making the graphic I somehow wrote 'realism' instead of reality but *shrugs* same diff I suppose! 😅

There’s an amazing, adorable, and, in places, heart-breaking, film called Brigsby Bear.

I love it.

It’s one of those films which rips your heart out, hands it to you, and then is like ‘look! This is what your heart looks like! Look at all the blood and gunk and stuff!’ (Metaphorically, of course.) 

It’s hard to talk about Brigsby Bear without either a) getting spoiler-y, or b) descending into fangirling to such an extent that all I’m doing is making a series of inarticulate noises.

It comes down to this: 

Brigsby Bear is about a 25-year-old man who’s obsessed with a retro kids TV show called Brigsby Bear (funnily enough.)

Anything I could tell you beyond that would either be spoilers or just not do the Turns this film takes justice – honestly, your emotions are in for a roller-coaster, and the less you know the better. 

I seriously recommend, if you can, that you watch this film. Also, please try not to get angry at me as I skirt around the spoilers in this post!

That said, there are some potentially spoiler-y content warnings for this film, so if you highlight the text within the square brackets – which look like this [ ] - then you can see the warnings: [child abduction, isolation, alienation, lifelong psychological manipulation/abuse, extreme lack of socialisation, forced institutionalisation, poor professional decisions from psychologists, drugs, being arrested, identity problems]

One of the main reasons I love this film so, so, much is the way the main character, James, in turn has this undying enthusiasm and devotion to Brigsby Bear.

He knows Brigsby is fictional – but Brigsby helps him deal with his whole world being turned upside-down, and he can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t love Brigsby.

More than that, he uses Brigsby as a way to heal and express himself through some very difficult sh**. 

He uses Brigsby as a bridge between himself and the outside world, and as the film progresses, other characters begin to be pulled into this swirl of happy enthusiasm for this weird and very specific thing.

...And not in a hipster ‘oh, I only like it ironically,’ kind of way (*sighs* - who actually does that? So sad.) - no, in a full-on fanboy this-thing-talks-to-my-soul-and-I’m-trying-to-share-it-with-you-why-don’t-you-like-it?! kind of way! 

I’ve always wondered why people refer to that same sort of stuff – books, films, TV shows, etc. as escapism.

Yes, I get that you ‘escape’ from the outside world and into the world of Narnia or whatever, but… that’s not actually escape.

I’m not trying to ruin this for anyone! Lemme explain:

When we find ourselves in these imaginary worlds, what we’re doing is not running from our problems, or ignoring reality -

(I know, I know, a butt-tonne of people disagree with me on this, but hear me out!)

- No, what we’re doing is actually understanding reality more – our reality; the way we understand and perceive the world. 

Gif. President Obama: Reality has a way of catching up with you
Via Giphy

When we imagine a fictional world or scenario, we are putting ourselves in a mental space where we can think about how we feel, why we feel it, why we act the way we do, and why other people act the way they do.

We are teaching ourselves, constantly, what we value, how we think we would act, how we feel about things – a super-important skill, being able to label how you feel - and a million other things besides.

I’m not saying that’s ‘all’ we’re doing when we immerse ourselves in stories (although it’s hardly just ‘all’ - it’s a pretty damn large amount, actually,) I’m just saying it’s a big part of it.

We may think we’re ‘escaping,’ but we’re actually facing the world inside us.

(...Beginning to sound hippie-ish again, I know, but there were too many shops with pan-pipes in them in my childhood.)

That’s what we odd hoomans do – we use metaphors and imagery and stories. 

So many stories. Stories upon stories upon stories. We get caught up in them, we fall in love, we get angry, we cry.

Our world is made up of stories – true stories, and fictional stories which are sometimes more-true than the ones which actually happened. 

Like James and his beloved space-adventuring guy in a bear suit, when we love something, we hold onto it – we use it as both our shield and our sword.

And those of us who aren’t completely jaded and/or bitter, or who are liking things ‘ironically’ (please, dear God, just like the thing!) need to never ever lose that pure love, that passion, that enthusiasm! 

Gif of a scene in Brigsby Bear - James and his friends are around a campfire (flames move in the gif) James is wearing a Brigsby Bear costume, the head of which is resting on a cool-box
Via Giphy

Because that happiness – like the way Brigsby brings James, and later his friends and family, such happiness and purpose – is a beautiful and precious thing.

Not everyone’s gonna understand you when you’re head-over-heels for a randomly specific piece of art or media – again, avoiding spoilers, James isn’t always able to enjoy his happy obsession guilt-free, as a lot of people are more than slightly concerned about him (for good reason,) and also just don’t get this whole Brigsby… thing. 

But that’s the other thing – James is who he is. 

And, for a variety of spoiler-y reasons, Brigsby Bear is a big part of who he is.

He doesn’t expect people to just automatically get it, but… he kind of expects them to try to understand just how much this means to him. 

What he wants is for people to accept him – weird quirks and all.

He wants people to understand that there are reasons why he doesn’t react ‘correctly’ in social situations… why he’s awkward, why he struggles with the world we all live in.

Brigsby Bear helps here, too. 

When James can turn the conversation to Brigsby, then he becomes more animated, more comfortable, more able to talk to people.

We all need a little Brigsby Bear in our lives from time to time, although it’s probable that the things you use to give you strength, the things you love and have a special place in your heart, don’t include a guy in a bear suit.

Or maybe they do. And that’s perfectly ok with me.

Nerd Church is going on break next week, and will be back on 8th September 2019

Is escapism just another form of reality?
Are stories really the way we communicate with each other?
Talk to me! 💖💬

You can follow me on Twitter @CeeDoraReads, on Pinterest, and on Dora Reads @ BlogLovin. For more ways to support me, check out the Support Me page

Previous Nerd Church Posts:

Please share and comment! 😊😊😊

Last updated: 24th October 2019


  1. This is such a different way of viewing and it's very true. That movie also sounds really interesting I'll have to remember to watch it :)

    1. Thank you!

      And I hope you get chance to watch it - it's amazing! :)

  2. This is a great take on this topic, Cee! I totally agree with you. I always feel a little bit guilty when I escape into fantasy worlds, thinking that I am ignoring reality. But I think what you say is true: I understand my world a lot better, but entering another world.

    1. No need for guilt! Reality filters and perceptions and the world being what we make it and all that sort of stuff! ;)

  3. Brigsby Bear sounds like a lovely film. I'll keep a lookout for a copy :-)

  4. Wow. That sounds perfectly heartbreaking and lovely. I am going to see if I can get me a copy here in the US.

    1. OMG if you can please do!!!! - Be careful though, there's some heavy stuff dealt with! <3


Comments? I love comments! Talk to me nerdlets!