Celeste Wagner Comments on Escapism and the Popular Max Series “Succession”
Celeste Wagner, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications Journalism assistant professor, was quoted in “Shows Like ‘Succession’ Tap Into Our Deepest Desires for Escapism” published in University of Florida News on June 4.
The article focuses on the collective cultural obsession with the Emmy Award-winning Max series, “Succession.” The series, which ended on May 28 after four seasons, centered on a media mogul who is figuring out which one of his adult children will inherit his billion-dollar empire.
“There’s a process called escapism, which is trying to escape from your immediate reality and immersing yourself in a different universe through media,” said Wagner. “People tune in to consume things that let them escape from their daily routines, exhausting jobs, and their own material and personal struggles. This show can offer that experience to the majority of the audience, statistically speaking.”
This empathetic phenomenon around escapism taps into universally relatable parts of the human psyche.
According to Wagner, “While class is the major structural theme in this show, in the end it’s also a show about a dysfunctional family and an aging patriarch, whose kids are constantly trying to seek his approval, make him proud, and overall, just trying to feel some affection from their dad. This is also something that many people in the audience might identify with, especially during a time in which we are seeing a lot of generational shifts around masculinity, forms of leadership, emotional availability, and different ways to express love.”
She adds, “People might consume content that represents a society or a lifestyle that they aspire to have, exemplified by the many plots surrounding the American dream experience. However, I believe that upward social mobility and aspiration are not why so many people love ‘Succession.’ There’s something pleasing about consuming stories about the powerful and wealthy that show them as slightly rotten, morally corrupt, loveless, greedy, and also overall very unhappy despite their wealth.”
“Sometimes, it’s easier, as an audience member, to feel better about your own life after watching the show—and appreciate more things about it—instead of trying to aspire to how those at the top live,” Wagner said.