Escapism has always been popular in literature and fiction, but our society seems to have a particular fixation on two forms of it.

The first is the “Other World” — where we live in the regular, boring world of day-to-day life, only to find that we are neighbors to a fantastical world, fraught with danger, adventure, wonder and awe. “Harry Potter,” “The Wizard of Oz,” parallel universe television shows like “Fringe,” “Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Stardust,” “TRON,” “Peter Pan,” “Alice in Wonderland,” the Narnia series — they all focus on an ordinary person who always feels some indescribable pull to something mystical. They find that not only is the mystical world real, but it was just around the corner all along.

The second type of escapist literature/film popular today is the “Wake Up” sort, where characters travel to another world by way of some kind of awakening. This would include “The Matrix,” “Westworld,” “The Truman Show,” “Fight Club,”  “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” or “Vanilla Sky.” You could probably put “Inception” in this category, though ironically the characters “wake up” by going to sleep. These themes do not manifest physically in “American Beauty,” but they are still present.

Obviously these films overlap quite a bit when it comes to these themes.