USING FANTASY

Liisa Rantalaiho

University of Tampere

The Finnish Hobbit Project sets out to answer empirical questions about the uses of fantasy, “the fantasy” being the Jacksonian Hobbit trilogy. Instead of the answers I wish to ask questions of what is the meaning of use, and to take fantasy more generally. First, whose use are we talking about? The project deals with respondents, uses reported or implied by the audience of the films, but certainly there are other types of users and other questions that are often asked: what is the use of fantasy by its (sub)creators? or the use of fantasy by those who finance the realization? But concentrating now on the audiences, what does it actually mean to use fantasy? Can there be an abuse of fantasy? Does using fantasy imply that fantasy ought to be useful? We hardened fantasy audiences have often been apologetic on behalf of fantasy, arguing that it is useful: it’s not escapist, but serves important and valuable purposes, demonstrates its readers and audiences the problems of oppression, gender, race, etc., and even gives hope that somebody can do something about the problems. And indeed we have a strong case. But these arguments also show that talking about uses of fantasy has an inherent moral aspect.