Some remnants of Romanticism may still be found in the popular media---but in such a mangled, disfigured form that they achieve the opposite of Romanticism's original purpose . . .
Under the pressure of conformity . . . today's Romanticists are escaping, not into the past but into the supernatural---explicitly giving up reality and this earth. The exciting, the dramatic, the unusual---their policy is declaring, in effect---do not exist; please don't take us seriously, what we're offering is only a spooky daydream. (Ayn Rand, What Is Romanticism?)
I use the above quote not to suggest that Ayn Rand would agree with my assessment of modern fantasy, but to show that she saw the perils inherent in the genre, to which some had already succumbed. My view is that virtually all modern fantasy has descended into escapism.
And I am sick to death of it. In literature, in tv shows, and in movies, fantasy is flooding the marketplace. In modern history fantasy was little more than a blip on the radar screen, until Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings was published. After that, the deluge.
First it wormed its way into the science fiction section of book stores and grew like a weed until there was little if any science fiction left that was worthy of the name. Just a lot of fantasy masquerading as science fiction.
I'm not sure what started the craze for fantasy shows on television. There were a few mild ones in the 60s, such as Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie. Now they are everywhere. And instead of it being something to laugh at, as it was with the two aforementioned shows, we are expected to take it seriously in shows like Charmed, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, The X-Files, Lost, etc.
What makes a blockbuster movie these days? Fantasy and comic book heroes. The Lord of the Rings. The Chronicles of Narnia. The Golden Compass. Spiderman. Batman. Harry Potter. The Mummy. Hellboy. Ironman. Etc., ad nauseum.
Now the big seller among fiction books, after the fantasy Harry Potter phenomena has died down a bit, is what? A series about vampires, The Twilight Saga, by Stephenie Meyer. It's selling like hotcakes.
Why do authors want to set their stories in unreal worlds? Anti-rational worlds? Why do they want their characters to have magical powers? What is it about real life that so bores them, that they have to imagine a different world where A is not A. In order to be heroic, why must a man have unreal superpowers? Why do readers want to read this stuff, instead of stories about heroes in the real world, who have only their human mind and human body to use in dealing with the problems that beset them? Why do people want to escape the real world, and run away into fantasy?
The impression all this escape into fantasy worlds leaves is that heroism isn't possible in the real world. Heroes are only possible in some other, fantasy world. In this sad vale of tears we actually inhabit, we must simply accept that there are no heroes.
Is the real world perfect? Far from it. But heroes don't run away and hide in little fantasy worlds. They fight to make their world better with what they have: their rational mind, their physical courage, their integrity. Wherein is there any need for fantasy here? There is nothing magical about it. It's not superhuman, it is simply man, the paragon of animals, man the hero, living up to his potential.
If you want to see what real literature can and should be like, watch Dae Jang Geum. Thank goodness someone is still creating great, realist art.