Why are we so into science fiction and fantasy? Nineteenth-century German sociologist Max Weber had a useful theory about this: The answer may be that we in the West are “disenchanted.” The world in which we live feels explainable, predictable, and boring. Weber posited that because of modern science, a rise in secularism, an impersonal market economy, and government administered through bureaucracies rather than bonds of loyalty, Western societies perceived the world as knowably rational and systematic, leading to a widespread loss of a sense of wonder and magic. Because reality is composed of processes that can be identified with a powerful-enough microscope or calculated with a fast-enough computer, so Weber’s notion of disenchantment goes, there is no place for mystery. But this state of disenchantment is a difficult one because people seem to like wonder. (via Why the West Loves Sci-Fi and Fantasy: A Cultural Explanation - Christine Folch - The Atlantic)
(..) Weber’s argument is much more nuanced and substantive than the cursory description I have given here, but, in sum, disenchantment is rooted in the intellectual tradition of the 18th-century European Enlightenment with its struggles over the place of religion versus rationality. The aftermath of that contest in the West was to relegate the supernatural mysterious to a lower position than material-based reason. The key point is that this is a particular moment in cultural history, not some necessary and universal stage of human societal “development.” Similarly, for that reason, I’d guess Japan’s vibrant tradition of the supernatural in its anime, and China’s recent taste for American FX spectacles, results from those countries’ specific cultural contexts rather than from disenchantment. (And some of the ways the West looks to the non-West for re-enchantment are another, Orientalist can of worms best left for a different day.)
The simplest conclusion to draw from this is that Bollywood doesn’t produce science fiction and fantasy because Indian audiences aren’t as keen on it. Local cultural production doesn’t just result from economic wherewithal; desires and needs also matter. And desires and needs are cultural. This sometimes feels hard to accept because desires and needs feel so natural. Often we think that the way we live is normal and not cultural; this is what anthropologists call “tacit ethnocentrism,” when we are not trying to be prejudiced, but we have unquestioned assumptions that somehow we are the normal human baseline and others somehow deviate from that.