One gets the impression that the term "escapism" is used pejoratively to
An interesting question, thank you. I am certainly not averse to taking a spy thriller, say, on holiday with me! It seems to me that the pejorative sense of the term 'escapism' has to do less with the escape part than what is escaped from. If all that were at stake were the general tension of life – and thus in that sense akin to the massage – then fair enough. However, surely things are different when the fiction in question is inviting us to escape from having concern for serious moral, social or political issues. So, for example, when the setting of the escapist fiction is a war zone, inner city life, or some such, one could plausibly claim that this is unjustly diverting attention from a real problem, or pretending that solutions are easier than they really are. Similarly, if escapist literature is not just a pleasant diversion now and again, but the readership engages with nothing else, then one begins to suspect that the escapism is less a helpful therapy than an unhealthy mode of life that consists primarily of avoidance.