The Illusion of Entertainment
Interesting piece by Neal Gabler in the NY Times about the American love for the fake over the real, as applied to the entertainment industry. Gabler argues that at the movies and on tv we now experience only the 'illusion of entertainment,' as opposed to entertainment itself. He argues that the audience itself is to blame for this, basically because they're lazy. The 'illusion of entertainment' frees them from the burden of having to be emotionally engaged with whatever is on the screen. Entertainment becomes something like junk food for the brain, instead of being healthy. Of course, critics have been making this same accusation about the shallowness of popular forms of entertainment for hundreds of years. What I think they fail to acknowledge is that modern entertainment largely serves the purpose of relaxation. We don't always want to be emotionally engaged by it. Just diverted. The stresses of modern life emotionally engage us quite enough. We come home from work, we're exhausted, and we just want to collapse in front of the tv for a while. We don't want to have to commit ourselves to the subtleties of an elegantly produced drama. Just bright lights, laughter, and a few special effects will do just fine. Personally, I don't think there's anything wrong with this. Nor do I buy into the argument that this mindless entertainment is going to overwhelm and crush 'true art' with a flood of mediocrity. Mindless entertainment and more carefully crafted art can and will live happily side by side.
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