Any teen of the 90’s can sing this refrain:
With the lights out, it’s less dangerous
Here we are now, entertain us
I feel stupid and contagious
Here we are now, entertain us…
If you were living under a rock you might not know this is the chorus of Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana. With the song Kurt Cobain welcomed in the age of grunge and commented on the general laziness of Generation X and the desire to be entertained instead of creating entertainment.
This is something I have thought about a lot in my life as I love to be entertained. I can’t think of anything that excites me more than a great movie with spectacular visuals like Gravity or wonderful writing like Midnight in Paris. I also have a fondness for television, music, books, theater, concerts, dance, games, and the list could go on.
In addition to merely experiencing the media I love commenting and discussing it. I love the art of criticism and one thing that makes a movie like Inception special is the joy of talking about it with my friends. I think that’s what I enjoy the most about book club is talking about characters, stories and ideas that are usually near and dear to my heart (as I have for the most part picked the book or suggested them).
Entertainment that handles the big questions or is boldly different such as Defending Your Life (film), The Book Thief (book) or Viva La Vida (music) is easy to talk about but so is less challenging work like While You Were Sleeping or Twilight (yes, I’ve had many a great discussion back and forth with girls on the merits or lack there of on twilight).
Even an experience that is a stinker can provide for great conversation. Some of my favorite reviews to listen or read are the bad one’s. In that sense the criticism and discussion becomes part of the entertainment value. Most of the time, thankfully, the only exposure I have to the bad product is the review and yet a good writer/pundit can be wildly entertaining with what he or she likes and dislikes.
I’ve also had the experience of being challenged by both general public opinion and critics. For example, there may be a movie that everyone else seemingly loves that I didn’t care for (Dark Knight, Godfather, The Graduate) and on the other hand one’s that I like that most dislike (Drop Dead Diva, Hallmark movies, Miss Congeniality, The Blind Side). Last year some of my favorite film critics hated Les Miserables and I examined my own thoughts on the film while listening to theirs and I still loved it. Not all parts but really liked it. Critics panned the comedy Super Fun Night but I have really enjoyed it- very funny.
I also got very excited about a movie that others were favorable towards but not effusive about- Holes, Perks of Being a Wallflower, Source Code, all come to mind.
Anyway, there are two things that made me think about this topic. The first was a twitter discussion today with friends about Gone with the Wind. I had watched The American Masters piece on Margaret Mitchell and commented that the idealistic depictions of slave era south and the black characters in the film are hard for me to stomach. Then followed a fun back and forth with friends on the merits of the movie (I like many things about the movie especially Clark Gable)
I guess I’ve kept thinking about the piece I saw last week about Catcher in the Rye author JD Salinger. That book didn’t move me. I didn’t enjoy it and it fascinates me that some love it so much they literally stalked Salinger’s home for days to get the recluse to impart some wisdom to them. It’s fascinating to me that humans can experience things so differently?
This sort of brings me back to the Nirvana song. Are we becoming less participatory in our entertainment choices? Less open to debate and conversation? Sometimes I feel a real resistance from peers when talking about such things beyond a base rudimentary level.
It’s interesting because I was raised to talk about things, to discuss my opinions and not just absorb entertainment. I don’t think my parents did this as a conscientious parenting choice but it is just part of their nature as question askers and ponderers. It bothers me sometime that people can watch a movie like The Smurfs and not be annoyed at all of the Sony product placement or the lack of an original idea. This is the kind of thing I was taught to notice and discuss from an early age.
When I was in college I remember going to see the movie Chocolat which is about a woman who makes tempting chocolates designed to arouse the simple townspeople away from their observance of the fasting period of lent. To me, the Reverend of the town was portrayed as bumbling and the religious people as repressed. This annoyed me. I brought up my feelings to my friends and they were very annoyed with me and one said ‘why can’t you just enjoy the movie?’. Well, to me the discussion is part of that enjoyment.
Growing up one of the few things my older brother and I had in common is we both loved The Simpsons. I couldn’t even tell you how many cheerful conversations have started with ‘remember that episode’…I think I partly still watch it every Sunday because just the opening theme brings back great memories with my family. You’d be amazed how many political, religious and ethical discussions have begun with or included a reference to the Simpsons. 25 years of entertainment. 25 years!
On the other hand, my parents make very little time for entertainment in their lives. Most people I know have some type of music, movie, tv show that they are passionate about. My Mother is a great reader and plays the piano and my Dad enjoys theater, opera and symphony but I think those things are more of a tertiary pleasure and not something that takes a lot of their time, which admittedly they don’t have much of, especially my Dad. I think they’d agree that participating in entertainment is not a priority for them and doesn’t excite them like it does for their kids.
It is certainly true that movies and television are not a source of entertainment for my parents. Neither of them follow any TV shows regularly and go to a movie or two a year. I think this is partly due to the fact that entertainment is so much more available now than it was when my parents were young. It wasn’t that long ago that you went to a movie once, maybe twice if it was re-released in the theater. Movies could also be expensive- certainly more so than reading a book from the library or playing with friends.
Now we have so many ways to view entertainment it’s kind of nuts. Just my house I have dvr, cable, movie theater, amazon prime, hulu, youtube, dvds, cds, mp3s, ebooks, regular books and the list goes on. On the other hand, there are also so many ways to comment on entertainment , so in some ways the whole experience has become richer and more interesting.
It used to be that aside from personal conversations only newspaper columnists like Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert (who I love by the way) could share their feelings on movies, art, music etc. Now anyone can make a youtube channel, write a blog, tweet, podcast for free or at very low costs, and believe me nothing gets people talking more than a blog on movies (nearly 100 comments on my overrated movie blog!). http://smilingldsgirl.com/2013/06/17/10-most-overrated-movies/
Kids can also create their own entertainment so easily. Things like digital photography and video have made it possible for basically anyone to try their hand at photography and movie-making but on the flip side ebooks are rapidly making the once universally available book a technological status symbol.
Creative, independently minded content is easier to produce than ever before and yet we have seemingly endless sequels, prequels and remakes. Sometimes I feel frustrated at the language and violence in modern entertainment and yet there is clearly an amazing amount that comes out I can and do see, listen to or read. Plus there is an unending number of things to entertain us from the past. It seems every day I hear of a movie or tv show that I just have to check out, a classic that is new to me!
Clearly I go back and forth. What do you think? Was Kurt Cobain right? Are we just standing back and seeking to be entertained or are we more active in analyzing, discussing entertainment than in the past? Are we absorbers of entertainment or creators? Do you enjoy reading, viewing criticism? Are you nostalgic about entertainment and feel the best has already happened and we’ll never have another Mozart, Kathrine Hepburn or the Beatles? I am at times and then I am not.
I would love to hear what you think about my ramblings. Have a great week everyone!