On Entertainment

Thursday, 6:30 PM, 2/28/19.

We spoke, last night, on entertainment. The following is a brief recapitulation of what we discussed. Hopefully I’ve accurately restated various arguments and provided them with their best justifications; if not, feel free to reach out at grplansing@gmail.com to request an adjustment.

  • What is entertainment?
  • What is our relationship to entertainment? How do we consume it?
  • How does entertainment affect us?
  • How does culture affect entertainment?
  • What separates entertainment from art?
  • Why do we desire entertainment?
  • What are some things entertaining and others are not?

We began with trying to narrow the definitions of entertainment to its core attributes. A key feature of entertainment was the sense of pleasure that it provided; secondary was its function as a distraction. It often is a mental break, providing a sense of purpose and control. Yet it was difficult to clarify the definition further than this. Television shows, musical performances, comedy acts - all of these are fairly clear-cut examples of entertainment, whereas a number of hobbies seemed to toe the line. To what extent are our relationships with our friends a form of entertainment? Even the conversations that we hold during these discussions, most all participants acknowledge the comfort and pleasure they recieve from discussing shared concerns, from expressing one’s self, from hearing that one isn’t alone in facing problems we generally consider unique.

It does worry me, slightly, as I’m not entirely confident that an experiment like this is not some intellectual entertainment rather than “authentic” community engagement. This extends to my relations with friends and partners; are the people that I care about deeply in these positions solely because of how gratifying their presence is, about the way they distract me from commonplace worries? Our daily activities - hobbies, work - is in not purely a form of individualized entertainment, built around the principles of gratification?

This drove our conversation around the distinction between art and entertainment. Ideally, art is intended to challenge, a medium meant to engage the viewer through demonstrating a new perspective. Entertainment aims to please. Are we able, by ourselves, to enter into a space where we can engage honestly and critically with uncomfortable ideas? And even if it is possible, do we do so in such a way that only serves to reaffirm our sense of well-being?

Written on March 3, 2019