Is entertainment just entertaining?

What is entertainment?

Etymologically speaking, entertaining means, to keep someone in a certain frame of mind, it refers to the action of holding something together and to an idea of common participation. Therefore, entertainment calls for a condition of trust about means and contents between producers and consumers.

What do entertaining societies imply?

Borrowing Jonathan Grey’s words “Television programs do not need to be about politics in order to be political” and this could be more real while referring to general multimedia content; since every single content that is addressed to the public has some political connotations whereas an audience we could see that politics is becoming a “social interest”, a public life’s benefits, and even it is a sort of civil coexistence.

If we go deeper into what a word “politics” would imply, politics is also about values, symbols, and rituals in the way they are the foundation of individual and collective identities. Accordingly, non-political programs, like entertainment ones may be even more effective than clear programs outreaching for the political message because they set up a perpetual negotiation of meanings over real life.

Media are the bearers of narratives as “surely there are competing explanations of social reality, and surely all factual statements are also statements of value” (Goodwin, 1990:57). Consequently, the political effect on society depends on the natural and instinctive need of people to seek for cognitive orders and behavioural models. 

Everything is constructive; What is the liability of entertainment media? Does entertainment represent or construct the public sphere? Soap opera, fictions, and even web videos… all of these media’s outlet is somehow designed with a purpose to make individuals escape from their daily/own/individual realities. Actually, it provides interpretative tools to read and to conceive the reality itself.

Entertainment is a mental escapism that becomes a visual expression of daily life. It allows a personal diversion from the ordinary routine but, it indirectly suggests how to manage this routine as well. Having said that, entertainment is mistakenly considered as apolitical. There is a construction of the audience as a public that gets encapsulated into an identity, consequently, into a political agenda. Such as, which looks to have, how to talk, reinforcing stereotypes, shaping our life expectations, profiling gender roles, and mostly duties and rights are often interiorized and not even questioned.

Indeed, what is familiar naturally looks friendlier and more attractive to our eyes. This is the basic principle of entertainment messages. It is an intrinsic condition of fraternization towards a microcosm that gives the idea of what the macrocosm is. People feel that they are being understood and represented. They feel similar in terms of limits and goals. And, automatically, entertainment becomes a reference.

The explanation behind this social phenomenon is the condition of trust and of connection between the source and the addressee. People feel comfortable with entertainment sources because while choosing the message to be exposed to, they feel autonomous, they do not feel that they are becoming a political target. Nevertheless, they do become a target in an indirect way. In fact, “media don’t tell you what to think. They tell you what to think about” (Stanley J. Baran). Therefore, while enjoying whatever media content, the public has the perception of putting a barrier between themselves and their real world. They expect to live their own moment of isolation from reality as a condition that they directly choose to live through where in reality, they get chosen.

Entertainment can persuade people on how to think and how to behave. Entertainment creates boundaries for itself. Through representing ordinary life, it makes the ordinary become extraordinary and vice-versa. Most of the times we have been used to negative contents. We assimilate them. They become part of us. We become indifferent and unresponsive. What we see looks like to be normal. What is normal? It irrationally is what we start to be used to.

Entertainment definitely contributes to the realm of hyper-reality in which we have been living according to Jean Baudrillard’s theory. People are no more able to distinguish between reality and fantasy, reality and imagination. This takes entertainment itself to make society to be “cool”, losing its intensity and its heat. The idea of living like a video game or reacting like a soap opera can cause no restraints.

The danger of entertainment can also be an opportunity. Taking advantage of entertainment may help a social awareness, a social learning, and a positive spirit of connectedness to be spread. World’s fate depends on what we want to make of and with the society. Do we want to conceive society as a useful place for the self, wherein the individual can be a useful citizen? Collective integrity can come from entertainment contents as well. It should be used as an alternative narrative realm. Indeed, we have learned it is easier to communicate to people through entertainment. It is the closest social platform to people. Many are the examples of people who have been indoctrinated through entertainment. Many could be the examples of people who may learn from it. By Maddalena Migliori

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