The other day I mentioned to an acquaintance that I was looking forward to yard sale weather since I collect DVD’s and they’re one of the main places where you can still get them cheaply. He looked at me with an heir of condescension then said: “Ah, more entertainment.” Right off the bat, this didn’t tick me off. It was more like one of those whiplash-after-a-wreck kind of comments that as I was on my way home, having time to process it, I realized he’d intended to make this sound like a bad thing. Maybe it is to him so I let it go, yet it brought to my attention that entertainment has long been an integral part of my life. This chain of thought led me to do a little digging to unearth underlying reasons I may have let that go unexamined for far too long.
The first reason being: entertainment broadens horizons. I’ve long been a fan of Psychology Today. Not that I’m putting my meager stamp of approval on getting therapy by way of a monthly magazine, but it has been one of the most affordable and effective therapeutic tools available to me. It has had many articles over the years about not only the changing role of entertainment in our society but also the pros and cons that come along with it.
In a series of articles for the periodical, author of Caught in Play, Peter G. Stromberg Ph.D., noted “Our easy ability to grasp perspectives other than our own is also what makes it so easy for us to enter into an imaginative situation such as a story. And we really do enter into stories. The imitative capacities of our minds enable us to almost completely occupy a fictional position so that both our thoughts and feelings begin to be shaped more by the fiction than by our real-life situation. Usually we regard entertainment such as TV, movies, and novels as leisure time activities, enjoyable but not terribly important. I think this is incorrect; my view is that entertainment experiences are both powerful and consequential.”
I definitely agree with Stromberg. When I look back on my life, there are many things that had it not been for entertainment, I would not have been introduced to or comfortable trying. One of the most prominent examples being, if I hadn’t seen City of Joy starring Patrick Swayze a 1992 film about an American doctor working in the slums of Calcutta, I may not have been as open to working for a summer in an orphanage in El Salvador the summer before I went to college. No one I knew except missionaries who’d stopped by to speak at our church on occasion, had ever traveled overseas to help anyone. Had it not been for seeing the film at a friend’s house, this idea of giving up the comforts of home to help strangers in a foreign place would’ve been outside my scope of experience.
Another reason entertainment is a necessity is that storytelling through song, film or television is an innate part of us. “Part of being a human being is storytelling. Expressing ourselves and sharing it with the world. Who we are affects how we view,” says iconic filmmaker Spike Lee in What Movies Mean to Me. He went on to detail the first films he saw with his family and how they inspired him, touched part of him, urging him to want to present the same types of work for generations to come.
Having taught children for years, I register greatly with this concept as no matter the age, a child loves to hear a good story and as soon as they can talk, they are ready to tell you a good one as well. I often performed stories in schools where I worked and loved to see children’s eyes light up as I would detail for them the escapades of my series Pets in the City. They were simple tales about pets (hilariously inspired by my love of the Sex in the City characters) running amuck in Manhattan with simple life lessons intermingled, but the kids were entranced. I took advantage of using good stories to teach. I tapped into their innate desire for characters they related to going through problems they identified with resulting in solutions that gave them hope.
Music pulls on the very same heartstrings as visual entertainment. I drew from Kurt Cobain’s Smells Like Teen Spirit for the title of this article, as many of you fellow grunge-era junkies may have recognized. I’ll never forget the first time I heard him belt out these lyrics and watched as the mosh pit of high schoolers ransacked a gym as Nirvana played on M.T.V. They weren’t just singing the same old thing. They were sharing a story, my story. Me, along with most other teenagers I knew were tired of the same status quo. Nirvana was shaking things up and letting us know we could too. It was Ray Charles who said “ I was born with music inside me. Music was one of my parts. Like my ribs, my kidneys, my liver, my heart. Like my blood. It was a force already within me when I arrived on the scene. It was a necessity for me – like food or water.” Are we not all born with a bit of this? This need…something inside we need to express?
If you’re like me and you feel a pull towards all things entertainment, hopefully, this article has given you a couple reasons not to beat yourself up. As human beings, we crave story and have a unique ability to relate to other’s experiences by seeing them on the screen or hearing their lyrics. Making time for entertainment is nothing to be ashamed of. I’ll go as far as to say it’s no different than eating, sleeping or breathing. It does not take away from what makes us human, rather it is now, and has always been, a major player in what it is to be human.