Entertainment was historically a means of engaging in meaningful activities, such as rituals or ceremonies. It has been associate with amusement, or diversion, in line with the French concept of divertissement.
Entertainment used to be the background noise in our lives. It is now the forefront of our lives. Sensurround is the term we use to describe our environment, which includes billions of bits and pieces of information, audio, visual, graphical, factual, fictional, all of it distributed via algorithmically generated social media formats. These formats are play on devices of decreasing size, layer over traditional platforms such as radio, television, and cinema.
This transformation driven by the rapacious monetisation human activity, entertainment is money. However, this has led to the loss of a lot of the non-financial value of human activity. We are witnessing the loss of community in the areas of politics, sport, and the arts, as well as human expression that lacks genuine emotion, and the rise of fake news over true truth.
Let’s take cricket as an example. I used to enjoy watching cricket. It’s not something I enjoy anymore. It’s hard to imagine how the players keep up. Greg Baum, Fairfax journalist, recently wrote an article in which he propose the idea of how the game was play to an imagined up-and-coming Australian cricketer. It was amazing. There were pink balls, less-pink ones, white balls and red balls. You can follow the bouncing balls through a variety of formats. Big Bash. Twenty-Twenty. One-Dayers Test matches
Because cricket has lost sight of its true attraction, it is experiencing a crisis in identity. The batsman can either play offensively or defensively against a bowler with different inclinations spin, off, and leg and speeds fast, medium, and slow. It is a simple game of skill, strength, and hand-to eye coordination.
Over the past decade, a variety of novelty and gimmickry has been developed to make multiple income streams. Cricket is no longer a sport to be played live but an entertainment medium that can be enjoyed in empty venues around the globe. In the absence of real communities, the crackle of leather on willow is almost inaudible.
Cricket is not the only sport
AFL, Australia’s national football team, declared 2015 the Year Of The Fan to combat declining crowds and low interest. The previous administration tried everything to increase profit margins, from insinuating gambling in the spectator experience to obsessive changing the rules and tweaking the fixture to make it more fan friendly,
That administration clearly had one eye on the wealth creation-culture of NFL, American football, which for the uninitiated, appears to be a game invented as a pretext for the advertising-sponsorship complex that underwrites the American corporate sector. A highlight package is the only way a viewer can see the dramaturgy in NFL. The entertainment paraphernalia attached is completely obstructive to its operating system, the playbook.
The elements that give meaning to sport are the game itself, how it is played, and the interactions between spectators and the wider community. This performative dynamic is shared by sport and the arts.
The arts Entertainment
Some critics from Western Europe weren’t surprised when funding cuts of nearly 20% decimated the Dutch arts sector in 2010. These critics claimed that the shift away from art to instrumentalisation and entertainment was responsible for such consequential decisions. Arguments made that the arts give way to entertainment imperatives, and you end up with fast food culture. McCulture. McCulture.
Absolute buy-in to the arts market could lead to art losing its meaning. Artworks are cultural products, cultural commodities, presented in blockbusters, and spectaculars. The art lies in the packaging, the hype and the arousal factor. Content is secondary. There is no cake, there is only the icing.
This attitude is fuel by a culture that views Entertainment as populist and Art as elitist. It ignores the real differences the arts make it celebrates the human spirit’s ability to transform the mundane into a deep shared meaning, transcend adversity and imagine new futures.
You don’t need to feel great. It’s even more enjoyable to feel nothing. The spectacle is what reduces art to, as does the game.
Entertainment can have serious consequences in the political arena. The progressive commentariat tries to disinter it after Donald Trump’s election. There is a cruel irony in their inability to see the larger context in which its “politics” plays out.
Trump’s win has much to do with Trump’s populist appeal in a politically context, as well as his perception of the American presidential election as an entertainment. The 1960 Nixon-Kennedy Debate has seen the presidential campaign transform from a key to the country’s democratic process into a long-form quadrennial entertainment.
The difference between the entertainment and the democratic process had become indistinguishable by the time that the reality TV series US Election 2016 premiered. The entertainment was the democratic process.
An American presidential campaign does not mean choosing the best candidate. It is about creating a narrative that voters will believe in in Trump’s instance, he is a heroic outsider who triumphs over overwhelming odds.
A product that was successful and a producer in the entertainment industry, a reality TV star to be exact, was going to be able convince the US electorate vote off a real politician.
The campaign creators the mainstream American media complex made this a subtle distinction. They lost control of the narrative and spawned a new long-form entertainment in which American Democracy entertains the very real possibility of casting itself as the perpetrator-and-victim in its own snuff movie.