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Friday, 26 September 2008

That's Entertainment

I was walking in to my local Brighton shopping centre when I saw a large crowd gathered. I got a tad excited and went to see what all the fuss was about. I was disappointed when I saw a person dressed in a shoddy monkey suit playing on a tatty drum kit, with a good amount of change in his hat. This monkey was out to entertain and it seemed that he was successful...

This got me thinking about the word ‘entertainment’.

It is a loaded word, I associate it with negativity as for me it immediately means something with no depth. Adverts for musicals on the underground that say 'Highly Entertaining' and the genre of 'light entertainment' which covers the likes of The Generation Game!

However, isn't the main purpose of all performance to entertain? Are there different levels of entertainment?

I recently saw 'In-I' at the National Theatre, I found it enjoyable but I wouldn't use the word entertaining. But what's the differeince between being entertained and enjoying somthing? I think I also associate that word with comedy. There are lots of these loaded words, like 'experimental' and 'fringe' and these are often linked with being serious or pretentious (I hate that word). Do people call these types of performance entertaining?

Was this crowd entertained by the performing monkey? Were they just following the crowd? Am I generalising horribly? Or am I just asking too many questions?

I saw Pina Bausch's Rite of Spring, a highly intense performance where the dancers were literally hurting themselves in aid of the intricate and fierce choreograpy. This peice got to me, inside my stomach, the endurance of the dancers was gut wrenching. Was I entertained? Is this different classification of enjoyment?


Carly said...

I understand what you're saying... 'Entertainment' is subjective in that sense, because what one person finds entertaining (let's say X Factor for example - which obviously a large number of people find entertaining enough to tune in every week) others may not.

But is this also bordering on issues of high vs low culture? Can you argue that low culture strives to be 'entertaining' and high culture works towards being 'enjoyed' or 'engaging' or even, shock horror, to make people think? Do we assume that high culture will never be 'smiling-ear-to-ear' entertainment, but will 'give' us something? In short, do we expect more than a laugh from high culture?

These are thoughts tumbling out of my brain...

Joanne said...

Yes I think it is to do with high and low art. Audiences to 'get something' from all forms of art, some kind of gratification, whether for the mind, escapism etc.

Expectations play in to it as well, which marketing is often responsible for, depending on which aspect of the performance is focussed on to draw in certain audiences or as many people as possible.

Sam Trotman said...

i think that whether we are discussing "high or low culture" all that matters is that we takes something from it, whether that be on an entertainment level or on a spiritual or intellectual level.
For example my work is far more influenced by the 1985 film Girls Just Wanna Have Fun than it is by the likes of Deleuze or Foucault. Many artists i know believe X Factor to be a huge influence on their work.
so i guess what i am thinking is
is there a need for what you refer to as High Art?

Sam Trotman said...

oh and if you dont love this film after watching this you must be dead inside

Anonymous said...

Well, many have been the thinkers and artists who criticized 'pop'/'low' culture for its entertaining character (and here one shall read 'entertaining' as 'wasting-time-that-could-be-used-for-something-else-maybe-let's-say-'saving-the-world'). The first name that would come to my mind is Theodor Adorno, the famous thinker that as at the centre of the not less famous Frankfurt School. Adorno had problems with pop culture because he had problems with trying to make sense of his time and of the Nazi regime from which he, a Jew, managed to escape. Hitler took the steering wheel of Germany while the nation was entertained by the sounds and hedonism of cabaret acts. For Adorno, I would say, Fascist Regimes manage(d) to exist because the essence of Capitalist societies, the societies of the spectacle (cf. Guy Debord), is entertainment. If one considers that 'entertainment' derives from the French words 'entre' (among) and 'tenir' (to hold), 'entertainment' has in itself a certain power, and can be seen as a technology of control in the sense that it 'holds you' to it, it keeps you from going anywhere else. In this sense, it can be seen as reactionary.
Having said that, I am the first who is always up for some good entertainment but always aware of what it is and never expecting from it more than it can give me.
And just to finish this rather long comment: let's not think that 'entertainment' and 'pleasure' are necessarily the same, because they are not.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and yesterday I forgot to write that, despite everything and all his theory, Adorno ended up in Hollywood drinking champagne and flirting with the elites of the cinema-entertainment. How very ironic.