Life Outside My Cube

My life, a work in progress.

The Fusion of Entertainment and Enlightenment*

So we watched a couple episodes of a pseudo-detective TV program last night from a library DVD. I suppose my expectations were a bit too high. The first episode was just ridiculous – characters acting very foolish, non-realistic storyline, unbelievable characters. I barely made it through, and was ready to toss the rest aside as unwatchable. I was kind of insulted that the writers would think I’d find the material humorous, much less interest me in a solvable mystery.

My wife reminded me that, contrary to my expectations, she was only looking for entertainment, not a puzzle to solve. On that basis, and because my daughter was in agreement, I caved and we watched the second episode. It was some better than the first, and my attitude was better, now knowing what framework to put the program in. I was to be entertained, not thoughtful.

Reminded me of a video I’d watched earlier, in which a guy was making the case that mainstream Christian movies are not effective tools for evangelism because people who go to see films do so to be entertained, not taught. He proposed that instead, we ought to seek out films that are entertaining but also allegoric, or have a theme or story that could be the basis for conversation (like Narnia, The Matrix, Knowing and The Book of Eli).

Well, that seems like a reasonable conclusion, though I do wonder how much time the average person spends thinking about films they watch. You know, longer than just some comments on the drive home from the theater. While there may be some who enjoy the in-depth analysis, I suspect the vast majority simply are there for the entertainment, and once it’s over, it’s gone from their minds.

Does that sound cynical? Perhaps it is. I’d hope that all the money, effort  and prayer that Christians put into films is not just brushed off as so much second-rate entertainment. I do enjoy entertainment, to be sure, but I also like to think. I’ve found much more value in watching TED talks recently than anything else. Why? Because these people are all about sharing ideas, not just filling my mind with foolishness.

Someone wise has said, “Small minds discuss things, average minds discuss people, but great minds discuss ideas.” Instead of just seeking entertainment from our TV or films, let’s aspire to relate beyond trivial things or other people, and discuss and work through ideas. Who knows what enlightenment may result.

*With apologies to Mr. Beck

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3 responses to “The Fusion of Entertainment and Enlightenment*

  1. mikethornac April 11, 2011 at 12:18 am

    I’m a little cynical as well about how much people take away from films these days, but OTOH when I compare Narnia, Black Hawk Down, Batman Begins, Lord of the Rings, etc to, say, The Hangover 2 or Ocean’s 11, I think there is still a very, very valid place for providing a watchable, enjoyable entertainment experience while ramming home a strong moral.

    Black Hawk Down is an excellent example (thankyouRidleyScott). Most of the movie is spent building up relationships with the characters and their stories. At the end of the movie, Hoot (an Army Ranger) is resupplying at the ammo table and someone asks him why he’s going back in to the crossfire. He says, “When I go home people’ll ask me, “Hey Hoot, why do you do it man? What, you some kinda war junkie?” You know what I’ll say? I won’t say a word. Why? They won’t understand. They won’t understand why we do it. They won’t understand that it’s about the men next to you, and that’s it. That’s all it is.” It’s a brilliant flash of insight into the mind of the men you’ve just been watching for the last 90 minutes and clears your mind of all the dirt and crud and blackness of the war that is being fought and instead fills it with the nobility of the men who are fighting for each others’ lives. It’s a breakthrough moment.

    I’ve said this for years, but it hit me again this morning reading the final chapter of Acts, verses 26-27:

    “‘Go to this people and say,
    “You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
    you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”
    For this people’s heart has become calloused;
    they hardly hear with their ears,
    and they have closed their eyes.
    Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
    hear with their ears,
    understand with their hearts
    and turn, and I would heal them.’

    – we MUST prevent these people, those who have not found Christ (and perhaps even those who have) from filling their minds with drivel, from crowding the limited space in their hearts and minds with senseless entertainment. I’m not going to try to make the argument for entertainment as a physical need as I think that’s superfluous at this point – because whether it’s good entertainment or bad, people will seek it out. So why should we not at least create the kind of entertainment that will at least plant the seed for conversation and deeper consideration?

  2. outsidemycube April 14, 2011 at 11:05 am

    So you’re suggesting that entertainment must either plant a seed or ram home a moral. My wife would say that there’s also a valid place for pure entertainment that contains neither. Or are you suggesting that Christians shouldn’t focus on just pure entertainment, and instead, use it as a medium to convey some message, explicit or not?

  3. MTAC April 14, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    I’m not going to insist that every movie or story have a deep philosophical meaning, or else Rich Christiano and Hallmark would be the titans of the storytelling industry.

    But if we’re not telling meaningful stories, then are we really redeeming the time? King Kong, Casino Royale, Chicken Little, Battlefield L.A., are all examples of spectacular storyMAKING with no significant storyTELLING. The result? Total brain mush. It’s like Holmes without a case…inevitable atrophy.

    I’m simply suggesting that if we’re not telling good, meaningful stories we’re not really making great use of the time, effort and investment into that picture. If you choose to check out and just enjoy the spectacle, fine, but let’s at least make it available for discerning viewers.

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