McKenzie’s First Blog
The Entertainment Industry
Are the most recent winners of the Golden Globe Awards worthy role models? Does the latest blockbuster movie epitomize truth, goodness, and beauty? For millions of Americans, the answer is yes. Unfortunately, our culture has come to uphold entertainment in a more important role than the things that should really command our respect. How does the entertainment industry today affect our culture and the way we view the world?
Media today tells us that what it has to offer is best–that what it is presenting as truth is truth. Jean Twenge addresses this issue in her book The Narcissism Epidemic. Narcissism can be defined as an “inflated sense of self” (Twenge). That is exactly what media is saying when its ideas are presented as the standard for truth, goodness, and beauty. We, as humans, do the same thing daily. If we enjoy a particular style of music or a certain movie, we label it as best. We say that if it is not our own style, then it is not truly good. This is an extremely narcissistic and self-deceiving viewpoint because there is a true standard, whether we fall for media’s tricks or not. The musical works of Beethoven and Bach, the art of Da Vinci and Michealangelo, classical literature, and Greek architecture–these are all good examples of beautiful things that have stood the test of time. Will Hannah Montana outshine them all? This is what the entertainment industry is trying to sell us, and sadly, sales are good: “….Her film, Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert, became the No. 1 movie at the box office, earning $31.1 million in three days” (Tirella 1). The internet is full of Hannah Montana fan club websites and websites where people idolize her and make comments such as, “You are the best role-model” and “I love you more than anything in the world” (“Hannah Montana – Who Said Lyrics” 3-4).
So what is it about the great classical works that make some hold them to a higher standard than modern, popular entertainment? Is it merely a matter of preference? Could it be that people who think that it is a matter of preference simply have not had their tastes developed beyond a shallow understanding of entertainment? Douglas Wilson discusses what makes good entertainment. He says that it is not only the structure of a story that makes it good or bad: “Content matters” (Wilson). It is the content and structure of these timeless works that makes them beautiful. We cannot base the beauty of a story or a work of art on only its structure. Wilson gives an example of a story with a good structure: a redemption story. This could mean a number of different things. Maybe a character in the story goes from a bad situation to a good one. Or that character could start off as a “bad guy” and eventually overcome that. One could quickly jump to the conclusion of that redemption story being a good story. But he goes on to say that just because a story is a redemption story, it does not mean that it has good content. As Christians, wholesome content should be a priority: “We need the moral courage to say no to that which is morally inappropriate, even if it is in vogue…” (Neal 177).
Yes, it can be easy for Christians to clearly see when the content of entertainment isunwholesome, such as bad language, sexual content, or a wrong message portrayed as something good. However, shallow content is not so frequently frowned upon. Such shallow entertainment is often referred to as “mindless entertainment.” People do not need to use their minds in any way when watching it. And this is what media is labeling as best? Though it is not necessarily bad to come upon it, being immersed in it will dumb people down until they no longer want true beauty. They are fully convinced that what is being offered to them is best. And this is simply a lie. In Children and the Entertainment Industry we read, “Seemingly harmless music videos, such as the Top 40 selections that play on various television channels and online, are criticized for reducing attention spans and suggesting to teenagers that all information ought to be presented in short, flashy segments, to the bane of educators everywhere” (Miller 19). If we are being continually entertained by mindless entertainment, then will we want to pick up a book or be entertained by something worthwhile? Probably, we would not. More than likely, we would want to sit on the couch for the rest of our lives and be entertained as we stare mindlessly at the television that is teaching us absolutely nothing. It all goes back to laziness–something the Bible warns us against. An important Proverb says, “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets /nothing, / while the soul of the diligent is richly / supplied” (The Holy Bible, Proverbs 13.4).
Another reason that we cannot help but hold classical works like those of Da Vinci and Beethoven to a higher standard is because they have stood the test of time. They are not just a trend. They are not just pop culture. People argue that good entertainment is a preference. Well, what was the most popular preference of the eighties? It certainly was not anything we still hold to a high standard today. Back then, the most popular entertainment was believed to be the best entertainment that there was. That entertainment was the preference. That was expected to last forever. Did it? Today Justin Bieber is a very popular preference. He is the trend right now. He is what people are spending large amounts of money on: “Raised by a single mother with limited financial resources, the 16-year-old Bieber is now a multimillionaire and likely to become much wealthier as time goes by. Published estimates put his net worth at US$5.5 million and his earnings at $45,000 a month” (“Justin Bieber Is Big Business” 1). He is obviously believed by so many to be the best that there is to offer. He is expected to last forever. Will he? People will be surprised to find that he will not. He will be replaced by some new entertainer and will soon be forgotten as were so many of the preferences of the eighties. Pop culture is not something that stands the test of time. It is trendy, and it is shallow. It will not last. But classical works have lasted throughout time and are true forms of entertainment.
As Neil Postman says in his book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, we as humans converse with each other all the time and in many different ways (6). But, he goes on to say that certain forms of communication limit us in what we say and in the truth of it:
“While I do not know exactly what content was once carried in the smoke signals of American Indians, I can safely guess that it did not include philosophical argument. Puffs of smoke are insufficiently complex to express ideas on the nature of existence, and even if they were, a Cherokee philosopher would run short of either wood or blankets long before he reached his second axiom. You cannot use smoke to do philosophy. Its form excludes the content.”(7)
Media too is limited. It is not as limited as smoke signals, and it can present very complicated ideas, but it is very limited in the truth of what it tells. Throughout the book, Postman discusses how media gives us what we want. And what do we want? Certainly we do not want the truth. We want entertainment. We simply want to be entertained when we watch television. So, what is the result of this? Whatever the desire of the viewer is, media is sure to make it a priority. Media captivates the attentions of the audience by appealing to what they want as a good and entertaining feeling. Truth is completely disregarded: “There is no conspiracy here, no lack of intelligence, only a straightforward recognition that ‘good television’ has little to do with what is ‘good’ about exposition or other forms of verbal communication but everything to do with what the pictorial images look like” (88). Postman gives an example of a news reporter: “Most spend more time with their hair dryers than with their scripts….[T]hose without camera appeal are excluded from addressing the public about what is called ‘the news of the day.’ Those with camera appeal can command salaries exceeding one million dollars a year” (4). Even in the news, media’s audience is demanding entertainment:
“There is no murder so brutal, no earthquake so devastating, no political blunder so costly–for that matter, no ball score so tantalizing or weather report so threatening–that it cannot be erased from our minds by a newscaster saying, “Now…this.” The newscaster means that you have thought long enough on the previous matter (approximately forty-five seconds), that you must not be morbidly preoccupied with it (let us say, for ninety seconds), and that you must now give your attention to another fragment of news or a commercial.” (99-100)
People simply watch the news for fun. The news is not watched for the news but for entertainment that often comes in the form of lies.
Another problem with entertainment in the modern world is the sudden rise andpopularity of communication through social networking. This can include Facebook, Twitter, and even e-mail. There are two main problems that can arise from this limiting form of conversation. One, anything people write on Facebook can be interpreted any way the reader chooses to interpret it. Not being there in person, the reader cannot hear voice inflexion or see body language and can interpret anything he is reading any way he wants to. Also, when two people are having a conversation and are not face-to-face, there is a perceived anonymity. When people are on Facebook, they are fully aware that many people are watching what they are doing, and yet they behave as if they are not. Anybody can look at a picture they post or read comments or personal information given. These people posting, of course, want to make an impression on the people that they know are watching them. However, a lot of they times, people that they do not know are watching, and physically, they are not face-to-face with those people, only their computer. When in a situation like this, people will behave differently than when they are talking while physically in front of someone. They will have a lot more courage to say rude or impolite things or post inappropriate pictures or comments than they would face-to-face. Or, they may write completely untrue things or do whatever it takes to make themselves more appealing to others. Whatever the case, people cannot get to know others by using this limiting form of conversation. So if Facebook is not a true form of conversation, then what is it for? Why do people love it? It is entertainment. It is simply used for fun and to entertain.
Churches today are taking this same narcissistic viewpoint in worship. They seek to make sure that everyone in the congregation goes away with a good feeling. They are not focusing on turning their hearts toward God. They are trying to convince themselves that the entertaining feeling given to them is worship. They are turning toward God only when it is convenient for them–only when it is entertaining. During this new form of “worship,” “The sanctuary becomes a stage, the minister becomes the talk-show host, and the congregation becomes an audience” Spinks 1). Bryan Spinks comments on some churches’ reasoning for this kind of worship. A main objective of theirs is to boost the “human ego” (2). He also discusses how some churches claim that this is the only way to convert people who are unwilling to take part in “religious language” (4). So what is the solution to this problem? Is it to lure the unbelievers to church and make sure they have a great time and lots of fun and want to come back? Will they then continue to grow closer to Christ when they go to church every Sunday to have fun and be entertained? That sounds very logical, right? Hardly. They are entertained again and again and never know the real reason of true worship. This new type of Church service is much closer to self-worship than it is to worshiping God–pleasing ourselves before Him. It is narcissistic, and whatever the church reasons it as, giving a happy and entertaining feeling to those who want little to do with religion is not worship. Spinks explains another way the Church can reach out to unbelievers other than by entertaining them: “The Church becomes the Church when the object of its worship is God, and thereby through its fellowship, it has outreach in prayer and work to the world, leading to evangelism” (4). Once the Church sets its focus on God, He will help them bring others to Himself. It really has nothing to do with what some of the churches of today are doing in order to “convert” nonbelievers. It has absolutely nothing to do with the shallow entertainment that churches are presenting today.
So, obviously the things being presented to us today as the best entertainment are, more times than not, not the best quality that there is to offer. Media works in sneaky and deceiving ways to captivate an audience that is so prone and ready to jump into the sin that is so many times the bait. Even churches are resorting to the use of entertainment to bring people to Christ – a tactic that is not even logical let alone successful. So, what should the Christian response be to the poor entertainment being presented to them? Does God prefer people to be intimidated and hide so as to ensure that they do not come across bad entertainment? Would He want them to march to Hollywood, scream at the movie directors, and teach them about true entertainment? Possibly they should just curl up inside and pretend that none of it is happening. What are seekers of true entertainment to do?
Well, of course the first thing to do is keep God in mind in all things. One cannot possibly make wise decisions without God’s guidance. Of course Christians should make sure not to compromise their standards by being entertained by anything against God. They should seek the wisdom to know what is good entertainment and what is not good entertainment. And even if people choose to watch mindless entertainment occasionally, it is something that they need to be careful of. They need to be sure that they understand the potential lies involved and the fact that it is mindless. It is also important that Christians do not hide from this badentertainment. It is good to know what is out there and what we should be careful to guard against. If we are aware of what is going on around us, then we will be more equipped and able to argue against it. We will be ready with arguments. But to be able to make arguments, we must know the standard. So, how can one be sure of the standard of true entertainment? Once again, by looking at God. Our standards must be His standards. To paraphrase Douglas Wilson, in every story, something is praised and something is rebuked (Wilson). One thing that we must look at in deciding the worth of a particular form of entertainment is the message it is sending. If it is presenting something wrong as if it were a good thing, then we can be sure that it is not good entertainment. We need to try to see it through God’s eyes. Douglas Wilson says that stories must be told the way God tells them (Wilson).
A major reason that it is so important for Christians to realize a true standard is because God is the author and creator of all good and beautiful things. If we go through life content to be entertained by shallow entertainment, then how can we gain but a shallow understanding of the true beauty of our Creator? Like the Bible tells us in Hebrews, we must use discipline to not be shallow and to be able to discern: “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (The Holy Bible, Hebrews 5. 14). If we do not discipline ourselves to love what is true and beautiful, then how will we be able to experience the fullness of the goodness and truth and beauty of a life in Christ?: “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!” (Psalm 34.8).
“Hannah Montana – Who Said Lyrics.” Hannah Montana Fansite. N.p., 21 Dec. 2007. Web. 10 Apr. 2011. <http://www.hannahmontanazone.com/lyrics/hannah-montana-who- said lyrics>.
“Justin Bieber Is Big Business.” Justin Bieber Club. Delliblog, 2008. Web. 30 Mar. 2011. <http://www.justinbieberclub.org/justin-bieber-is-big-business/>.
Miller, Karen, ed. Children and the Entertainment Industry. Detroit: Greenhaven, 2010.
Neal, C. W. Walking Tall in Babylon: Raising Children to Be Godly and Wise in a Perilous World. Colorado Springs, CO: WaterBrook, 2003.
Postman, Neil. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. New York: Penguin, 1986. Print.
Spinks, Bryan D. “Worshiping the Lamb or Entertaining the Sheep.” Modern Reformation. N.p., Nov.-Dec. 1999. Web. 31 Jan. 2011 <http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php? page=articledisplay & var1=ArtRead&var2=566&var3=authorbio&va1r4=AutRes&var5=241>.
The Holy Bible. Wheaton: Crossway Bibles, 2007. Print. Eng. Standard. Vers.
Tirella, Joseph V. “Hannah Montana crowned new queen of ‘tween’.” Msnbc.com. Msnbc.com, 2011. Web. 30 Mar. 2011. <http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23051344/ns/business-us_business/>.
Twenge, Jean. The Narcissism Epidemic. Rec. 2 Aug. 2009. Micheal Horton, 2009. Vinyl recording. <http://www.whitehorseinn.org/blog/category/white- horse-inn/page/9/>.
Wilson, Douglas. “Entertainment Standard.” CRF Lectures. Idaho, Moscow. 26 Jan. 2009. Lecture.