Starved for Entertainment

Starved for Entertainment

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  1. Has the quality of television and movies gone downhill in recent years, as some suspect? Are game shows dumber than they’ve ever been? Is music becoming increasingly stupid?

    Have you ever seen a B-movie from the 50s? How about some reruns of “Gilligan’s Island” or “The Beverly Hillbillies”? Let’s all sit down and watch a few installations of “Bowling for Dollars” to rate game shows now-and-then. Do you think the song “Lollypop” is a work of genius?


    No, TV, movies, music, game shows—the entire gambit of media-driven entertainment—is just as bad now as it’s always been; and it’s also just as good as it’s always been. The only difference between then and now is that in days of yore, people had to wait until they got home from work to enjoy media-driven entertainment. Before the advent of the television, radio provided most people’s only media-driven entertainment. Before radio, books were all they had unless they left their homes and attended the theater.

    These days, people are saturated with media from the moment they wake up (most people turn on either the TV, radio or iPod or other mobile device within seconds of rising from bed), continue this saturation through the workday in many cases (iPods, smart phones and the like) and keep it going on the way home and once at home. We go out with friends but spend most of our time texting or plugged into our mobile devices rather than conversing… unless we go to a movie, or a club, where the facility continues the media-driven entertainment bombardment.

    We spend nearly all of our waking time plugged in to the media—and yet we are starving for more entertainment. It’s as if the more we get, the more we want. What is the ultimate result of such insanity?

    Huge corporations control all of the media. They control what we see, hear and read within this media. And the media has a profound effect on us, especially when we are inundated with it. Whenever we allow ourselves to be supersaturated by the media, we allow these corporations to do our thinking for us. We, as a species, have had it too easy for too long and we have become lazy in thought. Most of us “don’t want to think” about much of anything (how often have you heard a friend or family member—or yourself—say exactly that?), so we allow the media to make our decisions for us: where to eat, what to eat, how to dress, what kinds of friends or hobbies we should have, what movies or shows we should like, what music we should listen to, who we should vote for, how we should raise our kids… The list is nearly endless.


     This also explains why some ridiculous homemade video can draw a million plus viewers on YouTube. Yet, at the same time, the sale of almost everything in print is steadily declining, with the noted exception of comic books—which die-hard readers insist on calling “graphic novels” but to me they’ll always just be comic books. This seems to indicate that intelligence is dropping at an alarming rate. And when Jay Leno does his bit where he questions people on the street with simple queries about American History and those who respond always give dumb answers, this seems more evidence that, as a culture, we are becoming increasingly stupid.

    I don’t believe this for a second. American IQs are probably about the same on average as they have always been, and with more interracial mixing going on all the time, this can only improve. No, we aren’t dumber; we are lazier. We are so used to having everything handed to us without having to strive for it that we have almost forgotten as a people what it is like to make sacrifices or have to struggle to survive. Poor people used to have to hunt for food; now they get Welfare and don’t have to do a thing to get it. Success comes easily because people find new applications for already existing technology; they don’t have to sweat and labor to make something new because others have done that for them. We don’t even have to shop and prepare our meals anymore; we just call Pizza Hut and chow down on food better than we can make ourselves.

    The result of all of this laziness is that we are starved for entertainment, because everything comes so easily now. Back when people had to toil in fields all day to survive, the only entertainment they needed was sleep. Today, we have insomnia because there are so many forms of entertainment available to us—and yet we starve.

    So what is the solution? You won’t like it.

    Turn off your TV and put down the comic book. Pick up a real book—preferably one without pictures—or go for a walk or ride a bike without any real destination; or have a destination and walk where you would normally drive, like to the store for a couple small items (and for Christ’s sake, leave your cell phone and iPod at home and actually see and hear what is around you for a change of pace; you will be surprised at the beauty everywhere that you were too caught up by media to notice). Go be with friends, or have them over to your place, and leave the TV off. If you must have background music, keep the volume low and converse without the aid of some “mobile device.” Learn to play a musical instrument (music used to be compulsory in most schools; nearly everyone in previous generations knew how to play at least one instrument, whether they had talent or not). Take up a hobby, preferably one that is creative and, if possible, one that can earn you an extra income but that you love. Plant a garden and tend it with care; growing flowers is fine if you have a job that pays well, but you can reduce your grocery bills by growing your own vegetables in your yard, and you may find that the work is rewarding on many levels other than satiation. Do whatever it takes to stop allowing the media to make your decisions for you.

    I’m not saying you have to abandon entertainment entirely; but do you really need to be inundated by it constantly? My wife and I gave up our satellite TV years ago out of necessity.  Now that we can afford to have it back, we don’t want it. The TV does not go on until 7 PM, and that’s when we watch our Netflix movie (although I admit to two broadcast indulgences: “Jeopardy” and “California’s Gold” with Huell Howser). Sometimes we play a CD or two when we have guests—at low volume—but otherwise the only time you hear music in our place is when I play the piano. We both spend far more time reading novels than we do watching TV, and if we had a yard, we’d have that garden I mentioned (as apartment dwellers, we have no option in this matter). I don’t think we’re “better” than you or anyone who is addicted to constant media bombardment, but we do seem to have more real conversations than a lot of people I know, even if the topic is often silly or delightfully repulsive, and we are the two least stressed people I know, even though we have a lot in our lives that probably should cause us stress.

    Here’s the key to it all, and I challenge everyone under the age of 40 to try this: get off your cell phones and iPods, stop texting everyone you know and really see the world around you. Strike up a conversation with a stranger, or at least give them a nod and say “Good morning,” or “afternoon,” or whatever; such casual greetings and acknowledging the existence of those around you can have an incredibly positive effect on them, making the world a brighter, more pleasant place.

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