Sex, Drugs, and Boredom

Why we should take entertainment more seriously than we do.

Why you can't help but care about Brad and Angelina, Part I

Celebrity doublethink

     This post is about "entertainment," and in writing it I feel like a salmon trying to talk to other salmon about water. Not only is entertainment all around us, but various factors conspire to make it difficult to assess, even difficult to notice.      For example, what we mean by entertainment is diversion, that which takes us away from serious pursuits. But one of the things I want to say is that entertainment has some very serious consequences for our culture and our way of life. In doing so, I may seem like someone who needs to loosen up. "It's just fun! Don't take it so seriously, dude!"
      If you are an academic calling attention to entertainment, many people automatically assume you are a bore. There have always been plenty of people who do try and take entertainment seriously, pointing out, for example, that television watching is a less worthy pursuit than, say, reading poetry. Or perhaps that violence on television is bad for children. These commentators on entertainment often have valid and important points to make, but sometimes they are also sort of annoying, preachy even.
      No preaching here, I don't mean to tell you not to partake of entertainment. Instead, I just want to urge you to think about your engagement with entertainment. Like, let's talk honestly about Brad and Angelina. You don't give a shit about Brad and Angelina, do you? You're not some tabloid junkie, you're reading a blog on Psychology Today, you're a different demographic. Why then, if it so happened that you saw Brad or Angelina in an airport, would you tell everyone you could about it? What's up with this?
      You can at least begin to see how this sort of matter has some relevance for psychology, because at heart this is question is similar to: "Why do some people keep drinking when they recognize that it would be better for them to quit? Why do some women keep dating the same sort of guy when they recognize that it would be better to change the pattern? Why are some people-you, for example-intrigued by celebrities when you recognize that really it's sort of silly? Why is your behavior not entirely under your control here?

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Peter Stromberg, Ph.D., is an Anthropologist and author of Caught in Play: How entertainment works on you.

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