Do We Even Want to be Entertained?

So, I’ve been wondering this for a while now.  I wasn’t sure how to write this up either and have gone through it in my head many times.  Then I stumbled onto this part from a Suicide Squad review:

“In my sensible critical opinion, Suicide Squad wasn’t a complete disaster, but inexcusably mediocre. To be fair, the audience I saw the film with appeared to love every frame: big laughter, cheers for the action and clapping as the credits rolled. Is there a disconnect between critics and audiences?”

Now, I’m not going to touch on the question because I have another one.  Are people disconnecting themselves from movies, shows, and books before they even start?  I’ve seen so many people swear that something will be bad for months and then they begrudgingly indulge.  SURPRISE!  They didn’t like it for exactly the reasons either they said or the critics declared.  Sometimes word for word too when they put up their social media announcement that they were right.

It seems like it’s a lot more difficult to entertain people these days.  Solid opinions are being made off the promotional material, which creates a bind for an artist out to only entertain the audience.  The goal changes from entertaining people to changing their established opinion, which you never knew prior to finishing whatever it is you put out there.  You can’t do anything about that.  It’s entirely on the head of the reader/viewer to let their opinions being influenced by the final product.  This is for better or worse, but I see more people holding true to their original opinions as if changing is a horrible sign of weakness.

Honestly, I’m still confused on why people go to see a movie or read a book that they already claim to hate.  You tend to search for problems that will justify your previously established opinion, which becomes your focus instead of giving the story a change to entertain you.  I’m pretty sure I’ve done it in the past, but I’ve spent the last few years sticking to stuff that interests me.  Honestly, the first ‘Game of Thrones’ book is where I had a preexisting opinion and tried to read it, but failed miserably.  The series was described to me as ‘every character you love will die’ and that caused me to look for reasons to give up.  I learned my lesson there and have been pickier about what I watch and read now.  Also, who I listen to. This means I miss out on some blockbusters and end up at odds with people who hate the movies that are cool to hate on, but I don’t waste 2-3 hours of my life on something I didn’t have any intention of enjoying.

And that’s part of the ‘problem’ that I think I see.  Many people don’t enter fiction with the intention of enjoying the escape and having fun.  They set out to analyze and put their ‘findings’ on the Internet to prove whatever they were saying before.  This isn’t even to hate what they’re looking at because you can go to the other side too.  I can probably sum this up with this:

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Now, this is coming from an author who writes to entertain first and a viewer/reader who does so solely to relax.  Sure, I’ll get into an analysis discussion after I have fun, but I like to be in the moment when it comes to fiction.  Just drift away and go on the adventure because I’m tired of thinking about bills, my exhaustion, deadlines, and all the other stresses of my life.  Adding a goal to rip whatever I’m enjoying to shreds kind of defeats my purpose.  This is just me though and I do think a person shouldn’t be forced to like something.  Yet, we should give these things a chance instead of going in with a critical agenda.  Going back to that review segment: Critics are paid to analyze a work while the audience pays to have fun.  That’s how I see it.  You can have overlap, but it seems silly to hand money over for something you plan on hating.

Maybe I’m naive and missing the modern day point of everything.  I remember going to a summer blockbuster every weekend and having a blast.  There was no bombardment of trailers, clips, opinions, predictions, actor contracts, future releases, etc.  I saw what was out, picked a showing, and went to have fun.  Fiction has always been a source of fun for me.  Probably why I skip some big movies that don’t hold my interest and why I have so few movies that I regret seeing.  So, I guess I’m missing the modern point of fiction if it’s no longer to have fun and leave reality behind for a few hours.

(I’m really hoping there isn’t too much of a fuss in the comments.  I’ve gotten into this fight on FB a few times.  So, let’s try to be civil.)

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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67 Responses to Do We Even Want to be Entertained?

  1. N. N. Light says:

    Reblogged this on POTL: All Things Books, Reading and Publishing and commented:
    An insightful post about what happened to the “fun” in books and movies.

    MRS N

    Like

  2. I agree with you. There is so much bandwagoning going on everywhere. If we like product A by default we must hate product B. It’s the hipster approach to the world. Like DC, you must hate Marvel, etc. I like to escape too, and find myself enjoying many films the critics didn’t. Books and other media are the same way. People should enjoy what the want and make their own minds up.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. zombiephreak says:

    Well you’re right, people judge things before they see them.

    But also I blame the hype machine for this. Let’s take the film industry for example. I remember a time when you would see like a 3 minute trailer for a movie and that is all you would get for months until it was released.

    Now we get multiple trailers, posters, photos from the movie set, teasers, interviews from cast and crew on talk shows, viral marketing, the script or the entire movie leaked online weeks if not months before the actual release date, (I’m looking at you Wolverine: Origins!), movie reviews on websites weeks before the film is actually available to the public etc.

    So in the end, we the consumers end up seeing a LOT of the finished product before it’s actually released. And because of this, we have no choice but to form an opinion before we even see the finished product.

    Like

    • Excellent point about the hype machine. It’s out of control at some points and will use whatever it takes to grab attention. Now we’re seeing controversy being used as a sales pitch. Didn’t realize Wolverine did that, but what you describe is why I didn’t bother with Captain America: Civil War. So much was put out, including who was going to be in a future movie, that I felt no excitement to pay money. Once they showed Spidey in a commercial, I lost the last bit of curiosity.

      Like

  4. Recently in the UK there was a furore when a public vote for ‘The Best Sitcom’ selected something that the critics had panned, but the audiences enjoyed. It was astonishing how many commentators wanted to line up with the critics, and abuse the people for whom the program had been made.

    As a writer I agree entirely with you – our task is to entertain the audience, not the critics. (Oh, and I didn’t like GOT either. But I don’t mind saying so openly as I’ve got a tin hat on, ready for the abuse…)

    Like

    • Wow. Sad to say that such a response doesn’t surprise me. At some point, we became unable to accept that people have a different opinion. I’ve seen some shows, movies, and books get praised while I found them to be unoriginal or plain bad. Yet, I figure that’s just me and go about my business. The only thing that saves me in the GoT discussion is that I tried to read and watch it. Maybe I’ll try again another time and it’ll be different.

      Like

  5. Gradmama2011 says:

    Reblogged this on SOMETIMES and commented:
    Excellent article on what we expect from entertainment. This is my first visit to Charles Yallowitz’s blog LEGENDS OF WINDERMERE, and like it a lot. I agree that when I like a film or book…I LIKE it…and I don’t care what the critics say. Some of my favorites are works that others say are terrible. Thanks for enabling the RE=BLOG button! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Gradmama2011 says:

    Hi…I have reblogged this article to my blog, Sometimes. My take on what you say here is this…what matters to me when it comes to entertainment is MY opinion. I decide what I like and don’t like…some of the films and books I love…other people hate. 🙂

    Like

  7. quiall says:

    I don’t need somebody else telling me what I like. I’m a grownup, I am more qualified than he/she is to know what I like.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Love the visual summary 🙂 Sometimes a spade is just a spade…people try to find hidden meaning even when something is transparent. Personally, when I watch a movie or read a book I do so with an open mind because both I use as a form of escape. I do listen to opinion but usually from those I trust 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. L. Marie says:

    I appreciate this insightful post. I also went to every summer blockbuster back in the day, glad to see each film. Now with trailers that tell just about everything about a film, I’m less likely to see a movie if I know too much about it. Ignoring the critics, extra trailers (those beyond the initial offering), and hype helps me enjoy a film more.

    I go to a movie to be entertained. If it meets my basement level expectations, great. I don’t go to a film necessarily for Oscar bait or because the story was “ripped from today’s headlines.” I go to have a great time. I also want to be entertained by the fiction I read. I don’t care if the book is a “literary masterpiece.” That’s not a draw for me. I’ve read and put down literary masterpieces that bored me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Funny that you mention Oscars. I’m always being told that I need to see more Oscar-worthy films. Didn’t know that was a rule. They don’t really draw my attention like action, comedy, sci-fi, etc. Not sure why those are mandatory.

      Liked by 2 people

      • L. Marie says:

        The only Oscar films I usually see are the foreign films and the animated ones. Or films like BROOKLYN, which I loved. Other than that, the fact that a film is an Oscar contender does not really move me.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I used to watch movies that got Oscar nods. Not on purpose, but they were more interesting. I don’t even pay attention to the Oscar contender thing any more. Barely even realize the show is on until the day off when I can’t find anything worthwhile to watch.

        Liked by 2 people

  10. The numbers of choices today for leisure time activity puts pressure on any venue to be worth the time invested. I can’t answer the question ,”Why people go and look at what they said they hated before they went to go look?” Must be some kind of need to be right no matter what. I personally would not walk into a movie theater, spend $20, lose my shoes on the sticky floor, listen to all the whispers, and text tones if I hated the movie. Are people nuts?

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Heather Cai says:

    Great post, Charles! For me, I don’t follow the mainstream stuff. like I don’t read the first Chinese Nobel Prize Winner, Mo Yan’s book after I painfully finished reading his Big Breast and Wide Hips. My personal habit is that there must be something good hiding somewhere that I can’t see unless I try first. And there is, though sometimes very little. This is about reading a book.

    But as for movies, I love watching movies with beautiful images and a good story and good directors/actors/ actresses/ and good characters. Mostly I love dramas and art films. It depends on how I feel. There was a time, I feel so gray. So I watch Lars Von Trier’s films.

    For Game of Throne, I read the first book but watched them all. I wonder, if I read all the books first, would I ever finish the TV Show? Probably not. Violence, sex, humanity and death. And it’s the cheap death that keeps me hanging in there. The more I “hate”, the more I fight and the stronger I will be. This is just a personal experience. (Before, for years I could have never finished the horror movie Hostel each time I tried. But only after I viewed it “philosophically”, I finished watching both last year. I felt a great achivement then.)

    Maybe this is a bit “insane”, but it is true. Just like I hate money, but I can’t live without it. I have to live with it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think I’ve ever read a Noble Prize book. Didn’t even realize there were those, so you’re a step ahead of me there. 🙂

      Horror and I don’t really get along, so Hostel has never been on the list. I’ve gotten better over the years, but the genre still makes it hard to sleep for a few days. I’ve heard that GoT is very different between the books and show, but I don’t know if one is more violent and sexual than the other. Sounds like the same story told in two different ways. Kind of like how there are two Fullmetal Alchemist anime series. I haven’t really watched GoT, so I’m not sure what the cheap deaths are. These the ones that come out of nowhere?

      Liked by 2 people

  12. How does the song go? Haters gonna hate?

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Reblogged this on Kissing Bandits and commented:
    As a writer and an English teacher, this is what I want for my readers/students–to think/judge for themselves, and to formulate their own opinions regardless of what others think.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. You know, there are two kinds of people. The Glass-Half-Full kind, and the Glass-Half-Empty kind. The Lemons kind, and the Make-Lemonade kind. The… okay, enough metaphors. Just as you say, I think that some readers/viewers do make judgments based on cover, reviews, trailers, et all without ever seeing the thing. Others prefer to actually read/see the thing before judging.

    Although social media provides opportunities for both, the advance publicity will always have greater volume than comments based on seeing/reading the thing. It’s a thorny thicket, and we all bushwhack our way through.

    No, really, that’s enough metaphors, Deborah!

    Like

    • I agree with all that. The thing that confuses me is when someone looks at all the hype material and decides they hate it. That part is fine, but then they go into the experience with the purpose of hating it. I’ve been made to watch movies that I had no interest in, but I tried to give them a chance. I guess my perspective is that if you’re going to see something then leave yourself open to enjoying it. Especially if you’re spending money on it.

      Liked by 1 person

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