ValueSpeak
A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker

THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT

Bryan was stunned.  Shocked.  Incredulous, even.

“I can’t believe it,” he said.  “I thought for sure you would have seen it by now.”

“Well, I haven’t,” I said.  “Sorry.”

“But this movie will be an Oscar-winner!  Two thumbs way up!”

“Uh-huh.”

My indifference seemed to frustrate him.  “So that means it’s an important movie, maybe one of the most important movies of our time!” he explained.  “You need to see it!”

Now it was my turn to be incredulous.

Bryan,” I said, “we’re talking about a movie here. You know – entertainment?”

Bryan’s only response was a look that had “what’s your point?” written all over it.

“I’m sorry,” I continued, “but I just have a hard time putting the words `movie’ and `important’ together in the same sentence.  I mean, a movie is... well... a movie.”

“But this is more than a movie,” he said.  “This movie is an experience.”

“I’m sure it’s powerful,” I said.  “It’s just not something I want to see.”

He eyed me suspiciously.  “It’s the R-rating thing, isn’t it?” he asked.

Bryan knew how my wife and I decided long ago that we would draw a hard line in the entertainment sand at R-rated movies.  Yes, we know that the movie ratings system is arbitrary, at best.  And yes, we know that there are many PG-13 movies that are every bit as offensive as movies that are rated R.  We get all that.  But we figured drawing our personal and family line at the R-rating would eliminate a lot of cinematic garbage through which we wouldn’t have to sift.  The rest we would handle on a case-by-case basis.  And even if we missed a few excellent movies in the process . . . well, they were just movies.  Entertainment.  You know?

“The rating is part of it,” I admitted.  “Look, I’ve heard all about this movie.  How could I not?  It’s all anyone is talking about.  And you know how I feel about the subject of the movie.  It’s something that’s very important to me.  I just don’t want to see a movie about it.”

“But this isn’t just any movie . . .”

“Even if it’s the greatest movie that will ever be made, it’s still just a movie.  And believe it or not, Bryan, somehow I’ll find a way to live a full and complete life without seeing it.”

Bryan shook his head sadly.  Obviously, he didn’t understand me.  But that’s OK, because I’m not sure I understand him, either.  Maybe I grew too cynical during my years as a TV critic for a daily newspaper, but I’m troubled when I see how totally consumed our culture is with entertainment and entertainers.  Schools schedule PTA meetings around “American Idol.”  Network news anchors delay coverage of significant international developments to breathlessly report on a court case that has no widespread impact other than the fact that it involves a popular athlete.  And millions of star-struck fans watching televised awards ceremonies are tutored in political correctness by entertainers who seem to think that the world would flounder in ignorance if they didn’t weave a few preachy pronouncements into their acceptance speeches.

While entertainment and entertainers can be . . . you know . . . entertaining, I can’t help but be concerned when I see a generation of young people who resent being asked to do anything that isn’t “fun.”  I wonder what it says about our values when entertainment is considered “important.”  And I worry about the long-term implications for a culture that esteems entertainment so highly (do the words “Roman Empire” and “tea and circus” ring a bell?).

I know, I know.  I shouldn’t worry about such things.  Believe me, I don’t do it because it’s entertaining.  I only do it because it’s . . . you know . . . important.

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--- © Joseph Walker

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"How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through www.Amazon.com.