With a steady source of food and a lot more time on their hands, our ancestors sought something to engage their neurons to avoid boredom. Their creativity allowed them to develop many forms of entertainment to keep the attention of an audience for long enough for them to form new synapses. Entertainment is nothing more than something for you to focus on that releases pleasure.
Boredom is a feeling that most of us want to avoid at all costs, the simplest way is to activate your mental plane and start creating new neural paths. You might have heard of this concept as using your imagination. Imagining stories and building universes both require many new neural paths to form and therefore releases pleasure. It’s why daydreaming feels so good.
Unfortunately, not everyone has established quick access to their mental plane, and some don’t even want to try. Instead, people with a better connection to their imagination can produce art that can entertain others. Art can range from telling a story to moving your body and plenty of stuff in between. To compensate artists for entertaining, audiences are willing to give money for the sake of their entertainment. The exchange of money for entertainment opens up a new industry, one that would eventually rise to immense power.
Entertainment reaches into every aspect of human behavior and society to find something to grab the attention of an audience. It combined our competitive nature with our enjoyment of moving to create sports. It combines our empathy, language, humor, and emotions to create storytelling. It combines our love of food and our creativity to create cooking. Humans will always find a way to find entertainment in their daily lives. Just think about how often you and your friends try to make a game out of some boring task.
The most entertaining things are the ones that relate to you. Those of us who love to watch basketball probably play basketball as well. Watching incredible athletes attracts your attention because they can do much more than you can but they are still playing the same game. Seeing a dancer move her body is entertaining because you have basically the same parts as her, though she can likely use them with much more skill than you.
We like stories with characters that relate to us. A story with talking animals and one set in ancient times can still relate to us despite being in a different setting. For example, Romeo & Juliet is a love story involving conflicted factions. Renaissance Italy is not the only time or place that love and conflict exists, therefore people can still relate.
As new technologies developed, entertainment quickly found a way to utilize them. The implementation of the radio soon saw a market to play music and advertise to listeners. The development of movies allowed storytellers to share their stories with moving pictures and sound. The popularization of television brought that storytelling into your own home and life would never be the same.
A TV in every home meant that citizens could come home from a long workday and sit down for endless entertainment. The constantly changing light picture of the screen was enough to draw our attention and forget the world around us. TV programs were developed to come on at a specific time on a specific day and people began scheduling their lives around the programs. “Must-see TV” becomes a highly coveted spot for advertisers to expose their products to the largest audiences. Commercials eventually became forms of entertainment themselves, developed to grab the attention of the viewers often using sex or fear.
The neverending programming of TV meant that once one show ends, another begins. This quickly becomes a trap for viewers who simply don’t have anything else to do but sit on their couch and keep watching. I remember I watched so much TV one summer that I decided to watch an upcoming show that I didn’t like because I liked the one playing after it.
Along comes the Information Age and technology explodes allowing for unbelievable devices to be in the palms of our hands. We now have access to the Internet and therefore can watch TV shows, even entire series, at our own pace on our own time. The increasing accessibility of entertainment means our consciousness must split in order to take it all in. I know I’m guilty of mindlessly scrolling on my phone while barely watching the TV.
With a constant stream of entertainment in the form of social media, movies, games, books, and music, we’ve become habituated to expect entertainment at all times. We become bored quicker than any generation before us and that often translates to a lack of creativity. Unfortunately, this is exactly the state that companies providing entertainment want to keep their audiences.
As an entertainment company, you make money based on how many people consume your art and how many advertisers pay to use you as a platform to sell their product. A market filled with an audience expecting, even demanding, more entertainment is a very advantageous environment for those companies. Like all businesses, entertainment companies can be bought by larger corporations that have a toe in many different markets. The diversification of entertainment, coupled with the buying of companies, means a handful of large companies have the ability to control a huge industry.
The American entertainment industry has become an empire with a worldwide audience. A single large company in this industry has the ability to shape the expectations of a huge amount of people. They can define what it means to be a man or women, to be black or white, or how to treat other people. Entertainment companies also have the ability to grab the focus of the public if a distraction is needed. It is a power that can do a lot of good, but can also cause a great amount of harm.
The entertainers are seen by these companies as a means to make money which can have incredibly harmful effects on their mental state. Entertainers are groomed and convinced that everyone loves them. The attention of adoring fans becomes an expectation of these individuals and they try to do anything to get it back when it inevitably fades. Their immense wealth and notoriety also gives them the opportunity to constantly party and use drugs which can quickly become problematic. So many entertainers are unhappy, despite working one of the most fun jobs, simply because their expectations are too high.
It’s important to remember the purpose of entertainment: to release pleasure in our brains. Never forget that you have the ability to entertain yourself with your own imagination. If you do choose to consume other people’s art, remember to look at their intention. Enjoy what our species has made but don’t let it take over your life. We, the people, decide who we want to be and how we should live; don’t let that be decided by a few companies.