Art and Entertainment

3 Jun

I make a distinction between art and entertainment.  Keep in mind, this is my distinction and I don’t demand that everybody else agrees with me or makes a distinction at all.  However, I think it’s one of those things that everybody probably should think about and determine for themselves.

For me, entertainment is something that makes time pass more pleasantly.  Admittedly, this can take many forms for many different individuals.  Some people like movies, some people like computer games, some people could watch a laughing baby for hours (well if a baby laughed for hours, actually a baby that just laughed for hours at a time and did nothing else would be pretty damned creepy, but I digress).  Entertainment need do nothing else, and in fact there are times where I want nothing else.  

Art is something that gives an experience.  This is a bit harder to explain, but for me, art is something that sticks around after I am done looking at it.  It floats around my head, drifting into my subconscious,  subtly altering and sometimes challenging the way I look at the world.  Very good art can roll around in my head for days and even weeks, while entertainment tends to dissipate as soon as it’s over.  Also while entertainment tends to reward passivity, art rewards scrutiny and attention.  With art, the more I bring to it, the more it gives back.  

Now I don’t think that art and entertainment are mutually exclusive, the categories overlap.  However I have very different criteria as to whether something was entertaining vs. whether something is a good piece of art.  Some very good art is not entertaining at all (one example Guernica, or the movie Dogville).  Many pieces of entertainment fall apart if you look too close (like I love the movie Aladdin, but I would never really study it, I don’t think it would give back much–others are free to disagree on that.)  

Both can be good for us.  Entertainment is especially good if I just need to lighten up, or if I’m exhausted, or I just want to get out of my head for a little while.  Art is especially good to broaden my world, to make me think about stuff.  I’ve also found that art can get me out of a rut, while entertainment won’t.

The reason I’ve been thinking about this is sometimes in conversations about, say, a movie, when people ask the question “is this good?” it’s important to determine what kind of good they are asking about.  There’s a huge difference between “will this give me a pleasant 90 minutes?” vs. “is this creating a new and significant experience?”

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