Fantasy world

February 28, 2011 | By | 2 Replies More

I just watched an hour of the Academy Awards tonight, and I was impressed with the snippets of movies that were shown (though I haven’t seen any of the featured movies yet). I love movies. I’ve seen hundreds of movies in my life, I’d bet I’ve watched two or three movies per month over my 54 years of life. Many of them have inspired me. I’m glad we have the opportunity to watch well-crafted movies. I should add that I watch almost no live television.

I’m increasingly disturbed about the great number of Americans who know far more about the movies and television they watch than they know about the real world. They know more because they watch dozens of movies every month. They can talk for endless hours about movies, movie stars and even the gossip regarding movie stars. Most people I know have a far greater grasp about movies than they do about any of the big issues facing this country. Movies are as real to them as the world they actually live in.

The following statistics are from the Kaiser Foundation:

Today, 8-18 year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes (7:38) to using entertainment media across a typical day (more than 53 hours a week). And because they spend so much of that time ‘media multitasking’ (using more than one medium at a time), they actually manage to pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes (10:45) worth of media content into those 7½ hours.

The Academy promotes movies as opportunities to escape, and movies function too well in that regard. I’m concerned about the types of heroes presented to us by the Academy. All too often, they are lucky bumpkins; the don’t often plan ahead. They usually solve their problems through violence. Things work out somehow, despite their deficiencies. These are not the types of heroes that America needs at the moment. This country is in terrible straights (economically, exhaustion of natural resources, educationally, medically). Americans are stunningly ignorant about science and equally ignorant about how their own government functions. They don’t even know the basics of their own religions. They are complacent about their ignorance and they are content to solve too many of their problems with violence and oppression. Endless hours of passive electronic addictive entertainment has made us docile and stupid.

It seems to me that we need less escapism and more reality. We need fewer movies, fewer television shows, fewer “news” shows, fewer sports shows and more self-critical thinking. Turning around this country is going to be impossible as long as movies and other forms of passive entertainment are so much more important to most people than being informed and involved regarding the massive failures of our own government.

I don’t know how to implement a solution, though I do think that it should include turning off the television. Turning off the tube will also get Americans some desperately necessary distance from advertising. Instead of being passive viewers, more of them should pick up challenging books or engage in self-critical discussions with people who think at least somewhat differently. Doing this will give us a chance to shake off our collective hypnosis and tune in to the real world. Maybe after we do this for a decade or so, we will have earned the right to sit back and escape at the movies.

Tomorrow morning enjoy the many prominent headlines about the smiling people who won Academy Awards. And enjoy all the other prominent entertainment news, including pages and pages of sports stories written with passion and conviction. You won’t see much (if anything) about America’s staggering problems in your daily paper. Nor will you see any articles pointing out that for many decades the United States was doing its damndest to keep brutal tyrants in power across the Middle East, and that the recent revolutions by common people are rejections of the American Way of doing business. There’s no need for those sorts of articles in our fantasy world.

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Category: Addictions, Entertainment, Psychology Cognition

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (2)

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  1. Dave Jenkins says:

    Erich,

    While I would generally agree that people seem to be way too focused on the lives of beautiful rich people, I would equally offer up some sympathetic points:

    – people, I've found, usually only think about the things they have to think about. This mostly extends about 5 miles from their house, and includes what color to paint the deck and when Billy's karate class gets cancelled.

    – people may actually be very interested in the heavier topics, but politeness pushes conversation away from such sticky issues: would you really discuss union politics at work? Would you really talk about Arabs and their revolution in the supermarket? Even among friends that have similar views to mine (I think), I find myself biting my tongue on topics of politics and economics.

    – to your point about science: yes, and yes. I dearly wish kids studied much more science and engineering. But let's face it– there's a market for eyeball time, and TV is much more sexy than logarithmic tables. On top of this, school systems are being gutted of their science budgets, and the regulations are getting oppressive (no more exploding lithium metal in water, no more dissecting frogs). NASA is growing more risk-averse every day.

    In the end, I don't think the "lumpen proletariat" can be edumacated beyond any level that they won't accept. In a resigned kind of way, I'm okay with that. I'm smart, and I make good money being smart. People find happiness wherever they want to find it, so let them find it– even if that means getting zombied by TV shows idolizing rich beautiful people.

    If you get appointed Minister of Culture and Information, please let me know.

  2. Brynn Jacobs says:

    The Onion: "A steady stream of indistinguishable, uniformly beautiful actresses brought excitement and joy to millions of Americans Sunday by donning similarly glamorous dresses that hugged their identical figures and marching past television cameras at consistent intervals. Nielsen ratings revealed more than half the country was transfixed by the procession of loose curls, white teeth, and vapid over-the-shoulder glances by each of the 100 percent transposable starlets. "It's amazing to be here," said any one of the striking females to an army of perky, unmemorable entertainment reporters. "Thank you! I can barely breathe in it. You look beautiful, too. I love your earrings." At the conclusion of the hour-long parade, the homogeneous beauties were handed gold statuettes to honor their near-exact roles in impossible-to-tell-apart motion pictures."

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