I have to confess that I have a very unpopular idea. This one is different from my others because it is unpopular among individuals who I would consider my peers and who might otherwise agree with many of my other unpopular ideas. To sum it up, I truly don't care whether entertainment is "good" or not. I alluded to this idea in my Entertainment vs. Art rant, but now I feel it's time to spell it out.
My feelings about the works of a particularly infamous author will serve as a good example for what I'm getting at. There was something very haunting to me about the name H.P. Lovecraft, long before I read any of his work or even knew who he was. This was almost certainly do to the places in which the name was used, and the connotation of its usage. As many of you know, Lovecraft has inspired a fairly significant cult following; both in the entertainment sense and, in some cases, the paying real tribute to unspeakable gods sense. I was aware of his reputation and many of the general themes and ideas that he was responsible for, prior to actually reading any of his stories. Lovecraft was wise never to reveal or spell out the contents of his mythical Necronomicon, leaving the reader to imagine what menacing horrors might be lurking within it. In a strange way, Lovecraft's stories themselves were like his famous grimoire; after reading them and learning more about them, some of the mystery and sense of foreboding surrounding them, was taken away.
I must admit that I am a product of my time. I am sure that in a period in which literature was the primary source of entertainment media (say the early 1900's, for instance) standards for the flow of information were different. But because I'm living in a period where information and entertainment travel so quickly; I have become accustom to the standards of my time. The truth is that Lovecraft's stories do seem to often drag in places. You could say that he's a little too good at describing the atmospheres and settings he's so well known for. This is not an attempt to criticize the author, but to explain the personal impression that someone from a different time with different expectations gets from his work. I would argue that Lovecraft's greatest contribution to entertainment and culture is the thousands of other works (including literature, comics, games, movies, TV series and episodes, plush toys and inventive campaign slogans) that his stories have laid the groundwork for, rather than his stories themselves. The Cthulhu Mythos is his greatest contribution because it is so accessible and can so easily be adapted to whatever needs we have. It has taken on a life of its own.
The problem with the statement I just made is that it will be considered heresy among Lovecraft fans. After all, his stories were the original and of course, superior to all those who have taken his ideas and ran with them; right? This is exactly the attitude I'm talking about! There is often a pretentiousness that accompanies artistic judgment and this attitude seems to often side with more inaccessible types of creative endeavors. By inaccessible, I mean both things which are not so easy to physically access, as well as those that are psychologically more difficult or that would require more mental effort and patients for anyone to grasp, regardless of intelligence (sure, intelligent people can grasp these things easier, but it still requires greater mental effort for them than more accessible things). I am not saying that there is no place for artistic elitism, but it should have boundaries. This is why I believe there should be more of a distinction between art and entertainment. Although I realize that these two concepts overlap, I believe that it would be in the best interest of both to separate them as principals, and to judge them by their own individual standards. It should be obvious that confusing the two can have detrimental affects for both of them. I'd like to point out that this is not always a problem; however, when it is, it's bad.
One thing that seems very interesting to me is the fact that when a self proclaimed or established artist decides to "sell out" and go for entertainment value, it's often considered a negative thing. And yet, I hear very little complaints when a movie director, who may be creating a summer blockbuster (obviously for purposes of entertainment) makes decisions based on deep artistic meaning as opposed to more blatant stimulation and aesthetic (and yes, it does happen occasionally). Something that really bothers me about the conception of artistic/entertainment endeavors, such as books, movies and TV, is the seemingly endless pursuit of a deeper "human element". Film schools, art classes and writing groups seem to be filled with people looking to capture some deep, emotional aspect of the human character. What about impersonal strangeness and pointless fun (or from the creator's standpoint, fun for profit)? This is where I believe that art and entertainment should part ways.
One of my motivations for this criticism is undoubtedly the fact that I don't like drama. There, I said it. Drama often involves conflict, stress, frustration and tension. I don't find these emotions to be very pleasant in real life, so it should come as no surprise that I don't want them in my entertainment (in fact, I believe that entertainment is all about getting a break from the kind of crap that you have to deal with in the "real world"). Experiences which fall under the umbrella of drama seem to make up a lot of the "human element" in entertainment. Good art seems to often involve work which inspires deep emotions in people. Personally, there are relatively few deep emotions that I enjoy feeling (and yes, I do detect some of the subtle masochistic tendencies in the lovers of drama, which we explored in the previous rant). I do not consider riding the emotional roller coaster an enjoyable leisure activity. And the kind of people who typically thrive on that kind of thing, are usually the same people I'd like to see dragged out to a field; to be torn apart by wild dogs (there's your drama). I'm the sort of person who enjoys deep concepts, as opposed to deep emotions.
One issue, which I completely sympathize with Lovecraft on, is his love of environments and atmosphere. He wasn't into character driven stories either. And, from reading some of his personal philosophy, I'd say that he and I seem to have a similar way of looking at the world and other people.
It would be very easy for me to be a complete poseur and tell you that I enjoy a lot of the generally accepted "good" stuff out there (it's not very difficult to find out what's generally considered good by "authorities" on any given topic). I am, in general, a fan of anime. However, in true villain form, I cannot agree with many of the fans out there about what the "best" anime is (I've seen several top anime list, all of which seem to include many of the same titles). There is some generally accepted good anime out there which I like, and some I don't. Just as there is anime that I enjoy quite a lot, that others would deem to be pure crap. The point is that this is all just opinion, and I really don't care what others dictate as being good or not. You shouldn't either. Just consider the absurdity of listening to people who are telling you what your opinion should be (yes, I'm aware of the oxymoronic nature of those last two sentences). There may be many experts in art out there, but I'm the only expert of me.
Well, there it is. What I have just said violates all basic standards of conversation and debate occurring in art schools, comic book shops and fan site forums, daily. I have just shunned any claim I might have to knowing what good entertainment/art is and, in doing so, have left myself wide open to accusations of ignorance or inability to grasp the complexities and depth that would be easily recognized by more well informed poseurs. Now that you've heard my confession; are any of you out there willing to fess up and say what you really think? Feel free to agree with me.