How Entertainment is the New Xanax

An inside look at the cacophony of music, movies and video games and its effect on the masses. Is entertainment making us docile? TRAVIS Magazine writer Ryan Bolton investigates the issue.

I was standing outside watching my friend inhale toxins through her cigarette. It was cold enough to freeze a polar bear. We were tensely debating the recent Superman movie and its undeniable attention and media play. Our arguments were – like usual – cyclical. Instead of questioning the merits of the special effects, we came to the conclusion that entertainment has pushed politics – our usual subject of discussion – to the discarded wayside. We started to discuss this phenomenon.

It’s an age where parents can no longer keep up with the ever-evolving world of technology, while its main audience – the youth – desperately attempts to keep up. Computer specs are on par with gas pumps as they are both constantly on the rise and no one really understands why. With important issues like an ongoing war in Afghanistan, perpetual genocide occurring in Darfur, Canadian and American elections happening, a slowing global economy inter alia, many find themselves haranguing about Monday’s Gossip Girl episode. During my discussion with my friend, she asked the following: “Is entertainment the new opiate of the masses?” I fumbled with my hands and my answer. At first glance, yes, mass entertainment has definitely changed the social climate, but to what extent?

The youth are still very much connected to the world of news, although statistics say that high school and college students are beginning to turn a proverbial shoulder to the news and the way they receive it. British-based media watchdog, Ofcom found last year that increasing numbers of youth aged 16 to 24 are “rejecting TV news.” In the report entitled, “Future of TV News,” half of the surveyed said they followed the news only when “something important” was happening in world affairs. But students do still get their news – mainly now through blogs. The grammatically blasphemous, spelling mistake-steeped world of blogs and their everyday authors have altered the way many get the news and make sense of the surrounding chaos.

After the Dark Knight broke film industry records in its opening weeks and the iPhone garnered unprecedented media attention – not to mention waiting lines – with its summer release, it is clear that the populace is looking to be entertained. The constantly evolving electronic age is aiding this transformation. Newer, faster gadgets are connecting individuals to the Internet to their phones. Media sites and blogs are constantly able to update in real time. TV shows and movies can be streamed and watched anywhere with an Internet connection. YouTube and its teammate Google have changed the way even journalists research. Not sure the spelling of “guillotine”? Type it into the omnipresent Google. The world of entertainment is quickly consuming that of politics, news, war and so on. I would type out the rest, but a new Family Guy episode just came on.

Next time you are feeling drowsy and you decide to stream 90210, ask why. Is it because you want to be entertained, or is it because you’re too tired to learn and pick up a book?

Or maybe that is the cause of the problem. Too much entertainment leaves us too tired to think.

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