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Filtering and Entertainment – Meaning

February 7, 2014

Recently, we discussed the filtering-the past for entertainment. Today, we discuss how meaningful entertainment tends to be good entertainment.

Meaning is an inherent part of our lives. One of the driving forces behind Modernist literature was the search for meaning, often conducted by individuals. The idea that we ought to be striving for something ‘greater’, that we should be extraordinary. Many different ideas behind meaningful living exist – dedicate yourself to research, be magnanimous and self-less… or slightly more nebulous ideas like ‘finding yourself’ – and these ideas exist because we want to find meaning in our lives. The word ‘trivial’ has negative connotations for a reason. Why concern ourselves with the trivial when we should concern ourselves with the meaningful?

It’s why we strive for meaningful ends, and it’s why we see a life of louche decadence as deplorable. It’s why louche decadence is not what you’d teach your kids to follow. You’d tell them to do something, be something, ‘make a difference’ etc.

We’re attracted to meaningful actions and thoughts, and its no different in the world of entertainment.

People deride special effects when there’s no story to back it up because then the effects feel shallow. To my mind, the best forms of entertainment – for the most part – are meaningful and thoughtful. Think of classic themes in movies. Redemption, guilt, honour, loss etc. Then think of ideas that broaden our understanding of things – sentience and machines, the influence of power, questioning authority etc. Many of the greatest films are lauded because they have these underlying themes and ideas. 12 Angry Men is an example of this. A movie that addresses the ever present questions of whether a defendant is guilty, of prejudice, of doubt, of many things. And it’s in IMBD’s top 10. And, it’s black and white.

The largest movie database online, based on the views of people, not critics, lists a black and white movie in it’s top 10. Why? Because being a black and white film doesn’t matter! The meaning of the film, its depiction of realistic jurors, that’s what matters. I watch a lot of black and white films and they’re great. You see, only the good, meaningful black and white films are still remembered. The bad ones are discarded through time – the past acts as a filter! That’s why I’d advise you to start watching black and white films. There’s no point missing out on a rich trove of films because of prejudice. Focus on what matters – meaning.

Now, the cynic will here say ‘oh, should we watch silent films too?’ And I’ll say no. I’ve watched both Metropolis and The Artist. Both are very good films that succeed in spite of the restrictions of their medium. Notice I said ‘in spite’ . The difference between text and sound is that sound carries with it tones and inflections, allowing us to capture a great deal more. Sound is a very substantial addition to films that allows them a far greater capacity to immerse us in whatever web – hopefully meaningful – that they weave. Colour, when well used, is also a useful addition that can create atmospheres and scenes beyond what any black and white film can do. I think that sound is a bigger leap forward than colour though, so that’s why I wouldn’t advocate silent films for everyone. Besides… the talking past of cinema is extensive enough.

So, it must be said that though we remember only the good things from the past, the technical or literary qualities of the work in question are often far worse, particularly technical. Also, the relevance of older works can diminish, and the difficulty in grasping the full richness of some text inhibited by our need to understand the context of the text, time which could otherwise be used to do something else.

To what extent these problems outweigh meaningful entertainment is something that everyone has to assess themselves. I view meaningful as often indispensable to truly brilliant pieces of entertainment, and so I advise you – seek out meaning in your entertainment. You will not be disappointed.

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