Monday, December 29, 2014

The Absurdity of our Perception of Good Entertainment

Movies and television programs predominate our spare time as entertainment. When the Weather Channel first aired they were amazed at how many people tuned and stayed on the channel, even though it was just a looping program about current and anticipated weather. They thought it was absurd. Maybe they should have surfed the channels. Maybe they should have considered the pathetic options viewers wrestled with before settling on the mind numbing loop of current weather conditions. Movies about shark tornados, redundant bland comedies targeting various age groups, the same plots with different settings and characters or perhaps the never ending sequels that arise like a bad case of herpes whenever a movie does turn out to be good.

We vote by watching. Advertisers pay to plug their commercials in. When I was growing up there was an alarming trend correlating a decreasing attention span that paralleled the time between commercials during television programs. At that time it was approximately eleven minutes, this year I clocked the average length of a television program between commercials to range from four to seven minutes for commercials lasting three to six minutes.

We buy into marketing and branding, we support franchises at the expense of creativity, quality and variety. Instead of encouraging people to develop different acts and names; we only want to hire people dresses as knock offs of Disney Princesses to come to our children's parties. We are teaching our children by endorsing this and offering it. We could be encouraging and supporting independent local entertainers; instead we encourage them to become knock offs of movie characters discouraging them from exploring their originality. Encouraging them to become just another version of something that is already overdone. I advertise and reach out to events, libraries and communities to storytell for children or adults or both. I am not a knock off of a popular mainstream character or part of a franchise. Individuality is not supported or endorsed, we want the same as everyone else done the same way as always.

On a larger scale, live entertainers are being discouraged and opportunities for work are decreasing unless you build a large following via the chance of likes on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or Google+. Did you know that Key West has a live entertainment scene where many street performers learn their trade? Did you know they are starting to charge entertainers to busk there? Charging people to have the chance of entertaining? It is absurd that I should pay for the chance to entertain. Entertainers should be paid to entertain. We should encourage live entertainment venues and diversity in entertainment. We can encourage variety in live and recorded entertainment by choosing to watch, choosing to share and choosing to do reviews. Request bookings for real entertainers who work hard to create, rehearse and live their art forms for you to appreciate. Walk away from franchise shows that do repetitive cookie cutter acts, playing to the lowest common denominator. Ignore the ads for people to come and entertain at children's parties dressed as a princess or superhero. Remember the circus performers? Why not book circus performers, magicians, henna artists, face painters who don't have to dress as a popular character because their work is the art and the draw, storytellers and people who go by their own names? Why not appreciate something different?

Isn't it absurd that our society is so drawn to generic overly sugared children's cartoons and testosterone oozing antiheroes so much that we can't live our lives without having to engineer ways to integrate these two dimensional characters as the pinnacles of art and creativity in our lives?

I remember working festival on Pirate day in Georgia about eight years ago. They were doing a pirate competition. Over a hundred people walked by dressed as Jack Sparrow. How unique and expressive of roguish individuality! One man walked down the path wearing ripped off neon pink shorts with a day glo tattered shirt and a pirate hat. Best pirate I saw all day. Every single person woke up that morning thinking about how they would be the most original and different pirate; they would fit the rebel archetype like Johnny Depp just like everyone else dressed the same. There was only one guy that morning who woke up with that thought in mind who actually did dress differently. Even more absurd, although they all dressed like rude alcohol craving women chasing rogues, they all still acted like themselves! How absurd to see a Jack Sparrow talking on her cellphone with two small children trailing behind her! Why do we need to have people perceive us as these generic characters to feel good about ourselves?

As we buy into franchises and brand name mainstream entertainment we gradually lose the amazing and unique possibilities. Professional live entertainers with incredible skills and talent sit without work while companies and individuals who mimic the latest fads or do repetitive moronic acts are hired. Who was the last live entertainer you interacted with? Have you ever taken a moment to appreciate a street performer or lane act? Most busk, which means they work for tips; what you choose to give is how they pay their bills and the memories they offer you are worth far more than the dollar or five you throw in their baskets. Without contracts, without money for busking; entertainers turn to other ways to make a living like politics and sales. After all entertainment sells and politics is acting.

We need to pay for licenses to busk for you, as for some reason, some people have an aversion to encountering street performers. They assume we are panhandling or that there is something unsavory about us; that we are somehow going to steal from them or erode their morals just by brightening their day with a few moments of distraction and entertainment. Wow! That is absurd! Instead of being excited by the potential of a magical experience, instead of taking the time to appreciate the skills and talents of people who have devoted their lives to entertainment people tune out and retreat to their electronic pacifiers. Wait! You could be connected with the world around you, you could be having a marvelous unique experience. You could be doing something you never thought you would or seeing someone do something you never realized was possible. Encourage the arts and live entertainment, invite buskers and entertainers to venues and discourage law enforcement from arresting them! I think it is ridiculous that friends have been arrested for juggling or performing magic on the streets. People were enjoying their performances, those moments were taking the stress and tedium of the day and reducing it with laughter and anticipation only to end in citations.

Take a moment to look into what live entertainment is available in your area or at events you attend. Do a YouTube search to look for amazing acts rather than edited footage. Gig Salad offers listings, have you looked there and searched for original options? Have you encouraged or supported original artists or have you accepted the easiest option, by buying into the same prefabricated pastel package as everyone else?

The next time you go out and stroll through an outdoor venue; take a moment to stop and listen or watch live entertainers as they work. Give them your attention, give them a tip; catch a video or picture to tag them in and share if you are impressed. Like them on Facebook, write a review if you have a moment or two. We each make choices of what becomes obsolescent; let's make the choice to endorse originality in art and performance. Let's stop watching mediocre movies and television; let's give channels feedback and encourage them to hire better writers! Advertisers don't like paying when no one is watching shows, they quit paying for shows with low ratings. We all know that!

Isn't it absurd that the SyFy channel still pays people to write the terrible movies they produce? Isn't it absurd that they still produce them because we watch them? Why?? Why does the History Channel obsess about aliens and ghosts? They produce shows because people are watching them. You know who you are, please do the rest of us a public service. Develop healthy hobbies or watch a porn. Pornography at least doesn't try to pretend it is something other than films about sex and it seems to be one of the few entertainment venues left that has abundant variety in what it produces. I never thought I'd endorse porn but I never thought my viewing choices would be reduced to a hundred variations of Law and Order or Monster Ninja Ebola Butterfly Hurricanes and reality shows.

Publishers, this falls on you too. Find better writers. Nurture creativity, encourage individuality. Stop arresting buskers. Stop trying to charge buskers to entertain. It is absurd!

After all we create these megalithic entertainment monsters; wouldn't you rather take pride in fostering a variety of entertainers and seeing their careers grow? Or will you find an absurd excuse as you book the mimics and knockoffs for your next special event; after all it will be extra special when it's like every other one they've gone to and done. Lately, entertainment has followed the trend of moving away from being about skill or talent. It is becoming about brand recognition like advertising, politics and sales which I find to be absolutely absurd.

Tonight I am going to sit and watch Tom Frank perform on YouTube. I'm going to enjoy the Kamikaze Fireflies too! I may even watch some episodes of Glove and Boots and Simon's Cat. What are you going to do, watch Sharknado Seven or Ghosts in the Federal Reserve?