Editor’s Note: The following essays were the top three winners in the annual Della Hardman Day essay contest for students at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. The theme this year was: “Does entertainment such as video games, TV, movies and social media, have the capacity to ‘ruin’ society, as Neal Gabler suggested in his book Life the Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality.” Each winner will receive a $500 scholarship with support from the Rotary Club of Martha’s Vineyard. Della Hardman Day, always held on the last Saturday in July to celebrate the life of the late Ms. Hardman, an artist and writer who had a profound influence on Oak Bluffs and the Vineyard. A story about weekend events around Della Hardman Day appears on Page Three in today’s edition.
Where Are We Headed
By Paris Bermudes
Entertainment today is ruining our society for tomorrow. With the technological advances today people are more plugged-in than ever. On your handheld device you can watch movies, television shows, YouTube videos, listen to music, or play any sort of game your heart desires. What has happened to the entertainment of sharing ideas? It’s said that the first French revolution was started in a coffee house. Through talking and sharing opinions and ideas, the middle class was able to start a rebellion that led to the overthrow of the monarchy in their country. If such powerful ideas can be made over coffee and through enjoying company, why are we filling our heads with static entertainment that gets us nowhere? Storytelling is where it all begins, it is the backbone of how we live our lives. Without the story of the boogie man stealing children who get out of their beds at night, your mother would have had to chase you around all night. And after all, a happy mom means a happy house. The scary story, one form of entertainment, very popular to parents and camping trips.
It seems as though storytelling is a lost cultural tradition in entertainment. Every play, movie or television show begins with or tells a story. But I suppose modern day conveniences have cropped out the time to gather friends and family to tell stories. Historically, in the U.S. when African Americans were enslaved on plantations they were not allowed to have books. Nor were many African Americans educated or literate at the time. To share their histories and in remembrance of their ancestors, they told stories. These stories were passed down from generation to generation. Until the time these stories were written down, it was the duty of the younger people to carry on their family’s history and struggles, so that they could tell these stories to their grandchildren. With all that was lost in that era of slavery the storytelling held strong. Without stories we wouldn’t have a history to learn and grow from. When stories are lost, things are forgotten and history repeats itself.
Some of my fondest memories are of my grandfather telling stories in our dining room after a big family dinner. My mother’s parents are from the West Coast, so when they visit we soak up all they have to share with us. There we are with bellies full of good food and laughter, the air becomes calm out of nowhere, and my grandfather begins telling stories. Many of these stories we have heard before, but it’s always as good as hearing them for the first time. Some are comedic, and some are stories passed down through our family, or stories of how our family came to America. In the end the night’s entertainment is created by sharing story telling anecdotes and passing around ideas and voicing opinions, not by sitting in the living room watching Toddlers and Tiaras.
Reality television is by far the worst form of mind-numbing entertainment in today’s society. Regardless of how popular a show such as Dance Moms may or may not be, it’s amazing to me that such a show would be in demand by the public. It is sad to think that our generation is already beyond the time where going to the museum on a Thursday afternoon was enjoyable or taking a camping trip for the weekend was not too much effort. Why would one go camping when you can watch Sarah Palin’s Alaska, and get all the “real” effects of the wilderness? Our society is in danger from static entertainment. No longer are we in a society that is in the “pursuit of happiness.” When happiness, enjoyment is a click away, the value of people is lost. In the book Fahrenheit 451, the main character’s wife overdoses on pills after watching her television walls all day. She was so immersed in entertainment that she forgot what it was like to be normal, to not be entertained 24/7. The accessibility of entertainment is becoming so second nature that we are losing the ability to be unhappy, because happiness is too easy to find.
Tragically today there is a loss of storytelling as entertainment. The value of gathering and sharing creative, or nonfiction stories is no longer a common practice. Our society is plagued with the need to be plugged in at all waking hours. We live life in the fast lane, so why would there be a need for slow, time-consuming entertainment? Especially when you can be entertained sitting at home watching a murder be solved in an hour. Society is losing its grip on reality and the value of intellect and history is slipping. Without the interest of culture in entertainment, our society will be at a loss. Intellect will be gone and one day we will be wondering whatever happened to unhappiness and normality. I agree that the unintelligence of entertainment today will ruin our society for the future.
Distractions Taken Too Far
By Nicole Parkhurst
Entertainment has become an inescapable aspect of our society. Television, video games, athletics, the music industry — people are constantly tuned into a never-ending flow of stimuli. These distractions from the hardships of everyday life can give people some relief; they have even become sources of connection and are popular topics of conversation. However, although entertainment is now an integral part of who we are and can offer a sense of belonging, its impact socially has become an undeniably damaging part of civilization.
Modern-day entertainment can have a very negative impact on one’s self-image, particularly for women. Young girls are raised in the company of Barbie dolls; these toys are so disproportional that a woman physically could not survive with those body measurements, yet children view them as the ideal. We turn on the TV and we see impossibly smooth, flawless models with sky-high legs and one per cent body fat. Magazine covers boast airbrushed, Photoshopped celebrities with captions promising the readers her secrets. The “perfect female” is an unattainable state that most all American women slave overreaching. This has given way to an outbreak of life-threatening eating disorders in young women, as well as a dangerous market for body alteration. In some cases, dismay over body image even leads to suicide. The constant message — subliminal or obvious — found in all forms of entertainment that we are never “good enough” is a dangerous result of the entertainment industry.
Before technology made entertainment available 24/7, people were much more connected to one another. Nowadays, everyone is always plugged into at least one source of distraction; families make room at the dinner table for the latest episodes of Dexter and everyone’s Favorite Five on their Smartphones. “Bonding” between friends now consists of sitting on a couch, glued to a screen, madly working thumbs to shoot at video game pixels. Facebook is perpetually open on everyone’s multitudes of devices, and young teens define themselves by their Tumblr blogs. This has become a society in which almost all human connection is now virtual, due to entertainment. It is tearing at the very basis of human values.
Children in this day and age are also being conditioned by the entertainment industry starting very young. Because of the addictive qualities of their sources — video games, televisions, tablets, phones — many kids spend all of their time distracting themselves. This can severely damage their education and academic commitment, as well as harm their social development. After all, how many children would rather sit down with a calculator and a packet of math problems for an hour, or go outside to play a game of frisbee with their friends, than spend all day absorbed in a virtual world where they are, essentially, a God figure? Entertainment is destructive to the development of our youth.
Entertainment can be a relaxing and useful tool for briefly escaping the stress of societal obligations; the expectations of school, work and one’s community can be emotionally taxing, and small doses of entertainment can indisputably alleviate some of that tension. However, our society is taking the utilization of this industry too far. People are becoming dependent on — and even addicted to — the entertainment industry, and it clearly has the power to ruin our society. It’s rather chilling to imagine what we may become within the next several decades if we continue to take this issue lightly.
A Society Full of Entertainment
By Marc Natichioni
Neal Gabler once described entertainment as “fun, effortless, sensational, mindless, formulaic, predictable and subversive.” While many of those things, entertainment comes in many forms, such as movies, television, social media, and plays, and can be interpreted in various ways. Webster’s Dictionary defines entertainment as “The action of providing or being provided with amusement or enjoyment.” It may not come as a surprise then that entertainment is often single-handedly blamed for the ruining of today’s youth. If entertainment’s purpose is to amuse and to be enjoyed does this mean that society takes pleasure in ruin? Why not place blame upon ourselves for partaking in such entertainment?
Entertainment will not ruin society if enjoyed in moderation, if there is a form of structure at home, and if there is personal willpower. Although most people avidly participate in some form of entertainment, it is best when used in moderation. As Rabbi Harold S. Kushner states, “Fun can be the dessert of our lives but never its main course.” Entertainment is like a dessert in that it should be enjoyed little by little. As time goes on, we are surrounded by more and more entertainment. Yes, it has the capacity to ruin society, but at the same time it is also possible for entertainment to help foster educational growth. If entertainment is taken in moderation, the chance of it ruining society significantly decreases. The decisions we make, in combination with the influences of our peers, are what ruin our society. If people were more willing to find a balance between entertainment and other aspects of life, the demand for the overwhelming amounts of entertainment would decrease.
Many agree that entertainment has the capacity to ruin society. With constant technological advancements and technology surrounding us more and more each day, what is acceptable in today’s society has changed. We must understand that only we ourselves are responsible for the course that our society takes. Entertainment acts as a simple scapegoat to blame for a real problem that needs attention. Instead we continue to look the other way and allow ourselves to follow down a destructive path. In the 1970s U.S. schools were number one in math and science; however, as entertainment grew these scores dropped dramatically. This is not proof of entertainment ruining society, but it is proof that as a society we “settled” and didn’t try to push our children for a continued level of excellence.
As a whole we are on the path to ruin society, considering we are the ones who created the entertainment. It is time to acknowledge the direction in which we are headed, and time to use entertainment in a way which betters society. It may be a daunting task that many, such as those who earn profit from the entertainment industry, will try to derail, but the opportunity to fix a problem before it gets out of hand is worth the backlash. If not fixed, we may not only come to live in a society that we’re ashamed to be a part of, but we might become a society that ruins itself.