I think it might be worth clarifying that I have don’t mean to suggest that media and entertainment are always and inherently oppressive. I too enjoy my share of television programs – and if you saw me on a day when a new Doctor Who episode airs you might say that ‘enjoy’ is an understatement.
My concern is more with how we use entertainment, and the specific roles that it has come to play in society.
In particular I am concerned because of how easily entertainment media,
1. Legitimates the narrative of empire: From the rarely challenged assumption that violence is just if done by the “good guys” of a film or TV show, to the consumerist utopia laid out in our profiles of the rich and famous (from ET to Cribs) – media often serves to promote the exceptionalism that says the empire is (of course!) what everyone would want if they were educated/successful/pious/etc.
2. Provides the illusion that we are theologically, politically, or socially engaged: TV and social media are mostly unable to sustain such serious dialogue, both rely too heavily on image, brevity, and the sense of constantly being entertained. They have other uses, good uses even, but I think that we often deceive ourselves into thinking we are engaged just because we posted a link, watched a debate, or argued with someone online. Such actions allow us to imagine we’ve done something without demanding much in the way of critical thought or real sacrifice.
3. Numbs us to our own participation in the injustices of empire: The way that media so often glorifies war and consumerism serves to justify them with an emotional appeal that bypasses thought or debate. We might not actively kill, exploit, invade, or exclude, but others are doing so on our behalf and media is often used as a way to justify such actions so we can absolve ourselves from the difficult ethical dilemma of our own proxy participation in that system.
Again, I’m not suggesting that media or entertainment are inherently tools of empire, simply that they are easy to twist into such a use, and often are. In much the same way that food or sex can be used in life giving ways or destructive (and escapist) ways – so can entertainment.