The State of Entertainment

What is entertainment?  How are compelling stories and interesting characters created? I find it hard to define what makes a good story.  Many others have attempted to make this definition and there is plenty of disagreement about it.  However, there is plenty of agreement that the current state of entertainment is rather lacking.

Hollywood and recent TV (which includes things produced quite a while ago) are frequently criticized for poor quality (amazing special effects and beautiful scenery don’t make up for lame stories) and the annoying, if not infuriating, constant liberal propagandizing.  Cable TV subscriptions have been declining for some time, probably dropped in favor of internet streaming and other ways of accessing entertainment.  Having never lived in a household where there was a cable subscription I find it surprising that so many people continue to pay buckets of money for a service that forces you to watch advertisements and whose content is 90% crap.  You may have to pay for streaming, but at least you have more choice about what you watch.  This doesn’t really solve the problem that 90% of what is and has been produced is still crap.  It does help a little to be able to choose from multiple decades of movies and TV.

One of the things I’ve enjoyed about YouTube, other than the “controversial” political and social commentary they’re busy trying to scrub off the internet, is the old movies and television shows.  Due to over-zealous copyright enforcers these things are prone to disappearing.  The sad thing is that much of this is simply unavailable anywhere else.

Unfortunately, YouTube apparently has a plan to turn itself into a streaming site requiring a paid subscription a la Netflix (see Razorfist’s commentary about YouTube’s future).  The general response to this seems to be: well, there’s a reason I liked YouTube; it wasn’t like TV.  I quit watching TV ages ago because it sucks.  If YT is going to be just like TV, forget it.  This seems like a poor move after all the uproar that’s been caused by their censorship and demonetization.  They deserve to lose both their content creators and their viewers.  When they lose those, advertisers won’t be far behind in abandoning the platform.  All the reasons people have abandoned cable for the internet are going to be done away with if these companies in the pursuit of profit have their way; and then we’ll just have “cable” on the internet.  Oh, joy.  No wonder some people have no problem with pirated content.  We’d be willing to pay if they’d just give us what we want.

Do these producers of entertainment even deserve our money?  Probably not.  But it’s awfully nice to just be entertained sometimes.  A little escape from reality now and then can be good for one’s mental health.  Life, when it’s not full of unpleasant drama, can be drudgery.  It’s often just hard, even when full of happy moments and an awareness of one’s many blessings.  Humans have been seeking to entertain and be entertained forever.  It should be one of life’s little joys.

What isn’t particularly joyful is watching something that insults your beliefs or makes you feel like you’re being emotionally manipulated.  An awful lot of shows are like this.  The ones with content insulting to conservatives and Christians may have good parts, but can you sift the good from the chaff?  It’s hard, if not impossible, to find something to watch without a liberal bias and objectionable content.

How about those shows that start out really good and are subsequently ruined by manufactured drama?  There’s nothing that makes me lose patience with a show like the feeling that I’m being jerked around emotionally in a deliberate attempt by the creators to keep the show going to make a buck.  It indicates a major lack of creativity: you can’t come up with anything better to prolong the story than recycling the same old relationship problems or the same old story-lines?

It’s also frustrating when a likeable character (that must have been created by accident through some fluky combination of writing and the actor’s talent) is ruined as the series progresses, ruined in a way that doesn’t fit with the original representation of the character.  The flip side of changing a character in a way that doesn’t fit the storyline is not changing the character at all.  When a story is handled well, a character may have certain problems or flaws at the beginning, but as things happen in the story he changes, even if he continues to struggle with some basic flaws.  He actually learns from things that happen; he might even not repeat the same mistake 300 times.  But in standard entertainment, he does just that: even when it appears that he has learned from something, give it a couple episodes and he’s back to doing the same dumb things all over again.

This doesn’t mean that characters that stupidly continue on their paths to destruction are never appropriate.  It is possible to write a novel about people making a long line of poor life choices and the misery wrought by those choices and still have a satisfying story.  Take Anna Karenina, a hefty Russian novel, devoted almost entirely to just this and considered a classic; I found it to be quite good and enjoyed reading it, though it is by no means a happy read.  Things that evoke strong emotional responses can also be very well done and not feel manipulative.

There is a difference between making things true and making them “realistic.”  Current entertainment often seeks to embrace a shallow “realism” while failing to be true to life.  Let’s make it more realistic they say; so they throw out happy endings and happy interpersonal relationships.  Let’s make every character severely flawed and probably not very likable.  Let’s blur the lines between good and evil and make sure there are no good choices to be made.  And no objective moral standard that anyone follows.  And lots of misery.  And… voila!  Reality!  No, not even close.  Though it is accurate to say that there’s a lot of unpleasantness in life and people are generally quite flawed, it is not true to deny the goodness in people and all that is noble and true and beautiful in life.  Because that’s there too.

Poldark is the most recent in a long list of shows I have begun only to be disappointed for all of the above reasons.  It was always rather soap-opera-ish with its excessive drama, but at first the characters were interesting and likable enough to endure some of that.  Ross was flawed, too stubborn and too proud, but very principled and trying to do the right things.  Demelza was always spirited, but also grateful and respectful to Ross and generally sweet and good.  Their relationship was appealing because it fit better into more traditional gender roles than what we’re typically offered.  But of course that could not last.  By season three, Ross seems more proud and stubborn and less principled than in season one, and Delmelza is turning into a harping, ungrateful bitch.  These people need marriage counseling about how to treat each other.  And it’s not fun to watch.  For example, Demelza chooses to confront Ross about her disagreement with a choice he made and how he’s not listening to her advice and that he’s neglecting her (wah!) right when he’s reeling emotionally from having learned that a relative has died.  Demelza does have some valid points; Ross frequently acts like an ass and acts too quickly without considering the counsel of others.  But how stupid can you be, to nag your man at a time like that?

Also really annoying in the third season is the portrayal of religion and religious people.  There was little mention of religion in the first two seasons.  Church was seen in social events: funerals, christenings, weddings.  One not-good character was overzealous and unkind in his religion, but seemed an outlier not the norm.  The main characters didn’t mention religious things.  Now, however, there is much dismissal of religious belief by many, if not all, the main “good” characters.  A truly evil “religious” character has been introduced.  The pastor of the local church is just a puppet to the main “bad guy.”  I begin to doubt the story’s historical accuracy: was 18th century England really so heathen?

All “good” characters are rejecting God and his commands for what they see as the better way of just being “good” by their own standards and embracing what little good and pleasure they can find in this life.  Is it any wonder they are selfish and stupid?  The choices they keep making, and are threatening to make, will be their undoing of course.  The show’s creators will undoubtedly manufacture yet another break and then reconciliation between Ross and Demelza after dragging their misery out to another season.  If you cared about the characters, it would be too painful to watch; and if you’ve ceased to care because there’s only so much repeated stupidity you can stand, it’s dumb and pointless.  And it’s too annoying to watch even as a lesson: see what happens when you reject objective moral standards and only care about your own selfish needs and “happiness”?  See what happens when you fail to learn from your mistakes and acknowledge your faults and look realistically on your blessings with gratitude?

I am terribly sick of the standard state of entertainment.  It would often be nice to read an entertaining book or watch a show or movie that serves as a form of escape or maybe something cheerful or funny, or informing or even a lesson learned.  Maybe even good conquering evil, or the triumph of human goodness in the face of great challenges?  There’s only so much human stupidity one can take.  And there’s plenty of that in reality; who needs to add more from fictional characters?  Life actually has plenty of drama in it if you’re paying attention.  Sometimes it’s nice to get a break from the drama of real life.  Realism isn’t very entertaining.

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Never Give Up! Never Divided!

Ah, man, I’ve been out of it: He Will Not Divide Us has been back since August. Only now it’s boring!

The joke was that Shia was going to stick his flag on a basement wall and film it and it seems like he’s done practically that.

He will not divide us flag on the wall

That really makes for some edge of your seat viewing.

Of course /pol/ already found it.

Think you shouldn’t judge others?

Theodore Dalrymple has an insightful take on that question based on his real world experience. It’s worth your attention.

Not long ago I asked a patient of mine how he would describe his own character. He paused for a moment, as if savoring a delicious morsel.

“I take people as they come,” he replied in due course. “I’m very nonjudgmental.”

As his two roommates had recently decamped, stealing his prize possessions and leaving him with ruinous debts to pay, his neutrality toward human character seemed not generous but stupid, a kind of prophylactic against learning from experience. Yet nonjudgmentalism has become so universally accepted as the highest, indeed the only, virtue that he spoke of his own character as if pinning a medal for exceptional merit on his own chest.

 

Kid Rock for Senate?

Considering how things go these days… this isn’t the least bit surprising.  I hope he does run and wins — just as another big FU to the establishment.  We know the Dems never deserve to win an election again, and the GOP isn’t much better.

The establishment complains about Trump “not acting presidential” enough.  If you’ve ever been to a Kid Rock concert… can you just see how “senatorial” this guy is going to be?  The establishment is going to be freaking out.  It’s gonna be hilarious.

Rockstar Kid Rock set off a political firestorm after teasing his Twitter followers about a potential Senate run in Michigan.

News broke this weekend that Kid Rock is LEADING challenger, Dem Debbie Stabenow in a new poll 30% to 26%!

“On July 12th, 2017 Robert Ritchie, aka Kid Rock, confirmed his intention to run for the United States Senate seat in Michigan. His announcement sent a shock through the media and many dismissed it as a cheap publicity stunt. While Ritchie has yet to file his official documentation to seek the office, he stated his intentions on Twitter and pushed back at his critics, saying “the press is wrong.”

Debbie Stabenow is the incumbent Democratic Michigan senator who is scheduled to defend her seat in 2018. Ritchie intends to run as a Republican who would likely have to defeat a crowded primary field to challenge Stabenow.

On Sunday, POLITICO published a piece outlining why the political class shouldn’t write-off a Kid Rock Senate bid. POLITICO explains Kid Rock would face off against lesser known Republican primary opponents, which could help him clench the nomination.

POLITICO wrote:  “Trump competed with 16 rivals for the Republican nomination, more than a dozen of whom were established, well-regarded, well-financed campaigners; Ritchie would enter a primary field of three little-known newcomers to partisan politics. Trump was targeted by a national network of influential donors and activists who laughed him off at first, only to mount a desperate scramble to thwart his candidacy once they realized their peril; Ritchie would face little such resistance in a state where primaries aren’t preordained by party bosses. Trump started his run with no obvious base or blueprint for victory; Ritchie would launch a campaign on the strength of his favorite-son status that cuts across socioeconomic boundaries and is particularly resonant with the president’s winning coalition of culturally conservative, populist-minded, blue-collar voters.”

“He’s well-liked in Michigan. He’s a hometown darling. He’s got deep connections to Detroit. He’s done a lot throughout the state.”

“Anybody who’s writing him off is making a mistake,”former chairman of the Michigan GOP, Saul Anuzis, told POLITICO.

Part of Kid Rock’s announcement:

Senator Stabenow and I do share a love of music, although probably not the same kind. I concede she is better at playing politics than I am so I’ll keep doing what I do best, which is being a voice for tax paying, hardworking AMERICANS and letting politicians like her know that We the People are sick and tired of their bullshit!

On Kid Rock’s website KidRockforSenate he asks: ARE YOU SCARED?

Yeah, the establishment should be.

 

America’s Most Popular Feel-Good Heresy

A good description of what is often preached in today’s parishes and why this has lead to bad things:

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. What is it?

It is the message preached from so very many pulpits. It is the theological underpinning of universalism. It operates on five beliefs:

1) There is a God who created and ordered the earth and watches over human life on earth.

Okay, we can agree that God exists and created the earth. We believe He watches over us. This jives with our faith.

2) God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.

Hear that? That would be the train coming off the rails, sliding down an embankment into a dry creek bed, and exploding!

First off, nowhere in the Christian Scriptures are we told to be nice. We are told be to be humble, merciful, compassionate, bold, courageous, holy, strong, loving, and whole host of other things. But never merely nice. And let’s be honest, nice is a really low bar.

MTD is a plea to be inoffensive. It is why all religions can be the same. The goal isn’t holiness, it’s being nice. It is believing in nothing so strongly that one triggers no one. It is theological milquetoast.

Our Catholic faith calls for us to be virtuous, strong, courageous, and so willing to love as God loves that we will lay down our lives, embrace sacrifice and suffering, and be heroic. Our Catholic faith produces knights and ladies, not snowflakes and SJWs.

3) The central goal of life is to be happy and feel good about oneself.

Hello, Narcissus! Life is about me being happy, huh?

It is enslavement to the self. It is a life where one pushes oneself not for the good of others, but to suit one’s own goals. Seriously? It is isn’t like there isn’t a long, terrible, and destructive track record that this sentiment produces. MTD requires no nobility of soul, no heroism of character, no selflessness.

It isn’t that Catholicism wants you to feel bad about yourself. This is a common retort from the MTD types. Catholicism does expect you to grow in virtue and wisdom. The Soul is like the body and mind: left unchallenged, it goes into atrophy.

The actual goal is to grow closer to Christ. Sometimes that will be happy, sometimes it will be a dark night of the soul. If I judge the worth of something by how it feels, I am operating on the cognizant level of a toddler. Sin has no place here. Sin is what other people do. Sin effects me, but my choices effect no one else. want a good idea why we are such an unhappy society? The sentiment that life is about being happy and feeling good is and always will be a dead end street.

4) God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.

Ah yes, God the butler, God the servant, God the sugar daddy, God the EMT. Nothing says mature relationship like only wanting a person around when it is convenient.

“This God is great! Just stay away until I need you to give me something or when I need someone to blame for tragedy or the consequences of my own bad decisions.” I mean, what divine being wouldn’t want a perpetual user living in His home for all eternity?

In Catholicism, though, we look to have a functioning and loving relationship with God. If we were to treat a spouse like we do God in MTD, we would be setting land speed records to divorce court. Love is about total self gift not about be total receiver.

5) All good people go to heaven.

Conveniently enough, I get to be the arbiter of what constitutes good, and by golly I will stroll right through those pearly gates. Heaven is the ultimate participation trophy!

So, what has MTD gotten us? First, it has driven men away from the Church. Men have a deep desire to be courageous and strong. I am not saying women don’t. However, men look for virtue and strength. They may not always articulate it, but they want to be challenged. It is bad enough that when they see themselves portrayed in the popular culture as dolts, cavemen, criminals, animals, and thugs. It is bad enough that the society only approves of the emasculated and effeminate as role models for men. When they hear that from their churches, you can bet they will head for the exits and encourage their sons to do the same.

MTD has downgraded the idea of selfless service. If the focus is on me, then service is reduced to being important only if it makes me feel good. That will kill service in the community and church. It will gut vocations. It will shred the idea of getting married. It will change the attitude of having children. MTD has reduced parishes from families to businesses selling goods and services at bargain basement prices. It has nurtured a society of the entitled where too much free stuff is never enough.

Are things really quite so grim?

Jonathon Van Maren thinks so.  His recent blog post is entitled “Grim poll: Conservatives are losing catastrophically on every single issue…except this one”

If certain enthusiastic public figures are to be believed, there is a wave of iconoclastic and libertarian youth who are fed up with political correctness and ready to turn the Left on its head. When I attended a campus event featuring the recently disgraced and even more recently resurgent Milo Yiannopoulos last fall, he made the claim loudly and boldly: “I might be the only one who has noticed this trend, but young people hate the Left. I have thirteen-year-olds emailing me. I even have children attending my campus events.”

Ignoring for a moment the obvious problem with a child attending an event put on by the self-described “Dangerous Faggot,” this sort of optimism is entirely unwarranted—unless, as is obviously the case with Milo, you do not see moral issues as indicative of national health overall. On that front, Americans continue to shift to the left, and continue to abandon Judeo-Christian values—if they even know what those are anymore. Gallup recently released new polling data for their annual Values and Beliefs poll, and the results were very sobering.

He goes on to talk about all the “sobering” data points covering views on marriage, sexuality, the family, etc. — all with predictable and completely unsurprising revelations. None of this is news.  How did Van Maren miss that we were no longer living in a Christian society, that we had long since passed into a pagan one?  That traditional Christian morality is not the standard by which most people live shouldn’t be surprising or discouraging.

He notes that the polls didn’t show a large increase in support of abortion, which he believes is due to massive efforts of pro-lifers to educate people:

On every moral issue, social conservatives are losing ground—except for abortion.

Looking at the raw data, it’s hard to see where someone like Milo Yiannopoulos gets his optimism from. He may not care about most moral issues—his relaunch party, after all, featured male and female strippers—but even on free speech and free markets, the numbers look grim. Millennials are embracing socialism, rejecting the fundamental idea that freedom of speech and freedom of expression are bedrock values in a democracy, and turning university campuses into totalitarian safe spaces that exclude any idea they find threatening to their fragile progressive worldviews.

The truth is that an entire generation has grown up more or less disconnected from the Christian past of the West, and that activists must fight tooth and nail to educate the public on each and every issue. We see what happens when massive educational efforts are undertaken: On abortion, we are not losing ground—and even under the most pro-abortion president in American history, over 300 laws were passed on the state level. Pornography, while still prevalent, is now attracting the ire of government bodies across the West who are recognizing it for the public health crisis it is. Social conservatism as a worldview may be on the fringe, but there are many, many opportunities to change that.

Here Van Maren recognizes that kids have grown up in a non-Christian world; so why the surprise at the poll results?  His faith in the “raw data” of the poll is misplaced. Polling isn’t exactly a hard or perfect science (anyone remember 2016?).  Who’s to say we really should trust a poll’s conclusions over our own observations or the anecdotal evidence presented by someone else?  Then he talks about millennials, but Milo isn’t talking about millennials; he’s talking about the next, even younger generation. It can also be noted that Milo specially said he didn’t have any proof, any hard data for his hopeful statement, but that it came from his experience of meeting and talking to, and receiving messages from young people.  Milo isn’t the only person who has noted this trend of the younger generation leaning more conservative.

Even the one place where Van Maren strikes a hopeful, positive tone, he’s probably at least partly wrong.  You can understand why, being part of the pro-life movement, he would be quick to attribute the lessening support for abortion to the efforts of the prolifers.  I hope he’s right that all those efforts have helped, that education does help. But there’s something else powerful that is influencing young people to turn conservative: they have seen and felt the consequences of their parents and others leading a life without conservative morals or standards.  They may be the unwanted children of selfish parents, the products of divorce or homes where they never had two parents to begin with.  They may have seen older siblings or relatives or friends make terrible choices and suffer for them.  Those with eyes to see can see the wreckage caused by abandoning traditional morals.  And the liberals, feeling assured of victory, have turned up the heat too fast; things they are pushing for are so obviously against nature that people with will to think for themselves can see we are headed in the wrong direction.  But cultural trends do not reverse directions overnight.  The problems we are seeing today began long before Van Maren was born.  Some would argue they began even before his parents were born.

Van Maren himself is a contradiction to this poll.  He’s young, conservative, Catholic, pro-life and fighting for it.  And surely he works alongside other young people.

Other than being overly pessimistic and incorrect in his interpretation how we are losing the culture war — rather we have already lost, but perhaps have hope of rebuilding from the ashes — he is wrong about Milo.  Previously, I had noticed that he was particularly critical of Milo (and the Alt-Right) as unacceptable for Christians to follow.  He objects to Milo’s lifestyle, vulgar humor, and that he isn’t very nice to people.  Van Maren also tends to exaggerate Milo’s behavior (can you believe that’s possible?!): Milo’s re-launch party, as aired on youtube (surely Van Maren didn’t have an invitation?), did not have “male and female strippers.”  Milo calls them “models” for his photo shoot, and they are scantily, and one might say tastelessly, clad (and waving prop guns around), but they do not strip any clothes off which I think would be the definition of “stripper.”  They might be strippers elsewhere, I don’t know, but at Milo’s party they were just eye candy — which is problematic in its own way, but let’s not over-exaggerate things.

I was surprised to see Van Maren had actually attended a Milo speech so I read what he had to say about it.  It was the same old attitude so many on the Right have towards those they deem impure.  They are like Pharisees who don’t want to associate with sinners for fear of contaminating themselves.  Milo is definitely a sinner, but Jesus frequently ate with and talked to sinners.  Jesus did not worry about being made unclean.  God often uses sinners and unlikely people to carry out His work, sometimes even people who do not know Him.

It doesn’t matter to Milo’s critics on the Right if he is effective or that we really need to reach people where they are — and where they are isn’t necessarily ready to listen to Christian moralizing or preaching.  Milo has a point about reaching people with humor and fun (even if he does take it a bit too far at times); humor and fun are attractive, especially to young people.  Free speech, for which Milo has made himself a standard bearer, is an important battle.  If Christians are silenced completely, there will be no chance of educating people or changing hearts and minds through dialogue.  Milo is an ally in that battle, even if he is a public sinner.