For other uses, see Entertainment (disambiguation).
Entertainment is a form of activity that holds the attention and interest of an audience, or gives pleasure and delight. It can be an idea or a task, but is more likely to be one of the activities or events that have developed over thousands of years specifically for the purpose of keeping an audience's attention. Although people's attention is held by different things, because individuals have different preferences in entertainment, most forms are recognisable and familiar. Storytelling, music, drama, dance, and different kinds of performance exist in all cultures, were supported in royal courts, developed into sophisticated forms and over time became available to all citizens. The process has been accelerated in modern times by an entertainment industry that records and sells entertainment products. Entertainment evolves and can be adapted to suit any scale, ranging from an individual who chooses a private entertainment from a now enormous array of pre-recorded products; to a banquet adapted for two; to any size or type of party, with appropriate music and dance; to performances intended for thousands; and even for a global audience.
The experience of being entertained has come to be strongly associated with amusement, so that one common understanding of the idea is fun and laughter, although many entertainments have a serious purpose. This may be the case in the various forms of ceremony, celebration, religious festival, or satire for example. Hence, there is the possibility that what appears as entertainment may also be a means of achieving insight or intellectual growth.
An important aspect of entertainment is the audience, which turns a private recreation or leisure activity into entertainment. The audience may have a passive role, as in the case of persons watching a play, opera, television show, or film; or the audience role may be active, as in the case of games, where the participant/audience roles may be routinely reversed. Entertainment can be public or private, involving formal, scripted performance, as in the case of theatre or concerts; or unscripted and spontaneous, as in the case of children's games. Most forms of entertainment have persisted over many centuries, evolving due to changes in culture, technology, and fashion for example with stage magic. Films and video games, for example, although they use newer media, continue to tell stories, present drama, and play music. Festivals devoted to music, film, or dance allow audiences to be entertained over a number of consecutive days.
Some activities that were once considered entertaining, particularly public punishments, have been removed from the public arena. Others, such as fencing or archery, once necessary skills for some, have become serious sports and even professions for the participants, at the same time developing into entertainment with wider appeal for bigger audiences. In the same way, other necessary skills, such as cooking, have developed into performances among professionals, staged as global competitions and then broadcast for entertainment. What entertainment is for one group or individual may be regarded as work by another.
The familiar forms of entertainment have the capacity to cross over different media and have demonstrated a seemingly unlimited potential for creative remix. This has ensured the continuity and longevity of many themes, images, and structures.
Psychology and philosophy
Entertainment can be distinguished from other activities such as education and marketing even though they have learned how to use the appeal of entertainment to achieve their different goals. The importance and impact of entertainment is recognised by scholars and its increasing sophistication has influenced practices in other fields such as museology.
Psychologists say the function of media entertainment is "the attainment of gratification". No other results or measurable benefit are usually expected from it (except perhaps the final score in a sporting entertainment). This is in contrast to education (which is designed with the purpose of developing understanding or helping people to learn) and marketing (which aims to encourage people to purchase commercial products). However, the distinctions become blurred when education seeks to be more "entertaining" and entertainment or marketing seek to be more "educational". Such mixtures are often known by the neologisms "edutainment" or "infotainment". The psychology of entertainment as well as of learning has been applied to all these fields. Some education-entertainment is a serious attempt to combine the best features of the two. Some people are entertained by others' pain or the idea of their unhappiness (schadenfreude).
An entertainment might go beyond gratification and produce some insight in its audience. Entertainment may skillfully consider universal philosophical questions such as: "What is the meaning of life?"; "What does it mean to be human?"; "What is the right thing to do?"; or "How do I know what I know?". Questions such as these drive many narratives and dramas, whether they are presented in the form of a story, film, play, poem, book, dance, comic, or game. Dramatic examples include Shakespeare's influential play Hamlet, whose hero articulates these concerns in poetry; and films, such as The Matrix, which explores the nature of knowledge and was released world-wide.Novels give great scope for investigating these themes while they entertain their readers. An example of a creative work that considers philosophical questions so entertainingly that it has been presented in a very wide range of forms is The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Originally a radio comedy, this story became so popular that it has also appeared as a novel, film, television series, stage show, comic, audiobook, LP record, adventure game and online game, its ideas became popular references (see Phrases from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) and has been translated into many languages. Its themes encompass the meaning of life, as well as "the ethics of entertainment, artificial intelligence, multiple worlds, God, and philosophical method".
The "ancient craft of communicating events and experiences, using words, images, sounds and gestures" by telling a story is not only the means by which people passed on their cultural values and traditions and history from one generation to another, it has been an important part of most forms of entertainment ever since the earliest times. Stories are still told in the early forms, for example, around a fire while camping, or when listening to the stories of another culture as a tourist. "The earliest storytelling sequences we possess, now of course, committed to writing, were undoubtedly originally a speaking from mouth to ear and their force as entertainment derived from the very same elements we today enjoy in films and novels." Storytelling is an activity that has evolved and developed "toward variety". Many entertainments, including storytelling but especially music and drama, remain familiar but have developed into a wide variety of form to suit a very wide range of personal preferences and cultural expression. Many types are blended or supported by other forms. For example, drama, stories and banqueting (or dining) are commonly enhanced by music; sport and games are incorporated into other activities to increase appeal. Some may have evolved from serious or necessary activities (such as running and jumping) into competition and then become entertainment. It is said, for example, that pole vaulting "may have originated in the Netherlands, where people used long poles to vault over wide canals rather than wear out their clogs walking miles to the nearest bridge. Others maintain that pole vaulting was used in warfare to vault over fortress walls during battle." The equipment for such sports has become increasingly sophisticated. Vaulting poles, for example, were originally made from woods such as ash, hickory or hazel; in the 19th century bamboo was used and in the 21st century poles can be made of carbon fibre. Other activities, such as walking on stilts, are still seen in circus performances in the 21st century. Gladiatorial combats, also known as "gladiatorial games", popular during Roman times, provide a good example of an activity that is a combination of sport, punishment, and entertainment.
Changes to what is regarded as entertainment can occur in response to cultural or historical shifts. Hunting wild animals, for example, was introduced into the Roman Empire from Carthage and became a popular public entertainment and spectacle, supporting an international trade in wild animals.
Entertainment also evolved into different forms and expressions as a result of social upheavals such as wars and revolutions. During the Chinese Cultural Revolution, for example, Revolutionary opera was sanctioned by the Communist party and World War I, the Great Depression and the Russian revolution all affected entertainment.
Relatively minor changes to the form and venue of an entertainment continue to come and go as they are affected by the period, fashion, culture, technology, and economics. For example, a story told in dramatic form can be presented in an open-air theatre, a music hall, a movie theatre, a multiplex, or as technological possibilities advanced, via a personal electronic device such as a tablet computer. Entertainment is provided for mass audiences in purpose-built structures such as a theatre, auditorium, or stadium. One of the most famous venues in the Western world, the Colosseum, "dedicated AD 80 with a hundred days of games, held fifty thousand spectators," and in it audiences "enjoyed "blood sport with the trappings of stage shows".Spectacles, competitions, races, and sports were once presented in this purpose-built arena as public entertainment. New stadia continue to be built to suit the ever more sophisticated requirements of global audiences.
Imperial and royal courts have provided training grounds and support for professional entertainers, with different cultures using palaces, castles and forts in different ways. In the Maya city states, for example, "spectacles often took place in large plazas in front of palaces; the crowds gathered either there or in designated places from which they could watch at a distance." Court entertainments also crossed cultures. For example, the durbar was introduced to India by the Mughals, and passed onto the British Empire, which then followed Indian tradition: "institutions, titles, customs, ceremonies by which a Maharaja or Nawab were installed ... the exchange of official presents ... the order of precedence", for example, were "all inherited from ... the Emperors of Delhi". In Korea, the "court entertainment dance" was "originally performed in the palace for entertainment at court banquets."
Court entertainment often moved from being associated with the court to more general use among commoners. This was the case with "masked dance-dramas" in Korea, which "originated in conjunction with village shaman rituals and eventually became largely an entertainment form for commoners".Nautch dancers in the Mughal Empire performed in Indian courts and palaces. Another evolution, similar to that from courtly entertainment to common practice, was the transition from religious ritual to secular entertainment, such as happened during the Goryeo dynasty with the Narye festival. Originally "solely religious or ritualistic, a secular component was added at the conclusion". Former courtly entertainments, such as jousting, often also survived in children's games.
In some courts, such as those during the Byzantine Empire, the genders were segregated among the upper classes, so that "at least before the period of the Komnenoi" (1081–1185) men were separated from women at ceremonies where there was entertainment such as receptions and banquets.
Court ceremonies, palace banquets and the spectacles associated with them, have been used not only to entertain but also to demonstrate wealth and power. Such events reinforce the relationship between ruler and ruled; between those with power and those without, serving to "dramatise the differences between ordinary families and that of the ruler". This is the case as much as for traditional courts as it is for contemporary ceremonials, such as the Hong Kong handover ceremony in 1997, at which an array of entertainments (including a banquet, a parade, fireworks, a festival performance and an art spectacle) were put to the service of highlighting a change in political power. Court entertainments were typically performed for royalty and courtiers as well as "for the pleasure of local and visiting dignitaries". Royal courts, such as the Korean one, also supported traditional dances. In Sudan, musical instruments such as the so-called "slit" or "talking" drums, once "part of the court orchestra of a powerful chief", had multiple purposes: they were used to make music; "speak" at ceremonies; mark community events; send long-distance messages; and call men to hunt or war.
Courtly entertainments also demonstrate the complex relationship between entertainer and spectator: individuals may be either an entertainer or part of the audience, or they may swap roles even during the course of one entertainment. In the court at the Palace of Versailles, "thousands of courtiers, including men and women who inhabited its apartments, acted as both performers and spectators in daily rituals that reinforced the status hierarchy".
Like court entertainment, royal occasions such as coronations and weddings provided opportunities to entertain both the aristocracy and the people. For example, the splendid 1595 Accession Day celebrations of Queen Elizabeth I offered tournaments and jousting and other events performed "not only before the assembled court, in all their finery, but also before thousands of Londoners eager for a good day's entertainment. Entry for the day's events at the Tiltyard in Whitehall was set at 12d".
Although most forms of entertainment have evolved and continued over time, some once-popular forms are no longer as acceptable. For example, during earlier centuries in Europe, watching or participating in the punishment of criminals or social outcasts was an accepted and popular form of entertainment. Many forms of public humiliation also offered local entertainment in the past. Even capital punishment such as hanging and beheading, offered to the public as a warning, were also regarded partly as entertainment. Capital punishments that lasted longer, such as stoning and drawing and quartering, afforded a greater public spectacle. "A hanging was a carnival that diverted not merely the unemployed but the unemployable. Good bourgeois or curious aristocrats who could afford it watched it from a carriage or rented a room." Public punishment as entertainment lasted until the 19th century by which time "the awesome event of a public hanging aroused the[ir] loathing of writers and philosophers". Both Dickens and Thackeray wrote about a hanging in Newgate Prison in 1840, and "taught an even wider public that executions are obscene entertainments".
Main article: Play (activity)
Children's entertainment is centred on play and is significant for their growth and learning. Entertainment is also provided to children or taught to them by adults and many activities that appeal to them such as puppets, clowns, pantomimes and cartoons are also enjoyed by adults.
Children have always played games. It is accepted that as well as being entertaining, playing games helps children's development. One of the most famous visual accounts of children's games is a painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder called Children's Games, painted in 1560. It depicts children playing a range of games that presumably were typical of the time. Many of these games, such as marbles, hide-and-seek, blowing soap bubbles and piggyback riding continue to be played.
Most forms of entertainment can be or are modified to suit children's needs and interests. During the 20th century, starting with the often criticised but nonetheless important work of G. Stanley Hall, who "promoted the link between the study of development and the 'new' laboratory psychology", and especially with the work of Jean Piaget, who "saw cognitive development as being analogous to biological development", it became understood that the psychological development of children occurs in stages and that their capacities differ from adults. Hence, stories and activities, whether in books, film, or video games were developed specifically for child audiences. Countries have responded to the special needs of children and the rise of digital entertainment by developing systems such as television content rating systems, to guide the public and the entertainment industry.
In the 21st century, as with adult products, much entertainment is available for children on the internet for private use. This constitutes a significant change from earlier times. The amount of time expended by children indoors on screen-based entertainment and the "remarkable collapse of children's engagement with nature" has drawn criticism for its negative effects on imagination, adult cognition and psychological well-being.
Banquets have been a venue for entertainment since ancient times, continuing until the 21st century, when they are still being used for many of their original purposes – to impress visitors, especially important ones (4, 6, 9); to show hospitality (2, 4, 8); as an occasion to showcase supporting entertainments such as music or dancing, or both (2, 3). They were an integral part of court entertainments (3, 4) and helped entertainers develop their skills (2, 3). They are also important components of celebrations such as coronations (9), weddings (7), birthdays (10) civic or political achievements (5), military engagements or victories (6) as well as religious obligations (1). In modern times, banquets are commercially available, for example, in restaurants (10) and combined with a performance in dinner theatres. Cooking by professional chefs has also become a form of entertainment as part of global competitions such as the Bocuse d'Or.
Main article: Music
Music is a supporting component of many kinds of entertainment and most kinds of performance. For example, it is used to enhance storytelling, it is indispensable in dance (1, 4) and opera, and is usually incorporated into dramatic film or theatre productions.
Music is also a universal and popular type of entertainment on its own, constituting an entire performance such as when concerts are given (2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 ). Depending on the rhythm, instrument, performance and style, music is divided into many genres, such as classical, jazz, folk, (4, 5, 8), rock, pop music (6, 9) or traditional (1, 3). Since the 20th century, performed music, once available only to those who could pay for the performers, has been available cheaply to individuals by the entertainment industry, which broadcasts it or pre-records it for sale.
The wide variety of musical performances, whether or not they are artificially amplified (6, 7, 9, 10), all provide entertainment irrespective of whether the performance is from soloists (6), choral (2) or orchestral groups (5, 8), or ensemble (3). Live performances use specialised venues, which might be small or large; indoors or outdoors; free or expensive. The audiences have different expectations of the performers as well as of their own role in the performance. For example, some audiences expect to listen silently and are entertained by the excellence of the music, its rendition or its interpretation (5, 8). Other audiences of live performances are entertained by the ambience and the chance to participate (7, 9). Even more listeners are entertained by pre-recorded music and listen privately (10).
The instruments used in musical entertainment are either solely the human voice (2, 6) or solely instrumental (1, 3) or some combination of the two (4, 5, 7, 8). Whether the performance is given by vocalists or instrumentalists, the performers may be soloists or part of a small or large group, in turn entertaining an audience that might be individual (10), passing by (3), small (1, 2) or large (6, 7, 8, 9). Singing is generally accompanied by instruments although some forms, notably a cappella and overtone singing, are unaccompanied. Modern concerts often use various special effects and other theatrics to accompany performances of singing and dancing (7).
|Musical entertainment – 10 types of audience engagement|
Main article: Game
Games are played for entertainment—sometimes purely for entertainment, sometimes for achievement or reward as well. They can be played alone, in teams, or online; by amateurs or by professionals. The players may have an audience of non-players, such as when people are entertained by watching a chess championship. On the other hand, players in a game may constitute their own audience as they take their turn to play. Often, part of the entertainment for children playing a game is deciding who is part of their audience and who is a player.
Equipment varies with the game. Board games, such as Go, Monopoly or backgammon need a board and markers. One of the oldest known board games is Senet, a game played in Ancient Egypt, enjoyed by the pharaohTutankhamun.Card games, such as whist, poker and Bridge have long been played as evening entertainment among friends. For these games, all that is needed is a deck of playing cards. Other games, such as bingo, played with numerous strangers, have been organised to involve the participation of non-players via gambling. Many are geared for children, and can be played outdoors, including hopscotch, hide and seek, or Blind man's bluff. The list of ball games is quite extensive. It includes, for example, croquet, lawn bowling and paintball as well as many sports using various forms of balls. The options cater to a wide range of skill and fitness levels. Physical games can develop agility and competence in motor skills. Number games such as Sudoku and puzzle games like the Rubik's cube can develop mental prowess.
Video games are played using a controller to create results on a screen. They can also be played online with participants joining in remotely. In the second half of the 20th century and in the 21st century the number of such games increased enormously, providing a wide variety of entertainment to players around the world. Video games are popular in East Asian countries such as South Korea.
Reading has been a source of entertainment for a very long time, especially when other forms, such as performance entertainments, were (or are) either unavailable or too costly. Even when the primary purpose of the writing is to inform or instruct, reading is well known for its capacity to distract from everyday worries. Both stories and information have been passed on through the tradition of orality and oral traditions survive in the form of performance poetry for example. However, they have drastically declined. "Once literacy had arrived in strength, there was no return to the oral prerogative." The advent of printing, the reduction in costs of books and an increasing literacy all served to enhance the mass appeal of reading. Furthermore, as fonts were standardised and texts became clearer, "reading ceased being a painful process of decipherment and became an act of pure pleasure". By the 16th century in Europe, the appeal of reading for entertainment was well established.
Among literature's many genres are some designed, in whole or in part, purely for entertainment. Limericks, for example, use verse in a strict, predictable rhyme and rhythm to create humour and to amuse an audience of listeners or readers. Interactive books such as "choose your own adventure" can make literary entertainment more participatory.
Comics and cartoons are literary genres that use drawings or graphics, usually in combination with text, to convey an entertaining narrative. Many contemporary comics have elements of fantasy and are produced by companies that are part of the entertainment industry. Others have unique authors who offer a more personal, philosophical view of the world and the problems people face. Comics about superheroes such as Superman are of the first type. Examples of the second sort include the individual work over 50 years of Charles M. Schulz who produced a popular comic called Peanuts about the relationships among a cast of child characters; and Michael Leunig who entertains by producing whimsical cartoons that also incorporate social criticism
Banqueting and music have continued to be two important entertainments since ancient times.
Albert BierstadtThe Campfire
French poet Louise Labé (1520/1522–1566) wrote "a profound and timeless insight into reading's innate power". The past gives us pleasure and is of more service than the present; but the delight of what we once felt is dimly lost never to return and its memory is as distressing as the events themselves were then delectable ... But when we happen to put our thoughts in writing, how easily, later on, does our mind race through an infinity of events, incessantly alive, so that a long time afterwards when we take up those written pages we can return to the same place and to the same disposition in which we once found ourselves.
quoted in Fischer (2003)
The young Saint Teresa of Ávila (1515–1582) read chivalrous novels and wrote about the "rapture" that books provided. I became accustomed to reading [novels] and that small fault made me cool my desire and will to do other tasks. I thought nothing of spending many hours a day and night in this vain exercise, hidden from my father. My rapture in this was so great, that unless I had a new book to read, it seemed to me that I could not be happy.
quoted in Fischer (2003)
Screen addicts: Children spend more time in front of a computer or television every day than they spend exercising every week
By Liz Thomas
Updated: 11:25 GMT, 1 February 2011
Addicted: A study has found that youngsters are spending more than four and a half hours every day looking at TV or computer screens
Children in Britain sit in front of a TV or computer screen for four-and-a-half hours a day, alarming research reveals.
Youngsters now spend an average of one hour and 50 minutes online and two hours 40 minutes in front of the television every day.
A report released by research firm ChildWise suggests that screens are increasingly turning into electronic babysitters and young people in the UK are spending more time plugged in than ever.
It found that children spend more time in front of a screen in one day than they spend exercising in the entire week.
The worrying research found that 97 per cent of 11 to 16-year-olds own a mobile phone – eight per cent more than the percentage of adults who own one.
And it showed that young girls have a voracious appetite for celebrity magazines such as OK! and Heat rather than more traditional teenage fare such as Jackie.
The study came as an academic warned that youngsters are using mobile phones to learn about each others’ bodies and access X-rated porn rather than learning about such matters ‘behind the bike sheds’.
Dr Emma Bond, an expert in childhood and youth studies, said adults ‘need to take our heads out of the sand’ about what is happening to young, impressionable children.
‘The research shows how children are using mobile phones in obtaining sexual material, developing their sexual identities and in their intimate relationships with each other,’ she added.
The Monitor Report 2010-11 found that children spent only two hours a week exercising in school, and taking part in physical activity out of school.
Two in three children aged between five and 16, and 77 per cent of children aged 11 to 16, have their own television or personal computer and, despite fears about online safety, almost half have internet access in their own room.
The study questioned almost 2,500 five to 16-year-olds about their computer, TV and reading habits. The findings show most go online daily and spend much of their time on social networks and video sharing sites such as YouTube.
But despite the popularity of the internet, the next generation is still likely to be one of telly addicts.
Around 63 per cent of children have a television set in their room but as the popularity of laptops increases and programmes are increasingly available online this is likely to drop.
'Your mother found this mobile under your mattress'
A spokesman for ChildWise said: ‘The number of children with a laptop or PC now matches those with a television but TV continues to play an important role. The way they are watching is continually changing. Children are seeking out programming that they want, when they want it.
‘Children’s online activity is moving towards personal access for all, so that, in the not too distant future the disadvantaged child will be the one without a laptop of their own.’
Despite Facebook supposedly being restricted to over-13s, more than two million children under that age now have a profile on the social networking site. It is named as their favourite website.
The research found a third of all seven to ten-year-olds visited Facebook in the last week, along with 71 per cent of 11 and 12-year-olds and 85 per cent of 13-16-year-olds.
Even with the wide choice from digital and satellite channels and dedicated youth stations such as ITV2 and E4, BBC1 remains the most popular TV channel.
EastEnders and The Simpsons are among their favourite programmes, along with the crude Channel 4 comedy about school life The Inbetweeners.
Margaret Morrissey of lobby group Parents Outloud, said children could not be blamed for spending time on the computer or in front of the TV.
On many housing estates gardens had been reduced to the size of a pocket handkerchief, she said. ‘We cannot complain as the generation in charge when they (children) use the things we have provided and don’t have space to do recreational things outdoors,’ she said.
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