The more things change…
Today, many people worry that people increasingly waste their free leisure time by turning to shallow media entertainment. They say that everything was better back then. But has so much really changed?
Aristoteles raised the question “What ought we to do when at leisure?” and throughout the ages many answers to this question have been formed. The Greek culture in which Aristoteles fared viewed leisure and entertainment as having to serve a purpose. Leisure was to be used to enhance oneself, either by filosophy and education or by catharsis.
Roman culture seemed to perceive leisure as a reason for living and not merely a side-effect. Romans entertained, or controlled, the masses with fairs and circus. Christianity took control by taking away the leisure or at least the pleasure of entertainment usually taken at leisure. All entertainment of that time not having to do with God was condemned or simply prohibited. In a life dedicated to the Afterlife there was no room for leisure. But the flesh would not be denied and the pleasure of entertainment found its way back into society.
Since the comeback of entertainment not much has changed except for the medium. Then a theatre along a London street, now a prime-time series but still both are drama. “Radio and television, finally, converted every home into a concert hall, a movie theater, and a sports arena” (Zillmann, 2000). Continuing along this line, Internet has also made every home a library. So we have a world of entertainment at our fingertips. Some of which is viewed as educational and some is equal to the freakshow at the old fairground. Often we use leisure time to enhance ourselves and we often use entertainment to enhance our social selves. The celebration of the Divine has also created its own media entertainment, especially on Sundays.
We can use our leisure time to fulfil any of the purposes that history has dreamed up for it. In the end we are left with the old question that has now become a highly individual choice “What ought I to do when at leisure?”
Zillmann, D. (2000). The coming of media entertainment. In D. Zillmann & P. Vorderen (Eds.), Media Entertainment. The psychology of its appeal (pp. 1-20). Mahwah, NJ: Lawarence Erlbaum,