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08 June 2010 @ 11:58 pm
How does entertainment entertain you?  
This is going to sound strange coming from someone who reads a bucketload of slash, but I don't actually like romance. In movies, when the couple (m/m, f/f, f/m, other/other, whatever) leans in for the big kiss, backlit by an exploding planet, I tend to be thinking, Oh my god, people, would you get out of the way? There's an EXPLODING PLANET back there! Or in a book, when the couple takes a few minutes out of saving the universe for a roll in the hay, I am generally thinking, Save the universe FIRST. Fuck in your own damn time. And you never, ever want to go see a romantic comedy with me. If you're lucky, I will just leave the theater in the first act and you'll come find me in the hallway when it's over. That's if you're lucky.

So romance novels are not the best fit for me. But Best Beloved reads a lot of them, and if she's interested in something, generally I end up interested in it, too. Some months back, we started a deal where she recommends some of the romance novels she thinks most appropriate for me, and I read them, and then we discuss them. And I find them fascinating, both as a comparison to fan fiction and in their own right; it's amazingly interesting to figure out the rules and tropes and interests and focuses of a genre that is in no way your native territory, and it is just indescribably gripping to figure out what those things say about the writers and readers of romance and the society they come from.

And of course I explain all that to Best Beloved at - well, let's be polite and simply say at great length - and she asks me questions and makes comments and provides necessary context (like the time, early on, that I noted that I felt the relationship in the book had been rushed because the protagonists got together after only six months, and she, after she stopped laughing, noted that often protagonists meet on the first day, have sex on the second, and are married by the end of the week) - and we discuss it all extensively. And then, usually right before one of us looks at the clock and realizes that we once again have lost an entire evening to the analysis of romance novels, given that it's approaching midnight and the earthling will be waking us up at six, Best Beloved says this:

"But are you enjoying the book?"

And I just stare at her in utter confusion. To me, that is a wholly nonsensical question, coming at that point in the conversation. But recently I decided she'd asked it enough that it had to have some meaning that I just was not getting, so I asked her what she meant by "enjoying the book." And she said, "Well, like, do you look forward to reading it?"

I was floored, because that would never occur to me as a possible definition or symptom of enjoying a book. I expressed, at some length, how completely alien that was to me - I mean, I can be dreading reading something and still absolutely enjoying it - and she asked me what I meant by enjoying a book. And I gave what is, to me, the obvious answer: if the book gives you something to think about, both while you're reading it and when you're not reading it, then it is an enjoyable book.

Best Beloved found that equally strange, although she noted that that explained a lot about how I deal with entertainment just generally. (It also, though she didn't actually bring this up, partly explains why I love fan fiction - fan fiction is someone writing out her thoughts about some media that she's consumed. In other words, fan fiction is a way for me to experience other people's enjoyment of some media.)

But the thing is, BB and I have been together for 18 years, and for all that time, we've been watching the same movies and reading a lot of the same books and stories. And yet we have totally different ideas of what enjoying entertainment means. So now I'm wondering what you all mean when you say you're enjoying a book or a movie or a TV show or a manga series or whatever. How does your entertainment entertain you?

Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.
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bibliokatbibliokat on June 9th, 2010 07:18 am (UTC)
Hmmmm... I think I'm mostly with Best Beloved on this one. I read mostly fantasy/mystery books because I enjoy them. Enjoy to me means they bring me joy. They make me happy in the end even if I'm sad during parts. Same with tv shows and movies and so on. On rare occasions I read nonfiction, usually about dinosaurs or ancient civilizations. I enjoy these because I'm learning about something I find interesting.

I do think about what I read and watch, but I do it mostly for pleasure so if something is going to make me sad or upset or scared, I tend to avoid.

And now I'm going to bed, but I eagerly await everyone's thoughts!
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV bluethefourthvine on June 11th, 2010 05:02 am (UTC)
See, I also tend to avoid things that are going to make me sad or upset or scared (bored, I'm fine with), because that gets in the way of the fun kind of thinking - I can't think well when I'm emotional. And I also look for things to bring me joy, but, just, the joy they bring me is from the pleasure of figuring stuff out or learning stuff or imagining what the characters would do if Archie and Saul were fucking or whatever.

But, yeah, you sound like you live in the BB Camp. It's a good place to live! You have lots of company! I bet your potlucks are AWESOME.
je suis marxiste, tendance Groucho: dw amy epiphanyshinealightonme on June 9th, 2010 07:21 am (UTC)
Hm. I guess when I say I'm enjoying something, I mean it makes me happy. And some of that happiness comes from satisfaction of thinking about it, during and after the fact, but sometimes I'm just happy when I watch it and then I move on with my life and never think of it again, except with a fond bit of nostalgia.

But now that I think about it, I suppose the ones that occupy more of my thoughts are ones that I enjoy more. But they're not the only ones.
tried to eat the safe banana: TFV brownthefourthvine on June 11th, 2010 05:10 am (UTC)
So, okay, it seems to me that the difference is an emotional v. cogitation divide - I'm focusing more on my thinking reaction, whereas BB (and almost everyone else) is focusing more on her feeling reaction. (Which is not to say that I don't also have an emotional reaction or that it doesn't also influence how I feel about a work, of course.)

I feel like pretty soon Meyers-Briggs is going to come into this.
(no subject) - shinealightonme on June 11th, 2010 06:13 am (UTC) (Expand)
Minim Calibreminim_calibre on June 9th, 2010 07:24 am (UTC)
My entertainment entertains me in ways that vary! I used to be a much bigger fan of what my friend Kat once called Spinach Books and Spinach Movies than I am now: I was all about the Deeper Meaning Behind It All, so I'd sit there and read/watch things where miserable, shitty events happened to people due to accidents of birth compounded by the cruelty inherent in the class system of Victorian England. (Which is to say, at 14, holy shit I was a huge fan of Thomas Hardy.) And therefore, my entertainment was entertaining me by illuminating me about the tragedy of the human condition. But then I would read romance novels by the ton, because I could get them 10 for a buck at the thrift store, and my entertainment would be all about the sexy funtimes and flirtation and pretty clothing and escapism! Really, really (in retrospect) problematic escapism. But they didn't make me think, and all I was really finding illuminating was that I had bulletproof kinks.

Now, if it's a book and I say I find it entertaining, I mean it for whatever reason held my attention and didn't trigger the tl;dr response. The older I get, the less patience I have with (fiction) books (other than vintage erotica), I'm finding. It's increasingly rare that I find a book that makes me really start thinking about it beyond, "this trope needs to be taken out behind the woodshed." When it happens, I'm thrilled, and then I devour the author and am sad when I RUN OUT OF STORIES BY AUTHOR! NOES!

I enjoy a lot of TV as a "this is an entertaining enough thing to hold my attention for a few minutes" and even the TV I don't feel like taking apart and musing on, I sort of take apart and muse on just on reflex: that's how I enjoy TV! I like to watch it with my brain picking it apart! If it *really* makes me have Thinky Thoughts *AND* somehow engages me emotionally with the characters, then I enjoy it and am *fannishly* enjoying it.
(Deleted comment)
Proactively Untwist Octagonal Hippopotamus Pants: blow my minddramaturgca on June 9th, 2010 07:29 am (UTC)
Interesting subject!

I think, to me, enjoyment/entertainment and intellectual stimulation are two separate categories. They're not mutually exclusive, I enjoy a number of things that also provide me with intellectual stimulation, but there are also a variety of things that I enjoy with no real intellectual component at all. And sometimes, often even, what stimulates my intellect keeps me from enjoying things on a more basic level.

For example, I enjoy Star Trek novels (no! hear me out!) but there's nothing intellectual there. It's characters I like doing stuff. That's entertainment.
I love a well-written fantasy book with strong characters. I also love Shakespeare. Like, a lot. That's intellectual, I get a huge kick out of wordplay and meter and stuff. I'm a freak that way.
Particularly in the last two years, my enjoyment of things, the warm fuzzy glow part, has been seriously curtailed by my issues with bad writing and misogyny. I can't watch most TV because I get hung up in my intellectual interest.

I guess I would say, like Best Beloved, that I define enjoyment/entertainment as looking forward to consuming some form of media.
Fleur Rochardfleurrochard on June 9th, 2010 09:39 am (UTC)
I think, to me, enjoyment/entertainment and intellectual stimulation are two separate categories. They're not mutually exclusive, I enjoy a number of things that also provide me with intellectual stimulation, but there are also a variety of things that I enjoy with no real intellectual component at all.

This. If a book/movie gives me both - fantastic! But one of both can be enough so I keep reading/watching it and don't regret it after.
clouder: deepthoughtselfinduced on June 9th, 2010 07:32 am (UTC)
it holds my willing attention.

if it makes me smile, laugh, turns me on, or think (plot is good for this--even if it's not something i care about too deeply, if a plot is enough like a puzzle, the act of following it and finding out what comes next is good enough) or makes me feel like it is a worthwhile cause, i will spend time on it.
clouder: buttwaxselfinduced on June 9th, 2010 07:38 am (UTC)
i may have taken this too literally. i am "entertained" by many things that i don't go back to. so if i like the entertainment, then it is something that makes me happy and has a chance of producing more happiness if i go back to it, for example, favorite books or fics, or tv shows.

now what makes me "happy" -- well that's a bit more complicated, and changes with time/context. like, if i'm lonely, i might like episodes of SG-1 with happy team/family bonding, or if i am bored, something with lots of action and things blowing up, or if i'm self-indulgently sad, then something angsty that might make me cry, etc.
(no subject) - amnisias on June 9th, 2010 07:54 am (UTC) (Expand)
roseblight on June 9th, 2010 08:47 am (UTC)
Casting my vote for this definition as well.
The Gauche in the Machinechina_shop on June 9th, 2010 08:01 am (UTC)
I think I enjoy a book or (let's be realistic here) fanfic when I get pleasure from engaging with it -- usually because it's clever or funny or encapsulates characters or tropes in a way that I find satisfying, pleasing or surprising (in a good way). I can occasionally enjoy things that don't make me go "cool!", but usually I'm admiring the combination of technical skill, characterisation and je ne sais quois, all bundled up together in one awesome package.

Actually, it's probably more useful to think of this in terms of vidding, because I can find it satisfying and instructional to watch vids that I don't particularly enjoy. I enjoy a vid when I engage with it emotionally (song, characters, style, voice). If it's an intellectually stimulating essay, that's a definite bonus, but humour is a more important component for my enjoyment than smarts or thought-provokingness.
Annie: boxanie_chan on June 9th, 2010 08:19 am (UTC)
Interesting question.
I'd say if the book keeps me from doing something else - it's interesting.
If I can get lost in it and time flies, it's interesting.

I divide all books in two big groups:
- educational. Books that makes me think and gives me new information.
- books for fun. Crazy and fascinating plot, funny characters etc. You sit down, start to read and when you finish - it's already midnight.
Not all educational books are entertaining, but all books for fun most definitely are.

Lithyhalcyon_shift on June 9th, 2010 08:25 am (UTC)
I enjoy books or TV or whatever that either engage my brain, or switch it the hell off - if there's something that brings my attention to a single point or just turns it off for a while, I'm all for it *g*

Which, I guess, means I don't really per se enjoy things entirely on their own merit. I can enjoy something truly awful as along it fits the criteria, or dislike something really good because it doesn't. Awww. I feel bad now.
Mific: Punk duckmific on June 9th, 2010 08:32 am (UTC)
1) escapism - I use fanfic/fandom immersion as a way to cope with stress. The defence of distraction. I want something very different from the stuff I deal with day by day at work. So I mostly read mysteries and sci-fi. And humour.
2) curiosity and learning. I like media where I learn something interesting - especially if it's presented in the context of escapism. Used to especially read murder mysteries that taught me about a different occupation, culture, way of life.
3) wish fulfuillment - similar to 1) I guess. But rather than any old distraction this one lets me vicariously experience excitement, romance, intimacy. Only works if there's at least one character with whom I can identify. For example Patricia Highsmith's psychopathic Mr Ripley - can't read it.
4) sexual stimulation. Fanfic has, pardon the pun, turned me on to well-written erotica, which had previously been harder to locate.
5) intellectual stimulation - your "it makes you think" reason - sadly it's well down my list. Basically, I'm lazy. I want to be entertained and a "hard" book feels like too much damn work.
6) the pleasure of language - a clever writer wielding words very skilfully also works.
7) but of course, the ultimate draw is something that combines all these. Fanfiction has been perfect, combining escapism, wish-fulfilment romance, well-written smut, interesting plots and clever, referential reworkings of favourite fandoms by some amazing wordsmiths, and some of it definitely does challenge me intellectually and make me think. Not that I don't just hoover up anything if I'm obsessed with a current fandom or OTP!
jeanniewaljeanniewal on June 9th, 2010 09:16 am (UTC)
I enjoy books which take me out of myself to such an extent that I 'see'them happening in front of me... I get a bit of a shock if someone distracts me and I glance back at the book to find just printed words on the page. I then have to read myself back into that world again (which doesn't take long usually!) Books which don't take me in this way tend to get dropped after a few pages!

Movies... hmm. I'm usually too tired to watch them! I expect this to stop happening one day, if my boys ever let me get enough sleep. I enjoy documentaries on geneaology and archaeology, but, because of the aforementioned tendency to be always tired, they need to be fairly fast pasced and not too dry or dusty. I hope too that I'm not doomed by motherhood to a life of surface doccies! Very interesting questionm btw :)
n_snarcolepsy_slds on June 9th, 2010 10:03 am (UTC)
in the last couple of years 'enjoying' something regarding entertainment has changed quite a lot.
I cannot really explain it but I used to be able to enjoy watching the telly, or a movie, or read a novel - just because.
today it really depends on how tired (of the world) I am. right now I am having a week off and if a book or a movie does not make me think I get bored and hence do not enjoy it. after 36h of work I enjoy a book when I do not have to think (and there has to be a happy ending). it is different for fanfiction though, but I cannot put my finger on the why. I reckon I use fanfiction mainly to escape.

still, I can easily sit down and read for hours, but 20min watching a tv show without a break makes me nervous.

btw, 18years - congratulation!
misspamelamisspamela on June 9th, 2010 10:22 am (UTC)
If I feel excited, interested, happy, and engaged by media, I am entertained and I want to watch/read more. So I can be reading something that may not engage me intellectually, but gives me a little thrill! in my heart! or it has a plot that has sucked me in and I must, must know how it ends, and I am entertained.

If I'm bored or sad or disgusted by media, I' turn it off/stop reading. The end.
Vee: Holmes_MostEngagingvsee on June 9th, 2010 10:40 am (UTC)
This is an interesting question.

I enjoy books and movies when they make me feel connected to an idea that excites me, or an emotion that satisfies me. This goes for fanfiction as well. If the author creates a relationship that is fun and full of things that press my buttons--deep devotion, friendship, etc., then I get very involved. I want to be there.

I have watched a lot of TV shows over the years where I thought the actual show was pretty terrible, for one reason or another. Bad writing is often the problem. For how particular I can be about many things, it always surprises me how I will bend to watch these shows because I like the relationships. There are shows that I've been in the fandoms for five years or more, where outside that context, you could not pay me money to watch the shows. In fact, this applies the MOST to the fandoms I've been most passionately, giddily happy in. (I'm looking at YOU, Torchwood. I'm looking at you The Sentinel. I'm trying very hard not to look at you, Due South and the The X-Files.) My sister and I have tried to come up with a way to describe genre TV in particular. She has talked about how something she saw was the right kind of bad TV. That's pretty clumsy, but sort of fitting.

Reading is a bit different for me.
I liked the previous commenter's definition of "spinach books." I think we all go through some kind of phase like this. I'm mostly past the point where I feel like reading ONLY because it's the right thing to read. It has to engage me on some other level, and not cause me to want to jump off a cliff when I am done.

I am having a harder and harder time reading fiction as time goes on. I am more like you about romance despite my overdeveloped slash goggles. I am also like that in my attitudes about a lot of other aspects in fiction, most particularly middle aged male angst. The only author who can write middle aged male angst that doesn't make me clutch my stomach is John Irving. And maybe, sometimes, John Updike. But I no longer have any patience for fiction in which I have to experience men talking about the emptiness and pointlessness of their lives now that 20 year old women don't want to have sex with them anymore, in whatever literary/disguised way contemporary authors have of saying that. I had no idea how much fiction was about this until I decided to avoid it.

Now, I mostly read nonfiction. I love books that survey a topic, or tell me a lot about how something in the world gets done. I haven't read a whole lot of good nonfiction lately, alas. I also have a soft spot for biographies and memoirs, because I like thinking about why people end up how they are--but for me, this is more like reading fiction than nonfiction. This gives me the same sort of satisfaction as character development.

Sally M: luddite laptopsallymn on June 9th, 2010 11:47 am (UTC)
I can see both sides... I'll enjoy something that bypasses the brain but engages my heart (whether happily or not... a good weepy, even if it's literary marshmallow at centre, can be wonderful), just as I can love something that is crisp and emotionally distant, but makes me think (as a reader, I like to be made to work for my reading). Even better when they manage a fair to good engagement of both heart and head...

But in the end, it's like any sort of taste, you really can't explain why you like chocolate icecream and hate creamed corn (or vice versa), it's just the way it make you feel...