Only Entertainment

Only Entertainment

Only Entertainment

Only Entertainment


Only Entertainment explores entertainment as entertainment , asking how and whether an emphasis on the primacy of pleasure sets it apart from other forms of art.Dyer focuses on the genres most associated with entertainment, from musicals to action movies, disco to porn. He examines the nature of entertainment in movies such as The Sound of Music and Speed , and argues that entertainment is part of a 'common sense' which is always historically and culturally constructed.This new edition of Only Entertainment features a revised introduction and five new chapters on topics from serial killer movies to Elizabeth Taylor. In the final chapter Dyer asks whether entertainment as we know it is on the wane.


Entertainment is a guiding principle in the making and receiving of the arts and media. These essays address some of the meanings and implications of this.

Entertainment is an idea, one that is both historically and culturally specific. While pleasure has surely always been intended and taken in artefacts and performances, the idea of entertainment is distinctive in its emphasis on the primacy of such pleasure, ahead or even instead of practical, sacred, instructional or political aims and functions. This is touched on in chapters 2 and 5 ('The idea of entertainment', 'Entertainment and utopia'). Cultural developments since 1900 suggest that entertainment, at any rate in the forms discussed here, may also be historically specific in another sense, namely that it may now be on the way out, and this is addressed in a brief, speculative concluding essay, 'The waning of entertainment'.

The essays, written over a period of twenty-odd years and disparate in topic and tone, all seek to understand entertainment in its own terms. This means taking seriously the common sense of entertainment, notions like escapism, glamour, fun, stardom and excitement, as well as phrases such as 'it takes your mind off things' and 'it's only entertainment'. It also means analysing given instances of entertainment as entertainment, neither assuming one already understands what this is nor pushing the analysis too quickly on to other things. These are the effects of two other terms that have dominated discussion of entertainment: art and ideology.

The discourses of both art and ideology tend to take the idea of entertainment for granted, and therefore not to scrutinize it. The former either seeks to denigrate entertainment because it is not art (not formally perfect, accomplished or innovative, not emotionally deep, with nothing interesting to say about the world) or tries to show that such-and-such an instance of entertainment is really, or also, art; either way, the issue of what entertainment is is side-stepped. Discussion of ideology on the other hand tends to treat entertainment as a sugar on the pill of ideological messages, either condemning it as a disguise for world views of which the writer disapproves or else commending it as a strategy for promoting those of which she or he does approve. Once again, though, what entertainment is is not addressed.

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