I’ve always known entertainment in America was a thing.
After all, a considerable part of my upbringing was crafted by Steve Martin’s cop movies, that film on a nasty whale seeking for revenge (which keeps me from snorkeling till this day) and Gilmore Girls.
But only now that I’m living in this wonderful place called America have I understood the real power of entertainment of these folks. The premise around here is that everything has potential to be fun – the entertainment industry is not limited to Hollywood and Netflix. Entertainment is the basis, the backdrop, the bread and butter that can be combined with any other ingredient to make everything more interesting, more appealing and, most of the times, more marketable.
Follow me, will ya.
Evidence number 1: Hockey game, Boston Bruins. TD Garden Arena. October 2015.
As I’ve been currently living by the “since we’re at it, might as well” lifestyle I had decided to go to a Boston Bruins hockey game, why not? I didn’t really know what to expect, I had never seen a hockey game in my life, I had only made it to curling. My mental image of the match was a combination of “Wednesday night regional league soccer game in Brazil + Ice”. Maybe add a bit of fried chicken to it and that’s it.
We entered a stadium that could easily have about 17 floors. Or 4. Anyhow, all marble, glass, escalators and air conditioning. At each floor, a never before seen variety of restaurants, stores and bars, the finest selection of fried chicken and burger joints you’ll ever see – we’re talking Cher’s Malibu mansion fancy, here. It was like entering a Disney themed park, The Magic Kingdom of Hockey.
From then on, you realize that hockey itself is kinda secondary. From the two hours you’ll spend in the stadium, you’ll get about 30 minutes of game. The rest is the opening show, the mid-time show, super high music playing every time they score a goal – you’re really one Chris Martin away from the Superbowl. There’s the moment when the audience shows up on the screen; there’s a short game of junior hockey talents, you name it. Everything, obviously, properly sponsored. To tell you the truth, it’s a cool experience. I mean, it has to be. The whole thing is programmed to entertain you, to keep you turned on, to seduce you. It’s the perfect metaphor for fast food: such an overwhelming amount of salt, sugar and ketchup that it simply has be tasty.
Evidence number 2: Final match of the American college football league. Alabama vs. Clemson, January 2016. Audience: 26 million people.
Yes, you got it; college sports in the US have more audience than the birth of a new baby panda in China. Apparently, about 80 million Americans follow the college football league regularly. What!? Are you telling me that besides work, time with the family, Netflix, gym and updates on Instagram, 80 million people still have time to follow on the performance of the Nebraska University football club? You got to be kidding me. I mean, I don’t know if it was just my experience and I’m the only one that finds it all muy crazy, but for me college sports teams only exist so we can go to the “Inter-College games” once a year, sleep in crappy motels and drink cheap alcohol on beer bongs. Right?
I actually realized this game was happening because I accidentally passed by a bar and it looked like the final match of the world cup: the place was completely packed and everyone was going bananas on these two teams that – please observe – had nothing to do with Boston. Yep, turns out that the American college league is mega sponsored, stadiums are usually mega packed and it has a mega TV audience. And folks would pay up to $300 to go to one of these games (jezz, it hurts to multiply it by 4 and get the price in Brazilian currency). Once again, the US taking something that’s considered lame in any other part of the world and turning into a mega cool event in its fantastic entertainment factory.
Evidence number 3: Republican Party debate. August, 2015.
Oh-em-ge. I really needed to create blog specifically dedicated to cover the elections and all the shenanigans related to it. Maybe I’ll do it.
So this was the first debate of the campaign and there was this huge fuss before it. It stirred up so much expectation on me that it made me watch it on a big screen, drinking beer, eating popcorn and flipping out on the amount of comments/gifs/memes around Donald Trump’s orange face coming up on real time on social media.
Let me tell you, the elections here have more glamour than an Oscar after-party. A huge show of cameras, lights, music – on every break you get live Google statistics on how people are searching about the topics the candidates are talking about. Popular vloggers interacting with questions. A crowd that goes wild at every controversial statement made by Trump (meaning: every statement made by Trump) and a whole country barging in with all sorts of comments on Twitter. And, if you missed a debate: worry not. You can later check out on Youtube and you’ll find videos with titles like “Hillary’s most embarrassing moments” or “The speech that made Obama win the elections”. Everything finely packaged, just how consumers like it.
Now, I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and about what it represents and a huge part of me thinks this is all a bit weird, it’s a bit freakish how everything ends up being industrialized, commoditized, how everything has to be awesome/ fantastic/ amazing or the-most-shameful – as if life was only cool when lived in the superlative. This is for me, something necessarily bad.
But then again I also started observing my own behavior towards it: I did end up being attracted to watch a college football game, even if it was just to see what all the fuss was about. I did end up clicking through the “coolest debate ever”, because with a title like that… right? And in the end, I did become informed about politics and it got me interested to a point that I wanted to know more about it, and discuss it. In the end, the fact that college leagues are super cool does make people be interested in sports from an early age.
Anyway, I’m trying to play a bit of devils’ advocate here, because criticizing a system of “need of ongoing awesomeness” is easy and I woke up wanting to look at the glass half full today. And I know that there are a million negative things that can come from all this, but it got me thinking: isn’t there also just a tiny bit of a positive side to it? Isn’t it a way to give sugar to a child in order for her to take in the medicine? Maybe?
Is it too optimistic of me to think that behind all this there’s something good, some cooler purpose, some actual benefit to society? Something beyond “Take a bit of bread and circus for now, because gun control, social equality and public health might take a bit longer to come out”?