Friday, December 14, 2012

On the Entertainment Value of Politics

Yesterday I wrote a piece in favor of The Newsroom having received a Golden Globe nomination in the Best Drama category. Given the intensity of its political subtext, I found myself musing that, over in the "Best Miniseries or Television Movie" category, there were three offerings whose political impact was no less than that of The Newsroom:
  1. Game Change
  2. The Hour
  3. Political Animals
This makes for an interesting "size matters" lesson (which should have the useful side-effect of suggesting that the proper metaphor for the entertainment industry is Godzilla). Apparently, The Newsroom counts as "drama" because its overall duration exceeded some threshold, while the other three programs were treated as "lesser" candidates. On the other hand all three of these projects deserve credit for recognizing that it would take time to work out their subject matter in an appropriate narrative setting; and, from the point of one who "reads text" (which means I am not a typical television viewer), I found this sort of segregation to be more than a little unfair.

On the other hand I found it interesting that politics should play such a prominent role in the overall scheme of these awards. The bad news may be that television viewers prefer to get their politics as entertainment, rather than as "non-fiction;" which seems to be the principle behind the success of programming on Comedy Central. This raises the corollary that real politicians only matter to us on the basis of their capacity for entertainment, which strikes me as yet another move within our culture to escape, if not deny altogether, the reality that exists beyond the frames of our television sets.

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