The Arts section of The Journal used to be called “Arts and Entertainment” before being condensed to simply “Arts” a few years ago. This distinction calls into question, what is the difference between art and entertainment, and who is to say something is or isn’t art?
The Oxford dictionary defines art as “the expression or application of human skill and imagination, typically in a visual form, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.”
If we use this definition to define art, there’s no limit to what can be construed as art. The subjectivity of emotional power or beauty creates an unstable relationship between creators and target audiences, but perhaps this is how it should be.
Entertainment is deemed shallow, while art is intelligent. Entertainment is deemed inconsequential while art is powerful. Entertainment is deemed pleasurable while art is inspirational.
This differentiation of the two is often decided by the viewer; pretentiousness is often what dictates what is and what is not art.
One’s creations should not be bound by this elusive ‘vs’ of the categories, despite the discourse on the subject. Nor should it be disguised under the premise of craft—art is expression, and to define it as anything else does wrong by those making it.
Deeming someone’s creation as ‘entertainment’ rather than art is often the dismissal of a work that simply doesn’t appeal to you. It’s the act of self-limiting your own perception of how art can be created and consumed.
Martin Scorsese, for example, has compared the Marvel franchise to amusement parks. Doing this dismisses the entirety of the franchise as non-substantive entertainment, subsequently disenfranchising the creators from the depth and effort invested in storylines have touched millions of people around the world.
In the current climate, profitability can also overtake creators. This is one place where the line can be drawn, but more so in sparking a greater conversation of how capitalist interest can and often does influence the artistic scene.
The recycling of stories and remakes—as HBO has done a wonderful job at through Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars reboots—is common by money-hungry conglomerates, but that doesn’t make these works any less artistic in their making.
At the end of the day, the vital thing to remember when consuming various artistic mediums is what may not appeal to you appeals to others—and vice versa.
What you deem ‘bad art’ can be the epitome of ‘good art’ to someone else. The subjectivity of artistic integrity must be respected and understood, rather than categorized into all-encompassing and oversimplified categories of art or entertainment.
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