The art vs. entertainment debate has fired up again over at Melly’s place. I’ve clearly got both feet in the entertainment camp, and I’ll tell you why.
As a storyteller, I only care about the reader’s experience. And this is the fundamental difference between art and entertainment. Art is not necessarily concerned with the audience’s experience. Art is art. It need not justify itself to anyone or anything. It is something that sits on a pedestal, behind a glass case, or a painted line on the exhibit floor that says “Do not cross.”
My problem with the label of art is that it protects the artist. If millions of people hate your work, you can easily write off their opinions with, “But it’s art!” You needn’t change a thing or improve yourself, except to whatever degree suits your fancy or tickles your ego.
I’m more than happy to send my work out into the world without the bulletproof vest label of ‘art.’ I will be happy to let readers shoot my work to pieces. Nothing is sacred, my story least of all. If it is a good story, it will be able to protect itself by its own inherent virtues. It needn’t hide behind a label which calls it sacred.
Entertainment cares about the reader–because the reader ultimately decides whether entertainment is ‘entertaining.’ But who defines art?
Art only cares that the artist gets to express themselves. Entertainment only cares whether the reader has a satisfying experience.
The job of an entertainer is to entertain. The job of an artist is to… what? Create something.
There is no prescription for the thing that is created. The end result doesn’t have to meet any particular standard, except those prescribed by the form. And those are not rules, merely guidelines. So really, anything goes.
Entertainment ultimately has to be entertaining. It’s a simple metric. If it’s entertaining, then it succeeds. If it’s not, then it fails.
But how can you judge whether art succeeds or fails? You can’t. It’s entirely subjective. I choose not to hide behind subjectives.
Either my novel will be entertaining, or it won’t. If it’s not, then I failed.
Ultimately what determines whether or not my work is entertaining is how much thought I’ve given to the reader’s experience.
Can the same always be said for art?
In other words, entertainment has the customer or reader at the center of importance. Art has the artist at the center of importance.
Why does the creator have to be the center of importance? Shouldn’t the audience be the center of importance?
Art doesn’t necessarily care for the reader. Entertainment does–because the entire foundation of entertainment is dependent on whether or not the customer had a good time.
I care about the reader and I want them to have a good time. This is more important than all the art or artistry in the universe.