The aim of the BBC has always been to inform, educate and entertain. Similarly people make art such as film and theatre not purely to entertain but to, through a creative medium, open our eyes to reality. Yes, the reality in all art is subjective and has been created by an imagination – whether based in truth or not – but art can still very much teach us a lot about the world in which we live.
Recently I heard of a response to Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty that really irritated me. A woman left the film not even half way through in tears and, essentially, having a tantrum about how horrific it was and how she refused to go back into the screen. Apparently it just “isn’t human” to make films about things like that. Actually I think what “isn’t human” is to enact the torture such as that depicted in the film on another human being – and that does happen. So, actually, it is human to make art in response to this kind of thing, and to open people’s eyes to the inhumanity of some things that go on in the world.
Now, I am yet to see the film and I am using it as an example of a more general reaction to hard-hitting works of art that always annoys me. I do realise that there is a line between making a point illustrating a reality and gratuitous violence, but I certainly don’t think that all our ‘entertainment’ should be sugar coated escapism.
Escapism has its place, definitely, and we’d be much worse off without it. But so, too, does art that makes us think about and question the harsher sides of our reality by shoving it in our faces.