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When Things We Call Entertainment Start to Get Real

Billed as “top flight entertainment,” I soon discovered this film was much too real to permit me a moment’s escape from reality. -Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Like most people I know, I love to watch movies.

I also have many friends who, just like me, adore reading.

My subject matter interests are varied, to say the least. From raising goats in your backyard to black holes colliding to the birth of mixed martial arts, I rarely meet a topic I don’t want to learn more about.

But recently, I’ve begun to question whether these pursuits truly qualify as “entertainment.” What I mean by that: if you walked up to me and inquired about some of my favorite hobbies, I would probably respond with “watching movies” and “reading.”

Here, when I think about the word “hobbies,” what comes to mind is entertainment. Hobbies are those activities you do when you aren’t working. They are – ideally – supposed to be fun, stress-easing, restorative, self-esteem boosting, memory making.

But there is nothing fun or stress-easing about some of the topics I have been watching on television and reading about lately. For instance, there isn’t a shred of entertainment anywhere in sight when the film frame shifts and suddenly you are eyeball to eyeball with suffering, starving refugees or oily, doomed marine mammals.

I think this all hit home for me in a particularly “real” sort of way when my boyfriend and I recently watched a movie called “Sicario” (Spanish for “hitman”).

The movie is about the ongoing conflict between drug cartels and authorities on both sides of the Mexican-USA border. The conflict centers around the town of Juarez, Mexico, which apparently is the scariest town on the planet.

The main character is an FBI agent who really, really wants to bring the bad people to justice. She knows what they’ve done and she’s seen it with her own eyes and she believes there is a way to end the drug-related violence and suffering once and for all.

So she accepts an invitation to team up with the CIA to trace the drug cartel leadership all the way up the line and pull it out by its roots. She shows up on day one, raring to go and eager to learn, only to be met with stolid silence, stonewalling and, sometimes, storytelling where there should be facts.

The line just gets blurrier from there. You see her start to question who is “good” and who is “bad,” even on her own team. And even the victims, who clearly didn’t die peacefully in their sleep, have shady pasts. What did they do to end up that way? Are the people who killed them better, worse or the same? Are they all victims? All perpetrators? Could they be both?


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