The War on Fun and Imagination

It seems as though practically every day I hear complaints about people having fun. It really doesn’t matter whether it’s how they talk or live, or the type of entertainment they watch or read, or the sports they play, some humorless wet blanket is going to try to smother their enjoyment.

I’ve personally encountered this a few times with reference to role-playing games. Now it so happens I’m not active with role-playing any more, and haven’t been for a few years. But that’s not because I decided they were a bad thing, or that people shouldn’t get involved in them and enjoy them. It’s just about this time of my life and my priorities. As one can tell from this blog, I still put my imagination to work from time to time working out stories in imaginary worlds. With a nifty little blog like this I can post my stories to be ignored, enjoyed, criticized, or whatever else, and it’s just plain fun.

This is probably also my big complaint with political correctness. I have no problem with courtesy, and in fact have been accused of being “politically correct” myself from time to time. All the accusers have one thing in common: They’re going to watch your mouth for the least little mistake so they can prevent you from getting on with life and enjoying it. I’m a linguist, and my English grammar is fairly good. My vocabulary is excellent. But I love murdering the English language for fun. If you start correcting my grammar for me, it will only get worse. It’s not that I don’t know–it’s that I do know and don’t feel like doing it that way.

And thus we get to entertainment and education. There are those who would hold that the only justification for entertaining things is that they provide you with exercise, or they exercise your mind. “Role-playing games aren’t bad,” someone says, “They’re really good because they provide an opportunity to test various life options.” OK, but what’s the problem with saying simply, “Role-playing games are OK because they’re fun”? The same thing goes for TV, movies, and books. It’s alright if somebody wants to educate me and get me to think deep thoughts when I read or watch, but is that generally the justification? Do I need a justification other than that I enjoy it?

Then today I read the following in an article on MSNBC (link no longer available):

Feminist academic Germaine Greer said on Wednesday she hoped the death of Australian “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin would mark the end of what she called exploitative nature documentaries, a discordant note amid floods of tributes.

Now my first inclination, boring as it seems, was to try to figure out just how Steve Irwin was “exploitative.” Fortunately, I read on before I wasted the brain power. Greer also says Irwin treated animals with “massive insensitivity.” Then the MSNBC article continued:

Greer, an award-winning author, is a frequent critic of personalities like British soccer star David Beckham and social trends like reality television.

In 2003 she criticized J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy for attracting “spaced-out hippies, environmentalists, free-market libertarians, social conservatives, pacifists, new-age theosophists, sexists and racists the world over.”

OK, now we know: Greer is a fun-killer. She’s at war with people who want to enjoy life. I really don’t think it has to do with the animals or with anything else of value. It’s just that she, and people like her, can’t stand it that people enjoy anything. I happen to really dislike all examples of reality television I’ve seen so far, for example, but I know that people enjoy those shows, they have fun when they watch them, and that’s good enough for me. The viewers aren’t incredibly stupid, they are just entertained by different things than those that entertain me. For folks like Greer, however, it would appear that people who have fun are insensitive to those who, well, aren’t.

Now don’t make the mistake of supposing this problem is just a left-wing thing, in which feminists (most of whom are fine people doing good work) and word police watch out for people who might get a laugh out of something. On the right we have the folks who think that ripping people apart in a movie is OK, but that nudity and sex is evil. It happens that I like my sexual themes with a bit of subtlety, but then again I don’t like reality TV either. Nonetheless I don’t try to get either of them banned from television. I have a perfectly good channel changer, remote even, and quite a number of channels to choose from. And bluntly, the fun haters of the right and the left have plenty of people from whom they can choose their friends.

As a Christian I believe that God created us (though I have no problem with the method being via evolution), and that one good way to find out what God likes is to look at what he created. Apparently, God created plenty of people with imagination, humor and a desire to enjoy life. So even though I really don’t need a religious motivation–I’m inclined to have fun anyhow–let me simply say that it looks to me like having fun might even be a religious principle. Just don’t try to have fun religiously–it won’t work. 🙂

Let life have its pleasures. It has enough nasty parts already. As long as you’re not hurting people, go fort it. A little balance doesn’t hurt, but there’s lots of room for the fun stuff in a balanced life.

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