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The Merits and Dangers of Modern Entertainment

Through the many ages, entertainment has changed just as much as the human race. Entertainment has gone from what was usually primitive and savage, to more civilized ways to pass the timeā€¦or has it? Many argue that modern entertainment is having a negative effect on the world, and young minds in particular. As technology progresses, is entertainment becoming more useful, or dangerous to society? To answer the inquiry, one must compare our modern-day media to the pass-times of old-times.

The ancient Romans commonly held gladiator games in the coliseum. A gladiator was usually someone who was dead to society, or was a slave. He was forced to fight in the stadium to the death against other gladiators and sometimes starved lions and other vicious animals. It was not uncommon for free men to become gladiators, but the games were mostly made of people forced against their will, more often than not Christian martyrs who refused to worship the roman gods. The sport was brutal and gory. How does it compare to today's entertainment?

The average male teenager has some kind of gaming system, be it a handheld, PSP, XBOX, etc. And of all the games they play, there are bound to be multiple M-rated games. The ever-popular Grand Theft Auto can be seen even in the hands of children in elementary school. And it's more than just stealing cars (though there's plenty of that). The player can drink, visit strip clubs, shoot police, and murder civilians all at the touch of a button. The game producers don't even try to keep the gore moderate. Blood is everywhere, and so are mature themes never meant for kids or even teens. Rated M is for mature, but should rather be for adults, if for anyone at all. Is this any better than the coliseum, even if it is just a game?

A research project surveyed over 2,000 kids from ages 8 to 18. A frightening 12% of them say that they play games that their parents would not approve of. In another study, young men who frequently played Grand Theft Auto had higher blood pressure and even greater symptoms of ADHD. And Grand Theft Auto is only one of many similar games. Others include Dante's Inferno (a 14th century poem about the circles of hell twisted into a gory M-rated game), Wolfenstein, Gears of War, and the slightly less, but still violent and ever-popular Call of Duty.

While many video games are oft times full of negative influence, others have a positive effect on those who play them. The game Brain Age for Nintendo DS, for instance, is a mind trainer. Those who play must think well and quickly, combining logic with creativity. Brain Age is not the only game of its kind either. Others games such as Big Brain Academy encourage constructive activity. Games such as Imagine: Teacher and Imagine: Doctor inspire children to dream and be successful in real careers.

What about other forms of modern media? People are ever attracted to the big screen these days. The movie theaters are common hang-out spots for teens on weekends, and can be innocent enough, yet is what is shown on the big screen really appropriate if not safe for the eye? William Shakespeare's still-loved plays would be the equivalent of the movie theaters back in 1590. How do the brilliant stage-plays and the Hollywood magic compare?

The average movie is rated PG-13 for violence, sexual content, language, or nudity. PG-13 is suggested only for viewers 13 and up, but some of the content inside shouldn't even be viewed by adult, much less teenagers who think themselves old enough to watch what they clearly shouldn't. Many teens go so far as to watch restricted movies and end up highly influenced by them. These movies often lead to violence and aggressive behavior in not only teens, but the whole of the population. The movies often times encourage young teens to engage in sexual activity that leads to teen pregnancy. Movies were meant to be fun and tell a good story through pictures, but has it gone too far? Current movies such as Wolfman, Legion, Inglorious Bastards, Shutter Island, the Crazies, and countless other are simply advertising blood, gore, sex, and other things that lead to domestic problems.

Still, many positive messages have been put out through way of the big screen. Movies like High School Musical 3: Senior Year encourage kids to think of college and make the right choices for their future. More intense movies geared towards the teen population, such as Star Wars, invoke the inspiring feeling of good triumphing over evil and catch the eye without so much negative content. Films such as the Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and the Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian elicit the same positive emotions from the viewer while unleashing the imagination like horror flicks never could. Even some rated R movies like the Book of Eli holdpositive messages, but are not so "childish" so to speak. But rated R is still rated R for a reason. Viewers had best think twice about whatever they decide to go and watch.

And last, but most indefinitely not least, we come to the brood topic of athletics. The Ancient Greeks were renowned for their many forms of entertainment. Much of their time was spent worshipping the gods, but that was not all they did for a pass-time. Ancient Greek entertainment has been passed down and is still copied today in what we call the Olympic Games. The Greeks held games every four years, similar to what we do today, but the games did not move from place to place. They remained on Mount Olympus in honor of the gods. There were fewer events, but the purpose was the same: To see which city-state (polis) would become the home of the next great Olympian.

It was not uncommon for a participant to die in his efforts to triumph in the ancient Olympics. This fact alone made the games dangerous. Though there are rarely deaths in modern sports, there have been cases of serious injury that result in lifetime impairment and/or death.

Sports are just as entertaining and can be just as dangerous as other types of modern media, even without the heartless violence. Athletes push themselves to be the very best of them all, and sometimes they push themselves too far. Thousands of injured every year are caused by sports, especially major ones such as football, basketball, hockey, boxing, and gymnastics.

Olympic level athletes are rarely without some kind of injury, as their careers often demand more of them than they can safely give. Hundreds upon thousands of people have seriously injured themselves to the extent of needing surgery while training for the games. And it's not only the Olympics that have gotten people hurt. One of every four kids will injure themselves from the ages of 5 to 14 in a sports related accident. Whatever the case, the injuries are normally due to the pressure athletes receive from coaches, parents, and their careers.

So what's the positive side of athletics? It's a great way to stay in shape, plus, its friendly competition that people will pay to watch. Sports, like basketball, encourage people to have pride in the local, state, and national teams. Children are inspired by watching professional athletes earn medals and win championships. It encourages them not only to be active, but to work hard to fulfill whatever dreams they might have.

Despite the downsides to modern entertainment (and there are many), it proves rather useful in the all-in-all. Where would we be without our favorite show every Friday evening or the football game every Monday night? While the world is focused on serious political matters, all of us must eventually take a break in routine and relax.

There is a down-side and an up-side to every form of entertainment. That is the one conclusion. Yet is modern entertainment better or worse than the entertainment of the ancients? The question remains unanswered, for, just as beauty, the answer lies in the eyes of the beholder. Whatever the case, we should all be wise in what we do, watch, and play. We all need to recognize, and come well to terms with the merits, and dangers, of modern entertainment.


Grout, James "The Roman Gladiator" Encyclopedia Romana January 27, 2010 .edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/gladiators/gladiators .html

National Institute on Media and the Family "Effects of Video Game Playing on Children" June 2009 facts/facts_

Asay, Holz, Hoose "Shutter Island", "The Crazies", "Wolfman", "Legion", "Inglorious Bastard" January 2010 .

Asay, Holz, Hoose, Simpson "Grand Theft auto", "Gears of War", "Call of Duty", "Dante's Inferno" 2009-2010 .

The Trustees of Tufts College, Perseus Project Classic Department "Ancient and Modern Olympic Games" August 13, 2004 ./Olympics/

Antonio Zamora "Sports Injuries Statistics" 2003-2004 fitness/sport_