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How politics and entertainment interact in a charged culture

Graphic by Kyle St. John

Everywhere you look nowadays, political opinions are endlessly thrown back and forth as crises inflict the world.

In situations like these, entertainment is a fundamental avenue for escapism. Although some might say that escapism is largely responsible for today’s problems, all it can reasonably do is create messages and inspire others. 

Entertainment needs to build trust and create reasons for an audience to care about whatever message the production is trying to convey, and political issues risk alienation in a medium seeking to create that escapism. 

An example of what not to do when handling politics in media is constantly perceiving subjects as inherently political.

By boxing a character or story into a mindset where they must deal with an opposing view that defines them can lead to simplistic and played-out situations. For example, having one side being humiliated in an exaggerated takedown. 

Creators must carefully deal with politics and subjects adjacent to it, as poorly executing how one group is seen can drastically alienate them and undermine the whole message.

 It is equally crucial to making the consumer’s voice not heard and creating a strawman of an entire perspective to cut down to size. What it means to invoke political elements into a story must involve a great level of awareness and subtlety that does not force an overt agenda.

For many, they cannot separate the political elements from whatever piece of media they are consuming, as it is simply built within it. For example, in a movie like “RoboCop,” the issues were presented in a way that was highly critical of the time by painting corporations as despicable institutions. 

However, it does this by effectively making the audience care about the main character by showing how their life is changed by the corruption they encounter. It ties the political commentary with the themes it tackles and creates a message without destroying the entertainment value. 

Political forces in a story work best if done in a relatable and competent fashion that does not interfere with the escapism.

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