How much simpler it was to be titillated and entertained in the past, and not that too far in the past either. There was a time when a chap with not a very good singing voice, who wasn’t very funny, but wore a long dress and a feather headdress was seen as the height of entertainment. Norman Vaughn was so swinging that we could forgive him his dodgy and quite rubbish jokes. Girls high kicked their legs whilst revolving on a cheap stage probably turned by a couple of blokes in overalls, singers simply sang songs, division one footballers played football for twenty quid a week, a new British film was made in an afternoon every single day of the year, and soap operas never had a single murder or a wedding that didn’t take place.
Yes, that was entertainment.
It makes me wonder just how boring people’s lives must have been to be satisfied by such simple pleasures, never expecting to be shocked, not needing sensation and where the pinnacle of naughtiness was Brian Rix dropping his trousers in front of the vicar who was being served tea by a sexy French maid in a very short skirt.
At no time was there full frontal nudity, obscene language, or men kissing on screen. Car crashes we not depicted with frightful realism, bodies were not dissected on mortuary slabs like a beef joint on a Sunday, and the news did not show body parts blown to pieces in streets running with blood.
Of course this didn’t mean these things weren’t happening, they obviously were, but the reality of the world probably wasn’t as entertaining to a population who had lived through war, known hunger and hardship, died from tuberculosis in droves, and who had been taught to toe the line and be grateful for what little they had. I don’t know which is worse really – trying to lose yourself in a simple world where the slog of the day-to-day can be forgotten for a few minutes in a music hall or seeking the thrill of extremes to make your life more interesting and less comfortable.
Times change and with it what we find entertaining, there’s no constant. Not too many people today would really enjoy an entire classical Greek play, feel comfortable watching lions eat Christians or sitcoms about racist behaviour, watch a magic lantern show with real wonder, or even watch a soap that just depicted conversations about the price of flour in the corner shop.
These days most titillation comes without too much titter. Dramas are graphic, comedies cutting, the line between reality and entertainment almost impossible to draw, and men in dresses may or may not be drag acts. I’m not saying what is right or wrong because I simply don’t know. I guess it’s for each of us to decide what’s entertaining and what isn’t. But sometimes I wonder if the days of the Coliseum are really over.