Fun: it’s Serious Business

“Dumb Fun.” It’s a phrase that gets thrown around a lot. It’s associated with horror movies and action flicks, with videogames, with mass-market paperbacks and bubblegum pop. It just is. It’s dumb fun, a guilty pleasure, an indulgence.

But why?

Sure, there’s plenty of media that lacks artistic substance, that succeeds because “it’s so bad it’s good.” Other works might appeal to a very limited crowd because they’re based off of a franchise with a small following, or because it deals with a specific experience or fantasy. But what about works that are just trying to be fun? What is the stigma in that?

Look at something like Fast & Furious. Everybody knows that the series doesn’t really take itself seriously: it is a vehicle for over-the-top action, fast cars, and cheesy characters. But does that make it stupid? Does it make a person stupid for enjoying it? The films do not lack skill. Creating an intense chase scene is no small feat – building a franchise that constantly seeks to up the ante is amazing.

Making something fun is not easy. Heck, “fun” is difficult to define, let alone produce. To set out on a project thinking “I want this to be fun” and then delivering is pretty impressive. It’s even more impressive to make a profit doing it. Yet fun is considered dumb, especially when it sneaks into art.

There seems to be this assumption that art must somehow be “deep,” specifically by being shocking, disturbing, or sad. Art can be beautiful, but it cannot stoop to the lowness of being “fun.” But why not? Art is supposed to reveal something about life, isn’t it? Why can’t it reveal that life is, in fact, fun? It may not be fun all the time, but life certainly isn’t sad or horrific all the time either.

My point is, fun is a complex thing. It is an elusive thing. Sometimes dumb things are fun, but we shouldn’t discard the experience of fun itself. Creating fun is an art unto itself, and it should be treated as such.

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