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Entertainment Is Essential: When It Can Make You Weep

I know I'm not the only person to be moved to tears by the ending of a book or movie.  Books can elevate the soul or wring the emotions like a wet hanky.  Films can make graphic statements that are seared into the mind's eye.  So don't pretend you think I'm some wacko because saying goodbye to a television series that has been part of my life for a number of years is heart-wrenching.  It isn't peculiar in the least to feel sad over the loss of beloved characters — even if they're no more real than that myth about the moon being made of cheese!  (That isn't real, right?)

Do not expect me to believe you have never despaired when your favorite T.V. show ended.  I know you have.  It happens to the best of us as easily as the rest of us.  We are none immune.

Entertainment saws and strums the heartstrings like a cello or harp.  We are haplessly tugged into the rapture of familiar refrains, the catchy anthems that herald the advent of another adventure.  We feel warm and cozy in the presence of those faces we welcome into our homes more often than many of our actual friends; to whom we may become closer than most of our relatives for a brief span of time.  As if head over heels in love, we can't wait to see them again.

You know the feeling.  Admit it.  You must have been hooked, reeled in, thrilled and enthralled by a fictional cast of strangers — who live only in T.V. Land — at some point in your life.  Unless you're a goat herder in some remote mountainous region and have no electricity, let alone a box with moving pictures and funny rabbit ears on top.  Or you were born on a deserted island and have never been to Civilization.  Or your parents raised you to believe television would rot your brain.

I suppose you may have an excuse then.  Otherwise, sorry, I'm not buying it.

So don't look down on me for confessing that my vision got blurry and damp throughout the series finale of LOST.  Or that my throat was tight, choked with grief, and I sobbed like I was emotionally invested when Jack Bauer said goodbye to the faithful Chloe (and fans) while the ultimate minutes of TWENTY-FOUR ticked away — knowing full well that Jack will be back in action on Hollywood's silver screen.  That didn't help a bit.

I had wept for weeks over Steve Irwin's death, though we never crossed paths.  In his case, THE CROCODILE HUNTER was not only a T.V. character, he was a bonafide hero too — a champion of animals and conservation.

I wept for Princess Diana, whose televised wedding had been watched around the world as a fairytale happily-ever-after ending come true.  We all know how it turned out, but the royal ceremony captured our imaginations.  That event made us one, uniting the world.  And over the years, the regal compassionate "Queen Of Hearts" stole ours.

It's the magic of television — of Entertainment, in fact — that we can embrace people we have never met.  In some ways, people who don't exist.

Jack Bauer might not be a genuine hero.  He's portrayed by an actor, the son of another actor.  He isn't perfect.  He doesn't always follow the rules.  You can usually count on him to break them.  He isn't the best role model for kids.  He's often being hunted by the authorities and considered out of control.  But he always has his reasons.  He always does what he thinks is right and lives by an unwavering code of honor that we don't see too often in this world.  And we can always, always, count on Jack to save the day.

That is why we love him.  He makes us feel safe.

In his final season he couldn't protect a woman he cared about, and that drove him to farther lengths than we have ever seen him go.  It drove him to make us doubt his integrity for the very first time.  Yet in the end he was Jack Bauer, the tarnished yet staunch hero of Justice and Truth.

We watched Chloe's face endure its usual contortions as she grimaced and scowled.  But we also saw her take charge . . . take control of situations more than ever before.  We saw her confronted with a staggering dilemma — having to go against her friend Jack for the first time, for the sake of preserving his life.

 We also watched a female president — a woman we could wish we had as a leader — tumble from grace, dragged down by a scoundrelly ex-president.  Despite her tremendous strength and moral convictions, President Taylor committed serious errors in judgement when confronted by difficult decisions.  She went against Jack, who had valiantly served her, as well as her chief advisor.  This was very sad to witness.  Her motivation was noble, wanting to establish peace in an area long wracked by violence and hatred.  But she compromised her principles and, thus, no peace could be achieved.

We also met a female leader born from tragedy when the wife of a slain Middle-East president assumed her husband's position.  This woman's dignity and honor was heartening in contrast.  Her disappointment in the conflicted President Taylor was tangible.  I felt the same way myself.  The real world needs such leadership, such courage and commendable virtues.

The series has been on the cusp of change, almost prescient, from the beginning.  Its initial season was poised to debut with a terrorist plot the month Nine-Eleven rocked the world.  Introducing a fictional black president shortly before America elected Barack Obama.  Then giving us President Taylor close to the time Hillary Clinton had given Americans a worthy presidential candidate.

TWENTY-FOUR captured the gist of Politics with those tough decisions and gray areas.  This season, the eighth "day", ended with tragedy and an incredibly powerful message that we cannot compromise when it comes to our ideals and doing the right thing.

Jack Bauer might not be a real person.  But he gave us someone to believe in at a time when we desperately needed a hero.

I wanted to believe in President Allison Taylor, and felt immensely bad for her downfall.  I doubt I will ever forget the brilliant character adeptly brought to life for two seasons by Broadway's Cherry Jones, any more than I can forget Jack and Chloe — Kiefer Sutherland and Mary Lynn Rajskub, and other notable cast members.

I think we can never quite "know" a character as profoundly as on T.V., except in the pages of a book.  Which brings me to another tragic loss that I must continue to bemoan.  The Printed Page.  You know what I'm talking about.  Sure, you can store more digital books than the physical kind.  And lug a library of them around.  It makes a nice alternative.  It can never fully replace the printed word in my opinion.

Are we ready for libraries of actual tomes to become museums?  Bookshops no more than digital stores of intangible products?  Are we to accept a signed copy of a book rendered by some virtual means and not truly on a page with ink?  Will we lose our grip on reality along with books?

It is happening every day that society shrugs its figurative shoulders and turns its figurative back on real versions of published works.  Every day a child would rather play a senseless video game or watch some idiot in a viral video than explore the wondrous pages of a book.  Because the root of the problem isn't Progress, or the quandary of Paper Versus Plastic — I mean Pixel.  It is the steady decline of interest in reading Literature.  I'm not referring to text messages, Tweets and blogs and Status reports (what they used to call a diary), tattoos or graffiti.

I mean real literature.

It doesn't have to be stuffy classics.  There are plenty of fresher voices clamoring to be heard.  Yet the truly great ones remain vibrant; they resonate from the page as clearly as when they were first recorded.

The thing about books is that they hold a treasure chest of insight and inspiration, of imagination and exultation, of adventure and suspense, of information and invention between their covers!  It's a fantastic thing to behold.  I fear, however, that with each new generation, it is becoming less and less important.  Less relevant.  The light of reading is like a candle flame.  I'm afraid it is burning out.  From decade to decade, the young are losing interest in reading stories.  The age of the book may be waning, despite flashy electronic reading devices and what my son Noél deems a "Digital Reading Revolution".

It should never happen.  In a civilized world, an intelligent society, books should become increasingly prized — not the opposite!

Oh, we think with all of our gadgets and gears, our fast machines and techno-tinkerings, that we are getting so much smarter.  But is it at the expense of Knowledge?

To me, nothing spells knowledge like a book.  Nothing exemplifies wisdom and learning more than The Written Word.  That is how we have inscribed and passed along knowledge throughout the annals of history.  Word of mouth is very nice, but "the written word endures".

Education can be acquired through books.  Edification can be gained there as well.  Lives can be transformed, even guided by the power of print.  Simply by handing someone a book.  And that is truly magical.

Where does the fault lie if successive generations fail to care about books?  With adults who neglect to set positive examples for children and instill a lasting love of literature?  With school systems competing for the highest test scores, trophies and reputations?  With busy schedules and pressures on kids to overachieve?  One of the best skills any parent or instructor can teach is to open a book and delve inside.  The pursuit of knowledge should be peaceful.

One of my main goals as an author is to inspire "kids" of all ages to read and value words.  J.K. Rowling accomplished it with HARRY POTTER.  I want to believe it can be done again, and again, and again.  Somewhere along the way, the natural progression of Knowledge has strayed from the path of enlightenment, swerving horribly awry.  Just like our respect for Nature.  And each other.

In life, sometimes we must learn to say goodbye.  We must learn to let go.  Bidding farewell to Adrian Monk was difficult last summer.  The world nearly lost MEDIUM almost a year ago; I am ecstatically elated that the series has survived another season without its plug being yanked.  GHOST WHISPERER is now slated to fade into the nether.  It's curtains for other shows and characters, including another lovable misfit from the Queen Of  Quirk, Julia Louis-Dreyfus.  I dread the conclusion of SUPERNATURAL.  Happily, that fateful day still hasn't dawned.  Inevitably, it will.

Disney Channel first broke my heart when SO WEIRD ended.  Since then other excellent shows have arisen and ended too soon:  EVEN STEVENS, LIZZIE MCGUIRE, THAT'S SO RAVEN, PHIL OF THE FUTURE . . .  Most recently, HANNAH MONTANA will sing her swan song.  I mention it because there are too few programs that families can enjoy together.

For every show I've loved and lost, the rare exception — amidst dreck and dross — while not taking its place, can still astound me.  For how long I cannot say until no shows remain that are the least bit fascinating and watchable.  For that matter, what is the future of television?  Will it soon be gone, a relic of the past, this marvelous box that I grew up with?

I see a lot of bad stuff getting worse.  Morals have grievously slipped.  Children are being raised in a world far more treacherous than anything The Brothers Grimm imagined.  Sometimes we can't let go; we need to hang on.  We have to fight for what we believe in, for the world we want to live in and the world we hope to create.

I believe, with all of my heart, in books.  And Entertainment that families can share.  We need to preserve them, as if the future of the world depended on it.

Perhaps it does.

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Entertainment Is Essential


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Lori R. Lopez

Rafael Lopez

Noel Lopez