As we enter what feels like week nine million of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent social distancing measures have had people isolated, entertainment has become a lifesaving resource. Movies, television shows and video games are helping to fill the voids left by an inability to leave our homes or really interact with anyone we don’t live with. Unfortunately, these are also some of the industries that have been hit hardest by this pandemic. Shows have been canceled, tickets refunded and plans changed.
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— Global Citizen (@GlblCtzn) April 16, 2020
But while these are certainly all changes in the world of entertainment, I do not necessarily believe they are false. We are, for a moment, in a world where concerts are online for anyone to see, where people are giving free lectures on important world things, where plays are broadcast online and people without the means to go to theaters are able to experience these things.
While it’s still frustrating that it took a global pandemic for us to realize we can use the internet to give entertainment that is usually seen in live performances to everyone, this is a positive thing for the entertainment industry. Nobody is going to be sad if Broadway plays or Met Operas become more accessible to the general population. These are incredible performances that can entertain us and educate us, and everyone deserves to be able to access them no matter if they can or want to go to a show live.
Even ignoring the financial barriers to attending shows, there are still other obstacles. Disabled people, especially those who have difficulties in crowds or with loud noises or lights, might struggle. Long-distance travel is also difficult and costly for many people, which means that if you don’t live near a place that has that type of show, going to it costs far more than just the price of a ticket.
Even if someone could afford to go to a show, and had the physical and emotional ability to be in that environment, that doesn’t mean they would want to. Most forms of media today like sports, films and songs are able to be watched or listened to from the comfort of your own home, and plays or concerts should be just as accessible to the general population. These are incredible artistic performances with some of the best people in the world at their jobs, and everyone ought to be able to experience them.
Another group who would benefit from the accessibility of online performances would be people who live outside the United States. Today, if you’re someone who lives in Tokyo, for example, your odds of being in New York or California or anywhere that has prominent live shows is pretty low. If these shows were available online, even if they had a charge of a few dollars like movies do, they would be accessible to a much wider population of people which would be good for both those people and the performance, because they now have a new revenue stream.
One of the arguments against making live events like plays or concerts watchable online is that it somehow takes away from the atmosphere; part of going to a play, these people say, is the experience of being in the theater surrounded by other people watching, with the right lights and the right ambiance. And while, as someone who is a fan of theater, I can certainly agree that the atmosphere can be a fun part of going to a play, it is certainly not more important than the actual play.
In the midst of the most devastating pandemic in the last hundred years, when millions of people are becoming ill and thousands are dying, we are clinging to every ounce of hope and entertainment that we can get, longing for the day when our lives will return to normalcy. But at the end of this pandemic, when we all come out to the other side and smile and say “We made it,” we should take a serious look back at the systems that were put in place for this pandemic that would make our lives better every day. Broadcasting live performances shouldn’t just be something that happens during a pandemic. Art is for everyone, and that includes live performances that, until now, have never been truly accessible.
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Ashton Stansel is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.