Turn Your Brain Off
The phrase “Turn Your Brain Off” is often used to justify something that has shortcomings that are easily noticed upon critical thinking. As a person who leans on the casual partaking of entertainment, it isn’t uncommon to hear this phrase among friends when recommending shows or movies to watch. I’ve only recently thought of the potential dangers that perpetuating this phrase may cause for the consumption of any type of media. Though it may come with good intentions, this phrase has the potential to undermine all critical value we place in the media we partake in.
A phrase like this is very adverse to the idea of criticism. It trivializes the fact that media can be dissected to convey important messages and themes through their stories. “Turning your brain off” is often associated with big, summer blockbusters that have little narrative focus and instead place their focus on spectacle or just having the most “fun”. The recent Transformers films have become successful primarily due to the popularity of the phrase “turn your brain off”. The characters aren’t fleshed out and the stories are fairly weak but people enjoy them by turning their brains off and enjoying the spectacle of giant robots fighting each other.Unfortunately, this attitude creates the idea that “fun” movies or shows can do nothing more than create temporary enjoyment and have no other purpose.
However, the idea of turning your brain off isn’t entirely negative due to the variants that the phrase created. One common variant is the “Rule of Cool” that promotes looking cool over practicality or intense bouts of logic. Two of the best examples are the Star Wars and the Matrix franchises. After thinking critically upon both films, many people would realize there were several leaps of logic made to ensure that the film stayed entertaining and visually appealing. Despite not adhering to logic at every conceivable moment, these movies were able to capitalize on their premises and be remembered decades after their creation.
Another common variant is the “Rule of Fun” which directly focuses on ignoring logic entirely for the sake of having fun. Video games utilize this rule constantly to ensure that players are entertained enough to continue playing. In the midst of playing, nobody questions why Mario grows by touching mushrooms or shoots fire by touching a flower because playing the game is so much fun that people ignore details like that. Small details like this may raise questions to some players but it is rarely enough for people to dismiss the game entirely.
Though entirely turning your brain off can be detrimental to enjoying media, the opposite can also be quite harmful. While critique is integral to ensure that media advances to become better, too much of it can distort the consumption of media. Things like nitpicking media doesn’t serve to add much to its critical discourse and instead actively ruins the experience for the viewer.
Overall, the act of turning your brain off to enjoy media is something that should be done in moderation. While some media has little to no intention of being looked at through a critical lens, it doesn’t invalidate their usefulness as a piece of entertainment. The amount of critical thought should align with how much effort the media takes to provoke deeper thoughts in the partaker. Being critical doesn’t have to detract from the enjoyment someone gets from a source of media as long as it doesn’t go too far.