What Jane Addams says in “The House of Dreams” is an argument for propaganda. She argues that the public needs to use its collective power to project the idealized society we want rather than the society we have. That the medium has such a reach into the psyches of the consuming public, “The Theater is making the minds of our urban populations today.” These feeble-minded people have to be protected. We need to protect the masses from themselves - give them what they need, not what they want.
Apply the argument to TV and follow it to its logical end and you get Newton Minow’s “Wasteland Speech.” And now the argument is for exploiting the medium to control minds and promote what they view as good. Trust us we now best.
So entertainment is used as escapism. It’s a bleak view of reality. Addams writes, “the theater is the only place where they can satisfy that craving for a conception of life higher than that which the actual world offers them.” and “The drama provides a transition between the romantic conceptions which they vainly struggle to keep intact and life’s cruelties and trivialities which they refuse to admit.”
Adams says bring the person back to , back to reality and back to personal relationships but so did Minow. 50 years later he said, “Program materials should enlarge the horizons of the viewer …and remind him of the responsibilities which the citizen has towards his society.” And people make the same arguments against reality TV today, it’s trash. But we like trash, and consuming hours upon hours of trash hasn’t destroyed our society and never will.