Pub. date: 2009 | Online Pub. Date: May 18, 2009 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412971935 | Print ISBN: 9781412966702 | Online ISBN: 9781412971935| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Play as Entertainment, Psychology of
Writing about verbal play as entertainment in African-American culture, Roger D. Abrahams touched on a profoundly revealing feature of the psychology involved. He noted that boasting, cursing, and various forms of oral vilification, in black street culture for instance, depend for their entertaining effects on the background presence of real threats, so that there is always some ambiguity about whether one is speaking playfully or seriously. As both performance and entertainment, verbal play of this kind is entertainingly playful precisely because of that ambiguity, and because it ritualizes real tension or hostility and transforms it into something more good-humored in the presence of an “audience” that is entertained by it. We can generalize from that example to explain play in today's entertainment culture. Many spectator sports may be understood to be play as entertainment in a similar sense, where teams “battle” over a ball, for instance, the entertainment in the ...