The Entertainment is undoubtedly the most important symbol in the novel and reflects the negative and dangerous potential of entertainment. It is the final film made by James Incadenza, and its actual title is Infinite Jest. The fact that it is referred to as “the Entertainment” rather than by its title points to its status as the ultimate form of entertainment—a film so engrossing that it kills its viewers by destroying their willingness to do anything but watch it. The first victim of the Entertainment depicted in the novel is the medical attaché to Saudi Prince Q——, who watches the cartridge after receiving it in the mail by accident. The attaché’s wife and several others die in the same incident, as each person who enters the attaché’s apartment to check on him ends up looking at the film and becoming instantly overpowered by it. Indeed, the Entertainment is so potent that one does not have to spend any significant period of time looking at it. Rather, as soon as one’s eyes catch sight of the screen on which it is playing, there is no hope of looking away. This surreal exaggeration of entertainment’s capacity to totally absorb viewers becomes a way for the novel to explore the negative and dangerous aspects of entertainment in general.
The other key element of the Entertainment lies within the fact that the A.F.R. wants to use it as a terrorist weapon to advance the cause of Québécois separatism. This goal drives several of the novel’s many subplots, as members of the A.F.R. attempt to get hold of the (possibly fictitious) master copy of the Entertainment while government agents, most notably Hugh/Helen Steeply, attempt to thwart the separatists’ plan. The idea that a film could be used as a weapon of mass destruction again emphasizes that while entertainment may seem harmless, it can have a powerful, dangerous effect on people. In some senses, the novel suggests that entertainment is damaging because, like Substances, it has a soporific effect, meaning that it makes people passive, sluggish, and vulnerable to manipulation. This may indicate that the most dangerous forms of entertainment are those that are popular, addictive, and easy to consume. At the same time, it is also important to remember that James Incandenza was known as an avant-garde filmmaker who did not have a mass following. Indeed, his biggest fans tend to be overly-intellectual film scholars. This suggests that entertainment is perhaps no less dangerous even if it is artful and “challenging.”
The Entertainment Quotes in Infinite Jest
I couldn't even stand to be in the same room, see him like that. Begging for just even a few seconds - a trailer, a snatch of soundtrack, anything. His eyes wobbling around like some drug-addicted newborn.
Was amateurish the right word? More like the work of a brilliant optician and technician who was an amateur at any kind of real communication. Technically gorgeous, the work, with lighting and angles planned out to the frame. But oddly hollow, empty, no sense of dramatic towardness - no narrative movement toward a real story; no emotional movement toward an audience.