In George Orwell's 1949 dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, the Newspeak word prolefeed describes the deliberately superficial entertainment (literature, films, shows, and music) that were produced by Prolesec, a section of the Ministry of Truth, to keep the proletariat content and to attempt to prevent them from becoming too knowledgeable. The ruling Party believe that too much knowledge could motivate the proles to rebel against them. In the novel, Prolesec is described in detail:
And the Ministry had not only to supply the multifarious needs of the party, but also to repeat the whole operation at a lower level for the benefit of the proletariat. There was a whole chain of separate departments dealing with proletarian literature, music, drama, and entertainment generally. Here were produced rubbishy newspapers containing almost nothing except sport, crime and astrology, sensational five-cent novelettes, films oozing with sex, and sentimental songs which were composed entirely by mechanical means on a special kind of kaleidoscope known as a versificator. There was even a whole sub-section—Pornosec, it was called in Newspeak—engaged in producing the lowest kind of pornography, which was sent out in sealed packets and which no Party member, other than those who worked on it, was permitted to look at.
The term is used occasionally to describe shallow entertainment in the real world. For example, Charles Spencer, reviewing the Queen musical We Will Rock You for the Daily Telegraph, described it as 'prolefeed at its worst'. Theodore Dalrymple wrote in The Spectator that "France ... is less dominated by mass distraction (known here as popular culture, but in Nineteen Eighty-Four as prolefeed) than Britain is."
- Bread and circuses – Figure of speech referring to a superficial means of appeasement
- Dumbing down – Deliberate oversimplification of intellectual content
- Infotainment – Media consisting of both information and entertainment
- Junk food news – A sardonic term for news stories that deliver "sensationalized, personalized, and homogenized inconsequential trivia"
- Kitsch – Art or other objects that appeal to popular rather than high art tastes
- Low culture - is a derogatory term for forms of popular culture that have mass appeal.
- Penny dreadful – Sensational Victorian weekly story papers
- Poshlost - Russian term for vulgar, pornographic or bad taste mass culture
- "REVIEWS | Raspberries for Queen's Rhapsody". BBC News. 15 May 2002. Retrieved 15 July 2010. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Dalrymple, Theodore (3 January 2004). "Escape from barbarity". The Spectator.
But, for all that, France still seems to me a more civilised country than Britain. It is less dominated by mass distraction (known here as popular culture, but in Nineteen Eighty-Four as prolefeed) than Britain is. France’s mass distraction is amateurishly produced in comparison with the cynical slickness of its Anglo–American equivalent, and this really is a case of the worse the better.[permanent dead link]