< how would you rate your television experience?
I spent a lot of time thinking about taking a test that I finally took on the 15th of September, and to which I devoted a disproportionate amount of time, and that is why I haven’t said anything on here for a while. I hope it appears less like laziness and more like a hiatus induced by mental stress or mild panic, which is what it was, to be frank. I have noticed is hard to devote time to ostensibly clever, written conceits, while it is not hard to devote time to imbibing serialized media, this idea of media-as-tall-drink-of-cold-water supported by the large number of new shows or books that come out in the autumn. I wonder if this is a way to make money off the larger proportion of hours people are now spending inside, because of the approaching winter (also known as the Slow Death of All Things). I’ve visited family and they have brought home-grown gourds from Michigan, and then while I was here they’ve bought five more small gourds at the local Whole Foods, to support the requisite magnitude of autumnal effluvia spreading over the house. The bright and strangely shaped gourds, like abstract ceramic sculptures you don’t have to pay as much for, are also, presumably, popular because their radiant hues offset the growing gloominess of the days. They’re some of the only plants we touch this time of year.
The fall media harvest bore one ripe season of Bojack Horseman, a bushel of old Steven Universe episodes, and a slurry of print media about how Rick & Morty is made for the burnt, crispy, and ashy psyche of the Damaged American Male (Facebook commenters immediately pointing out that everyone can be damaged, dummy, and that the one episode about puberty nullified any apparent gender bias or pandering on the part of the show, of course). Bojack spent half an episode questioning whether or not its depiction of a broken and continually failing male authority figure permitted watchers to exonerate themselves of their own continual failings. Someone I know on Twitter posted that they didn’t understand why anyone would make art only to disturb or dismay. (While I write this, the overtly hip DC coffee shop plays “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”) The vanishing point of all this noise is that most of these shows or pieces of media are reaching carrying capacity for the volume and form of philosophy that the growing number of college graduates from modestly-sized cities are willing to consume—and there is nothing wrong with pop philosophy, its other name being the logic by which most people who do not go around wearing shirts saying “ADORNO WAS RIGHT” think about their lives and relationships. It is common language and feeling, like horoscopes or New Yorker tote bags. Everyone kind of gets it and welcomes it like a non-dairy milk (it can’t possibly be bad, right?) Whether this kind of mental kicking around, sharing, and snacking is based in nihilistic, existential, or mystic maxims is mostly a function of what you watch, who told you about it, and how you grew up/what your parents said to you in cars on road-trips and stuff. In other words, totally fractured and specific, but also subject to the spring and neap tides of American mega-media.
So I am in stasis and a little bit of self-hatred but also extreme calm and interest and activation watching these shows that, for my demographic, has effectively become a local means by which ideals and concepts can be shot out both as jokes and as serious rivers of noodling. It’s probably what makes memes so potent: that they are both ridiculous or seemingly off-the-cuff, easy to produce and share and riff on, but also meaningful—as all public art purports to be. My favorite e.g. is a series of comics drawn about the Simpsons in which there are many occult or otherwise creepy developments that give outlet to the stress we’ve already been feeling about Maggie being a baby for over 25 years.
It is exciting but also totally soul-sucking: the idea of media that can beget media of magnitude proportional to those who consume. Most media, to be good, will compel us not to create new media, but to shut up, sit back, and relax. To sacrifice our self-centeredness, in a way, because we are satisfied by that which is beyond our abilities, or more importantly beyond our conception of our abilities. This of course feels bad, gut-bad, in a society focused on production. But maybe this is why, when shows and other media platforms permit the feeling of production without its normal burden (e.g., Facebook meme pp.) said media can explode and live.
Anyway, I’m glad I’m done with this test; clearly that’s what was stressing me. Clearly I am surrounded by people and not just media responses. Serialized media gives many people strong reasons to live life, I think.