Okay, guys, I know I wrote recently about how I don’t “get” romantic love. But there is another type of love that I do get. I’m always the type of person to find pieces of pop culture and fall madly in love with them. Songs I’ll listen to until I can’t hear them ever again, movies I’ll watch until I know every line, hours spent on Tumblr looking at cast pictures and reading what other people have to say about my favorite TV shows. I’m obsessive, and mostly unapologetic about it.
Case in point: I went through a pretty intense “Star Wars” phase (we’re talking posters, action figures, books, an actual lightsaber, a fan club membership… everything). I was ostracized and ridiculed for it (particularly by one “friend” who is actually just a miserable human being) but I always tried to be honest about my obsession. It was the purest kind of love. It made me have swoopy stomach feelings thinking about it, I daydreamed about being a Jedi in class, I drew lightsabers in my notes like girls might write “Mrs. Justin Timberlake” in their notes. I have a framed photo of me standing next to a Darth Vader and R2-D2 made of Legos (it kind of looks like a prom photo, no lie).
Eventually my “Star Wars” fervor cooled down and I became interested in much cooler things. Indie music, classic literature, foreign films, and all that pretentious shit. I was still a pop culture obsessed dork, but I had diversified.
Except for when it comes to television. I am in love with television. I think it is the perfect artistic medium. I think we’re in a Golden Age of television. I think that television is a great way to bring about social justice and understanding. When I picture my perfect job, I picture a job in television. Let me expound on this.
1.) Why is television the perfect artistic medium?
Well, mystery interrogator, television is perfect because of its format. It combines words and visuals (and music and tons of other little bits) in perfect harmony, much like film. But, the structure of a season of television, filled with six to 22 episodes, hopefully followed by one or two more seasons, is perfect. It allows time for tension to build at the end of every episode and every season. Rarely (if ever) can you use a cliffhanger in a book or a single film and maintain that delicious tension that lasts a whole week or longer. I’d say most artists hope that they can stick in the minds of those who consume their work, but those who make TV are almost guaranteed that their viewers will think about their work even after it’s over.
Also, it allows a creator to write and develop wonderful characters and breathe so much life into them. Think about this: Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are two of the most recognizable faces in the western world, and yet they can flit from film role to film role and never really have to worry about being “type-cast” because they played one singular iconic role. Now look at Michael Richards and Jason Alexander. You might think, “Who?” Exactly. You might know them better as Kramer and George Costanza from “Seinfeld.” The people they are have become eclipsed by those iconic characters they played, which is sad for their careers, but really speaks to the power of television characters. If you love character (and I do), then TV is the place for you.
2.) Why are we in a Golden Age of television?
It’s simple: because there are some amazing shows on right now, and people are truly beginning to respect television as an artistic medium, not just as complete trash. Networks are willing to put more effort and money into shows, and stars are more willing to do TV even if they have a film career. You have Bill Paxton on “Big Love,” Laura Linney on “The Big C,” Mary-Louise Parker on “Weeds,” Glenn Close on “Damages,” James Caan on “Las Vegas,” Alec Baldwin on “30 Rock,” Sally Field on “Brothers and Sisters,” Danny DeVito on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” and even Steve Carrell on “The Office.” Then there are shows that are easily better than half the trash that winds up in movie theaters nowadays. “Mad Men,” “30 Rock,” “Community,” “Breaking Bad,” “The Walking Dead,” “Boardwalk Empire,” etc. etc. Making a television show right means a commitment to story and character development that you really don’t often see in films.
3.) Why is television a great way to bring about social justice and understanding?
There are so many reasons why this is true, and we’re seeing them at work all the time. Look at “Glee.” “Glee” certainly has a litany of problems, but as far as raising awareness for the struggle of gay youth at a time when it’s so very important (after all those suicides and gay bullying stories in the news), “Glee” is really doing a lot. I have seen countless people on the Internet say that Kurt’s storyline (or Santana’s more recent one) gave them the courage to come out, or made their parents more understanding, or gave them the will to fight another day. Sure, they had to use candy coated, warmed over cover songs to do it, but who really cares? Even if it helps just one kid, wasn’t the crap music and the inconsistent characterization worth it?
What makes television good at bringing this about is the fact that it can make viewers connect to characters they never really thought they would. By spending 30 minutes or an hour every week with these characters, we really come to know them and like them, maybe love them, as corny as that sounds. And what’s more, network television is often free and highly accessible. Whereas a person would actively have to seek out an LGBTQ+ positive film, like “Brokeback Mountain,” any homophobe could be flipping the channels one night and come across “Glee,” and maybe learn something.
Also, television gave birth to the idea of “watercooler talk.” The concept that at the same time, once a week, you and a bunch of other people are watching the same show, is quite unique. And if something good or monumental happens, of course you and those other people are going to talk about it. Like those of us who can admit to watching “Glee” (I’ll admit it, but not happily) might talk about how Blaine finally kissed Kurt, or how Santana really loves Brittany. Soon we’re having worthy discussions not about “Glee,” but about how our society regards homosexuality in general. This type of zeitgeist, I think, is unique to television.
So basically, in my life, I want to do four things:
1.) Make people laugh.
2.) Make people think.
3.) Help people and facilitate social change.
4.) Tell stories and entertain.
Television, in my opinion, is the best way to do that, and that is why I hope to spend the rest of my life with television. I’m sure we’ll be very happy together.