Stories are made to make people feel inspired. Inspiration, when it is pure and finds a capable vessel, demands an outlet.
We are living through a golden age of television — of moving pictures. The binge-watching obsession makes it kind of interesting to think about what types of stories are super popular, and what types of stories are really drawing people in meaningfully. For instance, primetime network tv produced a shit ton of sitcom style shows. It really worked for that mindless mass attention that TV-with-commercials (not on demand) was mainly built for. But internet streaming is different. You want quality and purpose, because otherwise you’re just gonna go watch fight videos on YouTube instead of the Letterkenny boys chirping about paying attentions to the . . . vulnerable side of building genuine community in a digestible narrative context.
Good TV means people are free to find TV that fits their headspace, answers their lingering questions about life. Often the headspace of the American public has been disengaged escapist, probably, but if people are feeling the loneliness that exists in small communities these days, which has been heightened by our addiction social media because it creates at least an idea of dependent & safe communities and neighborhoods which makes us aspire for that in real life, then they are making themselves aware of a problem that needs work. That last sentence got too long and I edited it too many times so I don’t think it makes sense and I’m giving up on it.
If people are feeling helpless and shocked by national “news” then they can shut it down and observe someone else make decisions for an hour or so, maybe even something that through narrative breaks down the fear structure of how national news travels in our civilization. Television can function as a type of meditation, watching stories allows your brain to stand back, get out of the driver seat for a second, and just let the world flow past, let the story unfold by its own momentum with a promise of narrative resolution. (Even if its artsy bullshit that doesn’t “resolve” you still at some point catch up to all that’s been created in that specific narrative thread, you can resolve it by consuming it completely). Observation can be really fun, so can total immersion in some incredible cinematic experience, so can rhythmic comedy that can make you relax and smile for an hour or more. These are good human emotions that need expression. When expressed freely, our society improves. Society relaxes and smiles when you relax and smile.
It’s fascinating to be living through fundamental changes to the fabric of how families spend such a large chunk of time. But it is a mass behavioral shift that crosses all sorts of ethnic and socio-economic boundaries and consumes most of the American public. Which means we are all united by a new habit that we share; our families, in this way, are like other families. We should appreciate these lessons that emerge from popular culture, I mean of course people are changing their behaviors, of course there is always a new trendy habit, but the function of choice that families now have about what they consume, how they consume it, and when they consume creates a lot of interesting opportunities for purposeful entertainment.
My grandpa recently got deep into “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” It’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen, and even though I haven’t binged all of that show, which seems really really fun from the few episodes I’ve watched, it makes me feel so connected to him that we can both laugh our asses off at Larry David. But it’s also highbrow, and he can show me a specific episode that he has connected with. When my brother and sister and cousins would stay at our grandparents on Saturday nights, they would always make popcorn for all the kids and the boys and I would play GI Joes while we all sat in the living room and watched Walker, Texas Ranger and Martial Law (with Sammo Hung). These were amazing times, and then when I lived with my grandparent’s during college I would always sit and watch Pickers or Overhaulin‘ or the Barret Jackson Auction. Entertainment has always been about connection, streaming gives us a renewed interest in sharing newly discovered art and stories with the people we love.
Human connection is good, stories are good, jokes are good. Families should celebrate things that are good. And celebration is good for small towns.
Small towns can be tough because it can get lonely or you feel trapped because it’s a bit harder to find that genuine human connection that you crave. That authentic, not-afraid-to-admit-its-lonely-sometimes vulnerability that is so beautiful in human beings. It’s the reason I can jump on the bandwagon of hating modern country when it seems fun to do that, but I’ll never leave Johnny Cash in the dust. He was the type of guy who understood that the human experience is profound and worthy of note whether it happens in small towns or big cities. He understood that loneliness and quiet and the sounds of the open country that surround places like Farmington are important to helping us understand our purpose here on earth. Streaming TV that you love is just another way to celebrate the profundity of your life and the life of others, and to help you figure out why God put you here.