Hello again, Dear Reader, and welcome to another edition of understructured reflections and meditations. Today I'd like to discuss a topic especially dear to my heart: uncoolness. I have long been, and continue to be, very much in awe of those special people able to discover the very latest and greatest amid the deafening roar that is modern media culture. It requires a remarkable awareness and unique aesthetic, not to mention a great deal of energy and patience and, as the French say, I don't know what. I have never pretended to be such a person--the early adopters, the tendsetters--but lately, as I took my first shaky steps into the realm of social media, I came to understand I've been living my life as their near opposite. A late adopter (I have occasionally heard the delightful term "laggard" applied) and, if not exactly a trendfollower, then someone who typically discovers trends only after they've fully petrified. And while it isn't as exciting as riding the crest of the new, I do think there is much to recommend about the un-new as well.
Growing out of touch with the cool and novel used to be a natural part of growing up, but so far as I can tell, the concept of adulthood as any specific set of attitudes or choices in lifestyle is, if not completely derelict, then crumbling fast. Certainly people long since exiled to the world of full-time employment, home equity loans, and other such trials of maturity can still keep up with Game of Thrones. No, for me the process was more like being almost imperceptibly buried in sediment. I lost track of developments in movies and TV and, before I quite knew what was happening, found myself living in a different epoch than just about everyone around me. Examination of the fossil record reveals this to have happened sometime during the mid- to late 2000s, probably around 08 ("aught-eight", as we from that era prefer say when recounting stories of those bygone days).
As is the case with many an unintentional life choice, school was to blame. At the time I was already writing more or less full time, but I also faced the task of not flunking all my courses, and sleeping enough to retain my sanity, and maybe seeing a friend or familiar relation every so often. So my television viewing suffered, which was too bad, because there was a lot of great TV going around just then. I remember being particularly envious of people I overhead discussing LOST (which was, as you might remember, everyone), of the way debating insights and reactions and theories seemed almost to match (and, during the more heated arguments, exceed) the pleasure of actually watching. But for me it was too late to catch up, not without resorting to some form of self-administered spoiler, and I still held out hope of discovering for myself what all the fuss was about.
Flash forward a few years. I've finally got myself a decent TV and some time to watch it, but I have not tuned in to any flashy new series. I am not watching Caprica, because I have not seen Battlestar. I've got LOST on DVD, and it's everything I dreamed and more. When an episode ends, I already have the next one ready to go. Each time I hear that iconically ominous bong signaling yet another cliffhanger, I chuckle to myself and press play.
Citizens of modern society will surely recognize this as the activity today known as "binge-watching", but to me, in those ancient days, it seemed an unprecedented and exotic delight. When LOST was done, I still had an entire roster of television I had been hearing about for years but never seen for myself. It was about then that I realized need never want for good TV again. I could dispense with the flipping of channels, with the frustration I remembered when that new episode of The X-Files turned out to be a clip show recap. The same was true of movies--films I'd been sorry to miss in the theatres could now be had anywhere I chose, bundled in three-packs with a pair of sequels. So long as I didn't care what was popular at the moment, I had what was--at least given my rate of consumption--an effectively endless supply of quality entertainment.
There are exceptions, of course. Even I couldn't sit out when they made a seventh Star Wars. And a major caveat to all of the above is literature: I will take a good book anywhere I can get it*. But where moving pictures are concerned I remain gleefully backward in my approach to popular media. In fact, my experience with LOST and other fabulous storytelling of the last decade encouraged me to look back further, to all the cultural landmarks that, for whatever reason, had passed me by in my younger days. Freaks & Geeks. My So-Called Life. Shows now considered classics, but which don't get much advertising time nowadays because, well, they're classics (read: were cancelled twenty years ago). And then there are those decades I missed simply due to certain accidents of chronology, but could now access thanks to the wonder of everything-being-available-on-the-internet. While untold millions endure the awkward laughtracks of the latest fledgling sitcom, I get to watch M*A*S*H.
It's true, this edgy lifestyle of mine is not without its costs. I miss out on many of those proverbial moments around the water cooler, electronically stretched to worldwide proportions. But one of the nice things I've learned about modern fandom is that its terrain is so vast that, whenever I feel the need to obsess over something, there's nearly always someone around to join in, no matter how obscure the topic. No, my only real regret--thus far, anyway--is being without any easy or obvious way to support the people who are doing great things now. What keeps me up at night (to the extent TV can do so) is the thought that somewhere the next Firefly is foundering under some shortsighted network's neglect, and my eyeballs are needed to save it. One man can make a difference.
It seems like there ought to be a takeaway from all of this (even if it's something like "seven paragraphs is far too many to spend contemplating your habits of media consumption"). I'd love to have some wisdom regarding classic TV and cinema, but I'm no expert--I just enjoy living under a rock. So I'll leave you with this, Dear Reader: if you haven't already, try something old**. Try it under a rock (a metaphorical one, preferably). People have been telling stories for a long time, and the great thing about the ones that have been around a while is that there a lots and lots of eloquent opinions about which are not to be missed***. Aw, heck, I'll give you one anyway: try Harvey (1950, directed by Henry Koster). It's about a man whose best friend is a gigantic invisible rabbit. Now that's entertainment.
The all-important footnotes:
*(and you should too: Ninth City Burning out September 6 2016 preorder now right now go go go yes buy buy get book please thank you very much)
**(and by "old", I simply mean something that isn't running right now; "try something old" just sounded catchier)
***(better yet, read a book; better still, read MY book, on September 6, when it is delivered promptly to your door because you have preordered it like the gorgeous genius you are)