Cancelling Television

For the past year I’ve engaged in a process of withdrawal from violent or frightening-in-any-way-television. I haven’t been to the movies for years. The last I remember were the televised National Theatre productions beamed out to us provincials in the netherlands where non-progs and pencil-necked turkey farmers live. Last one was Kenneth Branagh playing Macbeth in a set that looked like a barn. It was not fun. And the tragedy was buried under so many dismal and depressing “production values” that it felt like I’d spent 150 minutes dodging a malignant giant with massive hands who was, luckily for me, blind.

I’m sick of being harvested like corn or farmed like chicken, and I bet you are too.

Having wrenched my mind away from “premium” tv, I wonder at the programming inflicted on us and what it means to serve. I know that the producers and executives at these outfits just want eyeballs, preferably with data they can sell, but what is the over-arching effect of this crap? Whatever it is, it’s not good.

I also know in some detail the craft of story-building, which is to say it is now such a formula that everything is predictable in the extreme. Whenever the writers don’t know what to write next, they insert a bit of clever violence or horror, no matter how preposterous. That spikes adrenalin in the viewer and keeps them watching. It is meta-formulaic. The darker the story, the more filmmakers feel “significant”, which is today, the highest good.

None of it has verisimilitude, which is the apex thing that we crave when we watch or read anything. Explain our world to us we say, decode it, give us something to rely on, a new understanding.

The first moment of manipulated suspense and foreshadowing, I turn it off. It started out ‘I won’t watch anything’ and now is ‘I can’t watch anything.”

So when I’m so tired I can’t even read a book, I watch TikTok. I love it, it’s filled with ordinary people being playful. I suspect that represents the real world, people blowing off steam by being silly. What the media projects is just massive egos clashing around trying to be significant by shocking the punters. Same goes for the news – yesterday the technical director of CNN boasted that they use the network to sell bullshit and fear. Next fear? Global warming. Not that Fox is any better, being full-on hysteria over you name it.

I fear we are creating, with our viewing, a violent, horror-filled dystopia. If you spend two hours watching an episode of Yellowstone or Tucker Carlson or any of the other carnival barkers, you are envisioning your future. This is basic metaphysics, what you focus on, you increase.

I’m sick of being harvested like corn or farmed like a chicken. I suspect you are too. A pox on all their houses.

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