You’ll notice I love tv and film. There’s a simple reason why and I think it’s best expressed by Marina and the Diamonds‘ lyric: TV taught me how to feel (/ now real life has no appeal). Now, real life does have an appeal… most of the time, but I truly feel the reality of the first part of that iconic lyric. I think a lot of people do, which is why it’s become an iconic lyric.
Television and film requires more than your viewership. It requires your attention, your emotional attachment, your passion, your caring, your fangirling. But also it can drain you. Television and film can be draining as hell.
A movie, a season or an episode of a television show can make you the happiest person or it can sucker punch you. It’s never been more obvious than now in the age of social media where the fourth wall between viewer and showmakers has never been thinner. 2016 was great at proving this when various fandoms stood up and rallied again the Bury Your Gays trope, a trope that’s been prevalent in media for ages, but it reached new heights of visibility when Lexa, a lesbian character and fan favourite*, from The 100 was killed. If you didn’t already know this, I’m sorry for the spoiler. This happened after a season (and I’m going to be harsh here, because I witnessed every moment of this) of it’s fandom being pretty much gaslighted by the show’s creator who alluded to fair and positive LGBTA+ representation and behind the scenes fan pictures showcasing her during the filming of the season finale. Long story and spoilers short: Lexa was shot, she died, but they were dealing with a Matrix like world in plot at the time and her imprint still existed with it. Following this the rest of the May Sweeps cliffhangers had a lot more LGBTA+ characters dying, a lot of them women. Shit, excuse my french, exploded.
*note: she was not a favourite character of mine.
So yeah, TV can break your f*cking heart. The 100 also a few episodes later executed a black man violently and insultingly for “plot reasons”, but in reality because of behind the scenes tensions. (Not the point of this post, but an important fact in this show and fandom’s history.) This was received with less of an impact because sadly in media the unfair and violent death of POC, especially black men and women, rarely get more than a blink and shrug. Oh, yeah, fyi: Lexa was a white woman. But that’s a whole other post and despite my highlighting of the The 100 as the #problematicfave of these examples, and believe with this show there’s many more, it’s not the only show that’s done similar things. SPOILERS FOR INTO THE BADLANDS, GAME OF THRONES, THE ORIGINALS, SUPERGIRL, AND IRONFIST IN THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH:
Into the Badlands killed off Veil, a black woman, this year. In season four of Game of Thrones Sansa Stark was raped when in the books she’s never experienced sexual violence. The Originals killed off two women last year for the emotional development of the men in their lives. (One has since been resurrected.) Iron Fist disregarded what could have been a great revamp to the story of Danny Rand by having another white man play him instead of an Asian actor. (Something that once reviews rolled in really bit them in the butt.) Supergirl this year sidelining it’s original leading man, Mechad Brooks, a black man, to introduce a new white romantic interest for Kara. Then insult to injuring focusing on Mon-El’s hero journey rather than his and arguably Kara’s journey as well. Every single moment of whitewashing in film. Ghost in the Shell, anyone?
All these instances and more, drain you. If you love a show that for whatever reason does something that takes you out of the enjoyment of it, it can hurt. It doesn’t always, but it can. Lexa’s death and the consequences from have been the most obviously notable within the entertainment media, but things like this affects viewership. Because if your viewers aren’t enjoying what you’re doing then they’re not gonna watch.
On the flip side, television can make you so happy. When it gives good representation, when it respects it’s characters, when it cares about it’s characters, when it gives your favourite a great plot line, when it gets your ship together, when it gives you ship a great plotline, when it’s smart about it’s story. There are so many ways a show can make a viewer happy even if it’s a show that’s pissed you off.
Sometimes they make you happy and exhausted. This is why I curate my tv watching. I have my favourite shows, then I have my favourite shows for certain moods I’m in.
There are my “light” shows like Lucifer, The Originals, The Flash, Jane The Virgin, Pretty Little Liars, Shadowhunters, Riverdale, Killjoys, Still Star Crossed, most procedurals and CW shows (lol) etc. that I just pop on and watch for the pure enjoyment of the fun, characters, drama, comedy, whatever. They gave me what I wanted and needed from them. 42 minutes of delightful escapism. The same went for Supergirl and The 100 before their narrative went to places that frankly annoyed and pissed me off. This is not to say one day I won’t go back to them, but that’s the thing once a show stops being something you enjoy watching then why do it? As someone who goes back to shows she’s come to be annoyed at it’s mostly due to completionism and sometimes it’s as simple I still care about the characters even if I don’t care for what the story is giving them.
Then on the other spectrum is the happy but demanding shows. All shows require your attention, but let’s be honest if you’re streaming something on your computer or tv sometimes you just look at something else because the show doesn’t require you full attention every scene. It’s like skim reading, but skim watching. Some shows, however, require a lot of your attention. Demand it even. I’m very good at skim watching so I can skim watch even heavier shows, but some require 110% of your attention. Mr. Robot is the first that comes to mind. If I miss a minute of Mr. Robot I feel so completely lost, it also requires a lot you mentally. It wants you to think and consider and question. Other shows that fall under this umbrella in varying degrees The Americans, Fargo, The Wire, Breaking Bad, House of Cards. There are more of course, but my point is that they all require more than your passing attention. They want it all. All of these shows have either some very subtle, complex, or just intense writing. Some even hit you with a mix of all three. Sometimes you even want that. You want that intense immersion into these worlds. Sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you want 42-60 minutes of just casually checking in with your faves.
Finally there’s the shows that live in that weird middle place that depending on your preferences and viewing habits that hit that place of being completely chill to watch and giving you that little extra in terms of intensity. American Gods, Black Sails, a good chunk of the Netflix shows (pour two out for The Get Down and Sense8! GONE TOO SOON!), Game of Thrones, Westworld, The Expanse (best scifi show nobody is watching!), Person of Interest are some that pop to mind. I like the weird middle shows. They’re the easiest to marathon I feel. With lighter shows you can lose interest when things start to feel repetitive, the more intense shows can tire you out, but these last bunch give you enough breathing room within the episode even when surrounded by intense drama.
Personally I enjoy when shows that challenge you, even when they makes me mad at it, but not too mad, because that’s how you lose a viewer. However, sometimes I just want something that makes me happy and requires little of me and still gives me enough. Life is stressful enough and loses it’s appeal, but tv knows how to give the feels.