About Me

Rushfield Babylon

where it all went wrong
Writer, reporter, Idol chronicler, seer. Contact: rr at richardrushfield dot com

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  • August 13, 2013 9:04 am
    TOWARDS A UNIFIED FIELD THEORY ON HOW THE INTERNET MAKES EVERYTHING TERRIBLE
I have nothing bad to say about Breaking Bad.  I was completely gripped by Sunday night’s episode. I’ve watched it twice and enjoyed it more the second time.  I think when the show concludes it is certain to go down as one of the great dramas in TV history. What quibbles I have with the show I recognize as just that - quibbles.
So why on Monday did the internet make me ashamed to have watched the show, much less to have liked it?
Part of the revulsion is no doubt due to some vestigial adolescent need to feel myself ahead of the crowd and just getting cranky when I find my tastes are actually not particularly unique or special.
But beyond that, I think there is something terrifying about the way the internet turns out for these events and cranks up the GIF, meme, Tweet and think piece machines like some sort of disembodied 4th of July parade. These moments carry a desperation with them; the logical conclusion of the Bowling Alone thing, where now living our lives glued to our individual screens cut off from actual human interaction, we are desperate to find ways to march together. I’ve noticed that these events- awards shows, series premieres, etc. are becoming bigger and bigger of group phenomenons.  Super Bowl ratings have never been higher. The Grammies for chrissake inch upwards.  We want to watch together. In our own homes, in front of our own multiple screens.
All to some extent harmless enough. If the world (or the upscale, urban sub-sub-subset of the world) can find some comfort in cheering on an episode of gritty drama together, then good for it for finding some in this cold machine driven world. But the downsides, as I see them are:
• In our desperation to make a community out of watching an episode of a TV show, we pour more of our hopes and desires into that show than any hour of entertainment can bear.  We meme the life out of whatever is original and striking about a work within minutes, overexposing it so much it becomes noxious.  In olden times, it took years for enough VHS copies of Scarface to trickle back to frat houses so that every brother could do a passably awful Tony Montana imitation and make you wince when you heard the real thing.  And in the mean time people could talk about the film, consider it, pass judgement and change their mind before the re-use of the film became this world devouring thing apart from the show itself. Today, “I’m the one who knocks” and “say my name” are reproduced in every form upside down and backwards literally before the show is even over and any hope of a quiet place to take it in is in vain.

• The fancy media instead of calming the crowd, now only stokes the flames. Once they could have put things in perspective, but now they see their job as articulating the frenzy of the mob. What is the good of having a blog or a Twitter account if you’re going to be the only corner of this corner of the internet not enjoying the hooplah?  And if you’re a professional reviewer and get screeners in advance you can actually get ahead of the mob by declaring an episode the best thing since Euripedes before anyone else has even watched it, and hope that your words are printed on banners in the parade.

• Frenzied mobs, history has shown us, are not always just about fun, games and watching TV together. Now and then, they can have a dark side. Once we say this is all about us just piling on together for some kind of group ecstatic transformation, that can lead to all kinds of places, and I have noted in the past, Twitter’s less attractive tendency to transform into a lynch mob at the drop of a hat. Its hunger for fresh blood has not in the least abated.

• Of late, its hunger has actually become an industry. Sharknado represents the internet now creating material for itself to mock.  In olden times again, the camp fun of watching old disaster films was mocking the dead serious overacting and unintentionally hamfisted actions. Now at Twitter’s demand, networks are producing intentionally hamfisted and overacted pieces so the internet can tear them apart. They are even letting us - in a contest - pick the name that we find most mockable. So we pick the thing we most want to rip to shreds, like a school bully making a nerd dress up in the most ridiculous costume, so we can make fun of him for wearing it.

What is the solution? Well, as America’s leading anti-First Amendment crusader I have advocated the power and dignity of shutting the hell up many times before. Short of that catching fire, we can pray the internet continues to be merely annoying and only sporadically dangerous.  And short of that, networks that want their shows to be appreciated by the peoples and not just the subject of a mass spectacle should stop sending screeners to critics.  That part of the conversation at least we can put a lid on.

    TOWARDS A UNIFIED FIELD THEORY ON HOW THE INTERNET MAKES EVERYTHING TERRIBLE

    I have nothing bad to say about Breaking Bad.  I was completely gripped by Sunday night’s episode. I’ve watched it twice and enjoyed it more the second time.  I think when the show concludes it is certain to go down as one of the great dramas in TV history. What quibbles I have with the show I recognize as just that - quibbles.

    So why on Monday did the internet make me ashamed to have watched the show, much less to have liked it?

    Part of the revulsion is no doubt due to some vestigial adolescent need to feel myself ahead of the crowd and just getting cranky when I find my tastes are actually not particularly unique or special.

    But beyond that, I think there is something terrifying about the way the internet turns out for these events and cranks up the GIF, meme, Tweet and think piece machines like some sort of disembodied 4th of July parade. These moments carry a desperation with them; the logical conclusion of the Bowling Alone thing, where now living our lives glued to our individual screens cut off from actual human interaction, we are desperate to find ways to march together. I’ve noticed that these events- awards shows, series premieres, etc. are becoming bigger and bigger of group phenomenons.  Super Bowl ratings have never been higher. The Grammies for chrissake inch upwards.  We want to watch together. In our own homes, in front of our own multiple screens.

    All to some extent harmless enough. If the world (or the upscale, urban sub-sub-subset of the world) can find some comfort in cheering on an episode of gritty drama together, then good for it for finding some in this cold machine driven world. But the downsides, as I see them are:

    • In our desperation to make a community out of watching an episode of a TV show, we pour more of our hopes and desires into that show than any hour of entertainment can bear.  We meme the life out of whatever is original and striking about a work within minutes, overexposing it so much it becomes noxious.  In olden times, it took years for enough VHS copies of Scarface to trickle back to frat houses so that every brother could do a passably awful Tony Montana imitation and make you wince when you heard the real thing.  And in the mean time people could talk about the film, consider it, pass judgement and change their mind before the re-use of the film became this world devouring thing apart from the show itself. Today, “I’m the one who knocks” and “say my name” are reproduced in every form upside down and backwards literally before the show is even over and any hope of a quiet place to take it in is in vain.
    • The fancy media instead of calming the crowd, now only stokes the flames. Once they could have put things in perspective, but now they see their job as articulating the frenzy of the mob. What is the good of having a blog or a Twitter account if you’re going to be the only corner of this corner of the internet not enjoying the hooplah?  And if you’re a professional reviewer and get screeners in advance you can actually get ahead of the mob by declaring an episode the best thing since Euripedes before anyone else has even watched it, and hope that your words are printed on banners in the parade.
    • Frenzied mobs, history has shown us, are not always just about fun, games and watching TV together. Now and then, they can have a dark side. Once we say this is all about us just piling on together for some kind of group ecstatic transformation, that can lead to all kinds of places, and I have noted in the past, Twitter’s less attractive tendency to transform into a lynch mob at the drop of a hat. Its hunger for fresh blood has not in the least abated.
    • Of late, its hunger has actually become an industry. Sharknado represents the internet now creating material for itself to mock.  In olden times again, the camp fun of watching old disaster films was mocking the dead serious overacting and unintentionally hamfisted actions. Now at Twitter’s demand, networks are producing intentionally hamfisted and overacted pieces so the internet can tear them apart. They are even letting us - in a contest - pick the name that we find most mockable. So we pick the thing we most want to rip to shreds, like a school bully making a nerd dress up in the most ridiculous costume, so we can make fun of him for wearing it.
    What is the solution? Well, as America’s leading anti-First Amendment crusader I have advocated the power and dignity of shutting the hell up many times before. Short of that catching fire, we can pray the internet continues to be merely annoying and only sporadically dangerous.  And short of that, networks that want their shows to be appreciated by the peoples and not just the subject of a mass spectacle should stop sending screeners to critics.  That part of the conversation at least we can put a lid on.

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      While I agree with parts of this, I have to say that for some folk having a tv show, movie or what have you to bond over...
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