Last week, I started watching the morning news while getting ready for work. I never watch tv, but have done recently because I felt a sort of nostalgia for the unintelligible background electronic din it creates while one is doing something else. I also feel uncomfortable sometimes, because I get my news primarily from the various hard left, feminist, gay, socialist, Jesus-hating blogs I read, which means that viral non-news always escapes my notice, and I'm constantly having to be apprised by my exasperated co-workers of whatever the hell they are talking about at lunch.
I don't know anything about the current pop culture. I don't think I've willingly listened to any music made past 2003, I don't know anything about new movies or shows, I have no idea who most celebrities are or why they are famous. It's like a blackout, I'm like that gay couple in Brooklyn who are living a completely pre-war lifestyle and don't allow anything manufactured after 1940 into their home.
So when I started watching the news, I observed a few things:
1. I can't overstate the term "non-news". I can't believe that people accept this into their lives and don't get angry about the zillion media dollars spent and made in the effort of explaining to you that Demi Moore's kid went topless at Whole Foods to protest being banned on Instagram. And that is one of the more interesting bits because I've forgotten all of the really awful ones. Or what about the rich asshat in SF who is planting envelopes of cash around the city as a "philanthropic" effort when really he just enjoys seeing people crawl all over each other like insects trying to find negligible amounts of free money. Why do we have to pursue super dry or super partisan shows to get info on the things that actually have the potential to affect our lives? Like, I may be a crazy Rachel Maddow devotee, and it's partly because she's one of my liberal sistren, but it's MOSTLY because next to few others (Moyers, Olbermann), she 1. fact checks and 2. isn't afraid to aggressively editorialize. #2 isn't exactly missing from networks like Fox, but the left is usually way too chickenshit to do the same. NOT MY RAY THO
2. Everyone is so happy and excited about everything. The hosts act like pageant queens, the music is all hyper blaring dance music, and there are colors and sounds and special effects whizzing by at all times. The shows resemble something meant to appeal to dogs while they're home alone.
3. Hearing them talk about controversial, highly partisan political topics in objective ways is hilarious and disturbing. That said, it seems like the mainstream media has officially accepted gays as a regular household occurrence rather than as novelty items. Now the novelty items are trans people. I felt a little surprised by that.
Overall, though, I can't even. Normally when I'm getting ready for work, I listen to podcasts, or the sound of Christopher Hitchens destroying something. I can't get enough of his smug velvet voice and his weary jokes, even when it means I have to listen to him support Bush II, blame 9/11 on the Clintons, and treat the Iraq war (in 2001) as a mere impending skirmish. I guess when you love someone, you must take the bad with the good. Right? It's worth it when you hear him summarize the first 90,000 years of human life in 5 minutes and then unexpectedly recite 10 lines of Chaucer or something. There is no comparison to this man.
Overall, the occasional bits of mainstream media that I take in remove all question re: why are Americans so desperately stupid and vapid. It disappoints me in a time in which information is overwhelmingly available, that people simply switch on the tv and watch a show about former tv stars dancing. If people took the time to cultivate specific interests, they would naturally be led away from the horde into something more localized, even if that is stupid too. At least it's customized to you. To be handed your tastes by sponsored media is very sad and unfortunate.
That said, television isn't all bad. Two things that just killed me lately:
1. Cosmos. Obviously! With my two dads, Neil DeGrasse Tyson and the silent specter of Carl Sagan. In the opening sequence, the letters "CS" appear before stretching into the word "Cosmos". That almost made me want to cry a little, thinking about how hard it was for him to make the first Cosmos, and all of the anti-intellectual, anti-science shit that has gone on since then, and how amazing that it is back and so prominent, so much of the quality of which is thanks to Sagan's widow, Ann Druyan, who was such a major contributor to both the current and original series.
2. After the last episode of Cosmos, the Freedom From Religion Foundation aired a commercial ON the Fox network AT prime time ON a Sunday in which Ron Reagan, child of that Ronald and Nancy Reagan, unapologetically flips off mainstream religion and then does a wheelie chased by flames. Basically. Seeing that on tv felt kind of historic.