How Can You Not Like An Entire Medium?

The title is what I have previously asked naysayers of poetry and comics, because I am tragically attached to both mediums as a means of communicating everything from useful scientific information to single outbursts of relatable emotion to involved and complex narratives driven by well-rounded characters, as well as their on-brand uses as “goodness me i’m in love” and “biff bang pow”, respectively. Also the quality of the individual use varies, so “goodness me i’m in love” can be frankly transcendental in its multifaceted delicacy and “biff bang pow” can address deep and pressing social issues with the use of well-rounded characters and complex narrative structures, etc.

After some rethinking of my position I think I have to give ground to the “but I don’t like comics” and “I don’t like poetry” crowds. Not because poetry and comics are nothing but juvenile/adolescent wank and all the other epithets hurled unpeaceably at them by people who aren’t interested in trying anything new, but because people who have tried something repeatedly and still don’t like it do deserve to have their preferences honoured.

I speak now of the moving image.

The main reason I’m making this concession is that it has been pointed out to me that I basically don’t like TV.

You can’t “not like TV”.

I know, that was my initial response. I watch plenty of it. I’m currently watching and adoring Great British Sewing Bee. I am antsy for the third series of Hannibal. I religiously tune into whichever variation of a wipe Charlie Brooker is presiding over at any given moment. I tried with Russell T Davies’ most recent experimental televisual event but in the intervening years between him wowing my pubescent self with Queer As Folk and the now, the shine has badly come off that one character voice he writes and I’ve grown aggressively bored with witty speechifying.

My point is, I watch the stuff. And that was my argument.

However, the Resident Australian is privy to exactly how I watch TV, because she lives in my house, and the answer is “you don’t”.

There may be an endless stream of IVT3 British Detective Thrillers on in the background. There may be near-continual QI. Hugh Unspellable-Doublebarrelled may tell me how to make cranberry-stuffed goose face six times over the course of one day without complaint, but I’m not watching and I’m barely listening. It’s there to make companionable noise and I don’t overly miss it when it’s gone.

Quick! Name some TV you like!

I did that as well. RomeBand of Brothers. A slew of Classic Dr Who (pre-Davison). State of Play (the original, of course). Like all right-thinking human beings, I appreciated The Wire, although unlike the majority of the internet I actively disliked Breaking Bad. But wait! There’s more! Blandings! Jeeves & Wooster! Blackadder! Young Ones! Black Books! Spaced! The Granada adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes stories!

Everything David Attenborough has ever touched. Sewing BeeBake Off. A swathe of panel quiz shows so broad as to be verging on the indiscriminate. Brian Cox waffling about space. Carl Sagan waffling about space. Pretty well anyone waffling about space. Half of BBC4. Howard Goodall waffling about the history of music, as many times as I can get away with. Have you noticed how often the BBC like to use bits of Song 2 by Blur and Clubbed To Death and Dog Days in their programs? It is a lot. I’ve noticed because I dwell at the bottom of a pit filled with cheap documentaries about castles and food travelogues and Lucy Worsley trying on endless costumes and Brian Cox’s enormous hands conducting invisible writing across the screen.

So you don’t hate TV?

Well.

I don’t seem to have the greatest relationship with the combination of moving pictures and spoken word. I mean, I love radio, but most of the time, TV demands too much of your attention. It says “either stop wanking about on the internet for a minute, or miss something important”. It complains that I’m cooking or unpicking things, and it positively throws an advert-vomiting tantrum every thirty seconds on most channels anyway.

Okay firstly, you like movies.

And most of the time I can only concentrate on them if I go to a cinema and have no option but to watch through to the end on a screen large enough to hold my attention and with no opportunity to pause it and go and do something else.

Secondly, do what everyone else does and just binge-watch dramas.

You’d think that would deal with my distinct dislike of episodic structure (if you look at the list of things I do like, the majority of them have self-contained plots within each episode, with RomeThe Wire, State of Play and Dr Who as stand-out exceptions – in those cases the plots took up the entire series at a time but were intended that way. There was no “easy jumping-on point to a longer-running thing”, you either watched the whole thing, or you didn’t). In fact it just makes me cross and fidgety. I’ve tried binge-watching episodic TV before – Rome – and even with that quality of writing it proved annoying. The Wire deserves a special credit for getting me through one series per sitting (and then I ran away half-way through Season 3 because the tension was unbearable), and State of Play for being short enough that, as with The Wire, I just treated it as a six-hour movie. The structure was such that it was possible. Not so with most.

So you have exceptions to the rule.

Undoubtedly. I actively enjoy having episodes of Hannibal doled out every week because one episode a week is about all I can handle in terms of emotional investment.

The conclusion of The Resident Australian was that exceptions to the rule rather proved the existence of the rule. “It’s notable when you like something on TV because most of the time you hate TV.” TV here of course standing in for “episodic narrative”, drama or comedy variety, because that’s how most people use it.

This makes for difficulty in particularly wanting to join in with fandom culture any more, because wildly popular though cooking TV and BBC4 history documentaries are, their fans don’t tend to be the active fandom kind. Now that Marvel Movies fandom has moved into a mindset where it’s vital to watch at least two TV shows (Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter) even if you don’t want to drag the immense, unwieldy 616 Marvel comics canon into the matter, it becomes less and less appealing to write for.

Arguably, the shorter and less drawn-out a TV series is, the more inclined I am to at least try it. For the most part, I’m perfectly happy to squander my leisure time on either radio drama, which doesn’t demand my eyes as well as ears, or books and comics, which don’t demand my ears as well as eyes.

Any further evidence for your all-consuming disdain for 100-year-old technology, oh hater of the moving image?

Yes. I only watch Youtube videos that are more involved than kittens falling over about once in a blue moon and I’m actively pissed off by ones that involve people talking.

What about Vines?

Same deal: kittens or GTFO. And stop talking.

Sorry, people who don’t like comics or poetry: I’ve been somewhat unfair to you. Let’s agree to meet in the common ground and stop trying to force each other into areas we don’t have time for.

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