Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Age of The Memes

In the book Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman said, "Americans no longer talk to each other, they entertain each other. They do not exchange ideas; they exchange images.", and the more that technology grows the truer this becomes. All our media is made into shorter and shorter time frames, to hold our attention because we want our messages to be short so that we don't have to spend much time on it. It's easy for us to sit through a long movie, but a 75-second long commercial seems torturously long. We've grown accustomed to everything being instant. When we want to know something or find directions to go someplace, or even watch a movie all we have to do is reach into our pocket for our phone. People have become all about the instant gratification of being able to do things quickly.

Lately "binge watching" has become a popular thing to do. With a culture so intent on having media at our fingertips, and in our pockets, it's so easy to over indulge. You don't have to wait week by week for your favorite show to put out a new episode or suffer through the weekly mini-cliffhangers. Personally, I have a few shows that I will only watch by the season to make sure I don't hit an episode with a terrible ending, just a season.

By making our media more accessible, we burn through it more quickly which seems to have led to a sort of decline in content. We have so many TV shows that don't require any thinking to watch, you just plop down and allow yourself to do nothing as the show plays in front of you.  I call these "nothing" shows because they don't have much real content, and you don't do anything while you watch them.  One such show that followed this trend was called Selfie.  It was marketed by ABC as a "retelling" of My Fair Lady. To me felt like another show "for millennials" that didn't understand millennials at all. Eliza is a vapid young woman, who lives for the social media fame. She thinks she's popular, and well loved until something embarrassing happens and everyone avoids her. A coworker named Henry does his best to repair Eliza and give her a more appealing image to gain real acceptance.
Another show The Great Indoors attempts to show the difference between "adults" and "young adults" making fun of a generational gap between a 45-year-old, and a 33-year-old pretending to be a 20 year old. The only plot to this show is Jack, trying to relate to his younger coworkers, and not understanding anything they say or think and finding it difficult to relate to them. Despite being in the "millennial" 20-something age group that this show supposedly represents, I don't relate to the characters either. 

It seems to me more and more shows have removed the dimension behind a character. In more and more shows, we don't see much of the background of a character, we just see everything happening to them RIGHT NOW in the present. It's easier to watch a show without thinking if we don't have to remember anything about the backstory of a character. It makes it easier to watch something without really watching. It makes it easier to write content for a show if the plot is completely disposable. You can just nothing.

The part of media that told a story is starting to disappear, leaving boring, "entertaining", quickly absorbed, nothing in its place. "Nothing' TV shows become a guilty pleasure because you don't have to think or feel to consume it. You plop down, turn off your brain and relax because it's easy.

Discussion Questions:
1. Do you have any guilty pleasure TV shows that you like to "nothing" to? 
2. Do you find yourself watching nothing shows more than you find yourself watching something with an engaging plotline? 
3. Do you find many new television programs to be more engaging, or to be nothing? 

1 comment:

  1. Great article, Elizabeth. I really do think we live in an age of memes. The sad part is that by my age, I am on the border of the millennial generation, but I don't even know if it's supposed to be pronounced "me me" or "meem" and feel extremely displaced often times. But in thinking back to the "nothing" shows, I remember in high school, I would watch a lot of Family Guy. To me, it wasn't the overall story (you're eluding to background and in-depth info on characters) or even the story of the episode that was my favorite part. It was the one-liners. My best friend and I would constantly quote Family Guy, but they were always just simple one-liners from those instant gratification jokes. Now that we've titled it The Age of the Memes, it's still the exact same, just a different outlet. I would just say a cheap one-liner to elicit laughs, but there was no depth to it.

    Today, I might put on a "nothing" show in the background of doing something else, but I am very satisfied with myself that I've grown out of them (for the most part). I love my engaging plotline show such as GoT, Black Sails, and Sneaky Pete. But the curious thing I've found is that I generally don't even like to watch these shows with other people because I want to be so engaged in the story and plots that I don't want the added distractions, questions, or conversations. Ironic that the more engaging a show is for being more in depth on human situations and interactions, the less engaged I become with other people. Anywho, very thought-provoking article!