Link Party: 6/13-6/17

A new Jenny Holzer installation at the Broad Museum.
A new Jenny Holzer installation at the Broad Museum, which I visited yesterday.

I read so many great articles this week, and I couldn’t pare them down to the best six because they were all. so. great. The more the merrier. Here’s what I read:

1. Can Netflix survive in the world it created? (My take: probably not.)

2. How Silicon Valley nails Silicon Valley. (Do you watch this show?  I love it. Start watching it.)

3. This is a very emotionally difficult interview to read, but you really should read it — an interview with a woman who recently had an abortion at 32 weeks.

4. The underground economy that rules New York City’s food carts.

5. A delightful conversation about basically nothing with Paul McCartney.

6. Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo and the power of the unfinished album.

7. An inside look at how Yahoo derailed Tumblr.

8. Barbara Williamson, one of the most famous radical sex experiments of the 1970s, and her life today.

9. An excerpt from a new book about Max Perkins, the editor who discovered F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.

10. The best of the Dirtbags.

Have a great weekend.

Think Tank: TV Revivals and Reboots

I love "Gilmore Girls," but I don't need new episodes in my life.
I love “Gilmore Girls,” but I don’t need new episodes in my life.

“Gilmore Girls” is quite easily near the top of my list of all-time favorite television shows. For most of late middle school and throughout high school, I made watching afternoon reruns on ABC Family a ritual. I remember saying in my interview to be on my high school’s newspaper that the fictional character I was most like was Rory Gilmore.  I even watched it live on the WB on Tuesday nights. I wanted to go to Yale and be on the Yale Daily News. This is how much I loved “Gilmore Girls.” 

But when I read earlier this week that there are plans to revive “Gilmore Girls” for a limited run on Netflix, I was not a happy camper. In the last few years, revivals and reboots of old television shows and movies have become increasingly popular. When there’s an announcement that something is getting a Netflix season, the entire Internet explodes, and I saw at least five articles about the rumors of who was coming back and what the show might cover.

This has been at the front of my half-melted brain for the week, and I’ve been thinking about what this revival trend says about television in 2015 and how we consume culture. I’ve come to the realization that this trend is not a good one, and that there are several reasons why.

Internet culture and TV revivals are definitely connected.

Netflix has an incredible platform to deliver film and television across the globe, even though it’s not always the most helpful way to broaden our cultural horizons. When a show gets canceled, the conversation about moving it to online streaming is serious and becomes top entertainment news. If a production group wants to reinvigorate something badly enough, they make a Kickstarter and fundraise with the help of loyal fans. The Internet is an easy way to spread and strengthen fandom.

We’re living in a world where just about everything is instantaneous, and we demand that our cultural consumption is swift and easy. A revival like “Gilmore Girls” sort of speaks to that. We saturate the media with remembrance posts and listicles, and when we interview show runners or stars we always bring it up. The Internet won’t let anything ever die, so we just keep talking about the same things over and over and over again. Interviewers think that asking creators or actors questions about the shows or movies that they’ve moved away from is logical and interesting, because there’s some faction of the Internet that will go nuts. While this kind of reaction is significant to our understanding of how the Internet works and that there’s the potential to spread information like wildfire, a lack of temporal distance prohibits us from making good observations about the shows and culture in general.

This says a lot about how the audience views itself in the show-making process.

I might be in the minority, but I was satisfied with the ending of “Gilmore Girls.” I won’t make any specific comments for fear of #spoilers, but I liked how it left all of the characters. In my own head, I interpreted it in such a way that the ending was happy and that the characters ended up where they were supposed to. It solidified my understanding of the show and its universe in such a way that I could talk about it critically. I felt the same exact way about “Mad Men,” “Arrested Development” and “Breaking Bad.” They all became complete pieces of art, and I looked forward to reading retrospectives.

In one way, it puzzles me as to why other fans would want to crack the show back open. Sure, there’s probably more story about the Gilmore women to tell. But the show runners, who are in their own way artists, decided to end it in that way for whatever reason, whether it was artistic or financial or logistical. It’s the same pressure people put on J.K. Rowling to do more with “Harry Potter,” or George R. R. Martin to hurry up with more from the “A Song of Ice and Fire” world. We have such high expectations of the culture we consume, and think that in some way the people who make the things we like have to spend the rest of their creative lives revolving around those things. We also think that our collective power can make those things happen eventually, and that if we want more we deserve it. This cannot be particularly healthy for either side.

I love “Gilmore Girls,” but I really don’t want to read about it every day. There are too many other things to see and think about. There’s a difference between visiting an exhibit in 10 years about the show or buying a coffee table book of essays about the show, and having it constantly be at the cultural forefront.

We need to do a better job of making room for more original content. 

There are so many talented people in the world who have dreamt up entire universes and stories to tell on screen, and they never get to share them because we’re too busy trying to figure out how to revive or reboot stuff we’ve already seen. Taking inspiration or drawing parallels from different shows and other cultural areas is fantastic, but redoing them is entirely different. We should really be giving new creators a break and making space for them. In asking for and supporting original content on both our televisions and computer screens, we can do a better job of including marginalized groups or bringing awareness to important causes. Let’s close the books, television and films we’ve already made, and start to write even better ones.

What do you think about reboots and revivals? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

 

Think Tank: Netflix

https://twitter.com/AntDeRosa/status/535455149733724160

I saw this tweet this morning (from a very good journalist, might I add), and I couldn’t get it out of my head all day.

According to that statistic, more than a third of the internet traffic in North America  is devoted to streaming Netflix television shows and movies. Judging by the hype over old television series coming to Netflix and the curated lists of must-see films, I’m not surprised.

I go back and forth on my feelings about Netflix, and I figured that I needed to parse them out to really start thinking about it.

Googling "netflix memes" will get you many, many hits.
Googling “netflix memes” will get you many, many hits.

PROS

You might get to see series and films you’ve never seen before, without resorting to piracy.

I was too young to watch Twin Peaks when it aired live, but I never would have known about David Lynch or the trailblazing show without finding it on my Netflix recommendations. I know other people who have similar stories, so in one respect, Netflix can facilitate cultural awakening for art that’s worth seeing. It helps you wade through all of the crap of broadcast television. And if the overall service is less than $10 for thousands of titles, it seems incredibly reasonable.

It heightens the quality standards for competing networks. 

House of Cards is one of my favorite shows, but I don’t know if I would love it as much if it was on NBC or even AMC. Netflix has the capital to pour into their original content, and you can see it in the overall quality (production values, casting and plot) of the shows. A show like House of Cards or Orange is the New Black gives a series like Game of Thrones a run for its money, and I think that healthy competition ends up benefitting the audience.

 

It's true.
It’s true.

CONS

It makes us really, really, really lazy. 

I will admit, I love to binge watch television series and watch movies when I feel like it. Netflix has made that a normal behavioral pattern, since you don’t even have to get up from bed or off of the couch to hit the Next Episode button anymore. There’s a really great Portlandia sketch that sums up the vicious cycle of binging shows.

Considering the amount of money film studios are making from their blockbusters, the movie theaters don’t seem to be hurting. But can you remember the last time you went to go see a movie in the theater on an opening weekend? I can, and it was last June. It’s just far more convenient to watch a show and multitask.

But I think that also leads into an interesting point. Since it’s so easy to just open a new browsing tab, pick a movie and zone out, I’m not even sure if we’re even getting all of the nuances and hidden meanings in the visual art. It does make the idea of going to a movie theater, paying for it and enjoying the experience seem incredibly precious.

It can limit the content you’re exposed to. 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told someone about a show or movie and they ask me if it’s on Netflix, and when I tell them it isn’t or I’m not sure, they shrug me off. If you just watch the same movies over and over again, you don’t get to see some of the hidden gems that you might end up liking. A lot of people don’t watch live television anymore or go to movies because it isn’t convenient as Netflix, or another service like Amazon Prime Instant Video or YouTube.

It contributes to a growing cultural feeling of “I NEED IT NOW!!”

It has become incredibly hard to wait for an episode or film when Netflix will give you hundreds of other ones in a near instant, which is the spitting example of a first world problem. That impatience translates to and affects other aspects of life (waiting for test results, for example), which I think ruins the elements of patience and surprise that you need.

 

Netflix has become the ultimate method of procrastination, especially for people my own age.
Netflix has become the ultimate method of procrastination, especially for people my own age. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but it’s definitely culturally significant.

SOMEWHERE IN THE MIDDLE

It has become part of our lexicon. 

“Netflix” is a very culturally relevant verb these days, i.e. “I’m going to Netflix it.”  It’s also become a significant routine, as staying in on a Friday night and watching a movie at home is a badge of honor for party animals and introverts alike. In the last few years or so, Netflix has become an incredible cultural phenomenon that’s been hard to escape. Try and think of someone you know who doesn’t have it. Even my grandmother, who is in her 70s, loves Netflix for British television series and documentary films.

I was curious to see if other languages call it anything but Netflix, but I couldn’t find anything. It’ll be interesting to see where it ends up in the evolution of our language.

It’s an archive, but a temporary one. 

It’s really interesting to gauge what people think is important enough to be put on Netflix at a particular moment on time. I can’t tell you how many articles I read that were written in light of all nine seasons of Gilmore Girls being added to streaming, which put the show back on the cultural map. But the streaming will eventually expire — even if a movie or show is on your queue, it might be taken down when the contract with the distributor runs out.

I’m still unsure of where I stand with Netflix, but now I’m even more interested to see if it’ll still be a huge thing in the next decade. But I will not be surprised if that statistic continues to soar.

How do you feel about Netflix? Let’s talk about it in the comments.