I watched a lot of TV this summer. It wasn’t exactly the normal kind of TV either, sitting down in front of a television in your living room, curled up with blankets and some snacks. Sure, I did plenty of that, too, but most of the TV-watching I did was of a different sort. More likely than not, I could be found in bed, on the floor of my room—anywhere really—laptop or phone in hand, happily watching trashy cancelled CW shows and harmless summer fodder. Even now, I am seriously contemplating switching tabs for another episode of Orange is the New Black.
Usually, my summer is spent reading; collecting heaps and heaps of finished novels and a questionable amount of library dues. I did read this summer, but I spent much more time than usual watching TV and movies, too. It wasn’t so much that the books I usually relied on lacked their usual charm; it was just that, at the time, TV simply seemed … better.
I get the impression that I’m not alone in this phenomenon—the switch from real life to a more simulated kind of entertainment. It’s simply too easy to fall prey to the constant availability of the so-called “entertainment industry.” With Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant Video, and any number of other streaming resources, the options are widening every day. It’s immediate gratification, the simple pleasure of flipping open your laptop or turning on your phone to see Hollywood smiling right back at you, ready to entertain. Honestly, it’s pretty irresistible, and only seems to be getting more and more popular. Nowadays, most of the people I know use Netflix or another form of streaming service, and that’s not even counting the pirates. TV and movies are improving in quality as their accessibility grows; with nearly unlimited media at your fingertips, it’s not too hard to see why.
The thing is, though, TV and movies aren’t just getting more convenient, they’re becoming more of a spectacle. Over the past three months, I have been to two “special event screenings” of films, and have wanted to go to several more. If you had asked me a year or two ago about these showings, such as Fathom Events, I probably would have looked at you blankly before replying, “That’s that thing that shows opera at the movie theater, right?” And yes, these screenings do include operas, but as of late also include special pre-release showings of movies, Q&As with casts, even red carpet coverage.
Granted, it’s not always great, but I can happily say that the reason I was basically a high-functioning zombie on June 6 was because I saw The Fault in Our Stars a night early. I muddled through two hours of red carpet footage for a showing of The Giver a week before the release date. I tried, on three or four separate occasions, to go to special movie theater-screenings of various Doctor Who episodes.
Although others may not relate to my love for seeing movies before the rest of the world, others can certainly also see the worldwide increase in big-screen spectacle entertainment. It’s not just for ballet and opera anymore; no, it’s become mainstream. More and more often, you can find a special screening of one movie or another, typically paired with an interview or a goody bag or something else to justify the higher price tag. It’s easy, it’s accessible, and it’s alluring.
As a result of this accessibility and the simple showiness of it all, pop culture truly seems to be invading everyday life. It’s not uncommon for me to come across several conversations about TV shows, movies, or celebrities—I have plenty of them myself—and we all seem to spend an awful lot of time on the Internet following the latest updates and antics. Everyone has their strong feelings, and, try as we might, they’re getting harder and harder to hide. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to publicize your likes in television, just that some people prefer not to make them so well-known— and that’s becoming more difficult to do. Facebook wants you to talk about the latest episode of Game of Thrones; it’s all too easy to tweet about American Horror Story; and, seriously, don’t even get me started on Tumblr. Pop culture is called pop culture for a reason—it’s popular, and it only seems to be getting more so with each passing day.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still very happy to pick up a book (the old-fashioned, paper kind of course) and read for hours on end. Books are easy: they don’t require batteries or Internet connection, and there’s no glare if you want to read outside. I’m also a TV-watcher and movie-goer though, and I’m okay with that. That’s the world we live in now, and even though it might not have the same timeless charm as the weathered spines on my bookshelf, it’s still pretty enjoyable in its own right.