I watched Neil Patrick Harris' opening number at the Oscars on Sunday. Referenced in the performance were hours and hours and hours of the most recognizable entertainment we have as a culture, to the tune of spectacle and awe that's traditionally associated with Hollywood. Likewise, they signify hours and hours and hours spent watching them. For the record, I loved the intro. Some good ol' homoerotic tension between Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Jack Black's rock opera bubble that almost burst wide open. Anna Kendrick. But I watch NPH's homage to the industry and I ask myself about the relationship I have to the people depicted onscreen, the way I relate to the medium itself, and the collateral seepage of voyeurism into my daily life. I've seen nearly all of the "moving pictures" referenced in the video. Singing in the Rain. North by Northwest. Star Wars. Basic Instinct. I recognize their stars, even silhouetted. Gene Kelly. Cary Grant. Darth Vader. No matter how real they feel, they're simulacra, and I'm in a relationship with a screen. I smile at their quirks, I laugh at their jokes, and if they were in the room I might air-punch their chin and say, "You." Unfortunately, they aren't. In fact, no one's in the room. It's just me.
Moving pictures, millions of pixels on screens. They may not be real life but they'll show you what life really means.
The entire performance is meant to instill a nostalgia that I can feel running up my spine, and it's a little disturbing to feel these moments more than some of my own memories. Some of my memories are these moments. I've always thought myself to be someone who isn't content to be the spectator to great people, great events, or great experiences (or, conversely, great acts of psychokinetic homicide). It isn't enough for me to watch. One of the great and insidious things about TV and the like is that it confirms the things you want to believe about yourself, but I've reached the point in my pop cultural consumption where I want more than vicarious experience. Yeah, let me actually escape a low-flying biplane. Someone PLEASE teach me how to use the Force. I think I'll pass on interviewing a psychopath, but I'd gladly watch from behind a one-way mirror. If you can weed out the irony there, mediated entertainment replaced genuine terrene in-the-present experience at some forgotten point in my life. Probably when I watched LOTR for the 46th time.
Look, I don't think TV was meant to be used in the way that I use it, so I'm not going to make any high and mighty arguments about how TV and Hollywood and YouTube are destroying our lives. I just want mine back. Starting tomorrow, I'm giving up television for 40 days.
No more The Tudors, which was mildly entertaining to begin with
and has started to wane in its televisual adolescence I watched a few more episodes, and I'm more impressed by Jonathan Rhys Meyers' aging, understated King Henry—but no more. No more Game of Thrones. No more X Files, which I had never really watched before a week or two ago and have found exceedingly entertaining in the way that Friends is entertaining. Speaking of Friends. No more live sports. This is such a broad category that I could list events by name. No more Blazers games.
No more Twin Peaks, which hosts a coven of timeless beauties—no joke. I'd watch it for that reason alone, but Kyle MacLachlan and David Lynch make it a classic. No more Django in Chains, which I forgot to watch the first time. No more Californication, a salacious comedy series that really soured in its later seasons, but season one nevertheless one of the more meaningful TV experiences I've had. This fact doesn't really recommend me as a person. No more Trailer Park Boys, which was renewed in recent years after a long hiatus. No more Marco Polo, Netflix's awful epic that doubles as a fantastic nightlight. No more Epic Rap Battles of History, a guilty pleasure I revisit every couple months. No more Let's Talk About Something More Interesting. No more The Newsroom or Boardwalk Empire, which were over anyway. No more House of Cards—no more House of Cards—which releases its third season in four days. I might as well give up food. No more Vikings, yet another guilty pleasure that just started its third season. No more Parks and Rec. No more All Is Bright, Love Actually, Wreck-It Ralph. No more The Life Aquatic, which you have to be high to really enjoy. No more Take Shelter, one of the best movies I've seen in the last year. No more Mike Tyson Mysteries, which breaks my heart. No more Last Week Tonight, The Daily Show, or The Colbert Report, which I still mourn. No more Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy. No more Highlander. No more Life of Pi. No more Utopia. No more Veep. No more The Lottery, Identity Thief, Oz the Great and Powerful, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity (the second-best movie I've seen in the past year), Ender's Game, Americans in Bed, Captain Phillips, Good Will Hunting, American Hustle, Band of Brothers, Tyrant, Bad Santa, or Cloud Atlas. No more Planet Earth. No more Sherlock.
And that's just the viewing history from a non-Netflix app. The list goes on, but this isn't the Book of Genesis. I think you get the idea.