Miserable isn’t Cool

There are lots of good comedy TV shows and films out there, so this doesn’t apply to everything, but in the last seven to ten years or so, there has been a noticeable growth of grim, depressing and gritty output on TV and at the cinema. Now, some of it is distinctly linked to the character to some degree, so I’m only going to mention Batman and Dexter in passing. The former doesn’t have much to laugh about in the Nolan films, but there is definitely a delicious dark river of humour and laughs in the latter. So putting those to one side, I’ve found myself walking away from certain TV shows and absolutely ignoring some film franchises because they’re just depressing and will sour my mood.

I’m not sure if the wealth of this material can be blamed on the current world climate being in the toilet, but in some ways I think it is linked to it. During a recession and times of hardship, the sale of chocolate tends to increase. People want a brief temporary boost to lift their mood. In the same way I think on some level we like to see other people being a bit miserable and upset, because we’re all feeling it. I’m not saying we like seeing people being injured or hurt, but I think seeing people share in our collective misery is somehow soothing. Misery loves company is a well worn saying and very true. Again, I feel I should stress, not everything is like this, and we don’t all want to feel this way all of the time. We want to watch stuff that will make us laugh and cry, that will lift us up, make us think about the future, family and believe in heroes. Films that will inspire, make people look up at the stars in wonder and imagine the possibilities and consider taming the impossible and making it into reality. I still want all of that, but sometimes, I also want to watch the darker content.

For whatever reason, I think I’ve moved out of that phase in my head and I don’t enjoy swimming in that collective pool of misery anymore. I’ve purposefully avoided certain TV shows because they’re just too bleak, despite all of their critical acclaim, such as Breaking Bad. I watched the first series about a year ago and haven’t gone back to it, despite the amazing performances, particularly by Bryan Cranston. I may not know the definite end of the series, but the show is a train wreck in slow motion over several years. You can hear the whistle and thrum of the engine, feel the vibrations while still lying on the tracks. I’ve no desire to witness the destruction of a man as he sinks deeper and deeper.

I’ve also become reluctant to watch some TV shows that I previously enjoyed a great deal, such as the Walking Dead because there’s no relief, no real joy, and no hope. I watched a few episodes last night, but found myself doing something else at the same time, and only keeping one eye on the screen. The acting was great, the sets and location were amazing, but it was just more of the same. I fell out of love with the comic a couple of years ago but have continued to read the trades when they’re loaned to me by a friend. Even so, I recently told him to stop passing them to me, as it’s just more of the same, misery, death and destruction as mankind tears itself apart in the shattered remains of the old world. Sometimes there are brief moments of joy or sparks of hope, and that can make them all the more poignant, but at the same time it also means wading through a lot of smelly brown stuff to get there for a few seconds of relief. I’ve already written about Man of Steel, so I won’t repeat myself, but for me the film was a huge let down on some levels, one of which is there was very little to inspire. The symbol on his chest stands for hope, but there was very little in the film that gave me hope for the future.

I’m also becoming very tired with snarky journalists and columnists who tear things apart and seem to relish it. Whether it’s a book, TV show, film or even a celebrity in the public eye, there seems to a feast of people queuing up to destroy them and tear them down. Recently critics have ripped into the new Lone Ranger film and before that they went to town on John Carter, which was actually a lot of fun. I’ve not seen the Lone Ranger, but I doubt it is as bad as they claim and even so, it’s not meant to be anything other than a light, enjoyable summer romp for all the family. I mean look at the main character and Johnny Depp’s costume! It’s not a historical representation of anything. It’s also made by the same people as Pirates, so that gives you an idea of what to expect and yet they seemed to love filling entire pages with venom. The celebrity thing, well, people seem to enjoy that, so you could argue the media are just giving the people what they want. I still think it’s shameful and actually none of our business. Personally I have no interest and don’t care about who slept with who, or how many pounds someone put on, or their new haircut.

I’m not going to go into the grimdark fantasy thing too much as people have written about that a lot elsewhere, but I will say when every character is grey in a book it’s hard to find any heroes and you may come away feeling a bit grimy. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with writing about heroes, people that inspire and lead by example. The black hat and white hat fantasy books of my youth are gone, Eddings and Brooks etc, but I’m now more interested in reading about good guys trying to help people, whatever that means in 2013, and I use the term good guys very loosely.

So I think I’ve turned a corner somewhere in my head. Things are still pretty grim, we’re still in a worldwide recession, but I don’t want to add to that anymore. I’ve no desire to go back to pouring more of the really bleak stuff into my head that doesn’t need to be there. I might be missing out on some great stuff, but I’m ok with that.