Dear Entertainment Industry: A little hope, please?

candle by Q8y_dream Flickr Creative Commons

candle by Q8y_dream Flickr Creative Commons

Sometime toward the end of last year’s television season, I quit watching most of my shows. I work in an incredibly stressful profession. I describe it as life and death in a microcosm every fifteen minutes. I come home at the end of the day totally wiped out, with barely the energy to walk the dogs and cobble together some sort of dinner, which is often the first chance I’ve had all day to sit down and eat a meal.

One of the things I look forward to are my ‘must-see’ television shows, when the BF and I can relax, kick back on the sofa, and watch the next installment of whatever thrilling drama the entertainment industry has to offer.

But toward the end of the last mainstream television season, several things happened at once: many of my favorites went on hiatus or were cancelled. Of those that remained on my watchlist, many had become too intense, too dark for me to enjoy. I realized that 99% of everything I watched was incredibly violent. Storylines went from captivating to grim. Combined with my increasing anxiety over the upcoming elections and what the outcome could mean for the world as a whole, I felt as though I had to stop watching television and movies. At the end of the day, I didn’t need to be devastated by the death of characters or the destruction of everything I loved.

I took a hiatus. I read books. I watched old favorites. Thanks to the wonders of Netflix, I could re-watch old television shows that managed to entertain without nearly destroying me in every episode. I listened to music. I took up meditation.I walked the dogs. I began riding horses again. I wrote stories–a lot of stories. Sometimes when I heard friends discussing their favorite shows around the water cooler or on Facebook, I felt a little left out, but for the most part, I enjoyed my quieter evenings.

As the current fall TV season crept closer, I found myself getting excited about the returning favorites or the new possibilities. I watched a few episodes I missed in order to catch up with the season premieres, and I settled in to watching the first eps of the season.

After two such attempts, I complained to the BF that everything was horribly dysfunctional and dystopian. No one could be trusted. Teams betrayed each other and were broken up. Leaders were replaced by people that were evil and dangerous. Friends were forced to choose sides. Beloved characters were angry and vengeful. And I’m sick of it.

Worse, it’s not fun.

No, seriously, some of the franchises I’ve loved in the past have become so unrelentingly hopeless and dark that I Just. Can’t. Even.

Look, I get it.Β  We tend to write stories that reflect how we feel, and examine our fears and concerns. The mythology of werewolves is believed to have risen out of a need to explain serial killers. I recently read a study somewhere that suggested certain kinds of fiction arise in certain types of political atmospheres–and surely the rise of dsytopian and zombie apocalyptic fiction is a reflection of how angry–and terrified–so many of us are right now.

Hope: Steven Snodgrass Flickr Creative Commons

Hope: Steven Snodgrass Flickr Creative Commons

But I need hope. I need the possibility of a future that is better than my fears. One of the reasons Star Trek has had such an enduring fandom over the years is because Gene Roddenberry’s vision of our future was more hopeful than nearly every other sci-fi universe out there. In Roddenberry’s universe, we overcame our worst failings and inclinations. We solved the problems of how to feed people and create clean energy and how to embrace diversity without being terrified of it. Star Trek is about sending the best and brightest out as ambassadors for the human race. Sure, they were flawed, but week after week, they got the job done. Better yet, they inspired generations to be the very best human beings they could be, in the hopes that one day, they’d be good enough to be considered for the Enterprise crew.

At the risk of sounding like someone’s cranky old granny, I want that in my entertainment again. Sure, you can give me adversity to overcome–that embodies great storytelling to me. Yes, there must be conflict, otherwise it’s boring. But give me that happily ever after–or happy for now. End with a note of encouragement, a candle lit in the dark against the forces of evil. Maybe you don’t trust your team mates in the beginning because you don’t know them–but show us that trust building over time.

Because otherwise, you could end every story with “Rocks fall. Everyone dies.” And in a world where it seems increasingly likely that this is our future, I want a little fantasy, please.

So give me hope.


20 thoughts on “Dear Entertainment Industry: A little hope, please?

  1. I posted about this in my own blog, but so far, I’ve been deleting everything I’ve recorded from the new season: Bull, MacGuyver, The Good Place, Kevin Can Wait,… all gone.

    BUT… I’m pleasantly surprised–nay, delighted–by This is Us, and Speechless. I’m filled with hope about these two. Plus Agents of SHIELD seems to be on track for another good season, Season 2 notwithstanding.

    Hope that helps.

    • Agents of Shield lost me a while back with the Hive storyline. I tried catching up, but it was after watching the season premiere that I turned to the BF and complained that nothing was fun anymore. πŸ™‚ I’ll give it another shot, but I’m not holding my breath. πŸ™ Ditto Blindspot, which I’d been enjoying until late in the season last year.

      Gah, the MacGuyver reboot was criminally painful. I yelled at the TV the whole time. Not only were there plot holes you could drive a semi through, but I really, really disliked the attitude they gave Mac. The original was cheesy and unbelievable but at least I liked the characters. The roommate might as well have been Jar Jar Binks, too. Not to mention they acted as if the only reason Mac didn’t carry a gun was because it would call attention to him, not that he was morally opposed to it. Having Jack be his personal sniper and mean thug was just appalling as well. Whoever thought that would be a reasonable way of rebooting the series obviously never saw the show or understood the characters.

      I wish I liked comedies. I prefer dramas and action series, but these days that means anyone I get invested in will probably die. πŸ™

      I’m feeling hopeful about Hayley Atwell’s new series, Conviction, though. Of course, most shows I like get cancelled, so may I shouldn’t say that out loud. πŸ™‚
      Sarah Madison recently posted..Dear Entertainment Industry: A little hope, please?My Profile

      • This is us isn’t a comedy, although the ads made it look that way. Speechless is more of a dramedy with an agenda.

        For a while there, Agents of SHIELD felt like homework–if you wanted to know what was going on in the Marvel universe, you HAD to watch it, but I liked last season. This one ep shows promise. I was so sick of Grant Ward.

        At least we’ll always have Supernatural… apparently. Even at its cheesiest, I was still happy.

  2. Interesting post. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. It’s big enough that the US Postal Service and Canadian Postal Service have both issued commemorative stamps honoring the event. I think this is the reason that the series has lasted 50 years. Hope.

    • I firmly believe this is a big part of Star Trek’s appeal and durability. I remember quite clearly the divide in sci -fi shows written before and after 9/11. After Sept 11th, most sci-fi shows went even darker than they’d been before. I gave up on Battlestar Galactica because, sheesh, it was looking like everyone was going to be a Cylon in the end. And even Enterprise incorporated a 9/11 type storyline (one that had previously never been mentioned in canon). When Archer began spouting tough Bushisms, I lost my ability to continue watching the show. I can’t help but wonder if that isn’t part of why, for many people, Enterprise remains the most problematic of the Star Trek series.

      Star Trek may have gotten some things wrong, but it got a lot of things right, too. It was a big deal to put a black woman on the bridge when at the time, the most common role for black actresses was to be a maid or servant. It was a big deal to put a (ridiculously cute and eye-rollingly cocky) Russian on the bridge in the middle of the Cold War. In it’s often cheesy, hokey way, the series explored real issues of race, nationalism, and the future of humankind. And at its core was the belief that we, as a species, are worth preserving. These days, I’m not so sure. πŸ™

      I’m trying to stay hopeful about the new ST series, Discovery. Unfortunately, they’ve already changed the start date from January to May, which is a bit worrisome. Usually means they had to scrap something and start all over again.
      Sarah Madison recently posted..Dear Entertainment Industry: A little hope, please?My Profile

    • I know, right? I can understand why people are so upset about the scheduling/cast changes for the GBBO show. I’ve never seen it, but if it was my go-to comfort show, I’d be pissed and annoyed.

      I’m not saying I want all shows to be unicorns and sparkly rainbows, but damn it, I’d like something that doesn’t have me biting my nails or leave me sobbing in tears. It’s become the *norm* to kill characters now. In a very casual, “oh look, ratings are down, let’s kill somebody…” kind of way. πŸ™
      Sarah Madison recently posted..Dear Entertainment Industry: A little hope, please?My Profile

    • Thank you! Sometimes I feel like I’m just way too sensitive but sheesh. Most of us are living on caffeine, sugar, and nerves. The last thing I want to do is come home and stress over fictional characters and situations. Incompetent, dangerous bosses, co-workers trying to back-stab you or worse, never knowing if you’re going to survive the day or not? THAT’S CALLED WORK. I don’t need more of it when I get home at night. πŸ™‚

  3. This is partially why I gave up TV. Now when I watch it, I tend to browse through the week on the PVR and find the stuff on H2 or Nat Geo that I want to PVR and then watch it later. I watch Ancient Aliens, Ancient Impossible, I have a show about Edison Vs. Tesla, and something about some cave divers. If I want a fiction show, I used to watch Murdoch Mysteries [Canadian show]. He’s a detective in Toronto in the 1800s. HE rides a bike. He had feelings for the female coroner, but it’s hard because she’s quite progressive and liberal, and he’s a catholic widower. It was my gentle show!

    • I completely understand the inclination. When I hear people rave over new shows, I frequently find myself saying, “No!” before the opening credits. I was without cable for many years, so maybe I’ve just become sensitized to what passes for entertainment, I dunno.

      As a matter of fact, the BF and I watched Murdoch last night. It’s one of my comfort shows too. πŸ™‚ (I might have even cheated a little and watched ahead of the BF–shhh, don’t tell him!) I frequently watch period pieces like Murdoch or Miss Fisher because even though there’s a death in every episode, the body is usually discretely laid out in the library and everyone sits around discussing it with wit and erudition. πŸ™‚
      Sarah Madison recently posted..Dear Entertainment Industry: A little hope, please?My Profile

  4. Yes, I agree entirely! I stopped watching The Sleepy Hollow, Grim, various superhero-themed shows, etc. because it’s just too much. Fiction is supposed to be a fun escape, not a dreadful nailbiter you need a drink with to “relax.” One show I still enjoy watching is Elementary, but even that tries for extra angst and deception that is way off canon.
    We’ve been watching that British bake-off, Myth Busters reruns, and various Nature and Nat Geo features. And football – because my husband is into it.
    Writing, or reading romance, puts me in a much better place than watching TV.

    • Yes, we watch a fair number of superhero shows and I confess, they were among the things I dropped last year. I got squicked by Daredevil, and as much as a part of me wanted to watch Jessica Jones, I knew I couldn’t–not then anyway and perhaps not ever.

      Mythbusters is great! And there are certainly enough episodes in the can there’s plenty to watch.

      My BF is a soccer fan, so we watch a lot of that. πŸ™‚

      Even in my reading, though, I find myself reaching for books written forty or fifty years ago a lot of the time….
      Sarah Madison recently posted..Dear Entertainment Industry: A little hope, please?My Profile

  5. I have been saying the exact same thing! I am SO SICK of death and betrayal and dystopian worlds…just UGH! I feel like for the last 5 years or so writers have been relying on DEATH to try to keep things edgy and interesting.

    We were watching Dark Matter and the ending scene of the 2nd to the last show that aired had SO much death… and a main character killed someone unexpected….someone that they shouldn’t have in our opinion. Someone innocent and who the character we thought wouldn’t have killed.

    My 21 yr old son was so upset he turned to me and said he didn’t want to watch the show anymore. He asked if we could just re-watch Stargate SG1 and SGA again. *sad sigh*

    I miss shows like Stargate and Star Trek. Most of the shows ended upbeat and left you with a good feeling…and hope. A few didn’t…but in how long SG1 and SGA aired, a few sad ones weren’t so bad.

      • I love the premise of the show and love the actors (have seen them at a recent Con…they are all lovely). Loved the 1st season! Second season went too dark. Still have to see the last episode of season 2, but I don’t think it is any less dark as I heard it was a cliffie. One of the show runners asked what fans “didn’t” want for next year. Almost everyone said less death as one of the things. And, no major character death.

        Seriously about 20 – 30 people on the blog answered and said that. Hopefully they actually listen. Many of us said death shouldn’t be used so much…. as a plot device or casually or to make things seems edgy and dark.

        I’m hoping next year is different because it’s first year was so good!

  6. I’m with you on all of this. I haven’t watched TV in maybe a year. Even when I did watch it, drama wasn’t my choice. Certain kinds of fictional conflict have a way of head-butting my ongoing struggle with depression. Give me some sci-fi, fantasy or a good episode of Sherlock any day. Even in my reading I choose carefully. And really, some conflict just isn’t fun at all. And certain kinds of conflict (e.g. Sophie’s Choice) are the kind I wish never to have known at all.
    I’m with you on the Hope, too. Sometimes it’s the best thing we have, but fortunately it’s just the thing to get us through the difficulties of conflicts we must face in our real lives. I’ve been in pretty down for a couple of years, but recently things have begun to lighten up for me. I hope they will do the same for you. (Maybe we could start a forum somewhere to make reading and watching recommendations for more uplifting – or at least less painful and depressing.)

    • Those tend to be my favorite kinds of shows as well, though there seems to be a dearth of good sci-fi on TV these days. I hear you on the disinclination to watch certain kinds of conflict: I work in a high-stress medical environment–medical dramas are the LAST thing I want to watch, no matter how well-done they are. I’m not keen on family dramas either. I like your idea about starting a forum for reading and watching recommendations though! I’m going to have to give that some thought!

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