(Flynn Keaton is CHUD’s German voice)
How addicted are we as enthusiasts? Is there too much to watch, to look out for? Do you constantly feel you’re missing out on stuff? Let’s take a closer look.
The to-do list dilemma
When David Bowie passed away, I did what many others did. I took the occasion to finally listen to his entire catalogue. Spotify has pretty much everything (except the Tin Machine albums), so I comfortably, quickly, and cheaply delved into it. You couldn’t do that ten years ago, but today you can, legally and easily. Boy, was it a fascinating journey. From his folk song origins to basically inventing glam rock, from his experiments with funk, disco and jazz elements to incorporating new age and house sounds. If you haven’t done this yourself, I heartily recommend it to you. It’s really worth it.
It’s just… completing that list reminded me of all the other artists whose catalogues I still want to research as well. So, if you’re like me, you don’t just have to-do lists for albums. You’ve got similar lists for novels and video games. And this year marks the first serious foray into Virtual Reality. Jesus, that’s a whole new chapter. Soon we’ll have to make to-do lists for Virtual Reality experiences as well. Isn’t the current offer of quality media just mesmerizing?
Watch all the movies and TV series
I have so many watchlists for movies, it’s ridiculous. I seriously need to deepen my knowledge of French, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, German, Spanish, and Korean movies. As a lifelong student of films, I feel like Kurt Russell’s character in Bone Tomahawk. Highly experienced, but still rather inexperienced and overwhelmed. Hungry for more. Imagine the amount of movies Spielberg, Scorsese, and Tarantino have seen in their lifetimes. With movies, I feel like a kid in a candy store: so many different sweets to try out, most of them being yummy. American Nina Part 3? An old Tarkovsky? A rerun of Gone With the Wind? A 3D Godard? Give it to me, now.
Luckily, it never overtook my life. While I consider myself a media enthusiast, I always had room for other activities. I always had an actual life with friends, work, sports, university, etc. Most importantly, I never once played an MMO or put any emphasis on socializing exclusively through video games, convention meet-ups, or message boards. Still, it’s strictly undeniable that, so far, media has been a big, major constant in my life. Several of my jobs were directly linked to and driven by my experience with movies. Whatever happens in my life, consuming media is a distinctive part of it, and even if your work never had anything to do with your hobby, I bet you feel the same. (You have to, you’re reading an editorial on Cinematic Happenings Under Development)
Destroy all the movies?
However, please don’t get me wrong. Do I think that consuming media is a waste of time? Certainly not. So much of it enriches, moves, fascinates, and fills you with true joy. Any act of procrastination has a certain value. Okay, maybe Shower With Your Dad Simulator isn’t the best investion of time and money. But if it’s good for a few laughs, why not?
What lead me to writing this article was a realization regarding my own outlook. If everything goes fine, I’m looking at another fifty to sixty years of living. I don’t know much about my distant future. In a year, I might be married, with a kid on the way. Or not, who knows, but what I do know is that I’ll watch all of the popular and high rated movies that are coming out two, five, or ten years from now. It’s probably the only aspect of my own future I’m sure of. Why? Because it’s been like that for the last twenty years. Ever since I was able to go to the cinema on my own. Media is a constant, and it just never ends. There’ll never be a point at which you can say yes, you’ve finally seen everything you wanted to see and there’s nothing new coming out anymore.
But what if media wouldn’t be such a constant anymore?
Could we imagine stopping to consume media?
No more movies, novels, albums, video games?
Let that crazy thought sink in for a moment. It’s a heavy implication. It wouldn’t just mean to refrain from consuming. Of course it would also mean to stay away from endlessly surfing the web for hours, from reading media oriented news, yeah, eventually from attending most of social media discussions as well. You can’t quit the simple act of consuming while keeping on reading about everyone else’s consumption all day long.
An experiment in abstinence
Here’s what I did several months ago. The moment The Force Awakens went into actual production I stopped reading about it. Up to the day I saw the movie I hadn’t seen a single frame, I knew nothing about the characters or the plot, I had successfully avoided all trailers and discussions. Can you believe that? It was really difficult, as I usually know almost everything about upcoming movies. This is CHUD, and I’ve been reading the site for more than a decade. Of course I do. But yes, that self-imposed abstinence was an amazing experience. It was totally worth it.
Expand on that thought. Alter it. Maybe not cut out all of the media, just everything that isn’t the absolute best. Imagine only watching the Fury Roads, only playing the Half-Lives, only listening to the Dark Side of the Moons. The best movies of any year? You can easily watch the ten best reviewed and ten most popular movies of a year in a single month. Compare that to a full year’s time spent on combing through everything that is released. Become conscious about how much time you spend doing that.
Digital Midlife Crisis?
As a thirty-something, I’m obviously affected by what seems to be signs of an early midlife crisis (although I’m far from depressed, just tired). Surely my conscience is pressing me to finally do what I always wanted to do in life. Visiting lots of countries I’ve never been to. Starting a band. Shooting a movie. You name it. But isn’t consuming media cozier than that? Learning any new skill demands patience. Many experiences such as parachuting or travelling cost a respectable amount of money. For many activities, you need to overcome fears or delve into situations you don’t feel comfortable in. Attending a dance class? Becoming a great cook? All of it harder than sitting down and watching the Peter Weller Leviathan for the eighth time or beating Dark Souls 2.
See, there’s a fine line between a hobby, procrastination, addiction, and self-created comfort zones. That novel you always wanted to write? Maybe you just don’t achieve that because you’re always subconsciously keeping yourself busy with getting every Lego game release to 100%.
The feeling you might miss out on stuff? Look around. Everything that’s ever been created will forever be accessible. It’s not comparable to, say. concerts. You wanna see Springsteen live? Well, better do that anytime soon. In a few years, the Boss won’t be touring any longer, but novels, movies, games, albums? They are forever. You cannot miss out on them.
A Final Bite
I haven’t fully decided how I’ll change my behavior as a consumer yet, but I know that from now on I’ll try to be much more conscious about it. I’ll probably limit my choices, be more selective about what I’m consuming (e.g. ignoring all video game sequels that are just slight variations of its original), spend way more of my time on other activities. What I really need is to shake off the feeling that consuming media in general is tightly chained to the years I’ve left. Again, I’m not saying that consuming media is a bad thing, but personally I’d like to dial the discipline I’ve developed for that specific activity notably down.
Think about how you’re handling cheeseburgers. You love to prepare and eat cheeseburgers, you regularly consume them, and you look forward to doing that many times in the future. But not every day of every week. There can even be several weeks without cheeseburgers. You’re not chatting all day long about cheeseburgers, speculating about upcoming cheeseburger menus, nor are you reading cheeseburger news. Don’t react with “well, it’s just cheeseburgers”. Most media items are obviously more complex and more diverse than a burger could ever be, but maybe a more exquisite, more conscious interest in movies can taste as good as your selective interest in cheeseburgers, while freeing you to finding yourself new experiences to value?
What do you think?