How the Smut Arms Race Destroys Fiction

September 11, 2014 in General Topics

Rotting BooksRecently I viewed a Netflix original series and nearly found myself as distraught as its protagonists. One might read that and think it’s a good thing. It isn’t.

Hemlock Grove is a series drenched in all-American, old school Gothic horror. When it’s working well, it’s a brooding, atmospheric throwback that reminds me of the made-for-TV movies and miniseries spawned by Stephen King’s books. Watching it felt like coming home. The series has the substance of so much TV and film I devoured in my teenage years.

The first few episodes had their problems–uneven acting, dangling plot lines and inconsistent cinematography–but high points as well, such as one of the best werewolf transformations I’ve seen, and I believed firmly that Hemlock Grove was going to be a wonderful diversion. Lately, though, I’ve found my interest in the show waning. It’s in part due to its uneven quality.

But also the fact that Hemlock Grove is just the latest show to become an active participant in the smut arms race.

To wrap your head around my point, I want you to think about what defines premium content on the top-tier subscription cable channels, and then keep that in mind while I continue. Read the rest of this entry →

The Rise of Emotoporn and 21st Century Grief

August 10, 2014 in General Topics

Americans have a problem. We’ve been bombarded and over-saturated with information to a greater extent than our ancestors. Our fading idealism is on display on Facebook; our angst is broadcasted within Twitter’s character limit. We are a generation that encounters soft-core smut as click-bait on news websites, and we’re driven to consume #trendinghashtags and viral videos. We’re not only living through Andy Warhol’s famous claim, but propagating it in status updates and the almighty share button. We’re wallowing in a constantly-connected world that has geared us to expect short bursts of hyper-focused data.

“Just one more click,” the Internet says.

We are now trained to see the world as a stream of content. And yet, we are increasingly disconnected from that world, experiencing it more and more through a screen accessible everywhere we go. The 21st century digital boy compulsively checks his smartphone. If he isn’t addicted to porn, there’s a fair chance that he’s addicted to the Internet in general, but he’s largely a functional addict, and so it goes. Read the rest of this entry →

The Superman Syndrome

June 19, 2011 in Other Stuff

Turn back the clock to a newspaper stand sitting idly at some miscellaneous street corner in the early summer of June, 1938. Your eyes scan the stand’s publications, flipping past the grim headlines of the day, and settle on the bright artwork and bold title of Action Comics, #1. On that cover, you find a character that is so utterly appealing in that age of financial depression, despotic power grabs, and civil listlessness. This is Superman, lifting that car like it is the easiest thing on Earth — this alien at once a part of home and so enticingly removed from it. Read the rest of this entry →