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Disasters as Common Experience
The mass media world of the postwar through the dawn of the Internet was for the most part a thin gray goo with a few isolated sparkles. It is easy to forget this because we brought the classics with us to the new world and left the dross behind, or maybe we just learned to appreciate Grandma’s cheap junk as today’s antiques.
Contemporary blockbuster media (superhero movies, prestige television series, the occasional Star War) must convince people to pay attention. The contemporary mass culture industry has to make art that astonishes someone rather than just making art that is unobjectionable to everyone. This makes for better television but is less effective as a source of common experience.
Like Mama’s Family or Donny and Marie, a deadly virus that takes our loved ones from us doesn’t care if we opt in. It’ll be there at 6PM, in our living rooms, every day, whether we tune in or not.
The interesting media of my childhood was counter-media, which is a dead idea. I hope we come out of this ok.