How To Appreciate TV
By: Connor Lenahan
Last night I got to hear Chuck Klosterman, author of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs and But What If We’re Wrong?, among other terrific books, speak at the Brattle Theater in Cambridge. While listening to Klosterman discuss his fascinating take on how we will view culture in the future (the subject of his latest book) he took a question from the audience that fascinated him. The man wanted to know what Chuck wanted to be remembered for in his career. A great question, Klosterman came down to the idea of appreciative criticism.
I do not have the exact quote, but this was basically his concept, something notable in all of his books thus far: What we choose to analyze and appreciate specifically is less important than the act of considering it at all. For example, in Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs Klosterman takes a look at Saved By The Bell and The Real World with regards to their impact on society.
You will be far more likely to see people talking about television’s golden age from the perspective of Tony Soprano and Walter White than Zack Morris.
But this quote connected with me on a personal level. I was introduced to Chuck Klosterman roughly ten years ago by my Dad who had been listening to that chapter on audiobook. I’ve listened or read to nearly everything he’s put out since and I have found my brain to meld somewhat to his way of thinking. My Dad also noted early in Unbreakable that he could pick up on where Klosterman’s style had influenced my own.
But beyond conventions, this exercise basically explains most of the shows I watch. I’ve written thousands of words about Thomas the Tank Engine and The Simpsons on here doing roughly the same thing, albeit to much lesser success. It’s not an act of trying to convince anyone that Thomas the Tank Engine should be Emmy-worthy, but rather to discuss how it’s an impactful show to a disabled community. I do regularly stand up for my belief that The Simpsons is the most important American comedy show of all time, but I don’t care if you believe me.
Klosterman’s point is that caring enough to analyze the shows and entertainment we love is a positive move for us all. While people might get sick of headlines about inclusivity in film franchises or morality in reality television but that’s a positive effect of caring what we are watching. We become a more contemplative and interactive society about pop culture by analyzing it.
This is what I go to school for, and this is what I want to do with my life. It was surreal to have this sentiment put to words last night, yet here it is. Cultural analysis doesn’t have to be limited – extending our view to anything impactful can help create a better connected society. Your crazy love does have value, so long as you give it value.