But we’re living in a time of extreme crisis almost nothing on TV or in
the movies is designed to get us thinking about how to fix our
problems. If anything, most of the stuff on TV is designed to jack up
our anxiety level without offering any solutions except the short-term
fixes of buying and eating — witness the endless reality shows in which
ordinary people slave away and scheme against each other for weeks on
end for a 1 in 12 shot at a (pick one) modeling job/date with a
non-deformed, non serial-killing person/chance to be shouted at by
To quote Ghostbusters, as I often do these days for no other reason than it’s on one of the basic-cable channels on like a continuous loop and my insomnia’s been rough lately, “We’ve got a city blowing up and you guys are not giving me any answers.”
I think a lot of the crazy teabag rage has come from a vague sense (and as always, a disclaimer: not justifying it, just trying to understand) that our lives are not what we think they should be. We saw this with the purpose-vacuum a lot of people said they felt after 9/11, when they seized on George W. Bush as the man who would give their lives reason for existing, a grand struggle they could be part of, like our grandparents seemed to have.
(Not understanding, of course, that the grand struggles are only really grand in retrospect. While they’re going on they’re just crazy shit that is happening to you that you are dealing with as best you can. War movies aren’t about the war, they’re about how we have to remember the last war in order to survive another one.)
The crazy teabag rage, like the crazy Islamofascist rage before it, and the crazy Clenis rage before that, and I don’t know, I was like 6 during the Carter administration but there must have been some nutjobbery there too, comes in part from this place where we feel we are fucked and no one else even notices. We are losing our jobs, losing our homes, losing our minds, and on TV people are eating worms for money and our politicians are telling us it’s not that bad.
We do not see the world we know reflected back at us and that’s frightening, because like in 2003 when literally no one cared that the president was breaking the law, we start asking, “Am I just totally batshit rice krispie treats crazy here?” And the problem with all that crazy rage is that some of it isn’t crazy. Can you tell me, though, what the difference would look like on television, to someone who just flew in from like Mars or something? The point of the story about the boy who cried wolf is that the wolf shows up in the end and kills everybody. All the noise makes it impossible to tell where the real danger is.
Our escapism is only escapism until it stops being fun, and it’s only fun until you can’t afford the cable subscription or the ticket to the playhouse anymore. Then you’re on the street corner with a giant sign that says THE END IS NEAR and all you see is people rushing by you, on their way to the trains that are taking them anywhere but here.