I had a conversation with a friend of mine over the weekend, his name’s Richard; you may know him as Count Libido . The subject was the immediacy of a lot of current popular entertainment, the transitory nature of it, and the fact that a lot of it won’t be appreciated or ever seen by later generations.
My friend maintained that we in our little sci-fi and fantasy genre have a real leg up on many other interests when it comes to sharing them with our children or younger relatives and many of us feel an obligation to share. With our box-sets and complete series we can share our passions much more easily than most. With our collections of classic comics we can drip feed our children the comics we read as children. We can show them whole TV shows in pretty much the same way we first saw them ourselves, the story and characters can unfold in the same way they did for us.
It’s an interesting point. I know of many friends who are sharing their various sci-fi loves with youngsters. People I know from the forum include someone who is introducing their young niece to classic Doctor Who adventures when she visits; some friends are currently working their way through the Star Trek original series with their offspring; others are working their way through classic black and white US sci-fi movies. There are always various discussions going about the best way to introduce the Star Wars films to our kids. My current stance on that is the “Machete Order” by the way and if you haven’t heard of it you can check it out here . Some would laugh at how much thought some parents put into which Star Wars film to show their kids first, but if there’s a discussion about exactly how to do it then you can see people have a passion for sharing their love with their kids and they want to do it right.
The current crop of reality shows and talents shows filling up our TVs, while bringing in viewers by the millions at the moment, probably won’t stand the test of time. Can you really see anyone sitting down with their kids in ten years time and re-watching the finale of series eight of The X-Factor or Big Brother 5 ?
Sure, some of the people featured on these shows, some of the winners, might still be well known names in the future, but I’d say the majority won’t even be remembered by the people watching now, never mind the next generation.
It’s the same story with the soaps; again millions tune in to watch them every week, but you don’t see shelves stacked with EastEnders DVDs or Coronation Street box-sets. Nobody really watches them again once they’ve aired, it’s just not possible. I can’t see anyone sitting down with their kids and watching the episode when Den told Angie he wanted a divorce. I remember that being a big thing at the time, but now you’ll only see it on one of those late night clip shows that Channel 4 or Five show late at night hosted by Robert Webb or Jimmy Carr. Out of context it means nothing.
It’s a similar case with sports, sure people may always rave about being at a certain event or final but they can’t share that with their kids in the same way that you or I could sit down and share a classic sci-fi TV show with our kids or slowly introduce them to a whole universe of stories. Sporting events like big news events are somewhat transitory; they mean things to the people who were there of course, and people remember where they were when the WTC towers fell, when Diana died, etc. My parents talk about staying up late to watch the Apollo moon landings, but to anyone born after these events they’re just history that happened. I’m not trying to lessen their importance or their impact, but they are history now and no matter the cultural or political impact any event has, that’s all they are now. That is just the way it is.
The Sporting Life
Now, I’m not looking down on other people’s interests. We each love different things and we can all be passionate about what ever we want to be passionate about. And I’m not being one of those geeks who’s dismissive of football or anything, but I can kind of see my friend’s point.
My own family has quite a big football following contingent and I’ve enjoyed watching games in familial situations, but after the game is over it becomes a statistic and unless you were actually there it isn’t really relevant any more. I was in Barcelona when Manchester United won the famed “treble” after beating Bayern Munich in 1999, but even watching a DVD of that season’s highlights can’t get across the feeling of being there. That sort of event is immediate and visceral. I know you can instil a love of the game or your chosen team in your kids; my own cousin has raised a pair of Man United fans because that happens to be his passion. But as I said above he can only really tell them about the past and maybe show them commemorative shows, but he can’t and wouldn’t sit down and watch all the games again.
Sure, with the TV and films we love we also have a sense of the first time we saw them, or where we were in life when we first encountered them, but, as I said earlier, there is the sense that we can pass on our passion in a more complete way than fans of some other things; we can show entire TV shows or films pretty much exactly as we first saw them ourselves.
It’s not a completely watertight argument; the ability to share programs and films, of course, expands to lovers of all genres of film and also for many episodic TV shows. And it’s hard to compare one person’s passion to another: you can love football without having seen every match your chosen teams ever played. You can be a lover of soaps or talents shows in the same way – you don’t have to have seen every second of something to gain a love for it. But I think my friend makes an interesting case and I do think it warrants discussion.
So, what are your thoughts? Is most of TV disposable and transitory, and is it a new thing or has there always been an aspect of this in television? Is sport spectatorship a transitory high or not? Are we of the sci-fi and fantasy genre in a pretty unique position with our complete shows? Is the ability to share a TV show in its entirety with our children a gift we have that people of other genres don’t have? And do you feel an obligation to share what you love with the next generation?