"You" (On Netflix.)
Admittedly I watch lots of TV. For the longest time I thought this was a weakness. My dad is a doer and was not great fan of TV time. I have these great memories of him standing on the back porch on a Saturday early afternoon popping a Miller Genuine Draft, tying a red bandana around his head, and marching off into the honeysuckled backyard to tackle some type of outdoor project. He’d saunter inside later in the day, flip on the TV, watch about 20 minutes of some World War II movie, and then charge back into the wild. I, however, have come to believe in the power and quality of the television genre. While I don’t respect it like I respect a novel or poem, I do believe the writers (and actors and directors) are doing phenomenal work.
Jennifer and I spent most of our day today preparing for an upcoming trip. Fritz knows we’re leaving him, usually, when the North Face bags come out. Last night, however, after the KU game, we started watching You on Netflix. We didn’t watch one episode. We didn’t watch two episodes nor did we watch three. We watched FOUR episodes in a row. Today at 3 p.m. we set aside our packing and cleaning and planning and organizing to watch another episode.
As I said at open, I love TV. I even worked at a TV company! I believe fundamentally it is a superior form of art to movies because the creators have more screen time and therefore more leeway to tell their stories. Quality TV shows (The Wire) unfold more like novels than formulaic genre TV.
If you haven’t noticed, we’re in the era of the antihero (“n. A main character in a dramatic or narrative work who is characterized by a lack of traditional heroic qualities, such as idealism or courage.”) When I think of antiheroes (in literature, first to mind in general is Lucifer in Milton’s Paradise Lost) for TV, I think of Tony Soprano. I also think of Walter White. Here are two characters whose actions you accept because you like them. You want them to win.
(Now I’m looking up when the era of the antihero began to see what the internet says. General consensus is that the antihero for TV began with The Sopranos.)
You on Netflix is an antihero story. It also, as Jennifer said, incorporates literature, New York City, social media, and pop culture. This ought to make it a tremendous success for a younger crowd. We’re hooked though. I won’t say too much about it, but I will say it’s the fastest we’ve ever binge watched a show together.
As an aside, I think culture’s indulgence of the antihero offers insight into how we as a society see ourselves and the world about us. Subjective notions of right and wrong, once clearly defined, seem to have blurred. This interests me because while elements of morality—or, better put, interpretation of morality; what is and is not moral cannot change—merge, elements of political discourse stretch farther and farther apart. As the chasm widens, the vitriol deepens. It’s worth asking how many of the nation’s elected leaders, or leaders in general, are themselves antiheroes.
Makes me think of your good friend and mine, Bill, who wrote in Merchant of Venice: “To do a great right do a little wrong, And curb this cruel devil of his will.”