Stumbling upon media

I was reading an interview with someone and the interviewee mentioned that one thing that was lost in internet use is the experience that one has in the library of stumbling upon something unexpected and quite often unrelated to your query while searching the rows of shelves in a library.  I had a similar experience with the radio the last time I drove back from Indy from a doctor’s appointment.  I was scanning through the radio dial and found the Mo’Nique in the afternoon radio show and found it again today when I was driving to the airport.  It was such a nice surprise to hear the call in show and all these different people’s voices, joking, and telling stories.  It was a kind of communication that was mediated, for sure, by distance and technology, but it also felt rich, natural, and connected.  I imagine people all over the country listening to the show and calling in while stuck in rush hour traffic which is usually such an isolating, dehumanizing experience.  It was a nice surprise too since my idea of this kind of drive-time radio show, solidified in the many hours I spent listening to WINK 104 in Harrisburg when I was a kid, was always an abrasive, sexist, white, male, “shock jock”.  It was nice to hear voices that were warm and nice but definitely not boring.

Yesterday, I went to see The Tale of Despereaux which was pretty disappointing.  When the movie finished, I heard a chorus of young voices in the theatre not-quite-whisper, “the book was better”.  More than that it’s frightening to think about how normalized gender roles (“every girl wants to be a princess”), violence against women, and ethnic stereotypes (in a world populated by rats and mice, guess which ones are Anglo, and which ones are vaguely Arab, not to mention the continued representation of French and Italian people as eccentrics who are only good at being goofy and good at cooking) become in media, especially for young people.

I think I’ve always been accused of picking things apart to the point of not being able to enjoy anything.  And I wonder, am I just a hater whose cynicsm will just rub off on younger people so instead of enjoying something, in spite of its faults, they’re reminded how ugly and hopeless the world can be?  The thing about being critical, though, about disecting the things that I hear or read or watch is that when I stumble upon that rare thing that doesn’t rely on the ugly, played-out stereotypes, that even after dissection still maintains some mystery and magic, it’s that much better for really knowing how rare it is.