Diving into the dumpster of media returns, more often than not, nuggets of gold rather than simple garbage.
Remember when we all thought 2016 was the worst year ever? We were such green summer children. At the time, I was studying for my A-levels at a high-pressure school, applying to uni, and constantly reading the (ever-horrifying) news. It was then that I made the decision that I was only going to consume happy media. And now, in what actually is the worst year ever, I stand by that even more than I did before. Life is shit and then you die. So why would I, in the brief respite I get from being a cog in the capitalist machine, watch a film about dying in war, or dying in space, or dying in the gritty underworld of NYC?
Last year The Glasgow Guardian published a review of Uncut Gems that described it as 90 minutes of pure unadulterated anxiety. I honestly couldn’t think of a much worse way to end a day of stress, worry, and lectures about war than to invite fear into my life like that. The films I enjoy watching are ones I’ve seen before, or even better, Hallmark made-for-TV movies where you know the exact plot before you even press play. Now that’s what you call trash media.
At the end of the day, I prefer the media I consume to relax to be comforting, and soothing. It could be the generalised anxiety disorder, it could be the politics degree, it could be the social media addiction. But I just have zero interest in consuming media that is stressful or upsetting. Why would I watch Leo fight a bear in The Revenant when I could watch Archie Andrews seemingly die after a bear attack, only to stroll out the woods and sit his SATs in Riverdale? And this expands across media – in the throes of my interest in true crime I would often have several podcasts about murder on the go and would watch documentaries on it as I did chores – now I listen to My Dad Wrote A Porno and rewatch Glee. Giving yourself up to the world of trash media is healing. The day you consume the content that makes you feel good, rather than whatever is being talked about, or gets great reviews, is the day your free time starts truly being yours.
There are, of course, exceptions to the rule. We live in the golden age of TV and to pretend we don’t would be remiss. I recently watched the first episode of The Handmaid’s Tale – perhaps the biggest possible offender, considering quite how depressing it is when applied to today’s current political climates – and it was one of the best episodes of TV I’ve watched in a long time. Chernobyl sparked what looks to be a lifelong fascination with the disaster and the aftermath, and the characters from Money Heist live in my mind rent-free. I’m not advocating trash 24/7. But nine times out of 10, after I’ve read the news or spent all day studying the Iraq War or been told I can’t see my friends or family or leave the flat, sitting down, opening a bottle of wine and yelling at a terribly written, terribly acted show or film is the happiest option. Far happier than watching a show where the characters are as miserable as I am and then they die/get arrested/face more misery. Remember that so much of culture is there to entertain you. It is there to fill up your hours with joy and laughter and positivity. Choosing trash is not a comment on your intelligence or personality; it’s a choice about how you want to look after yourself. So, you can keep Breaking Bad; they just put Katy Keene on iPlayer.