FOMO Media

When it comes to media, I have a fear of missing out.  I started to notice it when the MCU became more of a “thing.”  If I missed a Marvel movie, I felt left out and unable to understand a meme or joke online.  (Insert Captain America’s I understand that reference meme.) 

This FOMO became more apparent during the pandemic. Marvel released WandaVision and everyone was talking about it.  I deeply enjoyed the multilayered show, so I was eager to watch and see it unfold.  But I’ve watched too many things just because I didn’t want to miss out on what everyone was talking about.  That didn’t mean this media was good; often it was the opposite.  For example, I watched Falcon and the Winter Soldier not because I liked it.  I knew everyone online would be talking about it and I didn’t want to be out of the loop.  I was slow to watch it, but I still did.

I think Marvel in particular plays on this FOMO.  You can’t miss one part of the story unfolding over years’ worth of media, or you’ll miss a quick reference or character in another piece of media.  I haven’t felt the same push from DC.  I didn’t watch Joker or either cut of Justice League.  I watched Wonder Woman 1984, mostly because it was the pandemic, and I was starved for entertainment.  I felt no pull to see Joker and I don’t feel I missed out.  After watching a few reviews, I gleaned enough to know I didn’t need to see it.  There was no way I was sitting down for Snyder’s Justice League when I haven’t even seen Batman v. Superman.  No thank you.

On the opposite side of this coin, I find myself watching shows and films that don’t get spotlighted enough.  Legends of Tomorrow continues to entertain and delight and I look forward to the upcoming season.  I like the Umbrella Academy and plan to continue with it.  There is simply too much media to consume.  In fact, media shouldn’t be consumed.  It should be savored.  I imagine I’ll revisit both Legends and Umbrella Academy, but I doubt I’ll revisit any of the Marvel shows.

With the oversaturation of comic book heroes, burnout is bound to happen.  Marvel will probably be pumping out movies—and now shows—until the sun explodes.  I’ll check out Loki and Thor 4.  But I feel tired. 

I want new stories with new characters.  I want new voices.  As much as I like Marvel, I see the flaws.  There is too much queer-baiting and no substantive representation.  There needs to be more voices at the table.  The studio continues to be average when it could push itself to be more.

In the end, I don’t want more media.  I want better media worth talking about.

A Theatre Geek’s Lament

I was recently watching a video that featured a clip from the new musical Hadestown.  I had tickets to see this show in New York City this month, before the world changed.  I was excited to return to Broadway and enjoy some new shows.  But that’s not happening now or any time soon.

I don’t listen to a musical’s soundtrack until after I see the show.  It may mean I’m a bit lost, but I prefer watching the story unfold for the first time without any lyrics spoiling something.  Then I tend to listen to it on repeat (obsessively) once I’ve seen the show.  It is a way I can relive the theatre experience at any moment, playing it out in my head while the songs play.

I’m a theatre geek and I love to sing, although others feel differently.  I miss the world of my undergrad theatre and working to create a show.  I helped every semester with building sets—it was a requirement for my minor—and I was part of the crew a few times.  I helped dress actors in 12th Night—I was the only one after the other student quit suddenly.  I was in charge of laundry, costumes, and helping the actors dress if they needed it.  I operated a spotlight for Sweeny Todd and had to rush from the perch to the bathroom every show during intermission.  I hid onstage to operate a pneumatic door for Medea; it required paying close attention and timing cues perfectly with the actors’ movement.  These are all college experiences; I was active in theatre at my high school while I was a student and a few years after to help.

Theatre is a collaborative form of magic.  When I watched Hamilton on Disney+, I realized how the screen flattened the experience of live theatre.  A well-made musical movie can usually overcome this barrier.  I didn’t dislike Hamilton, but it didn’t bring me the same thrill I felt seeing live shows.  Being in the same space as the actors as they perform with passion and heart is my favorite drug.  It can be fun and light, as with a show like Book of Mormon.  Or it can be intense and heartbreaking like my favorite musicals Spring Awakening and Next to Normal.  It is truly an experience when you feel raw and fulfilled after an amazing show.  It is cathartic.  Being in the same space, experiencing a show creates a charged environment that cannot be captured on film.  Sitting in my living room, watching an edited version of Hamilton will never live up to seeing the same show live.

I don’t know when Broadway will return.  It will never be the same as before; the world has changed so many parts of life.  I can belt out soundtracks in my house (alone), but it will never thrill and move me in the same way.  I hope I will see Hadestown one day; I’ve heard great things and I dig the slips I’ve seen online.  It is the Orpheus story by way of New Orleans in terms of music and style.  I’ll likely listen to the soundtrack one days, even if I never see the show.  I’m excited for shows that aren’t based on previous intellectual property.  New ideas are good, you guys.  I love classis Broadway shows, mostly from watching musical movies growing up.  But I love seeing new blood injected into such a classic artform. 

Theatre will endure.  It will outlast us all.  But it will never be the same.

Academics and Fandoms: You Can be a Scholar and a Fan

Academics are nerds.  I say that as an academic.  Generally speaking, we love media.  We love to analyze media because we love it.  I hear people question the idea that academics are fans of the media they analyze, as if loving something can’t co-exist with being an academic.  My favorite fandom is the Whedonverse.  I love to dig in and look at various characters and themes and pull them apart to examine every facet.  But I can also turn off my academic brain and enjoy the shows as entertainment.

I’m a casual observer of Star Wars and I see attacks hurled at academics who dare to examine their sacred texts.  I’ve known professors who love movies and see them as a reflection of the Arthurian myths; Luke is Arthur, Han is Lancelot, Leia is Gwen.  Of course, it only works for the first film, before the audience knows that Luke and Leia are siblings.  I can see people—fans—dogpiling this professor if he dismantled these characters on Twitter or YouTube.

I never watched Game of Thrones, but I enjoy listening to arguments as to why the show took a nose-dive in the latter seasons.  I recognize how passionate these scholars are about this show, only to be let down by the showrunners.  Even if I don’t know the content, I understand the excitement of dissecting a piece of media.

The only media I would consider examining lately would be DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.  I don’t know what I would say about it, but it would be fun.  I’d say go watch this awesome crazy show.  I could talk about various characters’ masculinity, and how the show presents a spectrum.  I could talk about queer representation.  Or character development or superpowers or magic or my love for Gary as a great wacky character.  I could gush about this show, but I don’t feel like doing the work, honestly.  I’d rather, in this time of Rona, re-watch the latest season, turn off my brain, and laugh.

Why do academics love looking at and talking about media?  It is a common language.  Few people have read novels like Mary Barton or Passing (humble brag).  But people have seen Wonder Woman or Star Wars.  Citing media to speak about queer theory, colonialism, feminism, and more helps people not only understand the theories, but also the very media they consume.  I, for one, expanded my understanding of feminism and language by reading books by scholars looking at Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  One of my favorite papers, which I hope to revise and expand, is about Firefly, River Tam, and the weaponized female body.  I need to do more reading to expand it, but the topic makes me excited to do so.  That’s the best feeling a scholar can have, that carries us through long nights and tough times.  We study media because we care.  Instead of mindlessly consuming media, we also want you to think critically about it, to expand your knowledge base and learn new ideas.  The goal of academics is to educate.  If we can bridge our ivory towers by talking about Game of Thrones or Star Wars, then so be it.

My Breaking Point – Health and Fitness

Brief context: Harry Potter as a series of books has always been important to me since they entered my life at age 11.  But I never expected how they would affect my life when it came to my weight.

During October 2018, I flew with a few friends to Orlando to go to Universal Studios and see the Wizarding World in person.  I’d been to the version on the west coast in California and didn’t deeply enjoy myself because of the heat and having a toddler in tow.  So I was excited to say the least.

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Diagon Alley, Gringott’s Dragon

The first day we headed straight through the main park at Universal and all the way to the back to enter Diagon Alley.  I was pumped.  I had a butter beer and was amazed at the detailed world around me.  Then I went to sit in a test seat for one of the rides.  I didn’t fit.  I was too big.  I was pissed and super sad.  I hadn’t thought about it, but my weight had gotten out of hand and now I couldn’t enjoy myself on vacation.

When I got home, I knew I needed to make a change.  I’d been seeing a trainer for over a year and nothing had come of it.  I didn’t push myself and he didn’t insist that I push myself.  I had started working out when I was in grad school, but I still ate a ton of garbage food.  I didn’t watch my diet and I didn’t exercise outside of our sessions.  I wasn’t taking care of my body while I enlarged the scope of my brain.  I didn’t feel like the workouts were helping and often cancelled when I just didn’t feel like leaving the house.

I was deeply depressed and isolated myself after I graduated in May 2018.  I would go days without leaving the house.  So I had been looking forward to my Orlando trip.  But I came back depressed and sad again.

I ended up looking for a new house in a new town four hours away.  I saw this move as a chance to make a dramatic change.  I looked into local gyms with professional trainers nearby.  After another bout of depression post-move, I sought out a new trainer in my new town.

I met Joel when I was 293 pounds and very out of shape.  During our first training session, I squatted into position and found myself stuck in an odd crouch.  I couldn’t get myself up and was left to sort of roll/fall to my side to get out the position.  This deeply embarrassed me, and I thought about giving up.  Joel asked me about my goals, and I told him about being upset in Orlando because I couldn’t fit on the rides.  He understood and set me up for 3 workout sessions per week.  I had only done 2 per week max before.  But I knew I had to get serious and I took him up on the challenge.

The first month or so was the worst, mainly because I didn’t to build the habit of driving myself to the gym.  My anxiety was often high, and I postponed or outright cancelled a few sessions.  But eventually I made it a habit, which helped dampen the anxiety.  I began losing a few pounds and I grew strong.  I saw actual progress, the kind I had never had before.

I was told long ago that I would not lose weight because of the medications I was on.  I resigned myself to be unhappy in my body forever.  I worked on my brain and didn’t look in a mirror.  I felt uncomfortable in my own flesh and I deep hated myself physically.

But then I lost 10 pounds.  Then 20.  And so on.

As of writing, I have lost a little over 40 pounds.  My first weight goal is to be 200 pounds.  My ultimate goal is around 175-180.  For the record, I am 5’9” tall.

Although it felt like shit in the moment and for months after, I have Harry Potter to thank for kicking my ass into gear and starting my weight loss journey.

And yes, I bought a cloak.

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Oct 2018, 293 lbs

 

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Sept 2019, 40 lbs lighter

Higher, Further, Faster: Imbuing Captain Marvel with Meaning

I used to have Deadpool on my iPhone as the Lock Screen and Home Screen.  But after starting my weight loss journey, I wanted a sort of motivation mascot and the best place to keep this icon was my phone, which I look at often.  After a few months of searching, I settled on Captain Marvel as my mascot.

I’ve never read a Captain Marvel comic (but it’s on my list, I promise).  I saw the character for the first time when she debuted in the MCU this year.  Although I have mixed feelings on the movie, I watched it twice in theaters this March.  There has been debate about Brie Larson’s portrayal and her dynamics with other characters.  I’ll admit that besides the memory loss plot structure, it was a cookie-cutter Marvel movie.  So what did I see in Captain Marvel?

Captain Marvel, for me, has a character similar to Captain America Steve Rogers in that both are empty signifiers.  Both have vague characteristics, but they stand for a bland positive idea.  Carol Danvers is a mere human before she gains her power through an accident.  It is not her power but her character that gives her strength.  She always gets back up when she’s knocked down.  I’m willing to admit that I’m imbuing Danvers with more that appears in her movie or Avengers: Endgame.  But she is the most powerful character in the MCU and she’s able to go against Thanos one-to-one.  She protects people with her immense power.  Someone with her level of power could easily be greedy, but she empowers her friends and helps the helpless instead.  Like Rogers, she does the right thing.  She uses her power for good.

I first saw Brie Larson acting in The United States of Tara as Toni Collette’s daughter.  I have a few of her well-praised movies in my Netflix queue (I’ll see them one day).  I loved her in Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World, which is one of my favorite recent movies.  (You can’t go wrong with Edgar Wright.)  I cheered when she won an Oscar.  She is going to be one of the defining actors of my generation.  And despite the backlash, I like her politics based on what I’ve seen.  Larson also seems like a cool person.

So one day I searched for iPhone wallpapers featuring Captain Marvel (see below).  I bid Deadpool farewell after explaining that I needed a new icon to motivate me.  He’s cool with it.

Now when I look at my phone, which I do too much, I feel a warm spark of empowerment.  Yes, Captain Marvel is not perfect—no one is.  But, like me, she tries every day, and I think that counts more.

“Higher, Further, Faster” – Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers)

For those wondering, after six months of work, I have lost around 40 pounds and I have gained tons of muscle strength.  So I guess Captain Marvel as motivation icon is working.

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Lock Screen

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Home Screen

 

PS: I know I’m putting way too much thought into this entire thing.

Fandoms and Universes: A Quick Essay

151784Recently, I took stock of all the various fandoms of which I am a part.  Here’s the list: Harry Potter, Whedonverse, Supernatural, iZombie, and Veronica Mars.  Probably Marvel if you only count the MCU, not the comics.  Some of the DC CW shows almost made the list too.  I’m not a member of the Star Wars fandom, although I’ve seen all of the movies at least once (not Solo).  I’ve never seen the Star Trek shows or movies.  I’ve seen a handful of Dr. Who episodes at random but I keep hesitating to dive into that intense fandom.  There is too much content to devour it all.

The worlds are too big!

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Many of the fandoms I joined when they were just beginning.  I read Harry Potter as it came out.  I watched the Whedon shows on DVD (before Netflix was a streaming services).  I began watching Supernatural and iZombie when the first seasons aired.  I was two seasons late to Veronica Mars but soon caught up and finished before the last (at the time) season aired.  I went to my first Marvel movie because I knew that Joss Whedon was directing The Avengers, which would be the final team-up movie featuring all of these new characters (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America).  I’ve seen every Marvel movie since then (Curse you, Whedon!).  But, in short, I joined these fandoms on the ground floor.

Why do I avoid new fandoms?  Why doesn’t I just watch Dr. Who or Star Trek already?

The simple answer is that I’m afraid.

To be clear, I’m not afraid of the fandom itself.  I’m afraid of diving face first into a deep pool of content.  Dr. Who is a huge series.  Where would I start?  The rebooted seasons?  The older seasons?  What about Star Trek?  Do I begin with the original series?  In what order do I watch the Star Wars movies?  This doesn’t begin to include the expanded universe of all these fandoms.  That’s too much homework for one lifetime!

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In other areas, I’m more selective.  I saw the DC movies Wonder Woman and Shazam in theaters and rented Aquaman.  But I avoided Suicide Squad, Batman Vs. Superman, and Justice League (which I actually forgot existed while writing this post).  Continuing with DC, I’ve seen all of The Flash, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow (which I love).  I’ve only watched half of season one of Arrow though.  It doesn’t grab me as much.  Barry Allen is more watchable than Oliver Queen, in my opinion.  I prefer Grant Gustin’s Barry to what I’ve seen of Ezra Miller’s portrayal, although I loved Miller in Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Like I said, I’ve seen all the Marvel movies, but I didn’t watch Agents of Shield.  I enjoyed Jessica Jones on Netflix and liked Daredevil, but I haven’t watched Iron Fist and wasn’t drawn in by Luke Cage.  My fear with the new Disney Plus streaming service is that the new content featuring Marvel movie characters will be required viewing to understand the movies.  From what I’ve heard, this will probably be the case, namely with WandaVision and the second Dr. Strange movie (LINK).

b6c2f9925ae1d585576022bc06a20832.jpgThe MCU is becoming far too big, and frankly, I’m losing steam.  I’m a dirty casual viewer, so they have to take it easy on me.  (I’ve never read a Marvel comic and I’ve barely read any comics.)  But I know Marvel and Disney will not slow down anytime soon.  Marvel movies like Avengers: Endgame are now cultural events.  The comic book movie has come a long way.  What would Christopher Reeve think?  DC and Marvel, no matter the setbacks, are in it for the long haul.  They are not going away.

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What does that mean for the viewer?  Well, we have to learn to be more selective.  I’m not going to become a part of the Star Wars fandom, but I’ll go see The Rise of Skywalker in the theaters.  I’ll probably never watch Star Trek or Dr. Who as a whole.  I’ll continue watching the CW shows (except iZombie, which is in its final season) and go to see the Marvel movies.  I’ll wait for a week to see the next DC movie, if I go at all.  I’m not planning on seeing the next Fantastic Beasts movies after the dud that was the second movie.  Basically, I’ll seek out the characters I find interesting (like Legends of Tomorrow, seriously, go watch it now) and ignore or miss the characters or content I don’t find compelling.  I know fans of the properties I avoid probably don’t like everything I find enjoyable.  It’s a free world.  But we can both enjoy our respective fandoms without swaying the other.  I’ll praise the likes iZombie and Veronica Mars because fewer people know about these shows, but that is becoming rarer.  Everyone knows about Star Wars and Dr. Who.  For the most part, I’ll trust the recommendations of myfriend and family, but that doesn’t mean I’ll watch everything they suggest.

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The sheer amount of media in the world today (movies, shows, books, etc.) is too much to take in and not feel exhausted.  Modern media is overwhelming.  The viewer must decide what to filter out to avoid a never-ending list of shows on your chosen streaming services.

Don’t mindlessly consume.  Use your judgment and narrow the flood of media to a stream.

Good luck, fellow viewer!enhanced-17040-1446660609-11