I’ve been reading Saga, a critically acclaimed comic series by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. Think about a cross between Romeo and Juliet and Game of Thrones by way of Star Wars, and you’ll have the general idea.
Alana and Marko are our star-crossed couple, members of two warring species in a conflict that has lasted so long that the origin has largely been forgotten and the actual fighting is done by proxy through conscripts and allies on different worlds. Yet somehow, they end up falling for each other and have a baby… and that puts them on the run from both sides. Can’t have someone showing that it might just be possible to not be at war, after all.
While they’re on the run, Alana briefly works as an actor on the Open Circuit, a kind of virtual reality successor to television. And she has this conversation with Yuma, a set decorator for the bad soap opera she works on:
Alana: We’re not soldiers, we’re entertainers.
Yuma: Like hell. We’re drug dealers.
Yuma: It’s true, the Circuit has only ever existed to pacify an angry and hopeless population.
Alana: Maybe shitty shows like ours, but what about actual good ones? I got into “Filament City” when I was young, changed the way I thought about poverty.
Yuma: And what did you do? Join a nonprofit organization? Volunteer at a soup kitchen? Or did you lock yourself in a tiny room, shut the blinds and mainline every transmission like a junkie?
Yuma: Some art might have the power to change people, but the Circuit can only ever change the way we feel, and never for very long.
— Saga Chapter 20, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
And you know what? It kinda hits home, not just about television but about a lot of our entertainment in 2018.
Art can change people and give them something to aspire to… just look at all of the folks who ended up in science because of Star Trek, for one example. People have found love through fandoms. People went on to become authors and artists after starting with fan fiction and fan art.
But Netflix, Hulu and the internet put so much entertainment at our fingertips that it’s easy to get lost in the escapism. And as someone who’s managed to watch whole seasons of a series in a weekend, I do wonder what I might accomplish if I pulled the plug.
But that’s just it… I wonder. And odds are pretty good that I’ll go back to watching Lost in Space shortly after I hit the “publish” button.
So yeah, I might be a junkie…
(But check out Saga and Lost in Space, they both look pretty good so far.)