The basis of this blog is an article I read on the WandaVision series on Disney+. The author of this article addresses complaints that the series is too slow, and that instead the problem is that viewers have forgotten how to watch TV. I respectfully disagree. It isn’t that we’ve forgotten how to watch TV (or to read, for that matter). It’s that we handle content differently than our parents and grandparents did generations ago, and we handle it differently because the world is different. We have more information coming to us in a day than our predecessors had in a lifetime. I realized yesterday that my watch alone delivers not only the time, but the date, the weather, news alerts, texts, emails, a fitness tracker, calendar events, reminders, and even a timer and an app that measures the decibel level of noise in the area. That’s all coming directly to me through a device strapped to my wrist! Do you know what my Granddaddy’s watch did? It told him the time. That’s it. If he wanted more, he had to find it himself, and that information might be dated by the time he got it.
I think we all know that we’re inundated by information, so naturally our attention spans are shrinking. We’re used to the main points being delivered quickly, so we expect it everywhere, including our entertainment. I’ve been writing for 20 years, so I can testify to the fact that the advice that plots need to move faster and you have to “grab them with action” started coming when the ebook revolution hit. It seems movies and television are the same: there’s plenty vying for our attention, so you have to pull us in quick to win the race for that precious focus. Nobody had the patience for the “slow burn” method to story telling anymore. Tell us immediately what it matters, or we’re on to the next thing. Writers are even advised to skip book prologues and flashbacks as much as possible. Get to the story, please. Nobody’s got time for setup, thank you very much.
As I said, it isn’t that we’ve forgotten how to watch TV (or consume any other information), it’s that we’ve adapted to a changing world. This, in fact, is probably the first step of our evolution in life with technology. Is it a good thing? I guess it depends on how you look at it. I like that plots are faster paced and get to the point quicker. We live in an interconnected world that doesn’t need three chapter setting descriptions, or an entire first season exploring the background and development of each character before you can actually get to a story in Season 2. I’m also a plot junkie, so of course this works for me. Others, like the author of that WandaVision article, obviously don’t feel the same way. There are still fans of the “slow burn” method to story telling out there, but I’ve noticed it usually comes with a disclaimer so people like me don’t bombard them with bad reviews over personal tastes and misunderstandings over what they’re getting.
Story telling has always evolved. I remember in the 90’s when there were complaints about Star Trek: Deep Space Nine going to a story arc for the Dominion War. They felt they were rewarding dedicated viewers, but the complaints came hard and heavy from casual viewers who felt they shouldn’t have to watch every week to understand and enjoy the show. Except for soap operas, story arcs weren’t done in TV then – now, they’re the norm. Getting straight into that arc and handling all of the other elements within it is the next step in evolution.
You can resist it, of course, and there are those like Marvel who are successful enough that they can afford to take a risk in breaking the rules, because they know their fans will come back to the next show if they don’t like this one. Actually, you don’t even have to be successful to take the risk. You can go for it, if you wish, but understand that you are taking a risk and it may or may not work. And if you’re the consumer, you have to decide how patient you will be in seeking out the rule breakers, and how gracious you will be when you don’t get what you expect.
WandaVision nearly lost me, and might still. Last week’s episode finally gave me what I wanted from the show, but I’ll admit that I didn’t hurry to watch it (I didn’t watch it until Saturday). We’re mid-season, so we’ll see what happens in today’s episode and whether I hang in there or hang it up. Hopefully, the Loki series will get back to what I expect from Marvel, and tie it all together in the ways this fan likes it.
That’s all today. Happy Friday, and have a great weekend.