Written by: Gene Cole, Opinions Editor
Media has gotten better and better over the past few decades. Films budgets are swelling, TV content is way more diverse, and even mainstream video games are made with borderline cinematic graphics and writing. The best of what we can watch, listen, and read is always available for a wider audience than ever.
But quality is exhausting. I’ve started glazing over a lot of people recommending things as being important, and disregarding any sort of awards ceremonies to guide my media diet. I can’t remember the last time I’ve watched an Oscar-nominated movie, or watched a full series without diving into my phone during an episode and a half. It’s not abnormal for people to consume things much more casually, and people shouldn’t think about these things as guilty pleasures.
Something that fills this niche for me is pro-wrestling, particularly Monday Night Raw. This is a terrible television genre in a lot of respects: its entertainment value is often based on people putting themselves in physical danger, it can often be toxically masculine, and its scripted comedy often isn’t entertaining. There are a lot of good matches from incredible athletes to see every week, and instances of very good comedy, but its overall quality is quite low, to say the least.
These are all valid reasons to not watch Monday Night Raw in the first place, but the show has been on the air for 25 years and currently runs three hours of every week. Why? Because we know exactly what we’re getting each time: charismatic athletes trying to entertain a crowd. It doesn’t land every week, but it doesn’t have to, because it’s not the end of the world if a comfort-food show has a few rough episodes.
This is a quality that a lot of the higher-quality shows don’t really have. Netflix series like Stranger Things and HBO series like Westworld run on strict narratives that rely on each episode playing an integral part. Bad episodes hurt a lot harder when every episode is part of what the overall story leans upon. It’s the equivalent of going to a nice steakhouse where you’ve never had a bad meal only to be served an overcooked steak that you can’t get remade. To that end, media can just be junk food sometimes, and there’s no shame in a diet that consists of that most of the time.
As a student, culture is hard to keep up with between work, family, and most importantly school. A lot of the time, taking in a casual Netflix drama during our commute is exactly what we need. The superhero genre has definitely been filling this void for people lately outside of people’s homes, with three Marvel movies every year that all feature a consistent special effects and comical tones. These films rarely tend to be perfect, but thanks to their reputation they draw to the theatres a lot of people who usually just download movies once they’ve been out for a while. They don’t need to be perfect; they just need to be good enough for us to justify spending our time on them.
Of course, like junk food, it isn’t healthy for this to be your only type of media consumption. It’s important to try new things, experiment with other genres, and take in things that are topical. But there’s a reason so many people watch CW shows or play free games like Fortnite all the time: they’re easy to start up and don’t take a lot out of you. You’re allowed to be tired and not aware of what’s going on, and shouldn’t be ashamed to put personal enjoyment over quality.