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television

<b><i>The Tale</i></b><br><b>Directed by Jennifer Fox</b><br>Gamechanger Films, 2018<br>114 minutes

Cruelty With a Point

In life and in depictions of life, when is it better to look directly at instances of suffering, and when to turn away? When is looking a form of violation, and when is it a moral imperative? As the documentary image proliferates, so, too, does a discussion that has preoccupied feature storytelling: When it comes to images of violence and brutality, what needs to be seen to be believed, and which representations can’t be justified? Major news outlets now air images of death and suffering as matters of course; in a culture of mass documentation and dissemination, images that exist exist to be seen. Social-media platforms put kitten frolics and beheading videos on an equal footing. “Viewer discretion” and trigger warnings only grow more elaborate, even as they become superfluous: Who now sits down in front of any sort of screen, at any time and with even the most benign intentions, unprepared for some form of visual assault?

Illustration by Ina Jang

The Male Glance

In the spring of 2013, HBO conducted a sly experiment on the “elite” TV-viewing public. It aired two new shows—both buddy dramas—back to back. Each was conceived as a short self-contained season, limited by design to a small number of episodes. Each had a single talented and idiosyncratic director for the entire season, and each dispensed with the writers’ room in favor of a unified authorial vision. 

Screening the World

Television may be remembered, among other things, as having entered a “golden age” even as it ceased to exist. As a term, television feels increasingly inapt, vestigial, at risk of acquiring the air quotes that presage irrelevance. Still, it refers to a form—episodic, moving-image narrative—for which we have not yet found a better alias, beyond awkward talk of streaming content and on-demand services, and the shorthand that is Netflix, a brand name that suggests the merger of two media, neither of which is television. As good “television” proliferates, television as a medium and as an experience is in decline.

Following The Following

February 20, 2013

The Fox Network claims to have a new hit TV show on its hands called The Following, starring not some run-of-the-mill actor six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon, but Kevin Bacon himself. People in Charlottesville might be curious about this show, because it deals with a university in Virginia and regularly refers to Edgar Allan Poe.

Illustration by Gary Panter

Man Oh Man—It’s Manna Man

Manna Man checks the internet. He glances over the Local sections of over three-hundred small-town weekly newspapers to which he subscribes. He takes notes. He categorizes and tries not to make assumptions. The mail carrier detests Manna Man. The mail carrier comes home on Thursdays and asks his wife if she’ll keep quiet should Ben Culler’s house burn down mysteriously one night soon.