We shan’t be talking tomorrow, so let me wish you all (or, at least, you Americans) a very happy Independence Day. But I also need to let you know right off the bat that according to Gallup, pride in our home country is at an all-time low.
Why are we so glum? That’s a complicated question. Perhaps as we eat our grilled hot dogs, we’re pondering the fall of Kobayashi, the famed competitive eater who once ate 50 of ’em in one sitting. Or as we salute the flag, we realize that Nike cancelled the release of its Betsy Ross flag-themed shoes, allegedly because former quarterback/current activist Colin Kaepernick says the old-timey symbol is connected with the country’s slave-filled past. (You can actually get a pair anyway … if you’ve got $4,000 to drop.) Or maybe we’re mourning the impending departure of The Office—like the country itself, another American revision of a British original—from Netflix in, oh, the next 18 months or so.
Or maybe we’re just too stressed about what to watch on the telly at all.
According to a new report by Nielsen, the average American takes a full seven minutes to decide what to watch. The prime culprit? Streaming services like Netflix. Apparently, the wealth of choices we have is causing a certain level of boob-tube paralysis. With so many options (and given that only a third of us actually browse through menus to select something), we’re left flummoxed by the world of entertainment possibilities—so much so that 21%of viewers actually just give up, turn off the TV and read a book or something. Households without access to a streaming service have lots of choices too, of course, but Nielsen said that viewers in those households tend to default to their favorite channels if the choices get too bewildering.
This wealth of television is tough on TV reviewers, too. Jeremy Egner, the television critic for The New York Times, recently unpacked the challenge of trying to sift through 500 new scripted shows every year. (Watching everything, he admits, is now “impossible.”)
I also wonder how Egner’s heart is holding up. We’ve known for a while that sitting for long periods of time is unhealthy. But new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that sitting in front of a television is worse than sitting eight hours a day for your job. What happens when watching television is your job? (As one of Plugged In’s TV reviewers, I suppose I should ask the same question.)
Television can hurt your health in other ways, too. According to a study by the Mental Health Foundation, nearly a quarter of British teens who watch reality television fret about their body image.
And then we must consider the rise in one’s blood pressure if you don’t like what you’re watching.
Case in point: HBO’s Game of Thrones finale, which many fans are still fuming over. George R. R. Martin, the author of the fantasy novels that the show was based on blames the internet for all the vitriol. “The internet is toxic in a way that old fanzine culture and fandoms—comics fans, science fiction fans—in those days, was not,” Martin told Leonard Maltin on a podcast. “There were disagreements. There were feuds, but nothing like the madness that you see on the Internet.”
Meanwhile, HBO’s Euphoria recently triggered racing hearts of a different kind: Its animated sequence depicting former One Direction bandmates Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson engaged in oral sex was greeted warmly by fans (according to The Daily Beast). But Tomlinson was less amused. “I can categorically say that I was not contacted nor did I approve it,” he said in a tweet.
And though TV may be giving viewers too much to watch, the movie industry is giving them too little that they want to watch. Sure, Avengers: Endgame made enough money to buy a small country or two, but many other franchise sequels this summer haven’t measured up: The box office is down 7% from what it was at this time last year. Pundits suggest that television is putting a dent in the cinematic fender. And frankly, moviegoers are getting a little tired of all these retreads.
“When you put all your eggs in the sequel basket this is what happens,” Jeff Bock, an analyst with Exhibitor Relations, told Variety. ” Most of these movies feel like they came off of an assembly line. They’re not diving any deeper into the story. They’re not upping the ante. They’re not moving the needle as far as moviegoers are concerned.”
Not that you’ll hear Will Smith complain about retreads. Even though Smith defined movie superstardom in the 1990s, his live-action remake of Aladdin just became the highest-grossing film of his career. “Just thank you, everybody, around the world, thank you, thank you,” he wrote on Instagram. “Who I miss?”
As we bring this edition of Culture Clips to a close, let’s not lose sight of the holiday we’ll be observing tomorrow and end on a truly American note: a nod to the power of fast food.
When I heard that Taco Bell was going to be launching its very own pop-up hotel (The Bell: A Taco Bell Hotel and Resort), I had my doubts. I have a soft spot in my heart (and tummy) for the franchise, but for many, Taco Bell is associated with … less pleasant experiences. Shows what I know: The rooms—which started at $169 a night—sold out in two minutes.
Makes you proud to be an American, doesn’t it?