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June 13th, 2005 - Trickle of Consciousness — LiveJournal
I loved the Nightmare on Elm Street movies as a kid, even though I'd never seen a single one.

Confused? The missing link here is the magic of a third party. In this case, one of my older cousins. One day while I was hanging around being a general pest, my cousin made mention of one of the Nightmare movies. I made mention that I'd never seen them. Eh voila, my cousin fell into enthusiastically summarizing the highlights of each one. He'd give me the concept for each, then blow-by-blows of his favorite scenes. I'd ask questions, he'd clarify. I knew there was one movie where Freddy was trying to possess a kid, another where the kids got dream powers to fight him (that one was my favorite; guess I just can't escape my super-hero roots). I learned the secret of Freddy's thousand-maniacs birth.

Then, when I was a little older, I actually tried watching one of the flicks. I remembered my cousin's energetic storytelling, remembered how I got caught up in it all. Here it was, all free and on the screen, so let's see the source material. If the book's better than the movie, surely the movie should be better than the summary.

Not so much. I've tried a couple times, but I can never quite make it through a whole installment. I hate most of the kids; the ones who aren't stupid are whiny. I can't quite bring myself to like Freddy, largely because he never met a crappy pun he didn't like, and I know it's probably the point, but I usually cringe at Englund's mugging. When I watch Nightmare movies, they're just the same slasher flick ugh with a few more surreal special effects. Commercial break = I change the channel.

Still, when I think back on those movie-as-campfire-tale afternoons with my cousin, I can't deny there's something to it. There are ideas there that are just, well, cool. Or maybe they're "kewl," I don't know. What I do know is, my cousin loved those flicks, and when he told me about them, I loved them. There's a version of that series that kicks ass. It's just a version no one can rent or buy, because the "Jason and his cousin sitting around the house telling scary stories" edition only saw two prints made, and I'm pretty sure my or my cousin's brain isn't going to work in your DVD player.

That was my first exposure to entertainment by proxy. I still do it from time to time. I'll see a preview for a movie that looks not-great but that I know a friend will see. I'll hear about a comics mini that isn't for me but I can guarantee you someone in my circle of friends will pick up. So I wait, and when I know they've experienced it, I ask, "so, how was it?" And if they really liked it, why, I pull up a seat and grill them. I know I'll probably never see the movie, but I don't have to. In most cases, the version I get is better, because it's getting a filter of enthusiasm I would never bring to the work.

Recently, I've even taken to doing this online. For all that everyone talked up the show, my one exposure to Desperate Housewives left me yawning and groaning. Was I supposed to be surprised that Teri Hatcher's character managed to mangle her super-wonderful-everyone-loves-it dress just in time to have to walk out on stage? Enh. I can't really bring myself to tune in much, but I also can't shake the energetic vibe I get hearing people recommend the show.

Enter Television Without Pity. Ostensibly, this is a review site. In reality, it's my online entertainment by proxy. In the case of Desperate Housewives, at least, I get the impression the summarizers actually see potential in the show. They care more than I ever will. So I "watch" via them, getting a summary tinged by enthusiasm or disgust at various aspects of the plot.

And you know what? Even with that not-exciting episode bobbling around in my head, I find I've developed an addiction for it all. I have favorites. I root for crazy-anal-retentive Bree, groan and smack my forehead at Susan's latest pratfall, feel a rising ire for the crap parenting of Lynette, and flip-flop over whether I want Gabby to get her comeuppance or I'm reveling in her managing to side-step responsibility yet again.

There's not a similar site for comics, but despite the fact that I don't read much of any X books, I find myself dropping by The X Axis every week. Paul O'Brien largely doesn't spoil things, but he gives me enough of the plot to have a basic idea of the story. And if the spoilers have any lasting impact--or, for that matter, if they're subsequently ignored even though it makes no sense for them to be--O'Brien's likely to mention them in a few month's time, anyway.

Like with TWP*, O'Brien brings a core interest in the characters and concepts that I'm not sure I fully possess. I certainly don't have the continuity background. Whether he likes all the series or not, he has an inherent interest in X books in general, and seeing that applied, I tend to understand what it is that would draw a person to the line.

In the end, I suppose it's just another level of my entertainment hierarchy. There are things I'll pay to see / read. There are things I'll borrow from friends (I want to see them or read them, but can't quite bring myself to shell out the cash). Then there's the "by proxy" level: things that intrigue me in a less essential way, such that I want to know more about them than I do, but not enough that I feel I need to experience them first hand.


*I should point out that I've glanced at some of the other series "showing" at TWP, and the reviewers don't all like their shows. The Charmed reviewer detests that series. I know he gets paid for it, but I think it can't be enough to justify the horror he seems to experience in summarizing the show.

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