‘Generation Kill’: Too good for DVR hell!
I was a huge fan of David Simon’s HBO series The Wire. I never missed an episode. You probably read about The Wire, since it was the kind of show that caused 1 million journalists to write 1 million articles complaining that only 1 million people were watching. (Hey, we tried.) So when HBO scheduled Generation Kill, Simon’s seven-part miniseries about the members of a Marine platoon during the early weeks of the Iraq war, it went straight to the top of my must-watch list. And stayed there. For a really long time. Unwatched.
I don’t remember why I missed the first episode, but I get credit — don’t I? — because I DVR’d it. In fact, I DVR’d all of them. They sat in an orderly list on my ”My Recordings” screen, glowering at me, reproachfully saying, ”You must watch me. I must be watched. Man up!” I confessed this to a friend via e-mail, and she wrote back, ”I know just what you mean. This show is constipating my DVR!”
Cultural constipation: It’s the gift that arrives and then refuses to leave. Like a PBS documentary about World War II, it can strike anyone, in any area, without warning. Besides your DVR, it can afflict your bookshelf (I really, really am going to get around to Denis Johnson’s National Book Award-winning novel Tree of Smoke…soon, maybe). It can clog your Netflix queue (a night will come when the stars will magically align and I will decide to watch Into Great Silence, a well-reviewed 162-minute documentary about monks…but first, I’ll just have a quick look at Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay). It can even freeze your iPod: I have been waiting to be in the exact mood to give Bruce Springsteen’s post-9/11 album The Rising another listen for six years.
There’s a snob theory and a slob theory about cultural constipation. The snob theory is that the Internet, reality television, minisodes, and the general dumbing down of everything have so completely turned our brains into mush that we’re now incapable of sitting down and concentrating on anything that actually requires our sustained, undivided attention. The slob theory is that we the people have a sixth sense that allows us to stay away instinctively whenever a piece of pop culture is boring or overpraised or ”pretentious” (the all-purpose label of abuse that too many people now apply to anything that seems smart and difficult).
NEXT PAGE: ”Gulf War Movie Syndrome is caused when a gap opens up between the kind of entertainment consumers we want to be (intelligent, discerning, thoughtful) and the kind we actually are (oh, look, The Mole is on!).”