For those playing along at home, I have resumed the former habit of my original Conflict Girl blog by using a song lyric for every post title. Carry on.
So everything old is new again. I have multiple topics for multiple posts which all tie in to this one central theme, but have you noticed how it seems like there’s a nostalgia reboot lately? Not just of questionable fashion trends like the return of overalls (why??? Does anyone over 120 pounds look good in them?) but also in the news, in the world, in entertainment.
I have a million interesting things to comment on right now, from a new impending war in Syria to a renewed war on the poor, but it would all be too much to put into one post. Long story short, I’ve lived long enough to know what we’re in for with a Republican president and many of my predictions are already beginning to come true.
Ah, the good old days. They’re back. This is what it means to “make America great again.”
But the flip side of the return of dark days means that there’s also a bunch of new interesting music and other entertainment that remakes the past. (Can Sassy magazine please come back?) Much of that entertainment is more honest about what life is really like for the classes struggling to get by.
There’s the “Roseanne” reboot, which I’m scared to watch because I loved the original so much and most of the reviews have not been good. And though I caught on a bit late in the game, I started watching the “One Day at a Time” reboot on Netflix. Aside from having a Gloria Estefan remake of the original theme song that makes me want to hit “skip intro” even faster than the annoying “Gilmore Girls” theme song, the One Day at a Time reboot is smart, topical, and realistic. And it’s also really funny.
Finally, someone is addressing class and political issues in a relevant yet very funny way again. Have we seen such a thing since the original “Roseanne”? One Day at a Time is certainly a much more realistic portrayal of single motherhood than what was shown on Gilmore Girls, for example. As much as I enjoyed the snappy dialogue on Gilmore Girls, the incredible degree of privilege the characters had and refused to acknowledge always bugged me (and much more so upon recently rewatching it again.)
Class issues are returning to the forefront again. And yes, I am dismayed by the path Trump is taking and I can also acknowledge many awful things Democrats have done. I am not naive enough to believe that the issues we face are a political party issue. They’re ultimately a class issue, and we are a nation of increasingly poorer people led by increasingly wealthier people.
But I am hopeful that as Trump further fucks things up for the regular people, we’ll get much less of the tone-deaf and unrealistic “Real Housewives” and Kardashian bullshit on the air.
I want to see reality reflected on TV again–especially on comedies, because sometimes the only thing you can do when the world’s going to shit is to laugh at it. Between the upper-class lifestyles presented on TV as something for us to aspire to and the “let’s take 50 photos until we get one good shot and then use a ton of filters” self-as-brand aspect of Instagram and Snapchat, I’m getting pretty tired of so much fakeness.
You know who’s probably not going to be the next reality TV star, living a life of luxury? You. And me. When meticulously-edited footage is presented as “reality” and random kids with YouTube accounts are making millions just by making videos of themselves, it starts to seem like this is attainable for everyone.
But there are thousands of people who want this kind of stardom who have a YouTube channel with less than 100 subscribers. The fact is that most people don’t have what it takes to be famous. If that’s what you’re exposing yourself to all day, sooner or later you start to wonder why you’re not famous because it all looks so easy. You measure your happiness and success by “likes” and followers instead of by things you already have.
Everything in our culture seems geared toward some type of unrealistic aspiration, presented instead as “inspiration.” I’m not saying that we shouldn’t try to grow and become better versions of ourselves. But just as fashion magazines had a notoriously negative effect on female self-esteem, the trend of “fitspo” (fitness+inspiration) also makes us feel bad about ourselves. It’s all about chasing a lifestyle or self-image that we think is so much more worthy than the one we actually have.
I’m not saying we should be oversharing and putting all our worst struggles on social media; there’s no need to air our dirty laundry or endlessly whine. But at the same time, when everything you see is intentionally curated to present everyone as beautiful and wealthy, traveling to exotic locations and shopping shopping shopping, it starts to make you wonder if you’re the only one worried about how you’re going to pay all your bills this month. Or if you’re the only one playing the shell game of paying the most important ones first and hoping it all works out for the rest.
Does everyone else have their shit together except you? Are you the only one not seeing astronomical wage growth and constantly trading up to a better and more fabulous lifestyle every year? Of course not. But it can seem like it if you expose yourself to a very unrealistic version of reality, day in and day out, and think your life should be the same.
Why make yourself miserable by standing on the other side of the glass, peering into a magnificent party you were never going to be invited to anyway?
Sometimes entertainment needs to be an escape. I get that; it’s one of the main functions of art and media. But escape to another world can be through historical fiction or superheroes or made-up worlds of science fiction. Or it can just be in the form of music that transports you emotionally to a different state of mind.
Entertainment that’s always about a life more fabulous than yours can’t help but remind you about how short your life falls in comparison. It’s a recipe for depression and studies have found a link between heavy social media use in particular to depression.
Depression, suicide and anxiety have risen 18 percent since 2005. There are many causes for this so it would be facetious to point the finger at any one thing. But there’s no question to me that the disparity between the economic realities we face (which transcend which political party’s in office) and the envy provoked by fake connection and false presentation of self on social media and aspirational entertainment is a major contributing factor.
The point of seeing more realistic media is to know that you’re not alone. There are way more of us in the struggling classes than there are of the people with the flashy wealth and the carefree lives of leisure. But finding our entertainment in watching the opulent displays of wealth makes us miss what is good in our own lives, whether it’s the humor in our everyday interactions or the way we come together with the ones we love to help each other.
There is so much good in my life, in our lives, even if we’re not rich. Even if we’re not healthy and the future is uncertain. Don’t ignore the good by focusing on a class you’ll probably never be in. Because when the upper classes make us envy them, it keeps us all distracted from trying to address the real inequalities. If we see them as better than us, we vote for people who represent their own interests instead of ours, whether at the polls or with our pocketbooks. We lose sight of the power we could have if only we weren’t so distracted.