Caution: this article features minor spoilers about The Magicians, and it also contains a rant from a done-with-current-entertainment college student.
I’m a Netflix fanatic – so much so that most of the articles I’ve written for The Peak have, in some shape or form, included the streaming service. Ever since I got into college, my time spent reading or, you know, having a life, has turned into time spent marathoning new shows and movies. Unfortunately, they all seem to be the same now.
I remember when it was shocking and new for a show to have darker elements: characters dealing with addiction or depression, acts of murder or sexual assault. But now, every story seems to have these dark edges, and it only seems to be included for shock value without adding any real depth to the story, characters, or plot line. For example: The Magicians. I started the show with so much hope; I truly believed it was going to be a more adult version of Harry Potter, and boy howdy do I have a different definition of “adult.”
What started out as an interesting, modern view of magic, quickly turned into a marathon of increasingly disturbing scenes, including rape and child molestation. These plot lines made very little sense and were poorly executed. The victims of these acts show no sign of positive recovery, which not only shames victims of horrible acts and creates pointless triggers for the audience, but it can also lead victims to believing that there is only one path after an assault – a downward spiral. The mishandling of such serious subjects makes it seem that the show just threw these dark tidbits in for shock value, or because they believed that these would instantly make for a good show. The worst part is that the media seems to feed on this sort of graphic storytelling.
Going through Netflix, I can easily list out the shows that focus on violence: How to Get Away with Murder, Bates Motel, The 100, Narcos, Marco Polo, Peaky Blinders, The Walking Dead, Daredevil, and Jessica Jones are just a few that immediately come to mind. These are all highly popular shows, are not not necessarily bad, but they all focus on dark themes. While these shows have a lot of merit on their own, they become bogged down because none of them give the viewer a reprieve from the repetition of the same subjects: murder, sexual assault, drug addiction, and zombies (there are so many zombie-like shows, it’s getting boring now, guys).
Even worse, people become so accustomed to such a high level of graphic violence that shows feel the need to unnecessarily present them to the audience in unexpected ways. Characters are killed off for no good reason at all (I’m looking at you, The 100 and iZombie). This is ruining the story telling of these shows, and it ruins the mindsets of the viewers. It feels impossible to get a breath of fresh air nowadays.
Maybe I’m in the minority, and everyone is still into a constant emotional dragging (which, if you are, I’m glad you’re enjoying what’s out there), but honestly, college life is stressful enough. Adult life is stressful enough. I want more shows like Parks and Rec where the lows aren’t unsurpassable, aren’t life changing, and are quickly followed by happy scenes. The joyful scenes are life-changing, and the characters are inspiring because of their drive and optimism. Give me more “puppy” shows. I want more New Girls, more Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and more Modern Family. I need shows that, while remaining happy, also broadcast fantastic character arcs – ones that don’t always involve something horrendous happening to a person. I want works that are escapes into more positive places, because trust me, I am negative enough on my own. I don’t need outside fictional sources telling me how bad things are.