Sunday, March 6, 2011

'Consumption' overload

Throughout my reading of Cohen’s “A Consumers’ Republic,” I waited and waited for the comparisons to our consumption of mass media, though what I read instead was an interesting history of how we’ve gotten to the consumptive culture and economy we have.

Still, I felt a bit relieved to read this column by Mark Harris in Entertainment Weekly magazine and have it speak to me on a new level, thanks to the Cohen book and the focus on the word “consumption.”

Harris’ point is that we all need to stop gorging on technology -- or at the very least, enjoy our technologies one at a time. But this line, discussing the idea of converging social media with entertainment and being able to watch your friends discuss a TV show embedded on your TV as you watch it, brought it home to class: “To some, this may sound great. To me, it represents ... the gaping mouth of hell. I don’t know about you, but anybody who peppers me with witticisms, commentary, or any other interruption while I’m watching ‘Mad Men’ is going to get unfriended fast. For one hour, I want my only relationship to be with that show. I don’t just want to consume it; I want to be consumed by it. Which is what the entertainment we really love always does for us.” (emphasis mine)

Finally: that word, consume -- and the interesting idea that good entertainment also can consume us … in a good way.

But the article two pages later in that magazine lends itself even further into the consumption of media, and the idea of being consumed by it. The article, “You’re Invited to a Royal Frenzy,” details the mass media’s work to chronicle and scoop one another on the April 29 royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. It seems that at a time when Harris is preparing his own diet of mass media enjoyment, the rest of the entertainment media, and beyond, is preparing a smorgasbord for the masses on this light, happy tale. The lengthy article tells of the various magazines’ and TV stations’ work to share the upcoming wedding and the impact that having a networked society -- as opposed to just the mass communications available during Charles and Diana’s wedding a few decades back -- will have on the way we all view this event. As Robert J. Thompson, a professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University, is quoted: “This is going to be a massive global conversation.”

The contrast of themes -- the diet we require and yet the overload we’re all going to get with this one spectacular event -- was notable. Then this week’s Entertainment Weekly arrived in my mailbox, with Charlie Sheen on the cover, and that’s another topic of entertainment news consumption we could discuss and digest.

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