University of Missouri Blog

Conversations Never Held

July 18, 2016

“Within the last five years, a disturbing phenomenon has taken place in regard to popular culture and it has greatly influenced conversation among friends, colleagues and family members.”

Gerald R. Butters, Jr. is today’s guest blogger. He is a Professor of History at Aurora University and his research and publications examine the intersection of race and gender in American popular culture.  He is the author of Black Manhood on the Silent Screen and two books published by the University of Missouri Press: From Sweetback to Super Fly: Race and Film Audiences in Chicago’s Loop, 1970-1975 and Banned in Kansas: Motion Picture Censorship, 1915-1966.

We simply don’t watch anything in common anymore. The continued proliferation of cable channels, streaming platforms, content producers and ways of watching such content means that, much like the millions of us walking down the street with our earbuds on, listening to our own individual tunes, we simply watch programs when and how we want them and don’t have those necessary discussions about our favorite shows or those we loathe.   In fact, this phenomenon has stifled conversation.  I am currently now trying to avoid friends who have seen season four of Orange is the New Black (I know someone dies).  I avoided posting anything for months about the conclusion of The Good Wife out of respect for my friend Michelle who needed to catch up.  Go to a social function and try to find anyone who watches the same television shows that you do.  Other than an occasional Games of Thrones, it is nearly impossible.  I have friends who have been their own individualized fan base of Mr. Robot, Penny Dreadful, Bones etc. – and they have no one to talk about their programs with.  There is a sad desperation in their eyes.  I have been begged by friends and family members to start watching their shows just so they can have someone to discuss things with.  I have used this same guilt with my spouse in regard to The Wire.   Those of us old enough can remember when we had three or four television channels and we were forced out of lack of choice to discuss what happened last night on All in the Family, Designing Women or Hill Street Blues.  I miss those days.