Everybody told me that New Yorkers were a bit harsh but I didn't really believe it, because I can't believe people really vary that much from place to place, that the differences between us are ever going to be as dramatic as the similarities. And of course, everybody was wrong. New Yorkers are great. In Texas we're nice because we don't know any better. But in New York, I found people everywhere who were kind, and helpful, and all the things everyone says they're not.
...Right up until my errands took me through the shitshow that is Times Square. Racist Elmos punching babies right in their faces, women stealing sandwiches out of each other's hands, bows thrown left and right. The Warriors had come out to play.
"Are we in fact on a Hellmouth? Is this the real secret New York is covering up?"
And every New Yorker I asked said the exact same thing: Only tourists go to Times Square, and all tourists think all New Yorkers are assholes, so what you get is a global soup of wannabes being dicks to each other—when in Rome, when in shitty, awful Rome—all the while thinking they're having an authentic experience.
This is, I think, how a lot of online discussion of television feels.
Twenty years ago, at the beginning of Television Without Pity, the television site I worked for until it was shut down a few weeks ago, almost everyone only really watched four channels. Five, if you got UPN. To assert some kind of control over that limited experience, we snarked and we nitpicked and attacked and criticized and we had a grand old Generation-X time of it.
But technology has, since that time, given us back the keys. When you're watching something on TV in 2014, you're almost always choosing to not watch something else. To not do something else. A binge of House Of Cards, or Orange Is The New Black, represents a choice—a lot of choices—you're making about what your time is worth. And with those decisions comes a sense of ownership that we used to get only in small doses: That represents a sea change not only in how we feel about our TV, but how we talk about it.
There's a burgeoning generation of TV viewers who mostly just like the things that they like, and like to like those things publicly, talking and sharing and participating in a world they were born to; one they don't have to be victorious over. People who have been through the Web 1.0 recap format of pages-upon-pages— which I do enjoy as you might know—or don't remember it at all, and are now looking for GIFs or new jokes or infographics or photo recaps or fake transcripts, and all the rest of the proliferating ways we can talk about our TV, once we stop trying to defeat it and remember to start enjoying it again.
Guilty Pleasure, I'll say it for the millionth time, is not only a contradiction in terms but, purely on the merits, a vile concept. You have to trust yourself infinitely more than that.
People sometimes respond negatively to snark because it can feel like a stance, an attempt at authenticity that risks nothing, that doesn't want to be caught wanting or needing or loving things; that comes into play when we don't want to expose ourselves. It's that same limiting, knee-jerk, insecure perspective that explains why so many of us sleep with busboys and it's that same principle you see every day among the imitative assholes of Times Square.
And none of it is necessary. None of it is enjoyable or generative or constructive. It's just what we've been trained to do. And I have been goddamn sick of it for a long time now.
When Television Without Pity died, about a month ago, I was in the shower. My entire life changed very quickly and it was a little vertiginous. So I stayed in there for about an hour, and then went straight to my computer and wrote to Gawker, explaining my desire to create a new place to talk about television that didn't rely on easy tropes or lazy snark or Daria Morgendorffer '90s sniping to get its point across.
Gawker has been my favorite website, as a writer, for many years: They were my first, and my last, call. I knew what I wanted, and I fought for it. We got into talks within a couple of hours.
Now, a month later, we're debuting Morning After, a TV-centric destination vertical that, thanks to the platform and possibilities given to us by Kinja, will let us do the kind of writing and create the kind of smart, passionate, literate discussions that these new viewers I'm speaking of—us; you and me—are the most hungry for.
We're going to be experimenting with a lot of different ideas over the next few weeks and months, and I don't expect everything to work immediately. But when you arrive at the Morning After, today and every day from now on, I can promise you three things: You will get great writing. Ekphrasis is the terminal goal of all critical writing, and it's better to have that up over the door than sneak it in through the back way.
You will get your say, because nothing kills a conversation faster than some fake idea that any writer, about something as subjective as art, is an expert of record or has a better or more valid opinion than the people she's writing for. That's critics, and they have their own club; that is not what we are interested in doing.
And finally, you'll be getting the strongest, smartest community of commenters and fellow fans on the planet. The shameless, the guiltless, the passionate and the fierce. Which is all I've ever wanted, and why I'm here today.