Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A dreary media binge

I've been on another media binge, gorging on 1) the book Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen; 2) HBO's In Treatment; 3) Showtime's This American Life; and 4) HBO's The Comeback. And I have to admit I'm perplexed and saddened.

Is it true, as Freedom and Comeback would lead you to believe, that men are interested exclusively in sex? Is it true, as Treatment suggests, that life is pain and even the best analysis cannot buy happiness? And is it true, as Comeback and one installment of American Life declare, that no one cares what old people think, and in fact they're seriously annoying to everyone around them?

Re the last question: At first I dismissed Comeback as a one-note, funny-only-because-it's-relentlessly-annoying show that wasn't particularly funny. But as I've mulled it over, I realize that Lisa Kudrow's character is ... me at work (and perhaps in other venues as well). The oldest and most senior member of my department, I'm invested in the old ways but struggling to master the new, working hard to keep a smile on my wrinkled, age-spotted old face, sadly aware of younger folks avoiding me in elevators and hallways ("Ach! What if she tries to talk to me?" I can hear them saying to themselves). Is this how life ends—with total irrelevance and humiliation? No wonder people opt for retirement homes. It's just too dispiriting trying to stay in the real world with all the pretty, young people who wish you would disappear.

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