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The End of Common Experiences

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
Screenshot via ABC News

A year ago or so, even if you wanted to, you couldn’t escape something called “The Tiger King.” Remember that? The weird cast of characters obsessed with tigers and other big cats interwoven with disappearances, murder, and all other manner of insanity. It was all the rage, people loved the whole thing, going so far as to push for a pardon for the star, who’s in prison for trying to hire someone to kill his rival. Now, not that long after, Tiger King is nearly forgotten. While crazes quickly fade, they’re always replaced. The current craze iteration is something called “Squid Game.”

Squid Game is a Netflix show that, if you’ve been on social media at all in the last couple of weeks, you’ve been unable to escape. You may not have watched it, but you almost couldn’t avoid hearing about it.

I had no idea what it was, other than South Korean. Eventually, I watched the trailer and thought it could be interesting. But I was in no hurry to watch the show. A few weeks later, I did. (I won’t ruin it here, I’ll just say it’s pretty good, provided you don’t mind subtitles or 70s kung-fu movie level English dubbing.)

One of the beauties of streaming services is their existence removes any sense of urgency from watching a TV show. Gone is the concept of “water cooler moments,” the idea that there was something so amazing, shocking, or hilarious that occurred on a TV show that everyone at work the next morning would be talking about it.

COVID may have killed the water cooler, but streaming killed the concept. 

The Tiger King and Squid Game spikes in social media mentions are as close as we’re likely to come to a water cooler moment for at least a while. On demand viewing is a great innovation, but it did remove a collective bond in our culture. I know lots of people who love the show Ted Lasso, myself included. It’s a great show. But I only went through experiencing it for the first time with my wife. It was just there, able to be watched at any point. There was no discussion with friends after each episode, every episode of season 1 was devoured in one lazy Saturday. 

That was it. I told people about it afterwards, turned as many people as I could onto it (yeah, it’s that good). But there was no discussion after each episode because everyone consumed episodes at their convenience and own pace.

That’s a good thing for individuals, probably less so for our society. Collective moments bring us together, wipe away our differences and highlight our commonalities. We have one political party determined to rip people apart, to focus almost exclusively on differences in order to manipulate them; to obsess on things like skin color rather than our similarities. Collective moments undo some of that damage, and Democrats can’t have that.

Think about an amazing moment we should all be happy we were alive to witness: the great William Shatner, Captain James T. Kirk himself, going into space. Unless you are the permanently bitter George Takei, who could watch that whole episode unfold and not be in awe of it all? What a time to be alive!

What did we get from the left? So-called “think pieces” and angry monologues about how some rich white guy, Jeff Bezos, spent a fortune on a vanity project to send another rich white guy into space, blah, blah, blah. How do you look at Captain Kirk going to space, and the unbridled joy of Shatner speaking upon his return, with anything other than joy? I almost feel sorry for anyone who did, but only almost because they did it to themselves.

I don’t have any problem with some miserable leftists being miserable, often times I laugh at it because they did it to themselves. The problem is they insist on disheartening everyone else too. They want to drive people apart while ensuring the only collective experience we have is misery. 

Perhaps it’s a leap from a couple of TV shows to the destruction of the country, but everything that brings about commonalities is important. We are a nation of individuals, it’s our identity. But we have a lot in common. That one political party views the obstruction of similarities, even if only in part, should disturb everyone. 

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