What do The Wire (season 2), Bad Girls' Club, and the 1991 film Naked Lunch all have in common?
A) Each features brilliant portrayals of men and women caught in fundamental human struggles central to most classic literature (survival vs. morality, objective/subjective perception, thongs vs. panties, etc.).
B) Each contains compelling performances depicting gay/lesbian/bi characters in lead and supporting roles.
C) Each is best appreciated stoned, or in some other diminished capacity.
D) All of the above
The correct answer is (D), but I'll be focusing on choice (C) here. One of the latest buzzphrases in the field of education is "the curse of knowledge," which I'm happy to report very few of today's youth seem to be accursed with. Actually, the idea is more about teachers: it's hard for an expert to remember what it's like to not understand something.
Fortunately, television/cinema is about having a good time, not actually learning something. For this reason, i'll go with the good old "ignorance is bliss" approach. Most of the stuff we watch these days favors the passive viewer, or at least the one that doesn't really know (or care) what the hell's going on. But let's not equate apathy with confusion here-- we can certainly enjoy something with passion and still not "understand it" at all.
No better example than Cronenberg's adaptation of the novel Naked Lunch. When the film was released, the hardcore Burroughs fans formed two distinct camps: those that trashed and disavowed the film, and those that got trashed and enjoyed the film immensely. As a proud member of the latter camp, I can honestly say I was more fucked up for the ??? Multiplex (somewhere out east on the L.I.E.) showing of Naked Lunch than I've ever been in a movie theater. It was also what I'd have to call a religious experience (especially the harrowing drive home!), no exaggeration. That film was beyond any notions of sense or meaning I'm familiar with; it simply was.
I saw the film about a half-dozen more times, in various states of varying intoxication. Once I was able to approximate that amazing debut performance, and apparently celebrated by watching most of the video completely naked in a 100+ degree apartment in Providence. Naked Lunch was untouchable in its genius until I watched it completely straight. I mean, it's still good, I guess, but golly if that film wasn't a hell of a lot better when shit didn't really make so much sense.
Ditto for the sophomore season of HBO's darling The Wire. I watched most of season 2 high as the top row at Camden Yards, usually "on demand" Friday nights. I kinda did this for the first season too, but nowhere near as consistently as this time. I LOVED season one, and if you asked me then, I LOVED season two as well. It didn't matter that much to me that Ziggy was fucking annoying as hell, or that they probably could've done the whole loading docks story in about three hours, or that nobody really cared that much about most of the new characters... I was enjoying the heck out of myself. I didn't really see what a bunch of dead white girls in the back of a truck had to do with anything I'd seen in the previous season, but I was too busy zoning out on other shit to mind much. Second and third viewings of said season weren't as forgiving, as the critical (focused?) eye revealed a bit too much. What a pity.
Our third example is a bit different. Now I've watched more than a few BGCs a sheet or two to the wind, but I've generally been better described as "diminished capacity." Just plain fucking tired, to be exact. Throw in the fact that I usually watched the show with the sound off, and we're talking about one mixed-up and diminished motherfucker! As far as I was concerned, the Bad Girls' Club had absolutely no plot or concept to it at all! How could anyone not enjoy this show!!!
Turns out the show really doesn't have anything to it. Jury's still out on whether I can actually watch the show without a fatigue-adjusted I.Q. in double digits, but last season's finale (which I stupidly watched completely awake and aware) makes me think I was better off before.
You can't go home again. Actually, you can. Just make sure your doctor doesn't write "no refills" on your script.
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