I get it. Attachment to entertainment. It’s meaningful, sure. We forge parts of our identity through what we choose to like, and we defend those choices as though our lives depend on it. And, in a way, they do. My life as I know it, or as I construct it through my preferences, goes away if I change those preferences. Given that they offer me stability, they’re difficult to let go. There are shows I still watch out of dumb habit; I don’t derive any distinct pleasure out of them anymore, but because I decided early on that I was a fan, and therefore linked my self to the show, I can’t sacrifice that part of my self. Especially when my fandom is shared with people I love.
But this response to the cancellation of The Mindy Project made me pause. I’ve felt similar “pain” with the many cancellations of Community, so it’s not like I’m immune from this emotional investment. At first, I was ready to summon Noam Chomsky again:
The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of possible opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.
Through this, I wanted to criticize the absurd passion we demonstrate about fictional lives, as though their “death” is more significant than the loss of real lives. Freddie Gray didn’t get cancelled; he was murdered. Not to suggest petty moral equivalence here in the responses generated by these “events,” but why are we channeling our energy into outrage over a television show but not a corrupt justice system? Granted, it’s not like the two have to be mutually exclusive, but I’m betting that people feeling crushed by one less piece of identity-forming entertainment aren’t granting the same compassion and care to the likes of Freddie Gray. Our “very lively debate” over so much relative bullshit in our society – sports, films, shows, fashion, etc. – is a reflection of how lost we are in our own dream bubbles. Where is our righteous indignation over the things that actively ruin cities, neighborhoods, and the human beings living there? You won’t get to follow Mindy’s quirky adventures anymore? I suppose that’s a tragedy. That you’ll have to find something else to identify with from the comfort of your secure house. You know, that dwelling that shields you from the outside world and the reality of all those Others suffering while you make amusement sacred. Keep your eyes glued to the screen. Let it filter reality for you. Let it construct a new one. One that’s easy to swallow, a lifelong medicine. Side effects may include loss of meaningful empathy, progressive blindness, abused privilege, blissful-only-because-you-don’t-think-about-it ignorance.
As with previous reflections on entertainment, this is not meant to indict The Mindy Project or its fans, but to recognize the sad state of affairs when we learn to love fictional characters more than real people.