This week the Internet broke over an hour of television that traced the relationship of two middle-aged gay men during a fictional apocalyptic pandemic.
It was the third episode of the gargantuan new hit HBO series The Last Of Us, which is based on what is acknowledged to be one of the best videogames ever made.
As a middle-aged gay guy who has never been into videogames and who long ago gave up being mainstream, this was quite a shock.
Nevertheless, it was a pleasant one, since it vaulted one of my favorite records of all time, Linda Ronstadt’s 1970 hit, Long, Long Time, to the top of the 2023 streaming charts, where it continues to stay.
The teenage me, who longed for love in exactly the way Linda did in that song, could never have imagined our anthem could sit, sit, sit there for this long, long, long of a time.
The same shock might be said for those of Asian descent who have watched the film Everything Everywhere All At Once emerge at the top of the pack of award contenders for film of the year.
Its latest achievement was to lead the recently announced Oscar nominations by picking up 11 nods. That includes a first time ever best actress chance for an Asian identifying woman, its star, Michelle Yeoh. (Note: Okay, back in 1936 the biracial Merle Oberon was nominated in that category. But she never came out as part Asian nor was it EVER discussed).
Sure, a non-English language film like Parasite shockingly won best picture in 2019 but it wasn’t a Hollywood made film about an American family. It also wasn’t the kind of mainstream American box-office hit using newer American cultural storytelling techniques inspired by the younger skewing gaming industry.
One can only imagine how encouraging EEAAO is for aspiring Asian artists coming of age right now in post insurrection America. Not to mention any young person who longs to see film or TV hits, both commercial and artistic, that offer up stories in more varied and less traditional ways that they can relate to.
As a consumer and writer barely clinging to middle age, I will admit it took me a bit to get on both The Last of Us and EEAAO bandwagons.
I watched the first episode of the HBO series when it debuted a few weeks ago and was mixed. The acting was good but it was so frenetic and with so many characters and situations that were vaguely defined that I ultimately decided I didn’t care much. I raised this with a group of college seniors who I instruct in TV writing and they assured me everything would become clear soon and to stick with it.
As most adults do, I promised to maybe take a look again with very little intention to do so.
Until the explosion of week three when middle-aged gay, gay, gay romance became a TV thing and a mainstream videogame story instantly became more inclusive by way of Linda Ronstadt.
The same thing happened with EEAAO, a movie I admired for its audaciousness but lost me in the second act and didn’t do much for me emotionally when I saw it the first time.
But with all the praise and Oscar nominations (Note: Awards that I still pretend are very little indication of anything by ignoring my lifelong obsession with them), converged with the fact that I was now facing TWO thesis TV and Film writing classes to whom the film’s narrative and execution HEAVILY spoke to, even ever intractable me had to take another look.
And am I glad that I did.
Not only did it teach me that, okay, I can occasionally be wrong about a few things, but that there are infinite ways to tell a story.
And just because your limited mind isn’t used to them that is no reason to shut the barn door and sit in the slop with the rest of the close-minded pigs in your sty.
(Note: Pig sty and barn door analogies? Really?)
It also once again taught me something else.
These days that term seems to come across as a political diatribe. A must have, a demand, or at least an incessant want of too many of the “woke.” Or woke mob. Or… well… choose your adjective and noun depending on who is speaking.
But all it really means is a longing to be seen and heard. A path to get listened to and a means to include oneself or one’s group in the world that might also open up the world’s hive mind.
It’s a desire, ironically, to be acknowledged as a part of the pack.
Now this doesn’t stop you from still being an outsider, or prevent you from striving to stand out and lead that world pack in a different direction. Just as it won’t prevent you from continuing to be stubbornly indifferent, ahem, to anyone unlike you and yours.
But in order to ensure the personal freedom to live our lives the way we see fit (Note: As long as we are not causing others physical harm), those in the pluralities and underrepresented need to be visible and seen in order to get included.
One of the easiest ways to do this is in your choices, and tolerance, for films, television or anything else that might diverge from what you consider on first view to be your own very, very VERY good taste.
This goes especially for those barely clinging to middle-age.
You’re wonderful. Adored “notes.” Love, Victor
YOU are the best 🙂