I’m in a Complicated Relationship with “It Shows”

Pop Culture

I’m in a Complicated Relationship with “It Shows”

Illustration: Juergen Dsouza

Last evening, as I sat laughing deliriously at the sight of Michael Scott testing the patience of Dundler Mifflin employees for the nth time, I found myself afflicted by a peculiar surge of guilt-induced FOMO. Its arrival came almost unsuspectingly — similar to the time Michael Scott tried sneaking in a resignation on Halloween — set off by a tweet praising Netflix’s latest arrival Queer Eye, that sat high up on my timeline.

Reluctant, but curious, I put a pause on The Office binge and immediately fired up Google, determined to glean as much trivia as I could about this new show that I had heard about for the first time that day. Within minutes of trawling the internet, it dawned on me that Queer Eye had a unanimous “must-watch” rating from both critics and pop-culture devotees. It took me all of 20 minutes for me to modify Queer Eye’s reputation to the most dissected and critically acclaimed show. Suddenly, everyone around me, heralded the show that featured a team of gay men “dispensing advice on fashion, food, and wine to their straight counterparts” as “an antidote to toxic masculinity” that the world really needed.

It was at that point that I grasped the magnitude of the situation: Queer Eye was the “it show” of the moment and every minute I spent watching The Office was actually time wasted. It was time that I could instead use to hop onto the bandwagon of the latest pop-culture obsession and rave about it as much as the next person. At that moment, I had to make what I – a self-respecting millennial who treasures the dark circles sleepless Netflix nights have gifted her – believed was the most difficult choice in the history of my existence. On one hand, was the trusted familiarity of The Office reruns, guaranteed to lift my spirits. And on the other, there was my millennial-induced obsessive personality that couldn’t take the ignominy of being left out of the conversation around the newest pop-culture “it” thang. After all, I didn’t want to end up being the person who caught up with Queer Eye, when it no longer sat proud on the throne of the cultural “it” moment, did I?

Back in the day, we watched F.R.I.E.N.D.S., because we loved it. Today, however, we watch Queer Eye, because we’re obligated to.

I am not alone in giving in to the tyranny of keeping up with pop-culture moments – all 987,5467 of them. As it turns out, living in the era of Netflix, immediate streaming, and zero torrenting comes with its own perks, including an all-consuming greed to be updated with anything and everything that was making the headlines and fuelling thinkpiece culture. It doesn’t matter how niche (Casting JonBenet), demanding (Manhunt: Unabomber), or time-consuming (Altered Carbon) the challenge in front of us is.

And it is exhausting. Consuming TV shows, movies, and podcasts the moment they are out, instead of relishing them in our own sweet time like the good old days when the hype and the “it show” title lasted longer than 24 hours, is more draining than a demanding relationship. This fatigue of keeping up is entirely of our own making. It easily surpasses the trauma of not having avocado with every meal. It follows us like a shadow, and mercilessly takes away the joy of discovering a show on our own and falling in love with it the same way Hazel and Augustus fell in love: slowly, and then all at once.

More often than not, it’s impossible to be a passive participant to this exercise. You are expected to be an active front-runner, at least some of the times; you have to be able to identify the “its” of the moment before anyone else does. No matter that by the time you have anointed Beyonce’s visual album, the conversation has bypassed her entirely to land at The Black Panther album, with pit-stops at Serial, American Vandal, and The Shape Of Water.

Granted the idea of obsessing over anything isn’t particularly new. Our parents were “die hard” fans of The Beatles. Readers of The Strand in 19th-century England, queued up outside the magazine’s office to get their hit of the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, where the short stories were originally serialised. But I doubt they centred their daily lives around their pop-culture interests – they couldn’t, because there just wasn’t that much to keep up with. Back then, interest in a band or a TV show was just a hobby, to be indulged in, in your free time, after you had spent a hard day at work, your household responsibilities were done, and you’d put the kids to sleep.

Consuming TV shows, movies, and podcasts the moment they are out is more draining than a demanding relationship.

Our pursuits, on the other hand, are frightening solitary because we’re always on the lookout for the next “it”. It’s eventually a never-ending obsessive cycle, bereft of an iota of joy.

Back in the day, we watched F.R.I.E.N.D.S., because we loved it. Today, however, we watch Queer Eye, because we’re obligated to. At this point, our lives are straight out of a sketch in Portlandia where co-creators Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein race each other in a game called “Did You Read it?” over breakfast. They throw the latest thinkpiece headlines at each other (“Did you guys read that thing in the New Yorker last month about how golf is an analogy for marriage?”) hoping to call the other’s bluff. As the questions and their desperation gets absurder by the second, it’s obvious that this obsession to be forever updated can never have a happy ending.

In this never-ending cycle, is there any hope for any of us to get back to enjoying watching reruns of our favourite old shows without worrying about checking out the latest “it”? I’d tell you, but I don’t have the time to. BRB, obsessing about the Food & Wine Guy from Queer Eye.