josh hadley | the shadows of pop culture | july 2018
Oxford defines the word “bored" as “feeling weary because one is unoccupied or lacks interest in one's current activity."
How in this world of technological wonders, with the interwebs, video games, movies, comics, books, toys and everything else can we still get bored?
We have all of these marvels surrounding us and yet we still get bored far too easily, myself included. Why? Are we so desensitized to the world around us that even dropping out via electronics or some other variable will not evaporate the rancid boredom we face day to day?
I love to read and yet there are times you are just not in the mood to read. I love to game and yet I have to be in the mood to game. Just as with sex, you must be primed or motivated otherwise you are simply going through the motions and I hate just going through the motions. That said though, is just killing time and going through the motions sometimes enough? Even bad sex is still better than no sex, right? Even having a bad gaming experience is better than not trying at all, right? Even a bad movie is better than not watching a movie, right? How did we get to this place of apathy and lethargy where in this day and age, with all that envelops us day in and day out, with all of the varied ways to waste time and run out the clock, how are we still bored?
I have a stack of books I need to read that is growing far faster than I can tackle them, video games I keep putting off and movies that I acquire at a seemingly 5-1 ratio of movie acquired to movie viewed. All of that and I still find myself merely playing Plants vs. Zombies for two hours. It's sad that I have come to this point. I was not always like this and I vow to stop being like this right after I waste another few hours on my phone. I will not let languor take me and rule my life; I will not let boredom have me … right after I beat this level on Bejeweled 3. Damn it!
That is what I am talking about: We, all of us, would rather waste our time than use our time. We call it "killing time" for a reason, we have nothing better to do (objectively) so we just exist from moment to moment with no real purpose, aimlessly shuffling from one time killing activity to another. We would prefer to live simply and let our devices and attractions rule us and not the other way around. We (the royal we) don't readbooks anymore, we use books as nothing more than a way to pass the time from one activity to another, usually activities which require no thought in and of themselves to start with. Books are not enlightenment any longer; they are just something to pass the time. We don't want movies that make us think or engage us, we want – and I shudder that I must use this term which I despise – eye candy: stuff 'sploding and lots of quick cuts lest we get bored by what is on the screen. When a large movie is in the editing stages what are the first things cut from a film? Character scenes and dialog scenes. Action scenes stay because that is what we want, a momentary distraction from the inevitable doldrums of our everyday lives. We want something to elevate boredom and, overall, other people talking is a source of boredom for many of us. Look at the talk shows and how they "progressed" from the 1970s into the 1990s. Talk shows went from people talking and discussing subjects (serious or inane) to people throwing chairs and flashing lady parts. The audience grew bored with just talking and as society grew more unstable around us, we needed our entertainment to grow equally unstable. I grew up when the Atari VCS (2600) first hit the market and these painfully simple games could keep us enthralled for hours and days even and I see the current generation bored by these even at a glance. They have become conditioned by all they encounter to "need" more stimuli just as junkies need a higher dose of their chosen drug to get to the same place.
When you are doing something you are genuinely uninterested in, you will find that smaller amounts of stimuli will suffice to make things bearable but as you progress you need more, you crave more. Boredom is a gateway drug that requires more and more input and one that you never even noticed you were staving off. With all that we have to occupy us, things that can stimulate the mind, enhance an experience or better us as human beings, we tend, instead, to choose that which is the easiest on us and the most uncomplicated. Our devices end up owning us and we care little to alter this relationship or change the terms and we let this de-evolution mutate our society.
Back in 1981 a game such as “Adventure" or “Swordquest" could keep an adult enthralled for significant periods of time and now even a 5-year-old can beat those games in seven minutes with nary even trying. The games did not change, but the culture surrounding the games demanded more and, for benefit or deficit, boredom gained a greater stranglehold on us. Look at a movie trailer such as “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" from the late '70s, it is slow, builds the mystery of the characters, shows you the world and makes you want to see more. Now look at any big budget movie trailer from today and it is filled with quick cuts, booming music, flash frames, nonsensical imagery and, the worst sin of all, refuses to tell you what the movie is about. The audience grew less sophisticated and pop culture acclimated to this rather than the other way around.
All of this falderal is due to boredom in an age where there are more things to do, to read, to watch, to play and to experience than ever before. I think this spells doom for us as thinking creatures. I am about to go and read a book from that ever-increasing stack, then watch a movie, right after I play some games. Damn it.
A fiercely confrontational and arrogant critic whose stubborn nature makes him immanently readable and equally angering, Josh Hadley is a writer for magazines such as Hustler, Fangoria, Paracinema, Shadowland, Grindhouse Purgatory and Cashers du Cinemart, as well as a radio host on Jackalope Radio. Find more from him at 1201beyond.com, a website that only the most anti-social personalities would engage.