What is your Pop Culture Drug?
We all consume our media in different ways. For many, films/television/video games are idle entertainment, ways to kill the time between Important Things, diversions from their depressing days. For others, they’re a glorious escape, an outlet to their imagination, into which they can escape for a short while. But for others, such as myself, they can be something much more. Stories are my drug.
There. I’ve said it. It feels good to get off of my chest. I mean, I’d be lying if I said that drugs haven’t also been my drug at one point or another, but when times are tough, when I just can’t make it through a day, when I start to feel that ache in my bones, it’s always stories that I return to. However, it takes a special type of story to achieve the ‘drug’ classification, something that really crawls under my skin and stays there. (I would inject the movie The Fifth Element into my veins, if I could.)
I feel like everyone, even the people from the other two categories, have at least one game, or show, or film series or something that it feels like they just can’t live without. The one that you return to time and time again because you love the way it makes you feel, that you foist on all of your friends, just so they can feel good too. It just so happens that I have a lot of these, so I’m going to share them with you guys. The games/shows/movies/books that follow are my Pop Culture Drugs. And you guys.... You gotta try ‘em.
For convenience, I have divided them into the categories of ‘Video Games,’ ‘TV Shows,’ ‘Books,’ and ‘Movies’. (Note: This article may or may not just be a backhanded way of recommending sh*t that I like.)
You guys are probably sick of me constantly jerking off the creators of Mass Effect via my articles, but I’m gonna do it a little bit more here. Like the best stories, the tale of Commander Shepard worked its way into my brain, and wouldn’t let me rest until I knew how it ended. Yeah, yeah, I know people didn’t like the ending of Mass Effect 3, but I don’t really want to get into that here. (It wasn’t great, but it was... fine. That’s all I’ve got to say on the matter... for now.)
Other epic trilogies have had this effect as well, but in the case of Mass Effect, the compelling story was combined with great gameplay and the already crack-like nature of immersive video games to create a perfect, addictive cocktail of sci-fi badassery. It doesn’t help that each of the games is 20-30 hours long, which means that unlike a movie (or even a season of a tv show), it takes a long term commitment to get the full story. Add to that the fact that you don’t have to wait a week between episodes, but rather can determine for yourself how big your doses of the game are, and for me this series was a recipe for disaster. I played each one over the course of two or so days, neglecting food, sleep, and friends. Now, admittedly, not everyone has my addictive personality, but I was hooked. I neglected sleep, you guys. And I love to sleep.
Not many other games have had the Drug effect on me, weirdly enough. I love video games, but I’m generally pretty good about playing them in healthy doses. Except that time I played Borderlands for 20 straight hours, I guess, but that’s neither here nor there.
Two words: Breaking Bad. TV is probably the thing I’m most easily addicted to, thanks to it’s long-term storytelling, and the way that it’s carefully and slowly dosed out to us, but no show has ever gotten it’s hooks in me as much as Breaking Bad. Everything about it is expertly done, from the writing to the acting to the camera work, but what makes it special in the realm of TV is that it just keeps getting better. This wouldn’t be nearly as impressive if it started out sh*tty, but it started wonderful, and somehow keeps outdoing itself.
During those glorious 13 weeks out of every year where Breaking Bad is airing weekly, it’s difficult for me to think about anything besides Breaking Bad in between episodes. Whether I’m at school, or work, or out with friends, in the back of my mind, I’m thinking about what Walter White and Jesse Pinkman are up to, or how they’re going to get out of whatever new situation they’ve found themselves in.
Other shows that have had a drug-like effect on me, all in wildly different ways, are Lost and Futurama. With Lost it wasn’t the usual hook of wanting to see how the mysteries were solved, but simply wanting to see how the characters navigated their way through these insane situations, and where they were all going to end up at the end. For many people, the ending of Lost was a disappointment because it failed to wrap everything up, but for me it was emotionally rewarding.
As for Futurama, it’s the show I keep going back to. I’m someone who generally has trouble watching/reading something more than once, no matter how much I enjoyed it (this is less true for films than shows and books, since a movie is less of a long-term commitment each time you watch it), but Futurama is my Comfort Show, the one I put in whenever I’m in a weird mood, or I just want some guaranteed laughs.
During high school, I had a major addiction to Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, devouring each book the day it came out, similar to the way that the rest of the world was consuming Harry Potter and his magical antics. (I mean, don’t get me wrong. I read Harry Potter. But the Dark Tower was waaaaay cooler.) I not only devoured the seven books in the series, but also read most of Stephen King’s other novels, hunting down Dark Tower references, determined not to miss any of the story. It was bad how addicted I was. And then I kicked it, moving out of my Stephen King/Dark Tower phase, and onto bigger and better things.
Or so I thought. I just found out that a new Dark Tower book comes out in a few weeks, and now I’m suddenly like a crack addict, all twitchy and desperate for my next hit. It’s going to be a rough couple of weeks, but man will it be worth it.
My other big literary addiction is A Song of Ice and Fire, which the wildly popular HBO series Game of Thrones is based off of. The books have experienced a resurgence thanks to the show, but for a long time it was a very lonely series to be a fan of. It didn’t help that the books came out anywhere between three and five years apart, leaving me prowling the fan forums like a dog looking for scraps in the five long years between books four and five. And then book five finally came out, it’s arrival on my step heralded by the singing of angels (I may have been imagining that part, but I don’t think so). And now, book five fresh in my veins, I’m currently enduring the long wait for book six, which I may actually grind up into a powder and snort.
So, the drug metaphor is generally less applicable to films, because as I mentioned above, they tend to be a much more quickly consumed form of entertainment. Of course, there are film series’ and trilogies that this applies to, such as the year long waits between each film when the Lord of the Rings Trilogy was coming out, or the frenzy that people worked themselves into prior to Star Wars: Episode I, only to experience the cinematic equivalent of a bad trip.
For me, it’s every Marvel superhero movie. I know that they tend to be fairly average, but as a gigantic comic book nerd, I’m simply addicted to seeing superheroics play out on the big screen. This applies to pretty much any superhero film, but since I’ve always been a Marvel guy, my desire to see characters such as Iron Man (my absolute favorite) and the Hulk on the big screen is pretty great. I am UNREASONABLY EXCITED for The Avengers.
There’s also movies that you just can’t stop watching, that addiction you simply experience from seeing them with your eye-holes. Like I said above, The Fifth Element is like this for me, as is O Brother, Where Art Thou? I could watch that movie every day, and each time it’s a refreshing, enjoyable experience.
When it comes to films, I mostly get this way with filmmakers. If someone has a particularly strong voice, or a track record consisting entirely of films I love, I tend to await their next one like it’s going to solve all of the problems in the world. The Coen Brothers (Fargo, Big Lebowski, A Serious Man) and Paul Thomas Anderson (Punch Drunk Love, There Will be Blood, Boogie Nights, Magnolia) in particular have this effect on me. Each time they release a film, I rush to the theaters on opening day, just so I can get my fix.
Well. There you have it. Those are my pop-culture drugs, the shows/books/games/movies that it feels like I absolutely, positively cannot live without under any circumstances. So now I put the question to you: What are your pop culture drugs?