What Shall We Watch Now?

Over the past year, there was so much to be afraid of that fear itself grew fatigued. Was the solitude of lockdown passing into a new systemic withdrawal? Or were we practicing turning our blind eye to kids on the streets with guns?  Nothing felt as eerie then as the bourgeois comfort that now at last, double vaccinated, we might be getting back to normal. As if there was a proven “we,” let alone any structure of normality available. As if we had not learned yet that the phantom known as our norm had been a deluding pipe-dream for so long. As if the panoramas of fear had not taught us that hope and our future were Ponzi schemes. As if we didn’t know in our bones that the precious “it” — our culture — might be ending, so should we (quietly and discreetly) get whatever we could while there was still time?  So even among the pursuers of our liberties, there could be a secret plan of acquiring tactful guns, living on high ground, putting together a goodies satchel of Proust, Musil, Parker, and Mahler, and stockpiling toilet paper.  I hoped to make that short paragraph mischievous, as if that was the surest way of getting at you. But black comedy is a showoff relief now, our trick for sidestepping gravity. Blackness went noir in the last century, as horror was glossed as genre. So I want to find an example that can be unsettling.  On May 14, 2021, Amazon Prime streamed all ten episodes of Barry Jenkins’ adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s novel The Underground Railroad. Wasn’t that splendid, and a sign of our improvement? Many said that this event was eagerly awaited, not just because Jenkins had achieved a high reputation with Moonlight, but because between the publication

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