THR Web Features   /   August 24, 2023

The Way Your Mind Ends

The slight variations of arrangement into eternity.

Alan Jacobs

( THR illustration/Shutterstock.)

It’s called the “good cop, bad cop” routine, but in practice the bad cop always comes first. Softens you up, makes you want it to stop. Then comes the good cop with a kindly smile and a quiet voice. Or: You were right to think of social media as rage-bait, but you were mistaken about what came next, what happened after you took the bait. So much shouting, such cacophony; you needed to escape. You couldn’t stop scrolling, not altogether, not at first, but you needed something more soothing…on another screen. Theses days the big streaming services push showrunners to make TV shows less demanding of viewers’ attention—they say, This isn’t second screen enough, it needs to be smoother, like smooth jazz, like visual Muzak. Calming. Remember when we thought movies and TV shows were going to get ever sexier and more violent, pushing the old boundaries? No, they’re getting quieter. Mumblecore was nothing, mumblecore was only the very beginning. In a few years TV will just be AI-synthesized actors sitting in AI-synthesized dimly lit muted-color rooms, murmuring to one another—ASMR you can look at from time to time. When you have to move around you switch to Spotify, where you get served up the Applebee’s of music, medium-tempo instrumentals with muted hip-hop beats, a little vinyl-like static, and four chords on an electronic keyboard or a GarageBand jazz guitar: I-V-vi-IV, or I–vi–IV–V, or vi–IV–I–V, extended with slight variations of arrangement into eternity. Asymptotically approaching the condition of an eternal black screen. Nirvana, or else the opposite. All rage forgotten. Digital fentanyl; non-pharmaceutical soma. This is the way your mind ends, not with a shout but a whisper.