11 February 2011

Post 321: The Water is Wide

The Water is Wide by Pat Conroy. ISBN: 9781453203897 (eBook).

In The Water is Wide, Conroy comes to recognize the values of television as a medium through which we can have shared experiences. In this case, the shared experience is the movie The Wizard of Oz. Of all the possible movies that the kids could have been exposed to, this is a really good one, but what do we have today that almost everyone has been exposed to in order to have those common experiences?

It seems that pop culture is changing so fast that it instead of "popping" it flashes. It is there one moment, and in the next it is gone. What's the last movie that you saw that you think will make a lasting impression on you? Was it anything this year? Can you say the same thing for art? Books? Advertisements? Clothing? TV Series? It all seems so disposable. In some ways this is a good thing, because advertisers and creative teams have the chance to try a whole bunch of new things and see if they stick, but the problem with that is that they don't stick around for very long even when they are moderately successful (Farscape, Heroes, Dead Like Me). Or they have the problem of sticking around far after they lose their appeal; or even worse, they never had any to begin with because it was a poorly formulated and/or executed idea because Someone thought it would make a whole lot of money and pushed it before it was really developed.

Then again, it seems that Making Money has caused its own problems. In order to be able to push More on the consumer they have actually given us too many options. By providing ten thousand flavors of family drama, vampire romance, train wrecks in the form of reality TV shows, and whatever else your brain could possibly think of, there is almost no way for there to be any front runners. We don't have the kind of common culture we had back in the day because it's hard to watch the same shows as your neighbor when you both have 200 channels to choose from. This is of course the same with reading material, movies, etc.

Is this a good thing? Or is it just the way it is? If we were to have a core of common knowledge, what should it be and who should decide?

My review can be found on Goodreads.
LibsNote: Free review copy provided through NetGalley.
If you like memoirs, this is a good one.


  1. On one hand it's a good thing but on the other, it really isn't because nothing really lasts. When I remember things I used to watch as a kid I can remember specifics but I have a feeling that when asked when they're older the kids of today will just say cartoons. Not sure about the core of common knowledge thing...

  2. Actually I know people from my generation who _loved_ and were probably greatly affected by the cartoons of the late 1980's and early 1990's. I don't know if this is the case for today's cartoons.

    I wonder if internet memes are what currently form our common knowledge, that would be a sad state of affairs, wouldn't it?

  3. Memes go part of the way, but the internet is such a vast place, and used in so many different ways, that that really is only the basis for a subculture, if anything.

    It's interesting, that part about Making Money and providing too many choices echoes something I read in 23 Things They Don't Teach You About Capitalism. Specifically, he suggests that too much choice overwhelms us, and financial regulation helps rein in what choices we have to make, so that we can make better ones.

    It sounds almost totalitarian to suggest, but what if there was cultural regulation? Let's take a very narrow view and just suggest something like TV; if there was a quota of X shows to be made on TV, then everyone who wanted to work in television would be grouped together a little denser than they are now. Multiple minds would be working where one works now. Wouldn't it make sense, then, that if, say, My Little Pony or Heroes had twice the number of people working it, that it would be an even greater cultural event? And with fewer shows to choose from, more people would experience it.

    Of course, it's kind of a bad idea overall, I was mostly amused by the comparison.

  4. Dan,
    I don't necessarily think we need more creative minds working on the same TV show. I think that might actually spoil the soup as the original owner of the idea would likely have to incorporate things into their show they had no intention of including, and may feel pressure to do so from the studios. What might happen if there was a quota is that we might have higher quality shows/ideas because there would be fewer opportunities for shows to be aired. Or we might end up with a whole slew of reality TV since that's what sells right now.

    And if there was a quota or cultural regulation, who gets to decide which cultural elements are promoted? It will likely be targeted towards the white middle class, which neglects a whole range of other valid cultural values.


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