Jane Schoenbrun Wants to Blow up Your Television - Latest Global News

Jane Schoenbrun Wants to Blow up Your Television

Jason Parham: Why do people look for identity on television?

Jane Schoenbrun: In the broadest cultural sense, we look to media to find identity for reasons that are perhaps somewhat murky. A lot of it has to do with capitalism and the way we are told that the things we identify with, the brands we identify with, the identities we create through the things we consume, create who we are. Especially from an anthropological perspective, our reliance on media to create self-consciousness has escalated in a pretty frightening capitalist way over the last few decades.

The rise of digital media and television and film had a lot to do with it.

But I also think that television in particular, in contrast to film, is a medium that enables a lasting identification, which I find particularly tempting. It was definitely for me as I grew up. It wasn’t just 90 minutes in and out and then it’s over. It wasn’t just Let me take this quick detour from real life into this world. It was the promise of being in a space that never really had to end, or if it did end, it wouldn’t be for years. Certainly for the television shows of my youth –Buffy or the X files or Twin Peaks that I just loved so much – while they were airing, they gave me the space to express love in ways that I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing in my real life.

It’s a parasocial relationship.

So I care deeply about the characters in one of these shows and how they would change as if they were my own family, or I grieve for a character after they’re killed off. A really deep, lasting relationship developed. The medium of television is intended to help.


Additionally, we can now see something in our cultural movement toward intellectual property and the “cinematic universe.” This idea says that nothing ever has to end and that each Marvel film is about setting up the next one. There’s something very sinister and infantilising to me about the way we want to live in these theme parks of unreality, which culturally has a lot to do with how alienated so many of us feel from the world.

In a way, didn’t Owen want that too – to live in a theme park of unreality?


For me one of the central themes of I saw the television light up is obsession. Where is the line between healthy and unhealthy obsession?

I don’t know if I would necessarily fit it into an unhealthy-healthy binary. I want to resist the urge to be too moralistic.

OK. How would you put it?

The film draws heavily on my own autobiography and particularly the film I wrote during the early stages of my gender transition, when I was looking back on my wasted youth, staring at a screen, or coming to terms with the fact that I could be myself won’t be myself in the real world by staring at the screen. So my point is not to wag my finger at the fan base or rail against the dangers of media consumption. It’s more personal than that.

How come?

It’s about this thing that ultimately stopped serving me as I got older because it was a coping mechanism and a way to hide from the parts of myself that I was suppressing. I suppressed because it was unsafe not to suppress them. It’s a film about how I could hide in fiction and how balm it was to stick to fiction in my earlier years. But the longer I grew up, the more this oppression bubbled up.

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