Traditionally, this is the time where we make promises to ourselves, about ourselves, and then, traditionally, spend the rest of the year breaking them. I’ve decided to try something different. Instead of lining up ways I intend to better myself, here’s a list of ways in which the world could improve, culturally, politically, cinematically, and socially. A wish list for 2021:
First off, I wish that watching television would get easier rather than harder. Sitting down to a favorite show now requires multiple feats of mental gymnastics: remembering if said show is on HBO, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Disney+, or Peacock; navigating through Roku or GoogleChrome or the Amazon Fire Stick; making sure you’re using the right HDMI port; finding the damn remotes. Then there are the fees for all of these services, which even if you’ve cut the cable cord can take bites out of your wallet like so many digital piranhas. Can’t some tech genius VC a one-stop solution? I never thought I’d say this, but I’m starting to miss the old days of NBC, ABC, and CBS.
I wish that the movie studios be required by federal law to make 30 percent of their product without recourse to CGI effects or digital gimcrackery. Real people photographed doing real things! It’s a concept! Such a statute — call it the Genre Conservation Initiative — would allow such endangered species of the big screen as romances, comedies, crime dramas, and westerns to bloom once more.
Speaking of which, we’ve just lived through a year without superhero blockbusters and, somehow, we’ve survived. On the evidence of the one big studio comic book movie that squeaked through the door — “Wonder Woman 1984” — we haven’t missed much. I propose we continue this moratorium for a further year, regardless of when and whether movie theaters reopen on a mass scale. The superheroes of the past year have been ordinary people. How about we celebrate them instead?
When the multiplexes do reopen, exhibitors will be expecting to go back to business as usual. It won’t be. COVID has altered the compact between movie theaters and moviegoers, in part because the studios and streaming behemoths have used the pandemic to leverage their power. So why not start thinking even further outside the box? Once vaccinations roll out on a mass level and people emerge from their homes, we’ll be desperate to gather together and be entertained. Who says a movie theater has to show movies? Why can’t it show . . . television series? I can think of dozens of shows it would be fun to watch as part of a crowd — “Bridgerton” or “Lovecraft County” for starters — and coming back for the next installment (or three) would be even more bonding. A ridiculous idea? Not anymore.
Widening my gaze beyond entertainment, how about a week — just one week — without hearing anything from the president of the United States? No tweets, no rallies, no hogging the national microphone. I assume Joe Biden has a healthy ego, since no one who goes into politics can get far without one. On the other hand, a healthy ego doesn’t need the constant reassurance a Twitter account with 89 million followers can provide at 2 a.m. when the sugar crash kicks in. I profoundly look forward to not hearing from the leader of the free world multiple times a day in all caps.
On a related note, I wish that all media outlets, national and local, print and television, use the correct term for when a politician issues a statement that is patently untrue. Said statement is not a “misleading claim” or a “misrepresentation” or “disputed” or “false.” It is a lie. Three letters. Saves ink. Editors have traditionally shied from the word because they think it requires intent while signaling that they’re taking sides. Such “gentleman’s rules” are useless when someone is smashing the game board on a daily basis. Even if Trump disappears into the night, his example has been set for a shameless new generation of politicians. Use “lie.” We’ll be needing it.
I’d like to see the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine reenacted, reconstituted, and restrengthened for a new era of cable and Internet news outlets. Fox News, Breitbart, Newsmax, and others have been allowed to preach their hoodoo-ganda unchallenged for far too long, and a new Doctrine would keep MSNBC and CNN in line, too. Imagine Tucker Carlson required by law to give equal time to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — now that’s entertainment.
It’s going to take more to bring this country back to a sense of itself, of course. First, we’re going to have to talk your angry brainwashed uncle down from the MAGA tree. It is my devout wish that a groundswell business arise in independent cult deprogramming for the home. Call 1-800-Q-BE-GONE and a dedicated professional will lead your family’s unreachable conspiracy theorist through intensive info-detox and a refresher course in factual knowledge, reasoned discussion, and listening to others.
Hey, federal crime-fighting agencies? Start devoting the majority of your resources to domestic terrorism. Get on Parler, separate the paranoid revenge fantasies from the ones with live ammunition. The enemy is within and has been for some time.
While we’re at it, can we get body-cams on all the police? And institute fines if they’re not turned on? And maybe come down hard on any police unions that refuse?
My biggest wish, after four years of a political administration that has demonstrated new depths of selfishness and a pandemic that has encouraged the best in some but the worst in others? That people start thinking beyond their immediate families to the needs and health of their communities, from the micro-local to the multinational. America’s cult of individualism has made the country a world power, but it has a dark side of “me first and maybe you later.” I sometimes wonder if bees and other hive minds have it better when it comes to surviving threats to the species like coronavirus or climate change. We might as well start now, because there may not be a later.
Lastly, I wish a safe and sane 2021 for you, readers. May we meet in the public squares soon to exchange stories and embraces.