Media Immersion Addiction: All Things in Moderation (or not)


Apparently it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. This is what I hear anyway. People say it all the time, as if it’s a universally acknowledged truth, without the possibility of question or contradiction.

I disagree. Bollocks to that. I say, if you like something, dive right in, up to yer damn neck. Revel in it, immerse yourself, enjoy it.

The first time I consciously remember doing this, was when I bought my first trade paperback – a compilation of the issues of Watchmen that I’d narrowly missed (“You should try reading it”, the comic shop owner told me as it came out. “Nah..” I said “Looks weird”… Silly me.) I finally picked it up, started reading, and stormed right through it in a day and a night. I didn’t put it down until the next morning, when I stumbled off to school, all sleep-deprived and cranky (well… crankier than usual, I’m not really a morning person). It felt amazing, while I read it, the entire world fell away, nothing else mattered. Hell, nothing else existed. There’s really no point in talking about this experience much more, since it’s pretty much the most common instance of this kind of behavior. Nearly everyone that I’ve ever met who’s read this book has a similar experience. It doesn’t matter if they read it when it came out, or they read it last week. It’s a damn good read and if it appeals at all, it’s hard to put down.

Within a similar time frame, Elektra: Assassin was coming out. After month one, I was hooked, and I waited for each consecutive issue with bated breath. Obviously I mention this book in articles enough so that it’s clearly an important one to me, the surprising part here is that I still managed to completely lose myself in the compilation book when it came out. I picked up a copy right away, and that night I read it all over again. Over the years I come back to it, and it’s been impossible for me to read it in any kind of calm and measured way. Once in a while I’ll simply fact-check something, reference it to see if I remember something correctly, but then I always end up having to read it all. It has a way of hooking me in, and each time I see another way in which Sienkiewicz deeply enriched Miller’s sparse story, their work layered upon each other in the most perfect synthesis of art and literature, allowing an incredibly depth, complexity and beauty to the whole that I’ve not seen again in either of their works since.

The next opportunity for this kind of mental indulgence came when I returned to the UK from some months in Holland. After too long without any access to media of any kind, I arrived back in London to find that a friend had videotaped all of Twin Peaks. I sat down to watch it with my girl friend Tara and we didn’t stop until we ran out of tapes (I think it was about 3 days). We took brief pauses to get plates of food and eat in a zombie-like fashion while staring at the tv… I think at some point in the viewing marathon there was a 2 or 3 hour nap. Aside from that we were grimly committed and we didn’t waver once. After a short while we forgot where we were, who we were, what was reasonable or logical, or what was true reality. We were totally and completely immersed in our Twin Peaks world and nothing else mattered. To this day I have a thing about Agent Dale Cooper and curvy girls with pale skin and deep red lips (but who doesn’t?). For all of his work, and the way he lives his life, I think that David Lynch might be a bona fide genius, but nothing he’s ever done has ever been quite as totally immersive as Twin Peaks was for me, and I attribute that almost entirely to the way in which I dove so deeply into it at the time. In my mind it still lives as an organic, messy, chaotic smear across my memory, and I’ve never tried to rewatch it.

A year or so later I was in Germany with only a handful of english-speaking friends. As a result, I quickly became a regular visitor to the second-hand english book shop, where I’d go every few days to pick up more reading materials to tide me over. While I toiled away in menial jobs, learning German and wondering what I was going to do in this strange country, the books I read gave me an alternate universe to inhabit. At some point I discovered Dune, and I ate those books right up. I read one every couple of days, staying awake in bed to read until I couldn’t keep my eyes open (I’ve always liked reading in bed). At some point in the 4th book (God Emperor of Dune) I got so completely immersed that on a cold night I dreamed I was out in the desert of Arrakis. In the dream my then-boyfriend was a giant sandworm whose back I was curling up against to keep warm in my stillsuit. It’s one of my clearest memories of the two years I spent in Germany.

Not that long ago, Alan Moore’s run on Swamp Thing was published in the form of a series of paperbacks. I bought each one as quickly as they came out, and as soon as I’d read each one, I passed it on to friends to read. Over time I’ve had to repurchase a few of them, books that never made it back to my hands, but it was absolutely worth it to spread the word of this absolutely intriguing diatribe on the nature of love, life and what it is that makes us human. Every time I pick up a volume of this book to check a fact or see how something was depicted, I end up having to read the entire book, right there. As a girl, when these comics were coming out on a monthly basis I hadn’t yet discovered my local comic shop, and so I’d only find the odd issue in the local newsagent (an english institution, a shop that sells a combination of candy, periodicals, and tobacco – all the non-mind-altering vices in one place). Being able to have them all neatly contained on my bookshelf is an indulgence I’ll never tire of.

Most recently I let myself and my time be consumed by Preacher, (which I wrote about extensively at the time, so I won’t bore you by repeating myself). Suffice to say that like most people who’ve read it, it damn well blew my socks off, for a little while it ate my world and I was happy to give it up. On the strength of that series alone, I’ve become far more conscious of Ennis’ work, and I’m enjoying myself with that quite a bit, but there was something magic that happened on that book… There was very rarely a lull, seldom a point where I could say “Yeah, I can take this or leave it.” Once I started, it had me, and I couldn’t walk away until I was done.


This kind of behavior – what can only really be described as a lack of control in regards to my media consumption – is something much alleviated by my enjoyment of comics. In their monthly form, they force a measured reading that I might otherwise be incapable of exercising. But I have to admit that given the option, I love being able to lose myself in another reality. For a little while life is on hold, and everything is different. It’s like getting on an airplane; For a specific amount of time, my life isn’t in my own hands, I have no control over whether I live or die. “Real” life is on hold for a few hours, and I kind of enjoy letting it go.


Sonia Harris lives and works in San Francisco, where she seeks to exert a modicum of self-control over her media intake. iFanboy isn’t really helping and she’s okay with that. Send your disparate and exciting emails to sonia@ifanboy.com.

Comments

  1. I agree…though this kind of lifestyle can be pretty fiscally irresponsible. The summer before my junior year of college I discovered Usagi Yojimbo and bought about 7 of the trades, I read one a night for the most part. But then I was short on money for books…you didn’t really need a stats book anyway…haha.

    Same thing happened to me last year after I graduated. Got hooked on Weeds and Arrested Devolpement and bought the dvds despite needing a car.

    Another great article Sonia. Nice job.

  2. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Before anyone asks, Sonia was in Germany working as an assassin, inspired by, yes, Elektra: Assassin.  

    Always cool to hear about time/place memories we associate with books. When you think about Dune, you think about Germany and that dream. When I think about Tintin, it’s, well, Colonial Williamsburg.   

  3. I’m having this experience with the Godfather trilogy right now, although adulthood dictates lengthy breaks for eating, sleeping, and earning my keep. The films lingered on my DVR like a long-postponed chore, but within minutes of hitting "play" I was lost to the world.

    I tend to find myself too overwhelmed to get immersed. I will devour an entire series in a sitting, but only after spending months looking at the pile, lamenting, "Ugh! So many books. I can never surmount a heap that size. Might as well not start."

  4. yay! a non-body image related post! This is a very cool article…

  5. Sonia, I refuse to believe that you were still attached to Twin Peaks after the second season. Yes, I know the first is horribly addicting, but the second got so weird and disjointed, I can’t dream of anyone marathoning through it. If you did, I’m going to assume that your brain tried to reject it, cause horrible headaches, for which im truly sorry :(.

     I’ve marathoned through the entire series of Oz, which another painfully addicting show, everything works together so well and you really want to know what happens next! So I didn’t stop till I was out of Oz episodes, which made for an amazing few weeks!

    Comics wise…when I first got the Essential X-Men that started with Giant Size X-Men #1, I pretty much marathoned though the majority of Claremont’s issues. You really find the voices of those characters and you don’t want to stop!

  6. Super-cool points for including Twin Peaks. I know it fell apart toward the end there, but it still stands out as one of my all-time favorite TV shows. And, yes, completely immersive.

    Speaking of… anyone looking to get completely immersed in something new should mayyyyybe try this little audio drama podcast called Wormwood, which is on iTunes and has some writing by iFanboy’s own Paul Montgomery. Two full seasons. Perfect for a roadtrip or a really, really long workout at the gym (which would end with you either dying or being totally awesomely shredded).  /end shameless plug/

  7. This article is too time consuming. And complete bollocks.

  8. @comicBOOKChris: The second season of TWIN PEAKS is fantastic! In many ways I love it more than the first.

  9. I get way to immersed in the Simpsons universe. One day I’ll just start playing the season one DVD then suddenly it’s midnight and I’m on the 8th DVD.

    In terms of comics it’s all about Transmetropolitan. I need to get every single trade and read it 100 times…that’s how much I love that comic.

  10. Yeah, I also experienced Twin Peaks in much the same way. Life had to go on hold until I saw all of it.

    Felt the same way about a lot of Alan Moore’s stuff, too, particularly Swamp Thing and Miracleman. In the mid-90s, I remember ordering single issues of those series from mail-order comics services until I had everything in one form (tpb) or another (single issue). Sandman hit me the same way as well, and at about the same time.

    As long as you try to only reserve your indulgences for things that are particularly great, I don’t see the problem. It helps if the series that you’re getting into is kind of limited. I love Claremont’s original run on X-Men, but it wasn’t until years, years after I first started collecting it that I came to track down all the stories (still haven’t read Heroes for Hope or X-Men vs. Teen Titans, for instance). In much the same way, I’m currently in the process of reading all of Byrne’s Fantastic Four–I love it–but this "process" might take me years. I’m not going out and buying all the (expensive) Visionaries trades; I just buy the odd handful of issues when I happen to see them at a cheap price. The ways of the universe sort of aid the choosiness of this rationale, though: I find that the series that are really, really, really great (Watchmen, Miracleman, Twin Peaks) usually don’t have over a hundred installments. Rarely do they have over fifty (Sandman, Moore’s Swamp Thing), actually.

  11. Nice article, Sonia.

    I watched Twin Peaks in the same sort of way. In my case my parents taped it and said I’d probably like it.

    But I will always treasure reading The Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns in issue form from month to month. I remember putting a lot of thought into each issue this way, and would wonder what was coming next. It was something I would never have done of my own choosing, if given a trade version of the stories.

    I find the television show Heroes more enjoyable in one sitting via DVDs, instead of as individual episodes during a season. The first season I watched each week, and found it "okay". I watch the whole of season two on DVD, and even though it wasn’t as good as season one, watching it in one chuck was more enjoyable then waiting every week for the show. Perhaps this was because I didn’t find much to think about it between episodes.

    Hey daccampo, I’m getting Wormwood right now, and will wait a month between episodes! 😉

  12. I would add to the list, in my personal experience: Deadwood and The Wire.

  13. Great article Sonia!

    I find that I feel the same way about LOST right now…it is so immersive and I feel the same way about it (esp. when it first started) as I did when Twin Peaks came out. Both shows are just so atypical for mainstream television (as they say: "Years ahead of their time…")  From the comedy side I did the same for Arrested Development. What a fantastic show…i began watching it right as the DVDs came out and lamented that I had failed to watch it in "real time." *sigh*

    Comics wise: Y the Last Man is a no-brainer….but Dark Horse’s "dark horse title" Rex Mundi has an "immersive quality" to it…highly recommended!

  14. Tell me about it.  I’ve collected and read both Arnold Drake and Grant Morrison’s entire runs on Doom Patrol within the past 6 months.

  15. "Nah. Looks weird." So funny. Why weren’t there girls like you where I grew up?

  16. That Elektra cover is so confusing….what is going on? That might be something out of Twin Peaks maybe?

  17. This article really hits the nail on the head, but the trouble is there is so much STUFF out there that I wonder if the truly great things just get diluted in our need to read or watch as many different things as possible.  There are so many comics, books, films, shows all vying for our attention that I find it tough to devote too much time even to the obviously excellent.  Comics like 100 Bullets deserved me to go back and re read the whole lot in the lead up to the end but I had too much else to read. I get a new film by the likes of David Fincher and I think to myself "this deserves to be watched again, and then maybe again" but then I get a look at my "to watch" pile and think, "THERE’S JUST NO TIME!!!"

  18. @jimski Once you’re done with them, you’ll have to watch Apocalypse Now and Hearts of Darkness (consecutively if possible). I do it fairly often and it gets better each time. Copolla is a fucking genius.

    The Wire is the only reason why I upped my Netflix from one DVD at a time, to three. For a few months it was all I watched. I had to burn episodes to my ipod and watch it on the way to work to make enough time to fit it all in as fast as I could. I’ve kept the three discs at a time deal though, and used it to plow through Deadwood, Weeds, Entourage, and all those other non-scifi shows that I didn’t watch week-by-week as they came out.

  19. I also wanted to add in my undying love for Elektra: Assassin.  Probably my favorite stuff by Sienkievitch (even though I don’t even try to spell his name right anymore).

  20. "I love being able to lose myself in another reality. For a little while life is on hold, and everything is different. …and I kind of enjoy letting it go." Brilliantly describes it. Those are the best kind of books and comicbooks – where you can’t let go until the end and you’re immersed in the world and don’t notice the hours flying by.

  21. I couldn’t do anything but watch the entire Cardcaptor Sakura series plus the two movies. Yep, I said it…

  22. I consumed the entire run of Animal Man on a 3 day weekend once.

  23. the last time i experienced something like this was with the First season of Mad Men on DVD, what an amazing show.

    Also, i last year i was complete taken over by two books recommended by Conor. Homicide: a year on the killing street and The Corner by Simon David. Fucking brillant

  24. oh, and the only names in the borrowing info in the the copy of the  Dune triology hardcover at my school’s library were mine and my two brothers’. we all stumbled upon by chance

  25. @target242 Thanks for mentioning Rex Mund. I’ve just went ahead and put the first TPB on hold at the library, and will see what I think. It looks cool. 

  26. You know I totally forgot about an excellent example here. When I first found the iFanboy podcast (around a year ago), I liked it so much that I started from the first episode, and would listen to show after show until I caught up to the most recent show. It took a while to listen to everything.  

    Same went for "Tom verses…", but those are so much shorter and I must have consume them all in a week or so.
    Same went for "The Bugle".  

    The podcast medium really lends itself to this behavior, since you often can download a whole series so easily.

    Right now I’ve been listening to the series of "The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe", and am up to episode #48 from June 21, 2006.

  27. If only my media consumption could put life permanently on hold…