Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Buried Alive

I Saw the TV Glow (2024) - Schoenbrun Screen Shot 2024-06-19 at 9.07.57 AM Screen Shot 2024-06-19 at 9.08.29 AM Screen Shot 2024-06-19 at 9.10.19 AM Screen Shot 2024-06-19 at 9.11.07 AM Screen Shot 2024-06-19 at 9.11.47 AM Screen Shot 2024-06-19 at 9.12.14 AM Screen Shot 2024-06-19 at 9.12.57 AM Screen Shot 2024-06-19 at 9.13.04 AM Screen Shot 2024-06-19 at 9.14.19 AM Screen Shot 2024-06-19 at 9.15.13 AM Screen Shot 2024-06-19 at 9.18.11 AM Screen Shot 2024-06-19 at 9.22.14 AM Screen Shot 2024-06-19 at 9.22.39 AM Jane Schoenbrun's trans identity allegory aside (evidences are aplenty throughout and shouldn't be ignored), I Saw the TV Glow speaks to a very specific group of people who grew up in the 90s, consuming copious amount of late night TV alone. These are not the kids who were cheerleaders, football players, popular kids who bought into the Clinton era fake optimism. They were loners and weirdos who desperately clung to each other when they found one another.

You hoped that there was life beyond the suffocating High School years; you have aspirations and ambitions, to be somebody. But as you grow older, you find life under capitalism is just as suffocating, as if you are being buried alive. This is the feeling Schoenbrun captures so well with I Saw the TV Glow.

It tells Owen (Justice Smith), who befriends Maddy (Brigette Lundy-Paine), an older schoolmate who introduces to the world of late night TV show, Pink Opaque. For Maddy, it's more than just a kid's TV show. It's all consuming religion. The two main characters, Isabel and Tara become extension/cosplay of Maddy and her friend. But after the big boobied friend left her to join the cheerleading squad, timid Owen becomes de facto Isabel. In this show with elaborate mythology, the girls are psychically connected with the matching glowing ghost tattoo on the back of their necks, fighting a figure called Mr. Melancholy.

Owen is fascinated by the TV show, as well as alluring Maddy, but unsure about taking a deep dive in to Pink Opaque, as Maddy's life becomes increasingly blurry between what's real and what's not. Maddy disappears after the show is canceled. The last episode was a cliffhanger - Isabel's heart was ripped out and she was buried alive by Mr. Melancholy.

Life catches up with Owen, working menial jobs and ending up working for an amusement park. As an adult, rewatching the TV show now available on streaming, Owen finds that he remembers it quite different. Now it's a benign kid's stuff.

Maddy's reemergence rattles Owen. She says she has been fighting in the Midnight World the whole time, trying to rescue Isabel/Owen and get their hearts back.

Neon colored, dreamy look captures the sleepless nights of the lonely adolescent in the 90s perfectly. Underlit photography also captures that eerie feeling that something is askew.

There is a divide between what you wanted to be when we were young and what you are now. Just like Schoenbrun's last film We're All Going to World's Fair, I Saw the TV Glow is a sad film that lingers on after days of watching.

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