A few months into the lockdown, it seemed that everyone around me had found their footing almost immediately. Everyone had their eyes on the prize—whether it was padding their resume, discovering a new talent, or starting a small business. Even the media everyone consumed had a purpose.
Whether it was through lengthy serious books or watching artful and obscure films, people were taking every opportunity to learn. I, on the other hand, had shamefully retreated into the comfort of my childhood and high school favorites. And when I wasn’t rewatching the same shows or rereading the same books, I was watching things I could consume mindlessly, like reality TV and sitcoms. This is somewhat “trashy” media—not necessarily bad shows, movies, or books, but ones that were usually drama-filled, easy to digest, and mainstream.
I lamented to a friend of mine, complaining about my complacent taste. She said something that changed my entire perspective of media consumption. “When you read books and watch shows, you’re supposed to be having fun. So why are you beating yourself up for reading and watching things that bring you joy?”
What she said was so simple that I was dumbfounded. Why hadn’t I thought of that before?
Somehow, I equated my media consumption to productivity and thought of myself as childish for returning to comforts. In reality, I was coping with the lockdown in my own way. The way we react to the ongoing pandemic and lockdown is always bound to be different from others’ responses, and this was my way.
Though it is important to explore other types of media to widen our worldview and understand other perspectives of real-life situations, I somehow pressured myself into thinking that I had to do something I didn’t necessarily enjoy. I agonized over it every time I found myself tuning into Glee or Twilight, all because I wasn’t doing what I thought would make me smarter or more cultured. If you think about it, isn’t it grim that we are still expected to do something and function better than ever during a worldwide crisis?
This is not an uncommon problem. There’s a certain pressure that everyone has felt to grow or become better within the Covid-19 crisis in some way or form, and for me, this manifested in my consumption of media. I’m surrounded by readers and people who are perpetually online—soon enough I felt like I had been left behind in terms of evolving my taste.
Productivity culture has been injected into every single aspect of our lives, and this was only amplified during the lockdown. Because we’re spending almost all our time at home, we’re conditioned to believe that we have to make up for the “wasted” time.
The pandemic isn’t a growth experience, or an opportunity to take on passion projects. This capitalistic mindset that makes productivity and ‘grinding’ our priority in everything, even things we are supposed to enjoy with no pressure, is detrimental. With the amount of Filipinos facing anxiety and mental health problems amid the pandemic, we must take our idea of productivity out of the equation.
Since talking to my friend, I’ve fully embraced the freedom of openly loving what many considered as “trashy” media, ones that were campy, fun, and dramatic rather than deep or world-shattering. When I stopped overthinking the things I read and watched and played, I started to enjoy myself more—and felt more comfortable exploring other things, the more serious types of media I wished that I could consume at the beginning of the pandemic.
I even found that reading and watching light books and movies somehow gave me a glimpse of the life I was missing. The lockdown started while I was in my freshman year—I only got to see the world outside my tiny conservative high school for a semester and a half, and it still fills me with grief that I will never experience the typical college experience ever again.
But confined to the inside of my home, I was able to see peeks of my onsite college life when I watched Rory Gilmore in Yale and Joey Potter in Worthington. I could see new sights and experience huge life changes through Lara Jean’s journey in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Even watching something as absurd as Too Hot to Handle brought me comfort in its scenes of friendship when they’d celebrate at the end of the day.
In a way, I was able to witness bits of humanity, without feeling overwhelmed by deeper messages of grief or loss. I felt I had experienced enough of that.
Sometimes it feels like we aren’t allowed to have fun when there is so much chaos ensuing—we then turn to work to at least have some sort of ‘product’ of our time. But if we continue to put our enjoyment and excitement at the bottom of the ladder when deciding what to do, even in our little everyday choices like what books to read, there can be no good outcome.
There are only so many little joys in life nowadays. Let’s take what we can get.