The False Intimacy Of Media

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Earlier I posted on how there’s two different ways to connect to Media. I summed it up roughly as follows:

  • Known Connections: A fiction reaches us as it triggers existing associations, such as tropes.
  • Created Connections: A fiction makes us see things anew, creating new associations and ideas.

Today I’d like to focus on the Known Connections, those cases where a media gets us interested because it contains known content, common ideas, and so on. I believe these kinds of metal associations with the media we consume explains one reason people get so addicted and defensive about their comics, books, movies, etc.

Consider how it feels when something “pushes your buttons” (in a good way) when you consume media. It feels good, it feels right, it feels as if it’s “for you.” Connection to a piece of media is an intimate experience.

Now, consider how media can throw Known Connections at you. That kind of story you can’t put down. That kind of character you always like. That obvious twist you still crave. The right media can pile on things you’ve seen before – and still get you to consume it because it’s the right pile of things.

Or in short, we all know that we will read the biggest mass of repetitive, unoriginal, done-it-all-before stuff if it hits the right spots. We might not want to admit it, but we will.

That explains, in part, why some people get so defensive of certain media that are, bluntly, pandering. It’s all the stuff they like, in a mass, wrapped up in a bow. They might not even be aware of how they’re pandered to, as that piece of media feels so right.

(And no, you’re not immune to this. I know I’m not.)

But there’s something else going on here. I think this love of media that pushes our buttons also leads to a sense of intimacy with the creator(s) and the people involved.

When we discover a piece of media that hits all the right spots (even if those spots have been hit a lot before), we also feel a sense of connection. Someone got all our focuses and loves right. Someone gave us what we wanted, even if we sort of have had it all before.

When you have that feeling, it’s a feeling of intimacy, of connection. It’s too easy to assume that this intimate feeling is, well, real. You probably don’t know the author. The media you chose, bluntly, is not that original (or is just pandering). Still, that connection feels right.

Looking this over, I think I understand why some people get obsessively protective of some media, authors, and actors. It does everything they like in the way they like. It feels intimate, it may even feel like it’s just for you.

It’s not, of course. But perhaps this explanation can help us navigating having discussions with people so attached to a piece of media.

Steven Savage