Occasionally I’ll get an urge to write an essay of film or literary criticism. But there’s no money or glory in that, and I don’t have time to write one, anyway. Still the inner voice nudges me: “The world really needs another 1,700 words on this obscure teen comedy from 1998!” “Tell everyone your unlearned thoughts on a poem about grass from 1906!” I can only hold it off for so long before the urge to write–really, the urge to procrastinate on some larger, more promising project–threatens to overtake me, and I have to vent these ideas somehow.

With that in mind, here are some of my essay ideas. They’re not fully developed. Feel free to use them, remix them, print them out and burn them, or do whatever you like with them.

  • Why the tv series Mr. Mercedes is a giant allegory for internet pornography and its effects on the male psyche. Everything, from the imagery in the killer’s online notes, to his lair (a big computer set-up in a basement), to his gross-out incestuous relationship with his mother (she, uh, gives him a hand in one episode) makes it apparent what’s really being discussed. I had a big, messy draft of this saved on my old site before InMotion Hosting deleted my entire website (without telling me, by the way. I had to call them!). But if you watch the show with that in mind, it’ll be glaringly obvious.
  • The horrible writing style used by Cosmopolitan magazine, possibly other women’s magazines as well. I tried to read a few articles in a recent issue of Cosmopolitan and I couldn’t get past the first five lines. Using asterisks to *emphasize* a word might look cute on Tumblr, but not in a print magazine with a million-plus circulation. Calling one of your subjects a “perfectly amazing neurotic person” (or words to that effect) is eye-bleed material, at least in my opinion. Are they trying to act cool? I don’t know. I didn’t see anything in the magazine that even approached the level of this post, for example. Why can’t someone who’s getting paid to write (and presumably pretty well–it was three dollars a word in the late 90s) do a better job than someone writing for free in their time off? Or have they stopped paying well?
  • Emotional labor (or emotion work) in the 2019 film Yesterday. It features a sex-swapped version of the nerd/babe unrequited love trope (like Andi and Duckie in Pretty in Pink). There’s something interesting going on there. I wrote a little about it here. It would also be interesting to re-watch various generations of teen movies or young adult romcoms (e.g. Reality Bites) and see how emotion work is performed by male and female characters. Apparently, Yesterday is also a bit of a copycat film, much like its protagonist. Like I said, a lot of interesting material to work with. But I don’t want to write it that badly. Not unless some fool wants to pay me.
  • Something about the third season of True Detective, just because it’s under-appreciated. It doesn’t have the “buddy cop on Qaaludes” vibe of the first season, but it’s still worth watching. There are also no sex scenes, which is a big plus. (I hate sex scenes.) And having the main character suffering from dementia adds an interesting layer to the show.

Feature photo: Nathan Anderson / Unsplash.

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