This Tweet raised a number of questions:
Attention, viewer: this material may not be suitable for parents who have to verbally identify every actor who appears on the screen. https://t.co/Np1jzYHUD7
— The New Yorker (@NewYorker) May 11, 2022
My initial response was simply to reply, “I don’t know what this has to do with ‘parents,’ unless it was written by a child. Doesn’t everyone do this? And why isn’t IMDB mentioned?”
But seriously, people, when all of us are sitting there with smartphones, who doesn’t do this?
I don’t mean with Steve Buscemi. If you have to look him up, you should just quit partaking in popular culture altogether. I mean somebody a little harder, like Zoë Wanamaker. I see her all the time, of course (such as, recently, in “Britannia”), but I was thrown because she appeared in an episode from the first series of “Prime Suspect” in 1991, and I hadn’t seen her when she was that young. Also, she distracted me by stripping off her blouse to flash her breasts at a cop who was surveilling her.
Of course, some of us do it to a greater extreme than others. Like me. My wife goes, “Who is that? Where did we see her?” But then, she generally returns her attention to the show and follows the action.
Meanwhile, several feet away, I’m on my phone’s IMDB app, researching away. Which, of course, sometimes takes several steps. Sometimes with a TV show, simply calling up the entry for the show won’t tell you who this actor or actress, who may only have appeared in this episode, was (either because the person is buried in a long list, or, too often, is missing entirely from the main page). So I might have to look up the series on Wikipedia, and find the title of the specific episode, and then go back to IMDB and search for that episode by name, and that leads to success. I then call up a representative photo of that person, and show it to my wife, and tell her where she has seen him or her before.
And my wife says, “Yes,” and goes back to the show.
This presents a bit of a problem. Because even with my new hearing aids, I’m very dependent on subtitles to help me follow the dialogue. So after a couple of minutes of looking at my phone, I’m a bit lost as to what’s going on.
So I ask my wife. And tolerant as she is, this sometimes makes her a bit impatient with me. But she doesn’t call me a “parent.” She just, you know, thinks I’m a bit of a compulsive idiot.
But I can’t help it. In a world in which the computer — phone, tablet, laptop, what have you — is always right there, and always connected to the Web, I have to do this.
Before the Internet, I was sorta kinda able to focus on what was going on. The biggest problem back then was the dictionary. Always right there on the desk. Fortunately, I didn’t use it much, because I’m a fairly literate guy, and if I had to look the word up to be sure I was using it correctly, that was an indication that I probably shouldn’t be using it in the newspaper.
But I did look sometimes, and that meant I’d be lost for awhile. On the way to the word in question, I’d run across other words that would trip me and tie me down and force me to study them and the other words they led to, and it just went on and on from there. Eventually I’d get back to work, but it took awhile.
And the Web is millions of times worse, of course.
But it’s not because I’m a “parent.” It’s because I’m the most easily fascinated person on the planet. It’s like my superpower, although not very empowering…