Alex Mathews

Alex Mathews – writer, bared naked dude blah blah blah

And Television

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I left a pitch meeting today, where the subject was same as it usually is in these things. Though not identified as such, packaging mediocrity for the lowest common denominator is hard work. There are meetings, and more meetings, email chains, conference calls; sexual favors are usually dispensed, or taken non-consensually. Popular culture is raped, too, for the formulas for successful programming must be exploited and repeated. And these Hollywood clones want something that is exactly what sold well last season, but it has to be unique, visionary, forward. Who are these people? Minions, they are. Minions with a lexicon. Minions with career trajectories. These are people who shouldn’t have any authority at all, so fortunately they work in television, where nobody can really get hurt. Unless of course you count the mental anguish that dramatic sludge posing as entertainment causes to people with too much time on their hands.

The world is divided into three sections here. There is the audience. That’s most of the world. They need to be lulled into a sense of complacency so you can sell them soap and boner pills, anti-depressants and processed cheese products. They like a good hero, and a love story, and sometimes something that gives them a sense of humanitarian wisdom. But not too much, because then they get too scared of reality to buy soap and boner pills. That’s what these meetings are for, to figure out how to lull the audience into being better consumers. But nobody in the meetings knows it. They’ve been weaned on this shit so they just know what to mimic.

Then of course, there is the talent. These are your celebrities. Celebrity is pretty much every fifteen year old girl’s dream. They have no plan to attain it, or any real sense of taking action in general, they just know it would be cool because attention feels good, and when you are a fifteen year old girl, your religion is pretty much solipsism, so there you have it. Actors are incredibly insecure, and they require constant affirmation. They can act like they’re confident, but criticize their performance and they go ape shit. But quietly, inside. Try it sometime. There must be a community theater near you. It’s fun, and you can get laid, too.

And lastly, there are the behind the scenes people. These are the ones that learned quickly that their chances of fame were statistically against them, but they figured if they can light a famous person, or mic them, or write what they utter, or paint the environment they act in, well, that’s real power. This is more power than the executive branch, because nowadays nobody takes government seriously. That is a different form of entertainment. That is designed to stir up rage and hostility so you’ll turn on channel 4 and go to sleep.

But the minions bought it, and I am getting paid. Night night.

Doom, gloom and flowers bloom

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I sit in Starbucks and I am already a cliché, like every aspiring screenwriter, every dwid without a job who has to get out of the house or they will decay to the humming of Days of Our Lives. You know, the sullied underclass hoping to touch the stars just like every douchebag in America. The dream of that attainment of something we are bred to know is our inalienable right flickers like a candle, hoping, ever hoping that it will be ours. Behind me is a FIDM student doing her best to achieve conformity with her yellow riding jacket designs, which she lays over a lovely stock image of some wonderful muckety-muck at the Hampton Classic. There is a headline and a tagline, the perfect Mad Men comp, the perfect embodiment of American culture. American decay. A nation past the tipping point of its decline, with nothing but the fall remaining. I know what Hunter Thompson felt as he hammered his keys, and fired his shotguns off the porch of his Colorado homestead. Filth. A nation of filth.

I must avoid popular culture. It dulls the senses, kills the imagination, creates little automatons out of perfectly viable human beans, little consumer soldiers marching to the five and dime for plastic shit and petroleum pork rinds. Dressed in see-through fabric and black finery, the Whore of Babylon strolls the corners of my mind, so I can think about the teats of falsehood and the transiency of pleasures known and unknown.

I just finished a partial draft of my latest book, my latest dream, the first sitting in some drawer like somebody’s dusty scrapbook, of memories discarded, rotting like the flesh of the corpulent woman with her troglodyte offspring who just smiled at me with brown café mocha flowing through the unfortunate gaps in her teeth.

Ugliness reflects back to me. Am I lacking the eyes with which to see the beauty? Or am I looking at myself in the looking-glass? I don’t mean to alienate you, dear reader, for I am not merely resigned to the failure of our race, of our culture. No, I am full of hope, full of optimism, full of clear vision that it is possible to purge the massive dog of humanity of its fleas. It may be possible. It may very well be possible. Until the seals are broken and the Four Horsemen ride, I will continue to tear the building down.

 

Swimming

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I have been reluctant for some reason to write about being a father. Can’t say why, really. I think it is because I fear it becoming the only thing that identifies me, and my ambition was never to be a guy who writes about fatherhood. It felt so private, like something I had to keep the sanctity of, not bother anyone with. Plus, I think it’s hard enough for me to define who I am and what I want to say without complicating the matter by talking about fatherhood. But the truth is that I don’t think there is anything more important, and more worth talking about than fatherhood (see, that’s why I have held back for this long). I can get very sentimental about it. I am not above singing Cat’s in the Cradle and weeping when nobody is watching. I sing it for my boy at night, and he doesn’t tell me to shut up yet.

Being a father is an incredible thing. It presents me with challenges that rate on a level beyond all the others I faced before fatherhood, and still face, but now I have much less time to worry about because this son of mine needs so much of my attention. I have in me a desire to be the best father I can be, and shaping what that even looks like is an effort of daily practice. There are monsters under the bed, and sometimes I think they are me, or some reflection of me. I try and show him that it’s okay to be scared. I try and show him that getting mad is ok, but acting out isn’t. But the funny thing is that it sometimes feels like I am the one learning all this, as if for the first time. It’s funny how this works. We were swimming yesterday, or rather I was swimming and trying to get him to swim. I would suggest every two minutes that we go underwater, much to his protest and fear. After playing this game with him for an hour or so, I said this:

“Sometimes we have to do things that make us scared or uncomfortable, or that we don’t want to do, so we can learn new things.”

And it was then that I felt the hypocrisy. I am sure any father must know this feeling. I started to wonder where in my own life I am just too scared to go underwater.

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