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Movie Review: I Saw the TV Glow


“You are who you are. No one can tell you who you are but you. Whoever you know yourself to be, you are right.” - Maybe Burke

Oftentimes when I read a movie review it can feel quite hyperbolic. It’s almost like they figure cinema is dramatic, so why can’t they, the critic, be melodramatic too? I love movies more than most but even I think it’s a bit much to talk about some movies as if they were going to alter our very reality as we know it. They don’t literally say that but my point being they can overcomplicate something that doesn’t need to be more complex than was the movie good or not and some examples of why. I’d be a hypocrite if I denied that I don’t do it too from time to time so here’s me admitting to it. I’m bringing this all up because I think I might do it again with I Saw the TV Glow. I’ll try not to claim a change in atmosphere is coming or an alignment of the planets all because of this one movie but let this serve as my warning that I might get a lil’ silly about just what this movie did to me. 

The way a screening works is after the movie ends a representative of the studio that orchestrated the whole event waits outside the theater for people’s first impressions. This is the kind of film that makes me truly dislike this process. If someone had asked me about halfway through this particular movie, I might have used words like hate or frustrated. I might have said that I was considering leaving early, which I never do. It felt like the movie was being intentionally absurd simply to be, well, absurd. It was like someone made a bet that no matter how obscure or nonsensical a movie ends up, A24 will purchase the rights to it. If that is the case, they won the bet because this is one giant piece of gonzo cinema.

Luckily I’ve never walked out of a movie before and this is a prime example of why. At first I didn’t understand, I didn’t really even like it. But as it carried on, maybe by design, things started making sense. Connections began to form and a more clear, concise picture started to come into focus. I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. I believe so much of storytelling is formed through or around narrative with things like emotions and character development to follow. I believe this is where I Saw the TV Glow both lost and found me as I think this story is more about the emotions rather than any kind of straightforward narrative. It’s almost as if its authors created it with the idea that showing this kind of experience from a separate perspective has been done with little attempt at delving into the deep end of what it truly means and perhaps more succinctly and more importantly, what it feels like. I keep using the word it. What IT means, what IT feels like. What IT is opened the entire movie up to a more clearer understanding, at least for myself. 

I began to understand it was all a metaphor for something. It was an exaggerated, fantastical, depressing and horrifying perspective of what it means to be trans. Or more broadly put, to be different in a world that not only fears different, or at least this kind of different, but actively pursues it with ill intent. It can be expressed as what it means to feel isolated at a time in our lives when social connection is pivotal to our mental stability and growth as youth makes way for adulthood. 

I Saw the TV Glow touches on themes of identity, sexuality, obsession and human connection. It brings up these subjects and creates scenarios where these things are not readily identifiable or attainable and how scary that can be. Imagine walking through this world, a task difficult enough at its most basic, but imagine doing so with the added burden of feeling out of place, out of body and made to doubt everything about your very existence. To have people exclaim that your life choices are invalid and more punishingly so, that those choices are vile or downright evil. 

It was as if in the beginning I was standing at the edge of the forest with my face pressed against the very tree I was trying to perceive. I needed only to step back and see the forest for the complexities that make it a forest in the first place.

At its surface, this story is about two estranged friends coming together for the love of a peculiar television show called The Pink Opaque. It begins as an interest quickly turned into a dangerous and mysterious obsession. The television show is their connection through adulthood as it roots itself in their everyday life in unexpected and sometimes disturbing ways. As much as their relationship forms who they are and will ultimately become, it’s just as much about the things we partake in, like music or television shows that also alter who we are as human beings. It’s about how in our youth, something can seem so significant, so profound it grabs us by our souls and doesn’t let go, like a rock anthem to carry us through those sensitive teen years. Then years later that very thing, that thing that seemed as important as the very air we breathed has somehow become childish and cheap. I think it speaks to our inexperience as youth having been alive for such a short time. It’s only when we’ve lived and life has passed by through the experiences of getting a job, becoming a parent, getting married or losing a loved one that our view of things can begin to take shape and become something more substantial. 

At a certain point, as an adult, the main character, Owen, rewatches his once favorite show now with the perspective of an adult man and is mortified to realize it’s become something he can no longer connect with as he once did in his youth. This moment immediately reminded me of when I was growing up I loved a show on Nickelodeon called “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” In its heyday it was scary and exciting. It was this permitted scary kind of fun that was so enticing. Returning to that same show, to the same episodes that once gave me goosebumps, now as a grown man I can see the childish nature of it. It’s downright silly and makes me cringe in embarrassment. 

Yes, that is in fact, Fred Durst.

The horror label given to I Saw the TV Glow stems from the realities of going through things that at the time can feel so earth shattering, they feel absolutely insurmountable. It’s only through life experience, taking a step back from the edge of the forest, that we can begin to gain perspective. Finding a kindred spirit in a lonely world is a beautiful thing and allowing one another to be who they truly are is the warm embrace of acceptance. As Nerds, I think finding others that accept us as the anime loving, comic book reading, movie obsessing geeks that we are is nothing short of sensational. I Saw the TV Glow is all of these things, somehow. 

Rated PG-13 For: violent content, some sexual material, thematic elements and teen smoking

Runtime: 100 minutes

After Credits Scene: No

Genre: Horror, Drama

Starring: Justice Smith, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Ian Foreman, Helena Howard

Directed By: Jane Schoenbrun

Out of 10

Story: 7/ Acting: 8/ Directing: 8.5/ Visuals: 7.5


Buy to Own: Yes?


Check out the trailer below:


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