TV Review – Avenue 5 Season 2

Avenue 5 Season 2 (HBO)
Written by Armando Iannucci, Will Smith, Keith Akushie, Jon Brown, John Finnemore, Tony Roche, Rose Heiney, Georgia Pritchett, Ian Martin, Marina Hyde, and Sean Gray, 
Directed by William Stefan Smith, David Schneider, Annie Griffin, Ollie Parsons, David Schneider, and Armando Iannucci

I had an interesting conversation with a Dutch person about a year ago. I was curious as to what their perspective on America was. I had a strong point of view about The Netherlands because it was so different, and I wanted to know their thoughts on my homeland. They described the United States as a giant amusement park. It was always fun when they first arrived. There was no end of delightful distractions to keep them busy. However, they were ready to go home by the end of their visits. It was sensory overload, and they needed to get back to a grounded, centered existence. That’s what life is like here in The Netherlands in comparison. It isn’t perfect, but it’s so quiet. You rarely hear the noise you would hear in an American city. There are far fewer cars and more people on bikes. I’ve never been in a place so calm yet so full of people.

On Friday morning, I had my second LSD trip. This time I dropped two tabs, put in my earbuds, and listened to Jon Hopkins’s Music for Psychedelic Therapy. You can listen to it, but trust me, you will never really hear what Hopkins is doing in the album without psychedelics in your system. It is a transcendent piece of art, and I lay there, warm under a nice thick blanket, my mind & the music as one, tears streaming down my face. I have never experienced bliss at that level, and I know why we can’t all the time. It is intense; it opens parts of yourself that are hidden away. It centered me; I knew who I was, where I was, and why I was. Purity of mind.

The second thing that happened was that my wife was on a Zoom call with her career coach. My wife had been struggling with this process and realized she might have ADHD. One of the signs was that when she was asked to highlight things, she needed to figure out what to NOT highlight. If something is presented to you, isn’t all of it important? If it wasn’t necessary, why would it be given to you? I listened to her talk about the difficulty she was having, transposing what she had done into these documents meant to effectively “pitch” herself to some hiring manager. My revelation was that this woman is an incredible person. Yes, I knew that, but I truly understood it in this pure state of mind. I saw how she could not see the immense incredible nature of herself and her vast accomplishments. But why? Why could she not see that? Why did I need LSD to unveil that to me?

The third thing that happened, what essentially made it what might be defined as a “bad trip,” though it was not, was opening up my iPad and tapping on Twitter. One of the first things I saw was this tableau of horror. Three broken men sitting at a desk, facing cameras, an American flag on the screens behind them. One was a man in a black mask, in the center was a bloated figure, and the third was a cackling imp. Kanye. Alex Jones. Nick Fuentes. In this image, I saw the distillation of evil, the pure representation of what America is, what it has been. America built a giant Fame machine, a construct of complete incoherence centered entirely on the idea of “Look at me! Love me!” 

We have placed Kanye West in the seat of that machine. A man who does not know how to love and does not know how to accept love. He isn’t the first Black man that country has run through the wringer, and sadly he won’t be the last. Herschel Walker is another one. OJ Simpson was another one. The list goes on. We love them for a time. Then we need to hate them. And then, worst, we need to humiliate them. It happens to women too. Does that mean we don’t hold Kanye responsible for what he does or says? Oh no, we do. He is an adult; he has to be accountable. But we also must understand how it got to this point and how it’s just a brutal cycle repeating itself.

Nick Fuentes is a broken child cosplaying as a Nazi/The Joker because he wants to provoke a reaction. It’s the same reason middle school boys and guys like Andrew Tate are attracted to him. It’s the byproduct of the toxic fame machine. Fuentes wants to be seen, and we see you, so what now? Impress us, I guess. He’s just a twisted knot of incoherence, babbling about women being witches and school teachers molesting children. He’s one part of America’s off-the-rails insanity distilled into a single human being. Another tragic husk along the highway. A waste. 

And in the center, Alex Jones. A man who created a space where Hitler and the Nazis could be talked about in a positive light. Why did he do this? Well, he’s in the hole for billions for spreading lies that said some little kids who got murdered in their school ten years ago didn’t really get murdered. And that their parents were just liars. He needs to raise money to pay that hole of debt. Now he files for bankruptcy, this public display of his last pathetic effort to be famous. I wouldn’t be surprised to wake up shortly and hear that any or all of these men put a gun in their mouth and ended it. They aren’t alive anyway. They are dead. Their bodies still function to some degree, but they are dead.

I looked at Twitter and Reddit and saw people drowning in an inability to understand the circumstances of their lives. I saw people who I thought were communist comrades ranting about pointless minutiae. I saw one person posit that “creative writing is bourgeois.” What? It’s self-expression. I would hope that under communism, people would express themselves. I mean, the Soviet Union made some incredible films. I saw one person talking about how she has her children watch true crime shows with her, teaching them to not trust people. How does that lead us toward the social revolution that is direly needed? More husks. More casualties in the drive to consume for no reason. 

On Reddit, I saw post after post by teachers trying to make sense of the chaos of their jobs. They complain that their students cling to their phones like life support. They never once show curiosity to understand why. They just talk about how they wish they could take the phones away. They talk about how much they hate TikTok. I like TikTok, but maybe that’s because I’ve pruned and curated the algorithm to give me things that help me understand my autism and communism better. And to discover new books to read. And to find people I think are genuinely funny and clever. I love watching people express themselves. So many of these people are far more talented than the three demons I mentioned above. Unfortunately, these teachers, my former colleagues, are also husks, just like many of their students. God, it’s so bleak & tragic. 

I looked over YouTube and Spotify and thought about what I consume most. Chapo Trap House. Majority Report with Sam Seder. Hasan Piker. All very talented people. I’ve learned many things from them. They’ve helped me discover great thinkers and read materials that have opened my eyes. But what will they give me now that I don’t already know? Yeah, things are bad. They’re just going to show me examples of that. That’s important for those who are waking up. But I’m awake now. So I don’t need them anymore. They taught me, and now I have to move on. I have to go deeper, to that next level of understanding of myself, the people I care about, and my world. I have to push into the social revolution. 

I deleted Twitter & Reddit. I unsubscribed from those teachers who I didn’t need anymore. What’s funny is when I open a device now, there is this reflexive compulsion to go to those things, and I just don’t let myself. So instead, I open a book on Kindle or a comic book. I even deleted all my unread weekly comics. Why? They just keep repeating themselves. So now, I’m going to focus on going back and reading those comics from when the form was more experimental, when it was inventing itself and reinventing itself. I want to know what those artists were trying to say about the incoherence they saw rather than now, which is just keeping brands alive for some horrible corporation. 

Armando Iannucci understands all of this. He sees the incoherence but also the humor in it. Avenue 5 is all about that. Earth is a rocketship headed into the sun. We keep trying to avoid it, but we seem to make the problem worse. We’re trying to stave off mortality, and that is literally impossible. This life will end for each of us. Isn’t it better to find some peace in it? I don’t care if you see me or not. My wife sees me. My siblings see me. The students I stay in contact with still see me. I see all of them too. Why do I care if a stranger does or not? Whether I got 1,000 views a day or zero, I would write this blog. It is nice to see that number go up? Yeah, of course. Does it ultimately matter? Nope. 

There is such beauty in this world. So many things to laugh about. To smile about. There will never be a lack of things to cry about, to make you curl up in a ball and want to hide. Those will always be there. But they are not the totality of what is. They are often distractions from the path. That’s the path you choose for yourself. Where you decide you want to go. The best routes are ones we take together, sometimes sticking close, other times splitting off for a bit. But they all end the same way. And that’s okay.

If you’re still reading, we’ll make December a standard month here. I’m still making the end-of-the-year lists. Why? Because I just like the fun of wrapping up the year that way. Looking back at the things that helped further shape me and attempting to understand why these things and not other things. But in 2023, I want to try some new things. I want to expand what I’ve called “culture & media.” I want to look beyond the West, beyond narrative. I want to bring myself (and you, if you’ll join me) into a space where we contemplate emotion & expression and how art makes us connect with people. We’re missing connection, folks, and I can see in your broken eyes that you thirst for it. So let’s start making them. 

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