Friday, June 21, 2024


Much of the focus on Jane Schoenrbrun’s I Saw The TV Glow is about the pivotal moment where a young queer person transitions. But the film is much more than that. It's certainly shot from a queer lens/perspective but isn't exclusive. Quite the opposite. In my personal opinion, I Saw The TV Glow is just as much about the comfort of slightly weird childhood/teenage nostalgia as it is about identity & transitioning. I use the word comfort because there’s something nice about another person or small group of folks that are in to the same weird niche stuff you’re in to. There's no better feeling than finding your people. There's comfort in someone making you a copy of some underground music or those 6 hour blank VHS tapes with 3 random movies on them that have no connection or correlation with each other (if you went through my Dad's VHS collection in 1991 you’d find maxell tapes with Lifeforce, School Daze & Death Wish all on the same tape). Having specific similar odd interests matter. Those kinds of things can make unbreakable lifelong friendships and can transcend different cultures, races, backgrounds, etc (I still have friendships that span over 30 years that are rooted in a love off the same "non-traditional" things). This applies to music, art, film, or, in the case of I Saw The Tv Glow – television. An important part of this film is about the bond our two young characters make over their love of the same television programming that is a clear homage to shows like Pete & Pete, Eerie Indiana, You Can’t Do That On Television, Encyclopedia Brown, etc (it should be noted that Pete & Pete’s Mike Maronna & Danny Tamberelli make a cameo in the film). 

Old children’s programming from the late 80’s through the early 90’s, specifically Nickelodeon, was certainly accessible but it was also kind of weird (especially when compared to children’s programming in 2024). You watch shows like Pete & Pete or You Can’t Do That On Television and there’s something intentionally “off” with the overall tone of those shows. It’s like PG-rated dark humor with a nice pinch of surreality. There was a sweet spot where a lot of the shows we had as kids where weird, informative & different but also easy to access. I hate to sound like an old grump but a lot of today’s programming for young people is very safe & homogeneous.

Pete & Pete / I Saw The TV Glow

Because this film is rooted in nostalgia, there are plenty of intentional & unintentional nods to the works of other filmmakers. This isn’t a bad thing in my book. Nostalgia can sometimes be seen as insufferable but in the case of I Saw The TV Glow that’s the point. Nostalgia is a key ingredient to the film so if that’s not something that interest you - it’s probably best to just not even watch it. It’s important to note that the nostalgia in this movie isn’t associated with happy memories. The characters in this film are antisocial outcasts with rough personal lives. Schoenbrun also shows that some of the things we loved as kids/teenagers are kind of dated & disappointing when we revisit them as adults.

This isn’t a movie for everyone but anyone who appreciates Lynch, Cronenberg, TV Carnage & weird youtube algorithms will find something interesting buried in here.
Schoenbrun has always been open about her influences (click here to read my thoughts about previous film) and her latest film is no exception. A lot of the older movies that are subconsciously referenced by Schoenbrun were/are a safe space and/or comfort for outcasts & outsiders...

I just find the glow of a screen to be appealing. It's something that I very naturally gravitate toward, in the way that David Cronenberg gravitates toward body horror - Jane Schoebrun, The Hollywood Reporter
Videodrome / I Saw The TV Glow

Videodrome / I Saw The TV Glow

Videodrome / I Saw The TV Glow

Videodrome / I Saw The TV Glow

Between when I was a kid and watched Twin Peaks for the first time and when the show got rebooted in 2017, I just had recurring nightmares about it- Jane Schoenbrun,
Twin Peaks: Season 2 / I Saw The TV Glow

Twin Peaks: The Return / I Saw The TV Glow

I’m a big fan of thinking of a film as infinitely deep. I think I got that from [David] Lynch - jane schoenbrun, Letterboxd
Mulholland Drive / I Saw The TV Glow

Eraserhead / I Saw The TV Glow

I’m a big fan of thinking of a film as infinitely deep. I think I got that from [David] Lynch - Jane Schoenbrun, Letterboxd
Inland Empire / I Saw The TV Glow

Inland Empire / I Saw The TV Glow

I don’t mean to put one film down to prop up another but I Saw The TV Glow feels like a more successful attempt at doing what Flying Lotus tried to do with his Kuso which was a cosmic slop/mixtape of surreality, nostalgia & body horror.

I personally enjoyed this overall but there’s only a specific list of folks that I would actually recommend this to which keeps with the theme of the film. Maybe in 30 years Schoenbrun’s sophomore feature will be that discovery that bonds a group of outcasts.


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