LIM COLLEGE FACULTY BLOG
Small Town Sweetness Softens Our Screens
Looking at the Cozy Binge-Watch Trend
“Fashion is not an island; it’s a response!” This is a mantra heard often in all of my classes, reminding students that fashion does not stand alone, but is a product of a million other socio-political and cultural forces.
Trend forecasters look outside of fashion for the clues to what will happen next, and television is always a pretty good barometer of how people are feeling. And as "fashion is feeling" (another much heard mantra), TV can be counted on to give a generally reliable indication as to fashion’s next move.
After what seemed like endless seasons of streamable vampires, zombies, makers of meth, and incestuous, sword-wielding twins (does anyone still watch "Game of Thrones"?), it seems that viewers have tired of binging on blood, guts, and gore, and prefer spending their evenings and weekends in the company of (brace yourselves) sweet people!
British TV favorite "Doc Martin" set the stage for this saunter into sweetness, telling as it does the tale of a grumpy London doctor who relocates to a small Cornish fishing village populated by quirky, good-natured locals.
"Death in Paradise" followed in much the same spirit, only this time, it was a grumpy London cop who is reassigned to the picturesque and fictional Caribbean island of St Honore, and while the plotlines involve the solving of murders, it is all undertaken with a nice dash of humor, with (again) the locals transpiring to be quirky, good natured, and unbelievably sweet-hearted.
This "Big City Misfit In Small, Pretty Town" format is getting fresh treatment this season. Amazon’s "Agatha Raisin" sees the wonderful Ashley Jensen (whom you may remember as Ricky Gervais’s dippy best friend in the excellent "Extras") playing a high flying, big city PR consultant who relocates to a sleepy village in The Cotswalds, and ends up solving entirely implausible murders (I am sure there are more murder victims than inhabitants), and is quickly befriended by those quirky, good-natured, and sweet-hearted locals.
Again on Amazon, the Australian comedy-drama "800 Words" is getting rave reviews. The story follows a middle-aged widower who relocates from Sydney to a tiny village in New Zealand (Cue: picturesque landscape, Cue: adorable locales), and trite though this may sound, I just finished watching the first episode and found a genuine lump in my throat when (after a terrible first week) those quirky, good-natured locals rallied to help him and his teenage children settle in.
All of this – from "Doc Martin" to "800 Words" is very gentle viewing! Nobody is making meth. There are no incestuous twins. And although there may be a murder or two along the way, blood and guts are kept to a minimum, and anything nasty is quickly resolved over a nice cup of tea, or (in the case of "Death in Paradise") a tropical cocktail.
So what does this current craze for small town sweetness say about us? Obviously, we are living in uncertain times (and often very scary ones), and whereas shows like "Breaking Bad," "The Walking Dead," and "Game of Thrones" mirrored our often frightening landscape, we are clearly at a point where we do not want our fears to be streamed for us on Netflix!
Clearly, we want to escape into places that are small, safe, and – above all – sweet. Where there’s never any nudity (the scene in "800 Words" where our displaced Sydney widower accidently stumbles onto a nudist beach notwithstanding), where bad behavior (be it murder or eyeing up your neighbor’s wife) is frowned upon (not celebrated) and where people are actually nice.
There isn’t much ‘niceness’ in the news these days. We can’t turn on the TV without hearing political candidates being really quite nasty to each other, and let’s not get started on ISIS! So it’s really no surprise that when we binge, we want it to be…..nice. We want people to be kind to each other. And I think this is surely good news, because if characters on television can be kind to each other, then what’s stopping us?
Amanda Hallay is a full-time faculty member at LIM College where she teaches courses in Fashion History, Cultural History, and Music History. She is a former Fashion Forecaster.