April 15, 2020

Media that Hits Just Right During a Pandemic

Media recommendation lists aren’t a new invention by any means, but our consumption habits over the past few weeks have evolved, and so have the reasons we recommend them. Criteria isn’t just about something being good—it’s about how a piece of media resonates with us in this very specific time of social distancing, of uncertainty, of immobility. Does it soothe our worries? Does it reassure us, by reminding us of better, or worse, times? Does it feel like what we’re doing right now, or conversely, like something we can’t do at all? 

Here’s a sampling of what’s hitting just right for me. 

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

What if you had the resources to snooze through the next year? I’m a terrible, inconsistent reader but I devoured this book in three days, living through someone else’s hopes of waking up renewed at the end of a long, long sleeping spell (and, unknowingly, in the lead-up to 9/11). The protagonist’s trips for only essential goods, minimal contact with the outside world and wistful uncertainty felt more resonant in this climate than two years ago when I meant to read this book. 

Animal Crossing: New Horizons (for Nintendo Switch)

I can’t go outside but I also can’t play this game too late at night because tarantula attacks are scary! Creepy crawlies aside, Animal Crossing can be as relaxing or competitive as you’d like it to be. You could focus on achievement, like filling your museum with every type of fish; creativity, by finding or making custom clothing designs; or even chaos, as you attack villagers with a net in hopes of getting them to move out in favor of cuter ones. I also found out that I’m not alone in wearing a doctor’s mask in-game.

“Kiss Me Thru the Phone” by Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em

This long-distance relationship bop takes on a whole new meaning in a COVID-19-era world. This song is full of longing, but also extensively lives in the now—kissing through the phone is an apt solution for the present, and anything beyond a phone call can wait.

Terrace House: Opening New Doors (on Netflix)

Netflix’s third iteration of this Japanese reality show is definitely its coziest, set in the sleepy mountain town of Karuizawa. Like its setting, this season boasts some of the most easygoing house members—plus, it has the most gratuitous shots of warm, home-cooked meals. Start here if you want to experience the longest, chillest season, but don’t if you want to catch some one-off references to previous seasons. (The first Tokyo season is solid, the Aloha State season is a bit too sunny to bear in this climate, and I haven’t seen enough of the fourth and latest season to recommend it.)

These are a reflection of my personal tastes, so I also went ahead and gathered what’s resonating for other Superhumans—polled through Slack, following social distancing guidelines.

Weather by Jenny Offill

“This book really captures the feeling of knowing bad things are about to happen and bracing yourself. Set in the fallout of the 2016 election, the protagonist gets a gig responding to emails for an existential podcast. Meanwhile, her family and relationship test her connection to her own reality.”

– Becky Lang

The One I Love

“This movie, starring Mark Duplass and Elizabeth Moss, is a thriller about a troubled couple that confronts their doppelgangers while secluded in a house. Seems about right for these times.” – Becky

“Nobody” by Mitski

“All her lyrics are great, but these are perfectly apt for social isolation, with the threat of global warming looming in the background.” – Becky

“Guilt” by Marianne Faithful

“It’s an especially grotesque piece of poetry that singers have been hard hit during a breath-extinguishing plague. John Prine, Manu Dibango and Adam Schlesinger, among others, have succumbed to COVID-19, and Bill Withers’ large, gracious heart simply gave out. Marianne Faithful—a woman designed to hold a cigarette—has been hospitalized with the virus, but is reportedly in stable condition. This song, from her unbelievable 1979 album Broken English, is saturated with regret, rage and sour ambivalence. Smoldering and world-weary, Faithful is an ideal chaperone at this moment of political and biological catastrophe.” – Micah

The Decameron by Boccaccio

“When it comes to mass human devastation, nothing rivals the Black Death, which serves as the backdrop of this triumph of Medieval storytelling. Often referred to as ‘The Human Comedy,’ in distinction to Dante’s Divine Comedy, the 100 tales that compose Boccoccio’s opus were designed to transmute tragedy into joy by presenting the full range of human existence in all its lusty, genius, cunning, petty glory. Reading a few stories each night has helped me keep a little historical perspective on the mortal realities of our species.” – Micah

Townsends YouTube Channel

“Ok. If you really want to evade political rage (however justified), transcend ironic distance (however comforting), and supplant medical terror (however potent) for a few delicious moments of your day, tune in to Towsends. John Townsend is the current torch-bearer of a humble family business that is passionately absorbed in discovering and replicating the material culture of the eighteenth century, especially its food. Typically clad in a linen waistcoat and humble gray Monmouth hat, you can watch John stomping clay for a homemade earthen oven, revel in discovering how peasants wrangled yeast into their ruddy loaves and even—if you must—try to convince the internet that his recipe for orange fool wasn’t intended as a presidential euphemism. To watch Townsends is to tap into a world blissfully removed from the horrorshow beyond our quarantine walls, at least until the mid-roll hits.” – Micah

“Alone Again” by The Weeknd

“Self-explanatory.” – Olivia Luterbach

The Circle (on Netflix)

“They are socially distanced with only social media to connect them […] v familiar.”- Erin Mackaman

“Listen to the Music” by The Doobie Brothers

“[It] was on my playlist yesterday on my dog walk by the lake and it was 70 degrees out—that was pretty perfect.” – Meredith Engelen

“I Saw a Tiger” by Joe Exotic

“It feels like it has a special place thanks to quarantine.” – Ian Traas

SNES Emulator

“If you’re not a huge gamer, buy the mini Super Nintendo emulator. It is amazing. All the mini emulators are great, but that one is the best. Sega just released the mini Sega Genesis somewhat recently [too].” – Grant Wilson

Doughboys and Comedy! Bang! Bang! Podcasts

“Don’t listen to shit that is too serious.” – Grant

Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

“For people that saw the show and haven’t read the original [comic].” – Grant. Other comics he recommended: Hellboy Vol. 1 Seed of Destruction, Superman: Red Son and Batman: The Long Halloween.

Grant also sent me a list of newly released TV and old TV:

New TV: Better Call Saul, Tiger King (“obviously”), Ozark, McMillions and Drive to Survive.

Old TV: Northern Exposure (“alone in Alaska”), Futurama (“stranded in the future”) and Fargo (“just feels appropriate”).

Ultimately, we’re not going to recommend straight up watching Pandemic, reading World War Z or even playing Operation. You’re welcome to engage in pandemic-heavy content if you really want to. I personally save most of my real world engagement for the New York Times Coronavirus briefing. Whatever coping media you find, stay safe and stay sane.

-Angely Guevara

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