In defense of quiet, meandering books & TV shows

STEEPED BY SAMIA #9 | 11.05.22
Finding joy in slower media & wondering what it means when something is “worthy of attention.”

The first days of November have ushered in cold weather in the South Bay with much-welcomed rain. As I write this, I’m sipping some lavender tea with oat milk and honey and listening to a “fall coffee shop ambience” playlist on YouTube. I’m living in a college sweatshirt + penguin socks and buried under a blanket. The cats are sleeping in their respective spots in the house, their bodies nestled into spirals.

I’ve been in the mood to watch, listen to, & read slow, cozy things.

Those quiet, unsuspecting gems of media. Where characters wander through their routines and fill in the contours of a soft plot-line. Where you’re asked to pay attention to the small joys of life that are sometimes overlooked. In such media, there can still be some drama and intrigue, of course. But overall, there’s a steadiness measured in the camera angles, the music, the long pauses between dialogue, and the overall atmosphere. I think of:

  • Hae-won and Eun-seob reading late at night in the Good Night Bookstore, side by side in When the Weather is Fine.
  • Lorelai and Rory starting their busy day with lots of coffee at Luke’s Diner, in the town of Stars Hollow in Gilmore Girls.
  • The wondrous quality of letters, heartfelt advice, and the intrigue of time travel in The Miracles of the Namiya General Store by Keigo Higashino.
  • An episode of Invisibilia podcast on the addictive quality of Norway’s slow TV scene, which chronicles mundane things, like train rides, for hours.
  • The tight-knit, seaside community in Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha, where everybody knows each other and is in each others’ business.
  • The unnamed woman in Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri, living in an unnamed city, who wanders the aisles of bookstores and grocery stores and bumps into past lovers.

Look, I get it; quieter media is not everyone’s cup of tea.

For some people, if they’re going to take the time & energy to watch or read something, it better not be slow and boring. It better be bursting with suspenseful energy, twists & turns, and characters with complicated intentions. Sometimes, it’s a matter of personal preference; whether you vibed with something enough to keep watching it. Or you’re only watching something passively while working or studying.

I think during the pandemic, especially, I’ve been craving quiet media as a companion to solitude and reflection. These stories remind me to seek beauty and contentment in the midst of fallow periods in life.

“When you wake up from your first sleep & make hot tea, sorrow will ease when you wake up from your next sleep.”

— When the Weather is Fine (2020)

What does it mean for certain media to be “worthy of attention”? And is it necessarily fast-paced?

Increasingly, our collective media consumption is influenced by social media and media gatekeepers. We’re conditioned to equate trendiness with value and worth. While social media allows us to discover hidden gems, we know that the algorithm will boost things that are “trendy” or “sensationalized.”

We can tell when Netflix, for example, doesn’t put their marketing dollars behind new, quieter TV shows and movies. You’re scrolling further down the catalogue to find them, or you only find out about them when people on social media say, “Why is nobody talking about XYZ?!”

There are, of course, certainly quieter TV shows that are very popular — Gilmore Girls and Great British Bake-off come to mind.

On Publishing Twitter, I see discussions of how important it is for all types of books to be published. That there is still room for meandering, everyday books on the market (see this Twitter thread of quiet book recommendations). Literary agents and editors, working on each end of the publishing process, have to advocate and push for certain unconventional or quieter books to be published. To show the value of them and make a case, let’s say, that the sales will be steady throughout time. One of my favorite K-dramas Romance is a Bonus Book (a quiet media, imo!) touches on this concept.

Some key reflections I’ve been simmering on:

  1. Forecasting popularity and demand can be so arbitrary. Even though, these days, there are so many tools and ways to analyze these things.
  2. There are layered and systemic reasons why something doesn’t create a buzz in an increasingly saturated market.
  3. If a piece of media doesn’t create a buzz, that doesn’t mean it’s not good. Think about that!!

Quiet or loud. Slow or fast. Cozy or not cozy.

— The stories that are close to your heart matter. Sometimes, you read or watch something at the right time & place in life and the story speaks to you. That’s such a powerful part of storytelling; the individual ways we find meaning in a body of work. Today, I celebrate the journey of stumbling onto our favorite stories. —S.A.

Steep On This:  

Catch Up:  

10.23.22 | The “Chocolate Mountain” & the adventure of searching for a childhood book

STEEPED BY SAMIA #7: On nostalgia & things from your childhood that you can’t remember clearly, that feel like an itch you can’t scratch.

About This Blog:

Steeped by Samia is a space where I can simmer on thoughts & curiosities in the scope of digital culture, creativity, life, & more. Far too often, my writing ideas fizzle out in energy; I never get to see them to their full potential. While building my rhythm with writing, I want to share these ideas with you. 

Stay Up-To-Date on my blog by clicking the ‘follow’ button at the bottom of the page, and you will receive an email every time I post. I aim to post a new installment at least once or twice a month. Thank you for supporting my storytelling!🧡

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