On the Outside Looking in at True Detective


By Sunday, March 9, True Detective may have already broken the Internet.

Game of Thrones deluged Twitter after the Red Wedding, and Sharknado knocked it to its knees. But because of sheer timing—not much else happening in the prestige TV sphere, an Oscars bump for Matthew McConaughey and the show’s rapidly developed, wide-eyed fandom—it’s possible that when True Detective’s serial killer The Yellow King is finally revealed, you’ll never be able to place another drunken 4 a.m. order for The Munsters box set on Amazon again. Please stock up on batteries and water for the coming Internetnarok.

It’s a cool-kids’-club show, the kind your friends who were way into The Wire always push. I dig that club, but this one doesn’t quite connect. Rust Cohle’s (McConaughey) glass-eyed nihilism is just a little too overwritten, the cinematography is just a little too washed out, and the essential structure of a difficult murder that introduces the possibility of supernatural doings feels just a little too updated-Twin Peaks for me. Everyone raves that it’s a great character show, but I’m only in it for that sweet Yellow King payoff.
Which is fine—no show is going to be everything to everyone, as Everclear so adroitly noted. (Also, I apologize for putting that in your ear.) (Also, also: Someone shoot me in the head for referencing Everclear.)

So it’s frustrating when you can’t see what you’re not getting. When the critics are all over it, when your friends are in love with it, how do you handle that nagging doubt that you’re not picking up what they’re all putting down? The show is good enough that it doesn’t even leave you a window to play the contrarian card. (I wouldn’t normally advocate going full-contrarian, but it is a delightful way to troll your friends into exasperatedly defending their tastes every now and again. Keeps ’em on their toes.)

Despite all the critical hand-wringing that goes on about the erosion of “monoculture”—those years when everyone watched the Beatles on Sullivan or the M*A*S*H finale—we’re not living in the state of pure niche entertainment that some have theorized.

Instead of a monoculture, we have fiefdomculture. The walls might be taller and the fortress is smaller, but inside the castle there’s an awful lot of consensus still to be had. You just don’t notice it as much after a decade of effective self-separation into the camp that best fits you, but it’s there. Just like ancient Carcosa—and oh, dammit. Fine, I’ll play along with #RustCohleDaycareCenterTaglines with everyone else. But reluctantly.

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