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This article contains spoilers for I Saw the glow on TV.


Summary

  • I saw the TV light up
    a new horror film from A24, explores the effects of nostalgia with its disturbing narrative.
  • I saw the TV light up
    blurs the lines between reality and fiction and uses this element to portray obsessions and hidden identities.
  • Owen, the main character of
    I saw the television light up,
    loses touch with reality because he cannot stop living in the past.


In film, nostalgia is often portrayed as something positive. From the golden, glowing cinematography of the past in Greta Gerwig’s Little Woman to the poignant love story of the 20th century that the old man reads to his dying wife in The notebookNostalgia is often portrayed as something warm and even comforting for the characters. In real life, seeing the past through rose-tinted glasses was a universal human experience. It was easy to remember moments from years gone by that were better than they actually were, especially with the media one saw during the most formative years of childhood.

However, nostalgia can also prevent objectivity when looking at memories and media of the past. It can prevent someone from moving on to happier days and better things. Nostalgia isn’t always golden and glittery; sometimes it’s dark and oppressive. In her second film, Jane Schoenbrun tackles the dangers of nostalgia in A24’s latest horror film. I saw the television light up, The book explores lost dreams and hidden identities, as well as what it means to long for a time and place that you will never experience or know again.



I saw the TV trailer “Glow”

I saw the TV light up follows high school student Owen in the 1990s as he tries to find his place in the suburbs of New Jersey. When classmate Maddy introduces him to a supernatural television show called The pink opaque, Owen’s life and worldview began to turn. He quickly becomes captivated, and the deeper he delves into the world of the show, the more he suppresses his own feelings, dreams and desires. I saw the TV light up holds its own kind of nostalgia for those who came of age in the 1990s. From VHS tapes to the crackling noise of an old television, Schoenbrun portrays the 1990s with care and authenticity.


I saw the TV light up also does a great job of showing the excitement and passion that many teenagers felt when it was time for a new episode of their favorite show. While streaming changed the way fans viewed new episodes, teens and fans of all ages still eagerly await new seasons of their favorite shows and quickly flock to social media to discuss them with others. In the ’90s, Owen only had Maddy, someone he felt connected to thanks to their shared passion and desire for more out of life. When Maddy ran away, he had no one left to confide in The pink opaque and the real pain he struggled with every day. When she left, he only had Tara and Isabel, the fictional characters from the series. They were no substitute for authentic human connectionsand Owen struggled and withdrew even more into himself.


However, I saw the TV light up also shows that there can be a dark side to media consumption and the fan community as a whole. When the series finale ended with both main characters of The pink opaque Owen suffered a nervous breakdown as he lay dying. His father found him in the basement with his head stuck through the television while sparks and blue rays rained down next to him – one of the most haunting and powerful shots in the film. Owen was so attached to The pink opaque that when the main characters died, a part of him died with them. Some have even interpreted the film as if Owen and Maddy were literally the characters from The pink opaquesimply trapped in another dimension. Others saw them as two lonely, lost teenagers looking for a safe haven and a way to express themselves freely outside of the confines of suburbia. Both interpretations were valid and both reflect the core theme of the film, which is the inability to live as one’s true self.


The film showed how the line between fiction and reality can become blurred.

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I saw the TV light upfor which Schoenbrun also wrote the screenplay, contained a central metaphor about gender dysphoria and the terror and pain it caused Owen. Although the film never outright said that Owen struggled with his sexuality, enough breadcrumbs were left for audiences to pick up on this theme, and many LGBTQ+ viewers could relate to it and recognize themselves in Owen. When Owen first asked his parents for permission to stay up late and watch The pink opaquehis father dismissed the show as one for girls. In a flashback The audience saw Owen in a pink dress, just like one of the main female characters in the series. When Maddy asks him point blank if he likes girls, he simply replies, “I think I like TV shows.” It couldn’t be a coincidence that the show Owen was obsessed with had pink in the title, the color commonly associated with girls.


Maddy eventually ran away after hatching an escape plan that Owen did not follow through on. She left only her burning television outside her house. Years later, Owen saw Maddy in the town grocery store and was shocked by her sudden reappearance. Maddy told him that while she was gone all those years, she had been in the world of The pink opaque after paying someone to bury her alive to achieve that goal. She offered Owen the chance to do the same and join her in that world, suggested that he could be his true and authentic self with her somewhere that wouldn’t smother him like the suburbs had done his entire life. Owen refused, and after leaving her on the high school football field, he never saw her again, nor did he ever live out his hidden identity.


Although Owen had nostalgic and beautiful memories of Maddy and The pink opaque by and large, he didn’t have it for other aspects of his life. As an adult, when he rewatched the show he’d loved and had constantly on his mind during his formative years on a streaming service, his rose-tinted glasses shattered. He found it neither scary nor compelling. As the fog of nostalgia lifted, something that had been so important to him as a child was now nothing more than a cheesy ’90s show he would never watch again. The videotapes of the weekly episodes that Maddy had made and given him every week at school were long gone, the illusion of The pink opaque shattered forever. He also lost the nostalgia he felt for his friendship with Maddy he ran away from her once. He never got to see closure on their relationship, and slamming the door in her face and denying her the chance to live as his true, authentic self forever tainted the time he spent with her and on the show.


The real horror of “I Saw the TV Glow” is the inauthenticity of the main character

While the film contained many haunting images, disturbing moments and creepy sound design, the most terrifying aspect of I saw the TV light up was to see Owen unable and unwilling to live his true self. He remained in his stifling little suburban town. He lived in the same house he grew up in and had few happy moments there. He mentioned having a family, but they were never shown on screen. His health was deteriorating. The film ends with him having a breakdown at work.cut open his chest in the bathroom to release the noise from the television and then walked around his workplace apologizing for his breakdown and receiving not a single response.


But despite the desolation of the ending, There was a spark of hope. When Owen’s bruised skin revealed the static of the television, he didn’t panic. He seemed peaceful, as if he was finally accepting his true identity and realizing he could still live the life he was meant to. It was no coincidence that he finally smiled in this scene after looking lost, scared, and unsure for most of the film. Just like the neon-drenched shot of a suburban street scrawled with sidewalk chalk said, “There’s still time.” Everyone could still live as their true, authentic self, no matter how far along they are in life, and the world would be a better place for it.

“I Saw the TV Glow” is now in theaters.


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