Music, TV shows and movies are some of the most accessible and easiest forms of media to fill our spare time with. Listening to your favorite album or discovering a new TV show can engage your mind, emotions and inspire you to explore new avenues. Now that many of us have an abundance of days at home and newfound spare time, these shared artforms have become integral to keeping ourselves entertained. Aside from interactions within our household, the closest we can get to people is either in our ear or on our screens. Many of us are staying at home with little-to-no outside contact for an extended period of time for the very first time, so if nothing else, this is a unique opportunity to re-experience our old favorites and maybe even discover new ones. Most everything going on right now is devastating and overwhelming, so it’s worth seeing what is helping students at UMass out during this time.
I first interviewed Karli Doney, a sophomore and history major:
NOTE: These are only portions of the interviews, transcribed from Zoom interviews and edited for clarity. The author is the president of the UMass Film Discussion Club, of which the interviewees are members.
I wanted to ask people what pieces of media have been most comforting to them, and what has really gotten them through, inspired them and given them joy during this time.
KD: Specifically, I’ve been listening to a lot of this album that I listened to a lot last year when [me and my friends] would hang out and then I’d go home. Driving home, I would listen to it a lot. It’s an album called “A Fever Dream” by Everything Everything and it’s a band [one of my friends showed me] and I listen to it a lot because it reminds me of driving home from UMass and it’s comforting.
Is there anything else you’ve been watching?
KD: I’ve also been re-watching “Futurama” which I used to watch when I was little. It would come on Adult Swim, and when I was really little; I would stay up super late. Other than watching films with UMass Film Discussion Club, I haven’t been watching a lot of movies, really.
With “Futurama,” are you re-watching it because it’s comforting? I ask because I am doing something very similar.
KD: It’s comforting and it’s a light show to watch when you do other stuff. I taught myself to cross-stitch over this break, so you can [cross-stitch] and watch that at the same time. I watch it while playing “Animal Crossing,” too.
What’s something that’s been very important for you during this time in terms of watching and listening to stuff; what’s been your goal when you consume media?
KD: I think I’ve been leaning more towards stuff that’s easier to digest and more light-hearted, other than the movies [I had been watching in the club]. Like last week, we watched “Killing of a Sacred Deer” and that was a lot. I’ve been trying to watch more comforting stuff, like I watched “The Princess Diaries” for like the millionth time. I’m not really watching stuff that takes a lot out of me, emotionally.
Have you been watching anything new or just mostly re-watching stuff?
KD: I did actually watch “Sharp Objects” which was so good, and that’s definitely heavier because it’s a murder mystery, but oh my god that was super good.
It’s also distracting though, right, and has nothing to do with what’s going on.
KD: In the beginning, before this got really bad, I did watch “Outbreak” from 1995. It was a good movie, but I was so anxious the whole time and I was like… I can’t. That’s about it for stuff I’ve been watching, I’ve been sleeping a lot.
Do you have any plans to watch new stuff?
KD: I do want to watch new shows. I was trying to finish “Breaking Bad,” but I’ve just tried to watch it so many times… I want it to be my thing, and it should be my thing, but it’s just not. There’s a lot of movies I wanted to watch that I’ll probably watch. I want to watch some Studio Ghibli movies because I haven’t seen too many of them.
Is there anything you’re looking forward to coming out soon?
KD: I heard that there’s going to be this Netflix series, I don’t know when it’s coming out, I think it’s a documentary about two lesbians or something, I don’t remember what it’s called. Oh, it’s called “A Secret Love”. I have a lot of stuff I want to watch, I want to get through my movie list, because I have a giant list of movies for this year I want to watch. I’m hopefully going to get through more of that once the stress of online classes is over, because it’s a lot to deal with.
Are you going to see “Emma?”
KD: I probably will, I might give in and just watch it, I wanted to wait until I read the book.
Next, I spoke with Carolyn Smith, a senior and economics major. Carolyn has also been working towards her film studies certificate this semester:
I wanted to ask people what shows, movies and music are helping them get through this time. What stuff have you been watching?
CS: I’ve been picking out rom-coms and comedy movies that have kind of girly and exaggerated characters. I think I’ve been doing that because last summer in my free time I would watch movies and shows that I felt like I could learn from, just more intense and analytical things. But ever since I started taking film classes, I have to watch three or four really intense movies a week. This week we watched “2001: A Space Odyssey” and a film about the history of Nigeria, so in my free time now all I want to do is watch “Mean Girls” and stuff like that.
Have you been re-watching things, watching other new things?
CS: I’m very picky with TV shows, a show that I really like is “The Office,” which I’ve seen so many times that I have no reason to watch it again, so I haven’t seen that in a while. Every time I watch a TV show, I have some kind of problem with it. Like I watched “Tiger King.”
That has a lot of problems!
CS: Yeah, I didn’t like it because I feel like they misrepresented a lot of the information and that it was too sensational. I watched “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” which was really good, but I just lost interest. TV shows just don’t hold my interest as well as movies do for some reason. I feel like if I found a TV show that I really liked I could get into it and watch it for a long time. I also [don’t] have a great attention span, like I usually watch stuff when I’m doing something else, and with TV shows you kind of have to pay attention to get to know the characters and stay on track with the plot and everything. I was watching “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion” today, and you don’t really need to pay attention to that, it’s in three parts and you can figure out what’s going on really easily. I need to find a good TV show, though.
What have you been trying to gain from watching stuff- is it for the comfort, the laugh, the distraction…?
CS: Honestly, distraction, but I have to appreciate the style of it enough. I think that at different times I look for different things in movies. Sometimes I want something psychological, sometimes I want something scary, recently I just want very stylized and fun movies that are nice to look at and listen to. Like I watched “The Bling Ring” kind of recently, I love that, I love that movie, I love everything about it. I watched “Romy and Michele” today, I watched “Mean Girls” recently, I watched “Jawbreaker” recently, and stuff like that. The music is fun, the outfits are great and that’s what I’ve been into.
Do you think there’s any quarantine-related reason for that?
CS: Probably because it’s easy. I haven’t been super upset because of quarantine, surprisingly, I’ve been dealing with it pretty well, but I don’t really feel like watching a movie like “Contagion” or something really scary when there’s already so much going on. At the same time, I feel like I’ve lost my analytical battery because of my classes. I’m sure a month after I graduate, I’ll be back to watching hard movies and really intense things.
Have you been listening to any music?
CS: Yeah, I’ve noticed that music affects my mood. I was kind of not feeling great today, I don’t know if I’m getting sick or something, but I just felt super tired. I started listening to music this afternoon, I listened to one of my favorite bands, “Car Seat Headrest”. They’re rolling out their new album and I started listening to the songs and I got really inspired and started working on a Photoshop project I haven’t gotten to. Music makes me want to get up and do things if I like the song enough.
Have you been listening to anything else specific, during this time?
CS: Weirdly I’ve been listening to “Swedish House Mafia”, which I haven’t listened to since 2010. I don’t know why all of a sudden, but I’ve been playing- you know the song “Miami 2 Ibiza”? I’ve had that on repeat for a few hours, just playing that over and over. And Mac Miller. Also, Girl Talk, he’s like a mashup DJ, but his mashups are actually really good.
Do you have any idea of why you’re drawn to specifically that music?
CS: Honestly, I’ve noticed that my taste in music kind of revolves around what movies I’m watching at the time. When I watched “The Irishman”, I loved the mood of that movie. I really like Martin Scorsese movies, and after I saw that I downloaded the soundtrack. And when I listen to the soundtrack after it reminds me of all of my favorite scenes and the settings of those scenes. I got into Girl Talk and Swedish House Mafia because “The Bling Ring” has a song by Azealia Banks that’s very much like house music, and that kind of drew me to that music because I had heard it before, and I knew I liked it.
Really interesting hearing your thought process, and I like how eclectic your music taste is.
CS: When people ask me what my favorite genre is, I guess it’s rap because I do listen to rap music the most, but literally any genre you can think of is in my library, and I listen to it regularly at some point.
What are some things you’re looking forward to being released during this time?
CS: I’m really looking forward to “A Quiet Place Part II,” I really liked the first movie. I didn’t think it was perfect, and I don’t think it was trying to be perfect, but I like that movie because I thought that it was such a unique idea and it was something that’s never really been done before. That’s another thing I look for in movies. There are a lot of movies that aren’t perfect or amazing, but I think the idea is so good that it makes up for whatever is lacking. I felt that way about “Velvet Buzzsaw”, “A Quiet Place”, and some other horror movies I’ve seen. I’m looking forward to more horror movies because I’ve seen so many horror movies that I have a hard time finding new ones that I feel like are going to be worth watching, so I look forward to new releases of horror movies.
Have you seen “The Invisible Man”?
CS: Yeah, I thought it was good. I need to watch it again.
Are you going to watch “The Hunt”?
CS: I haven’t heard of it, I might though, is it a horror movie?
It’s a horror movie, it’s out. There’s also “The Lodge”.
CS: Cool, I’ll definitely watch that then. I think I started watching half of [“The Lodge”]. I think with movies, I need to not look at the reviews because some of my favorites have awful reviews and I still like them.
Do you have any other things that you’re excited for or just want to share about your experience with media during this time?
CS: I feel like I’ve learned through film classes that watching movies isn’t really a waste of time. When I do it, I feel like I gain something from it; when I play video games, I tend to feel guilty if I spend a long period of time doing it. I don’t think video games are stupid, but I do feel like that feeling is a little bit justified. With video games, if I become amazing at “Animal Crossing” and amazing at building my village and doing whatever, that skill is not going to transfer to anywhere else in my life. I’m not going to be able to apply that to anywhere else and I feel like that’s why videogames are a little looked down upon as a hobby. Whereas with movies, if I’ve seen a lot of movies, I can connect with people over that. There are more productive things I could do, I could learn how to edit videos, I could learn how to make my own, but I feel like I gain something out of [watching movies] even though it’s a pastime.
I totally get that. I think during this time, though, there’s nothing wrong with playing a ton of “Animal Crossing.”
CS: I agree. I think it’s definitely an internal thing with me, like even though I don’t have to do anything, I’m trying to do something productive. I’m trying to go running a few times a week, I’m trying to learn Photoshop and know it well enough to put it on my resume before everything reopens and I can apply for jobs. I try to get the best, most productive pastimes I can find. Honestly, I realized today, with “Animal Crossing,” I don’t even enjoy it that much. It’s fun, but it’s so tedious. With videogames, I like to have an endgame in mind and be able to finish something and be done with it, but you’re never done with it for “Animal Crossing.” I’m going to try to limit myself an hour a day or something.
Finally, I spoke with Ian Dartley, a sophomore and communication major:
Basically, what I’m writing about is what media UMass students are consuming right now, so what’s some music you’re listening to right now?
ID: I’ve been listening to Fiona Apple’s new album “Fetch the Bolt Cutters.” That’s definitely been the main thing I’ve been listening to. I also found this Australian pop punk band called Stand Atlantic, so I’ve been listening to them a lot. I got pretty into Allie X, she’s like mainstream pop-ish, or she’s got a mainstream pop sound, she’s not really that huge. I also really got into Arctic Monkeys, so I’ve been listening to a lot of “Favourite Worst Nightmare” and “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not”, mostly that stuff. I haven’t gotten into “Humbug”, “Suck It and See” and “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino” yet. Also, Noah Cyrus, too.
What about that specific music is doing it for you right now?
ID: I’ve always been into alternative-type music and punk rock, and I’ve had the time to actually try and find more lesser known artists that have similar sounds to established bands that I really like. Stand Atlantic is very similar to Neck Deep and Blink-182 but [those bands] are much more popular. With Fiona Apple, I see similarities — mostly just in the vocal sense not really the instrumental sense — to MARINA. Kind of, that’s the first thing that pops into my head. It’s probably just more like finding new artists that have at least slightly similar sounds.
Do you think there’s anything else that draws you to them during this very specific time in history?
ID: No. I’m not gonna lie. I don’t think [there is].
I think what you said about having the time to explore stuff is really interesting.
ID: I guess I could say that having the time from this has caused me to find it, but there’s nothing really specifically pandemic-wise that has caused me to listen to that. I’ve been listening to “It’s the End of the World” by R.E.M., I guess I could say it caused me to listen to that one, but not really [otherwise].
That song is so real right now. It’s just so applicable to so many situations.
ID: I love R.E.M. You should check out “Strange Currencies” and “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?”, those are great songs.
What about movies and TV?
ID: Movies and TV, I’m kind of all over the place. In terms of TV shows, I watched the miniseries on Netflix “I Am Not Okay with This”. It was pretty good, it’s kind of like “Stranger Things,” which I don’t love, but it was interesting, and it was only 8 episodes and 20 minutes so it was easy to watch in one day. I watched all of “Sharp Objects” in one day, which I’m very proud of. That show is probably the best show I’ve seen, period. Granted, I don’t watch a lot of shows: I haven’t seen “Westworld,” I haven’t seen “Game of Thrones,” I haven’t seen a lot of shows, but “Sharp Objects” is definitely at the top for me. I liked it more than “Breaking Bad,” I’d say. Just that one season, in general, was so much more engaging than any show I’ve seen. I’ve been re-watching “The Office” because it’s going to be leaving Netflix soon so I figure I might as well give it one more re-watch. Movies… Hulu’s added a lot, and actually Netflix has been adding some pretty decent stuff, too. I’ve watched “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” and I’m definitely going to watch it again, soon, I want to write a long, in-depth review of it. I watched “The Art of Self-Defense.”
What a weird movie.
ID: Very weird but very good. I love movies where there’s one defining moment where it takes a turn. “Parasite” is like that, there’s a mystery-horror movie called “Kill List” that’s like that. I’m going to watch “Extraction” later today, the new Chris Hemsworth action movie, just because I heard it’s actually pretty good. I’ve seen “Goodfellas”, “Killing of a Sacred Deer” [and] “Good Time” with [the Film Discussion Club]. I watched “The Master” on Netflix, which I did not like, I found it extremely boring. I completely see why it’s a good movie and I get what the movie is about, but I just found it so boring, I just did not find it interesting, at all.
I’m going to ask again; do you think there’s anything that’s drawing you to these particular shows and movies during this time?
ID: This is such a lame answer, but honestly no. Just having more time has been very useful in being able to watch some movies that I’ve been meaning to watch and rewatch, but that’s pretty much it. I watched “Contagion” like two weeks before we got sent home just because I was hearing about the virus break out, so I guess you could say that, but that was also before the quarantine started.
Do you have anything else you want to add about movies, TV, music, and the impact of that type of media right now?
ID: I think people should really take the time to explore the libraries on Netflix [and] HBO and just try to watch something you wouldn’t normally watch, because you literally have nothing else to do.
Are you looking forward to anything that’s going to come out soon, potentially in quarantine?
ID: There’s been a lot of new music coming out, so that’s been pretty good, like a lot of artists have been releasing new music. I would probably say I’m looking forward to Lana Del Rey’s spoken word poetry album, “Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass.”
Any movies or TV?
ID: I don’t know what’s coming out, I haven’t been keeping up with digital releases. There are no good movies that are coming out soon.
Are you looking forward to “Dune,” whenever it comes out?
ID: Oh yeah, I’m looking forward to “Dune”, I’m very much looking forward to “Dune.”
The wide variety of media that these three consume not only compared to each other, but just on their own, tells a lot of how much UMass students are into. We have access to libraries of music, shows and movies unlike anything in history. It’s interesting to see how different people take advantage of that. It is worth learning about what students are exploring right now — hopefully some people even get good suggestions from this!
Lily Farizon can be reached at [email protected]