Some thoughts on television

I watch a lot of television. This might be a strange thing for a college student to say, a Creative Writing student no less, but hey my dorm’s got free cable and there isn’t much to do in Selinsgrove past eight at night. I guess that says a lot about my social life, but I digress. Where was I? Oh yeah, I watch a lot of television and one show I’ve managed to catch, every Monday at ten on ABC, is Castle. It follows a crime novelist, Richard Castle, as he shadows Detective Kate Beckett looking for the inspiration behind his next big hit. It stars the magnificent Nathan Fillion, best known for his roles in Joss Whedon vehicles like Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and the prematurely cancelled science fiction masterpiece Firefly. A typical episode consists of finding a murder victim, interviewing significant others of the victim, and finding the killer among them.

Why do I watch this show, you ask? After all, it’s basically a cop procedural and if you’ve seen one of those, believe me you’ve seen them all. The role of detective Beckett is a good one I guess, the feminist in me always roots for shows with a strong female lead, and the show is actually funny in that quirky comedy-drama way. And it’s lacking the plastic acting of other cop dramas competing on other networks on the same time, David Caruso I’m looking at you. But I guess it’s the writing student at me that invariably kicks in. It is about a famous, fantastically rich writer after all.

If it’s one thing this series is good at, it’s practically deifying writers of ‘pop’ literature.

The pilot had a brief cameo of James Patterson, among other well known novelists, and Castle, when not solving cases for the NYPD, is usually shown either lounging at his Manhattan penthouse or attending some publisher’s party drinking fine wine and mingling with beautiful people. Pop Lit, detective fiction in particular, seems to be the only genre this happens with. The show makes the same claims about journalists that most other television shows do; that they’re annoying, intrusive and of questionable moral fiber. But in the Castle-verse, being a novelist brings luxury and wealth and it’s spreading the wrong messages to people that might not otherwise experience the production end of book publishing.

Being a writer, even a successful one with New York Time’s Bestseller splashed across the cover of a book, doesn’t automatically grant you wealth beyond measure. Most writers, those that aren’t freelance, tend to have other jobs going for them beside the writing thing. Many are teachers, guiding the next generation of copy editors and bloggers and probably teachers, but maybe also writers, through the murky years at University. I’ve only been in the writing program here at Susquehanna for a few months, but most of my teachers consider themselves writers before they consider themselves educators. It’s not that they don’t value their jobs, but writing is the one true calling. At least one professor has published a few novels, and has another he’s working on right now, while at the same time holding classes at least three times a week. Other would be writers end up going into publishing, working with the materials they love so much. The thing is, writing doesn’t pay so well, even when you’re working freelance or have somehow wrangled a book deal.

I want to be a writer, wanted to be one ever since elementary school when I wrote a story about a goldfish who couldn’t remember his mother’s name and had to be reminded every five seconds. It wasn’t his fault. Goldfish just have bad memories. The thing is though, I know the world enough to realize I can try all I want to be a writer, but when it comes down to it I’ll probably have a full time job too. When I was younger I would dream of myself as the next J.K. Rowling, with more money than the Queen of England and all because I was a master story teller. Now I just hope to one day be absolutely happy with a piece that I’ve written, to find success in even the smallest publication. Writing has ceased to be about something I can profit from, but something I do for the shear thrill of getting the right sequence of words on the page.

Watching Castle I can see why people smile and crack jokes about borrowing money from me when I announce my plans to be a writer. The public grants a certain prestige to those that work in the world of words and nowhere is this better characterized than on television. I sometimes think this is because the show’s writers are trying to bring worth back to their medium, and as long as this translates into something to do on Monday nights, I say go for it.


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