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Online Gentrification and Northern Exposure

When the television show Resident Alien debuted, I found myself adoring the small town of quirky characters. I spent some time seeking out other similar TV shows and books, and the show it was compared to the most was Northern Exposure.

I remembered Northern Exposure from my youth. I distinctly recall being home from school sick and watching it in syndication. The catchy opening theme song and moose wandering through town caught my attention, and while I do not recall the storyline, I remember really enjoying the episode.

Northern Exposure became one of my Holy Grail shows. It was always just a bit too difficult to watch (the times it aired weren’t the greatest for me) and then when the DVDs began releasing, they were just out of my price range, and I had my eyes set on other things.

But after reading about the philosophical and mystical storylines that Northern Exposure interweaved into this small Alaskan town, I decided to get a hold of the German blu-ray release, that way I could see the show as it aired with the original music.

See, Northern Exposure wasn’t available outside of DVD because of complex musical rights in the United States. So many 80’s and 90’s TV shows have had issues such as Moonlighting, The Drew Carey Show, and even Scrubs. The rights for music were not negotiated because TV shows didn’t live past their original run/syndication, but as DVD was introduced and then streaming, these rights became complex and expensive. So, two years ago, the only way to see Northern Exposurewith its original soundtrack was to import blu-rays or to set sail on the high seas.

I started watching Northern Exposure and I instantly fell in love with it. I found the charm and the characters of the show to be irresistible and I flew through the first three seasons.

I decided to take a break and savor the show for a bit, but in the meantime, I set up camp on the r/NorthernExposure subreddit. The subreddit was practically a ghost town, with maybe a couple of posts a week usually folk sharing quotes or maybe pictures from a recent visit to the actual town of Roslyn, Washington where they filmed Northern Exposure.

It was one of my favorite subreddits, because it didn’t take up much time, the people were nice, and only real fans remained. I mean, who else wanted to chat about a thirty-year-old show that wasn’t available to stream?

I started looking up the old books released during the show and just dabbled in fandom, before getting distracted for a few months. Then, around six months ago, it was announced out of nowhere that Northern Exposure was getting a digital and blu-ray release, and it made its way onto Amazon Prime.

Now, there is some debate about which releases have the original music and look the best, but I think the blu-ray is your best bet if you want the total package, but don’t quote me on that.

Sadly, my quiet little subreddit quickly turned into a mess. The flood of new viewers was welcomed at first, but within a couple of days someone chimed in “If I knew this was going to happen, I wish the show never streamed.”

Daily posts started pouring in that were mostly worded like this and I’m talking multiple times a day:

“I don’t like Ed.”

“I like this show, but Maurice is racist.”

“This show is great, but Chris is so annoying.”

and so forth.

It was non-stop unsolicited bitching and our calm, quiet, little slice of virtual Cicely, Alaska was no more. Similar to if the town of Cicely getting a Walmart and an interstate, what made the subreddit nice, was now gone.

I stopped/cut down my reddit usage around this time (it was one of the few subreddits I was hanging around for) and I haven’t really been back until earlier this week. I guess the show has garnered some traction, which is great for the longevity of it all, but the subreddit is still full of people well… being annoying.

(Side rant: How shallow of a life do you have to lead to hate watch a TV show, then take even more time to visit a place where fans of a TV show correspond, just to let them know how much you hate it? It’s like the folks who create podcasts for shows they hate just to talk trash, it truly blows my mind. I mean, who is the audience for something like that?)

Recently, my wife was telling me about a new episode of Brene Brown’s podcast, where she spoke with a researcher of social media named Dr. William Brady. I haven’t listened to it myself, but from her synopsis Dr. Brady is working with Blue Sky to study social media and trying to help find ways for the algorithms not to share the most extreme views, thus tainting the larger pool of participants. My wife is more optimistic than me that social media can be saved at its current state, while I side with the thought that the future of the internet is in small communities. Tiny pods where folks can share and be happy and just don’t have to deal with all the negativity and folks who feel the need to spew it.

I couldn’t help but think about our recent conversation when reflecting on my time with the Northern Exposure subreddit. That’s exactly what happened to it. We went from having a peaceful little place of our own, to opening the flood gates and watching the entire culture and vibe die with it.

I sometimes wonder what Chris Stevens would say about all this, the internet, reddit, gentrification… I’m sure he’d have something wise to say about it all.

Published in#WeblogPoMo2024

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