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The deeper message of I Saw the TV Glow gets lost in the films' excessive complexity

The deeper message of I Saw the TV Glow gets lost in the films' excessive complexity


Filled with low-budget CGI and costumes reminiscent of '90s TV shows, I Saw the TV Glow is a seemingly light-hearted film that becomes increasingly unnerving as its characters grow up and are forced to face their own identify.

The film, directed by Jane Schoenbrun and scheduled for release on May 3, was screened last Friday at the Granoff Martinos Auditorium as part of the 2024 Ivy Film Festival.

The film begins with an eerie shot of a suburban neighborhood before cutting to a young Owen (Ian Foreman) watching a television show called The Pink Opaque. The scene then shifts to a dimly lit school, where Owen meets Maddy (Brigette Lundy-Paine). A brief conversation between the two leads Maddy to invite Owen over to her house to watch The Pink Opaque, a night that would transform both of their lives.

After a two-year time skip, an older Owen (Judge Smith) is seen watching recorded tapes of The Pink Opaque given to him by Maddy. One night, after meeting in person to watch the show together, Maddy draws a pink ghost (a recurring symbol in the TV show) on the back of Owen's neck, causing him to see pixels and TV static on the back of his head. above him.

The next morning, Owen attempts to remove the pink ghost from his neck but is unable to remove it completely. From this point on, the moments in Owen's life become progressively more disturbing. After the death of his mother the following summer, Owen is further isolated by Maddy's disappearance, as well as the simultaneous and sudden cancellation of The Pink Opaque.

Eight years later, Maddy returns, revealing to Owen that she has been inside the Pink Opaque and that Owen must free himself from the real world by burying himself alive. This sets off a process of endless questioning for Owen, who can't figure out whether his beloved childhood TV show was fiction or another reality.

One of the strengths of I Saw the TV Glow is its use of light and color. Throughout the film, a feeling of unease is created by settings lit only by the glow of a television. Meanwhile, the color choices reinforce the film's true purpose, a representation of the experiences of the transgender community, largely alluded to by the disconnect Owen feels between his body and the possibility of existing within The Pink Opaque . In the opening scene, Owen is illuminated by the pink lights of his television, a possible allusion to the beginning of his journey of self-discovery and gender exploration. Later, when Maddy and Owen discuss their sexuality at school, attentive viewers may notice that Maddy is wearing a blue top, while Owen is wearing a pink sweater.

Although the film excels in attention to technical detail, it forgoes a stronger connection with more casual viewers. The film's narrative chaos ends up muddling its main message, leaving viewers confused as to how different aspects of the film fit into its overall plot.

A grainy montage of flashbacks gives viewers a glimpse of a smiling Owen wearing a dress while spending time with Maddy. But this defining scene passes too quickly and appears far too late in the film, forcing the viewer to rethink character details and continually reevaluate the plot.

Every aspect of I Saw the TV Glow, from the casting choices to the set design, contributes to the film's overall message. But these details will likely be overlooked on a first viewing, potentially requiring a second viewing for audiences to fully understand their impact.

Although well produced, I Saw the TV Glow feels more like a minefield of loose threads and vague intricacies than a coherent narrative with a clear conclusion.




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