We are flooded with a never ending, updating mountain of media to consume. It’s almost gotten to the point that people with limited time have to orientate their priorities around watching something to the point that it feels like work itself. So, when people say after you’ve watched some form of media, “It’s one of those things you have to watch more than once” a lot of us take this statement with a grain of salt and stick with our first impressions of that thing.
However, the fact is that some media needs to be watched more than once as the average consumer will not pick up everything that needs to be picked up from the first viewing. When people critically review these things without watching them twice, I take their review with a grain of salt in turn. For instance, if someone were to give Cowboy Bebop a negative review, I would assume they only watched it once. This is because many of the little quirks and character interactions don’t truly make sense until you have gotten to know them, which you can only truly understand once you have watched the whole series.
The fact is that these things have more depth than the average show and there are hundreds of works in other mediums that are just like this. Be it from some twist or reveal, the knowledge you have gathered from the media by the end will change your experience the second time round. Some media are designed specifically for this second viewing, where the things that are designed to seem incongruous the first time make sense a second time around. Yet because of the flood of media and lack of time to rewatch these, many of them are going unappreciated.
As an artist, this could potentially dissuade people like me from creating media with a bit more depth and subtlety than the average story, for we know that the likelihood of people appreciating it on that level is becoming smaller than smaller due to this oversaturation. Because of this, media that will hit you hardest and stay with you for a long time is becoming more and more scarce to that point that most films, books, or games are merely becoming flavors of the week until the next thing comes along. I think this is why, at least for artists trying to make a name for themselves, their art is becoming more and more shallow and niche audience targeted.
Of course, there is an attempt to create this depth in subtle ways by hiding them in character foibles or Easter Eggs. However, most of these only give us a glimpse of the self-awareness and depth that this work could have had but was too afraid to expand on because of people’s narrow attention spans. In reality, our inability to appreciate art on a level where we watch it more than once when it needs to be is also the reason why many forms of art lack this depth. The artists know that the likelihood of people appreciating it for these reasons is so low that it is unlikely to be taken seriously, or even be at a detriment from first-timer reviewers that it will be watched at all.