Search

I Saw the TV Glow (2024) | Transcript

Two teenagers bond over their love of a supernatural TV show, but it is mysteriously cancelled.
I Saw the TV Glow (2024)

I Saw the TV Glow (2024)
Genre : Drama, Horror
Director : Jane Schoenbrun
Stars : Justice Smith, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Ian Foreman, Helena Howard, Lindsey Jordan

Plot : Teenager Owen is just trying to make it through life in the suburbs when his classmate introduces him to a mysterious late-night TV show — a vision of a supernatural world beneath their own. In the pale glow of the television, Owen’s view of reality begins to crack.

* * *

[AUDIENCE LAUGHING]

[WOMAN TALKING INDISTINCTLY]

[VOICES OVERLAPPING WITH EACH OTHER]

[AUDIENCE CHEERING]

[SCREAMING]

[APPLAUSE]

[CROW CAWING DISTANTLY]

[JINGLE MUSIC PLAYING FROM ICE CREAM TRUCK]

[INDISTINCT SOUND OF CHANGING CHANNELS]

MAN: [OVER TV] This Saturday night on a brand-new Pink Opaque.

WOMAN: Drain Lords, hundreds of them, coming out of the drains!

MAN: Isabel’s bathroom has a new supernatural infestation that no exterminator can take care of.

It’s “The Attack of the Drain Lords.”

10:30p.m./ 9:30 Central, this Saturday night on the Young Adult Network.

TARA: [OVER TV] They can’t hurt you if you don’t think about them.

They can’t hurt you if you don’t think about them.

[ANTHEMS FOR A SEVENTEEN YEAR-OLD GIRL BY YEULE PLAYS]

[CHILDREN SPEAKING INDISTINCTLY]

CHILDREN: Five, four, three, two, one!

[CHILDREN GIGGLING]

[ANTHEMS FOR A SEVENTEEN YEAR-OLD GIRL CONTINUES]

[TV STATIC BUZZING]

[MUSIC FADES OUT]

OWEN: It was raining last night and I couldn’t sleep, so I started my favorite TV show again.

The Pink Opaque.

[PIANO MUSIC PLAYING]

[TROMBONE BLARING]

[SAXOPHONE WAILING]

[VOLUNTEERS TALKING INDISTINCTLY]

Thank you, ma’am.

WOMAN: Yes.

Enjoy your night.

GIRL: Yeah. [CHUCKLES]

GIRL: Hey.

WOMAN: Oh, let me take two, yeah. Thank you.

Owen! Owen, honey.

Come on, honey, we’re ready to go in.

[SOFTLY] Come on.

BRENDA: I don’t know what he’s doing…

[CONTINUES INDISTINCTLY]

[CURTAIN DRAWS]

Ready?

Owen, I know you’re not too old for this.

[WHISPERS] It’s been four years.

It’s time to vote for the saxophone man again.

Mom!

Okay. Come on.

Come on. Come… Owen, come on.

Please.

[INDISTINCT CHATTER]

BRENDA: I don’t know. I don’t think so.

[SPEAKING INDISTINCTLY]

YOUNG OWEN: Hey.

Hey.

YOUNG OWEN: Are your parents voting too?

No.

Ms. Driscoll lets me use the dark room after school, so I’m just waiting for my pictures to dry out.

That looks like the best book ever.

Yeah, it is.

That’s like the TV show, right?

The Pink Opaque?

Yeah. It’s the official episode guide.

Do you watch?

No.

Oh.

[VENDING MACHINE BUZZING]

[PAGES RUSTLING]

What grade are you in?

Ninth.

What about you?

Seventh.

[SCOFFS] My God, you’re a baby.

Election Night is cool, right?

It’s like Colonial Day.

Or when they bring the inflatable planetarium into the gymnasium.

It’s like the school gets transformed into something else, you know?

It’s special.

It’s a kids show, right?

The Pink Opaque?

No. No way. Who told you that?

I mean, yeah, technically it’s on the Young Adult Network.

But it’s way too scary,

and the mythology’s way too complicated for most kids.

I see commercials for it all the time.

It looks amazing.

You can read about the episodes here, if you want.

It’s got quotes and pictures, and info about the double bill of bands that plays each week at the Double Lunch.

It comes on at 10:30 p.m., right?

Yeah. Every Saturday night.

It’s the last show in the block before they switch to black and white reruns for old people.

My friend Amanda and I watch it together every week.

My dad won’t let me stay up that late.

10 p.m.’s my bedtime.

Damn.

That absolutely sucks.

My mom basically doesn’t give a crap when I go to bed.

[YOUNG OWEN SIGHS]

Hey.

You know what you should do?

Mom?

BRENDA: Hmm?

Can I have a sleepover at Johnny Link’s house Saturday night?

Johnny Link?

I didn’t even know you guys were still friends anymore.

Well, honey, you’ll have to ask your father.

[POP MUSIC PLAYING SOFTLY]

Can you ask him for me?

[TV PLAYING SOFTLY]

[KEYS JINGLING]

BRENDA: Frank, Owen wants to go have a sleepover at Johnny Link’s.

Well… He’s old enough.

He’s a good kid.

[INDISTINCT CHATTER ON TV]

[VOICES OVERLAPPING ON TV]

[DOOR SLAMS]

BRENDA: Honey!

You remembered your inhaler, right?

Yeah.

BRENDA: All right.

[CAR STARTING]

[THUNDER RUMBLING]

[RAIN PATTERING]

YOUNG MADDY: And what about a husband?

AMANDA: If I have to. [SCOFFS]

What about Evan Dando?

I mean, he’s cute but he’s so tortured.

I’d have to, like, save him every day.

YOUNG MADDY: Fine. Then what about Beck?

AMANDA: He’s such a spindly little cutie. [CHUCKLING]

[MUSIC PLAYING OVER TV]

YOUNG MADDY: Okay, but we need more, like, gross guys.

Ugh, what about Joe from Math?

AMANDA: No, he’s cute.

What about, like, Michael Stipe?

I like Michael Stipe.

MAN: [ON TV] And now, a brand-new The Pink Opaque.

Hey.

[THEME MUSIC PLAYING ON TV]

YOUNG OWEN: Is it okay if I come sit down?

Shut up. It’s starting.

ISABEL: [ON TV] Tara is my imaginary best friend, and I’m hers.

We met at sleepaway camp and discovered we had an ancient psychic connection.

[UPBEAT MUSIC PLAYING OVER TV]

Now, even though we live on opposite sides of the county, we help each other fight the forces of evil.

We are… The Pink Opaque.

[OPENING THEME MUSIC PLAYING]

The last Sprinkly Stick of the summer.

What a bummer.

Definition of.

It’s not fair, man.

Why does the winter have to be so cold that you can’t eat ice cream during the winter?

[SIGHS]

You know what I wish?

I wish the Ice Cream Man didn’t have to leave when the weather got cold in the winter.

[TINKLING MUSIC PLAYING]

JOCK: I wish… he never went away.

[GROWLING]

YOUNG MADDY: You can go out and join her, if you want.

No, I don’t smoke cigarettes.

[SCOFFS] It’s not a cigarette.

It’s a Black & Mild.

[CAR HORN HONKS]

YOUNG MADDY: Are you sure you don’t want a ride home with Amanda’s mom?

[CAR DOOR CLOSES DISTANTLY]

[CAR DRIVES AWAY]

I told my parents it was a sleepover.

So, did you like it?

The show I mean?

Yeah.

It was… It was really interesting.

Isabel’s a scaredy-cat.

She’s kind of the main character, but she’s also kind of a drip.

Tara’s my favorite. She’s super hot, and she doesn’t take shit from anybody.

Plus, she’s an expert on demonology.

And they never meet up in person, right?

No.

Just in the pilot episode, back at sleepaway camp.

But they can communicate via “the psychic plane.”

So, each episode, they help each other fight a new monster from across the county.

YOUNG OWEN: Okay.

Is the Ice Cream Man in every episode?

[CHUCKLES] No.

That’s just a Monster of the Week.

Mr. Melancholy is the Big Bad.

Mr. Melancholy?

The Man in the Moon.

Oh, right.

He’s always messing with time and reality.

He wants to rule the world,

to trap Isabel and Tara in the Midnight Realm.

So each week,

he sends a new supernatural foe their way.

Because they’re part of The Pink Opaque.

No, because they are The Pink Opaque.

YOUNG OWEN: Right.

Sorry.

Don’t apologize.

Well, I’m passing out.

Are you sure it’s okay that I sleep down here?

YOUNG MADDY: Just be out by dawn.

If my stepdad catches you, he’ll break my nose again.

And where… where will you be sleeping?

In my bed… creep.

[FOOTSTEPS APPROACHING]

[DOOR CREAKS]

[YOUNG MADDY SIGHS]

YOUNG MADDY: Sometimes…

The Pink Opaque feels more real than real life.

You know?

[TAPER BY MARIA BC PLAYING]

[DOOR OPENS]

[DOOR CLOSES]

[TAPER CONTINUES]

[FIRE CRACKLING]

[WIND BLOWING]

[KIDS SCREAMING DISTANTLY]

[BELL RINGING]

[TAPER CONTINUES]

[RING RATTLING]

[GIRLS CHEERING]

BRENDA: So,

how you feeling about my little health scare, buddy?

I’m fine.

It just…

seems like you’re always somewhere else lately.

I don’t know…

I’m not sure if it’s ’cause of me, or…

[KIDS SCREAMING DISTANTLY]

I don’t know. I…

Maybe I’m just making it up.

[ELECTRICITY BUZZING]

Just want to know that

you’re on the right path, you know?

[TEEN OWEN CLEARS THROAT]

Can I stay up late to watch The Pink Opaque tonight?

BRENDA: What time does it come on?

10:30 p.m.

You know your bedtime is at 10:15.

Yeah, but…

no one in the ninth grade even has a bedtime anymore.

Isn’t that a show for girls?

BRENDA: Not tonight, honey.

After that first sleepover, I couldn’t work up the courage

to say more than three words to Maddy Wilson at a time.

But when I told her I still wasn’t allowed

to watch the show,

she started leaving tapes for me.

[STARBURNED AND UNKISSED BY CAROLINE POLACHEK PLAYING]

[ELECTRICITY BUZZING]

[INDISTINCT CHATTER]

[STARBURNED AND UNKISSED CONTINUES]

[STARBURNED AND UNKISSED CONTINUES]

[BELL RINGING]

[MUSIC FADES OUT]

[TV STATIC]

I watched these tapes over and over again.

But they never got old.

[THEME MUSIC OF THE PINK OPAQUE PLAYS ON TV]

ISABEL: His henchmen are close by.

Marco and Polo.

Nasty little demons.

And he… he’s…

Mr. Melancholy.

That’s right.

[ISABEL INHALES SHARPLY]

What’s happening to me?

How do I know these things?

[BREATH TREMBLING] Am I going crazy?

No. Never let anyone convince you of that.

You’re like me.

You’re special.

We are The Pink Opaque.

It’s our destiny.

I knew it from the moment

I saw your tattoo in the dining hall.

Heck, I knew it before I even met you.

Can you feel it?

[SERENE MUSIC PLAYING]

ISABEL: I don’t even have my learner’s permit yet.

How can I have a destiny?

How can I have a destiny?

[DOOR OPENS]

[KEYS JINGLING]

[FOOTSTEPS APPROACHING]

[DOOR CLOSES]

[BOTH LAUGHING]

Hey.

What’s up?

Nothing much.

Um, I was wondering…

Do you, um…

Do you and Amanda

still watch The Pink Opaque together every week?

I haven’t talked to that asshole in a year.

Amanda told the entire school that I tried to touch her tit,

which is a total lie!

And then surprise, surprise, 11th grade comes around

and suddenly it’s been her lifelong dream

to join the cheer squad! Ugh!

Secret agent sent here to make my life miserable, I swear.

If you wanted, I could come over again.

I’ve been watching the tapes you’ve been making me

but I wanted to watch The Pink Opaque

on Saturday night again.

While it airs.

I like girls. You know that, right?

I’m not into boys.

[HESITATES] I wasn’t… I… Totally. That’s fine.

Okay. I’m just making sure.

What about you? Do you like girls?

I don’t… I don’t know.

Boys?

I… I think that I like TV shows.

[CHUCKLES NERVOUSLY]

[CLEARS THROAT]

When I think about that stuff,

it feels like someone…

took a shovel and dug out all my insides.

And I know there’s nothing in there,

but I’m still too nervous

to open myself up and check.

I know there’s something wrong with me.

My parents know it too,

even if they don’t say anything.

Do you ever feel like that?

I don’t know.

Maybe you’re like Isabel…

[TEEN MADDY SIGHS]

Afraid of what’s inside you.

[BIRDS CHIRPING]

[CLOWN LAUGHING MANIACALLY]

Hey, Bozo! Estee Lauder called.

They’ve got a few suggestions

about this whole look you’re going for.

[AXE STRIKES]

[RIPPING AND SQUELCHING ON TV]

[WHIMPERING]

[EERIE MUSIC PLAYING ON TV]

[CLOWN MONSTER YELPING]

[STEPFATHER YELLING DISTANTLY]

[DOOR OPENS]

[FLOORBOARD CREAKING]

I’m getting out of this town.

Did you know that?

Soon.

I’ll die if I stay here.

[YELLING CONTINUES]

I don’t know how exactly, but I know it’s true.

If you leave,

I won’t have anyone to watch The Pink Opaque with.

Sit up.

[PEN SCRAPING ON SKIN]

[VOICES ECHOING]

[TV STATIC]

[TV VOICES AND LAUGHTER]

[TAP RUNNING]

TEEN MADDY: Pack as much as you can

in your overnight bag next Saturday.

You can’t tell anyone we’re leaving.

Not your mom.

Not anyone.

Where will we go?

We’ll know when we get there.

[DOORBELL RINGING RAPIDLY]

[KNOCKING AT DOOR]

[DOORBELL CONTINUES RINGING RAPIDLY]

[DOOR OPENS]

Owen? Uh, Johnny’s not home, but…

You have to tell my dad that I’ve been lying to him.

I’ve been pretending to sleep here

while my mom’s in the hospital.

And I need to be grounded.

[BREATH TREMBLING]

Okay. Slow down, honey. What?

TEEN OWEN: You can’t let me go with her.

I don’t want to leave my home.

My mom passed away the next July.

And a few weeks later,

Maddy disappeared without a trace.

[INDISTINCT CHATTER]

All they found was her TV set burning in the backyard.

And the strangest part of it all was,

that exact same month that Maddy disappeared,

The Pink Opaque got canceled.

[FIRE CRACKLING]

MAN: [OVER SPEAKER] Welcome to Burger Express.

Hello?

Hi.

Are you ready to take my…

What would you like, sir?

Yeah, sorry. Can I get… Are you there?

I just want… Can I get two double cheeseburgers

and a small fries and a root beer?

$11.09. Drive around.

Okay. Okay, thank you.

Answering his phone,

so I can’t start…

[KEYS JANGLING]

the projector until I get the key.

Um, so if you could call me back

and just let me know…

What the hell! [LAUGHING]

Sorry! Sorry!

[BREATHING HEAVILY]

[PLEASANT MUSIC PLAYING OVER SPEAKERS]

Uh, hey, Owen, um,

did you like what you saw earlier?

Me and Erica?

[BOTH LAUGHING]

You know, because, if you want,

I can put in a good word with Erica for you.

She’s, like, obsessed with you, man.

She’s like, “Oh, I love that guy.”

“He’s so cool! Oh, my God!”

It’s “on” for you, brother.

Come on, man.

[WORKER CHUCKLES]

Hey, why don’t you look at me. Please.

Just make eye contact with me. Seriously.

[ELECTRIC ZAP]

OWEN: What the heck?

[ELECTRICITY CRACKLING]

[ELECTRICITY CRACKLING CONTINUES]

Hello?

Is somebody there?

“Season Six, episode one:”

“Escape from the Midnight Realm.”

I’m sorry that I’m late. There was a downed power line.

[CROWD LAUGHING ON TV]

[CROWD APPLAUDING ON TV]

[REMOTE CLICKS]

[TV PLAYING]

NARRATOR: [ON TV] Within hours,

90% of Earth’s population was destroyed.

The invaders changed the planet’s atmosphere,

creating an eternal night.

The sun forever covered by the dark clouds.

[WHIRRING]

The survivors fled underground,

living in fear of the machines that now ruled the Earth.

Ma’am? Are you…

Do you need help?

Do you remember me?

Maddy?

Oh, my God!

Jesus, Maddy, where have you been?

[CLAW MACHINE BY SLOPPY JANE PLAYING]

MADDY: I know a place on the edge of town.

It will be safe for us to talk there.

♪ I saw the TV glow

♪ I am in the eighth grade

♪ Sending grown men grainy photos

♪ Of my ribcage

♪ My bedroom has no doors

♪ So I can never close them

♪ I paint the ceiling black

♪ So I don’t notice

♪ When my eyes are open

♪ I paint the ceiling black

♪ So I don’t notice

♪ When my eyes are open

♪ And somewhere south of Tallahassee

♪ A teenage boy with a summer job

♪ He’s driving grown men around a golf course

♪ He’s going home to a manicured lawn

♪ And digging holes in his manicured lawn

♪ I think I was born bored

♪ I think I was born blue

♪ I think I was born wanting more

♪ I think I was born already missing you

[VOCALIZING]

♪ But my heart is like a claw machine

♪ It’s only function is to reach

♪ It can’t hold on to anything ♪

I just… I really think that you need to go to the police.

They think you’re dead, Maddy.

I don’t know.

Sometime.

And you won’t tell me where you’ve been this past decade?

I’ll tell you everything.

I just…

I need to ask you something first.

Does your mom know that you’re alive?

I need to ask you something first.

Okay. Okay.

What do you need to ask me?

♪ When it’s me who’s making it

♪ It’s always the wrong thing when it’s me who’s saying it ♪

Do you remember a TV show we used to watch together?

It was called…

The Pink Opaque.

[CROWD CHEERING, APPLAUDING]

[CHUCKLES SOFTLY]

Of course, I remember The Pink Opaque.

It’s my favorite TV show of all time.

Always will be.

That’s all you wanted to ask me,

if I remembered The Pink Opaque?

No.

I guess what I mean is…

When you think back on watching The Pink Opaque,

how do you remember it?

How do I remember it?

Yeah.

Do you remember it as just a TV show?

Yeah. I remember it as a TV show.

The Pink Opaque was a TV show.

We watched it in your basement on Saturday nights

from 10:30 to 11:00 p.m. Remember?

The last show before the Young Adult Network

switched to black and white reruns for the night.

Yeah.

But are you sure?

Are you sure that’s all it was?

[CHUCKLES SOFTLY]

Listen.

I know this might sound crazy, but…

When you think back on The Pink Opaque,

when you remember watching it in my basement

on Saturday nights from 10:30 to 11:00 p.m.,

do you ever get confused?

Like, maybe the memory isn’t quite right?

What do you mean “not quite right”?

[STATIC CRACKLES]

Like…

Does time ever feel like it’s not moving normally?

[STATIC CRACKLES]

Like it’s all out of whack?

Do you ever feel like you’re narrating your own life

watching it play in front of you

like an episode of television?

Or do you ever have a hard time distinguishing

between what happened in the show

and what happened in real life?

Like somehow the memories got jumbled around?

Shook up in your head.

Like a snow globe.

[STATIC CRACKLES]

I’m trying to go slow.

I don’t want to alarm you.

OWEN: Maybe we should talk to somebody,

the police or my dad…

No!

You can’t tell anybody about this.

Not like last time.

You have to promise.

[CROWD CHEERING]

Okay, Maddy. Jesus.

Yeah, I promise.

I came a very long way to see you,

and to ask you this…

[CROWD CHEERING]

Will you just…

Will you tell me where you’ve been all these years?

That’s what I’ve been trying to do.

[PSYCHIC WOUND BY KING WOMAN PLAYING]

I’ve been there.

Inside the show.

Inside The Pink Opaque.

♪ Why have I have been punished?

♪ I’ve been banished from the sky

♪ Clinging to his mighty chest Bury my face and cry

♪ I bow to him just to sleep next to you

♪ A force I can’t deny

♪ When I’m spread on the bed

♪ You remain the luscious fruit

♪ Help me, I’m so chained to you

♪ Someone tell me what to do

♪ Ah, ah, ah, ah

♪ Feeling like a psychic wound

♪ Help me, I’m so chained to you

♪ Someone tell me what to do

♪ Ah, ah, ah, ah

♪ Feeling like a psychic wound

[SHRIEKING]

♪ Ah, ah, ah, ah

♪ Feeling like a psychic wound

♪ Feeling like a psychic wound ♪

[MUSIC CONTINUES PLAYING DISTANTLY]

MADDY: I can’t stay in this place much longer.

I’m going back there.

Do you remember how it ended?

The final episode?

The end of season five?

You can’t trust anybody in your life.

They’re all working for him…

Mr. Melancholy.

I’ll be at the high school tomorrow night at midnight.

I hope you’ll come.

[TONIGHT, TONIGHT BY SNAIL MAIL PLAYING]

[VHS TAPES CLATTERING]

[TONIGHT, TONIGHT CONTINUES]

OWEN: A little while after Maddy disappeared,

she sent me one more tape in the mail.

ISABEL: Mr. Melancholy is coming.

TARA: If we’re going to defeat him this time,

we’re going to need to harness

the full potential of our shared powers.

We’re going to need to meet again…

in person.

Isabel follows the sound of Tara’s voice

in the psychic plane…

TARA: Isabel?

ISABEL: Tara?

Back to their old

sleepaway camp.

She finds her at the dock by the lake,

the place where they first spoke five seasons ago.

But then, as Isabel approaches,

she picks something up.

[SUSPENSEFUL MUSIC PLAYING]

A stray signal from the psychic plane.

TARA: [ECHOING] Help me. Help me.

It’s a desperate message from Tara.

The real Tara.

She’s buried underground…

in terrible danger.

TARA: Help me, Isabel.

[RETCHING]

OWEN: Mr. Melancholy had got to her first.

[TV STATIC]

MARCO: Marco.

Polo.

[ISABEL GASPING]

[ISABEL SCREAMING]

[ISABEL SOBBING]

[ISABEL CONTINUES SCREAMING]

[ISABEL STRAINING]

[CONTINUES SCREAMING]

OWEN: They cut out her heart.

[HEARTBEAT THUMPING]

[HEARTBEAT THUMPING]

[BREATHING HEAVILY]

OWEN: They feed her the Luna Juice.

[SLURPING]

[COUGHING]

[ISABEL SLURPING, GULPING]

[GULPING]

OWEN: And then he makes his entrance.

Mr. Melancholy…

[STOMPS FOOT] The big bad.

[FOOTSTEPS APPROACHING LOUDLY]

[SQUELCHING]

[EERIE MUSIC PLAYING]

Don’t fight it.

Let my poison work its magic.

You’re gonna love the Midnight Realm.

It’s such a wonderful, wonderful prison.

[VOICES WHISPERING]

[EERIE MUSIC CONTINUES]

[MUFFLED SCREAMING]

[SHUSHES]

It’s okay.

Soon you won’t remember anything.

Your real name.

Your superpowers.

Your heart.

You won’t even remember that you’re dying!

[STATIC CRACKLING]

[CHUCKLES SOFTLY]

[SPADE DIGGING]

OWEN: They bury her… alive.

[RETCHING]

And then…

[MUSIC SWELLS, FADES]

it just ended…

forever.

[GASPS FOR AIR]

[GASPING]

[DISTANT THUDDING]

[OBJECTS CLATTERING]

[FIRE ALARM BEEPING]

[FOOTSTEPS APPROACHING]

[DIAL TONE BEEPING]

[FOOTSTEPS APPROACHING]

[ELECTRICITY CRACKLING]

[OWEN SCREAMING IN PAIN]

[OWEN SOBBING]

[OWEN SCREAMING IN PAIN]

[WATER RUNNING]

[OWEN SCREAMING IN PAIN, SOBBING]

[SCREAMING] This isn’t my home!

[SCREAMING] You’re not my father!

[GAGS, COUGHS]

[DISTORTED SCREAM]

I made it all the way to Phoenix

on the money I had saved.

The trees looked different,

but everything else was exactly the same.

I started using a new name.

Sleeping at the cheapest hostel I could find.

The Pink Opaque was over.

[ENGINE SHUTS OFF]

I got a job at the mall.

At Build-A-Bear.

Filling the dolls up with stuffing.

I got out of that town.

That place I knew would kill me if I stayed.

But something was still wrong.

Wronger, even.

Time wasn’t right.

It was moving too fast.

And then I was 19. And then I was 20.

I felt like one of those dolls,

asleep in the supermarket.

Stuffed.

And then I was 21.

Like chapters skipped over on a DVD.

[AIR HISSING IN DISTANCE]

[AIR HISSING]

I told myself…

“This isn’t normal.”

“This isn’t normal.”

This isn’t how life is supposed to be.

I thought about running away again.

About moving to Santa Fe

and changing my name one more time.

But I knew that everywhere would be just the same.

I had seen how it ended.

I knew where I was.

A little bit after my 22nd birthday,

I paid this burnout kid

who used to hit on me in the food court

$50 to bury me alive.

I mean…

he didn’t know he was burying me alive,

but I doubt he would have cared too much even if he did.

I bought a coffin.

I dug a hole.

I got inside and I closed the lid.

I said to myself,

“This is crazy.”

“What you’re doing is crazy.”

But another part of me knew that it wasn’t.

That it was survival.

And that I didn’t have much time.

That what felt like years in this world

was actually just seconds.

So I waited.

And then finally,

the first spadeful of dirt hit the top of the box.

[SPADE DIGGING, DIRT THUDS]

And then another.

And then another.

I sang songs to myself.

I counted to 10,000 without skipping any numbers.

I pissed and I shit my pants

and I forced my mouth

to produce whatever saliva it could muster

just so I would have something to drink.

I screamed as loud as I could for help.

I apologized for the whole thing.

And I begged God for someone to come along and save me.

I tried and tried to claw my way out,

but that burnout guy had packed the dirt in too tight

just like I had asked him to do.

And then,

after I don’t know how long,

I felt myself start to leave myself.

And it was like I was watching myself

on TV from across the room.

And I was moving further

and further away from the screen

until the screen was so small

that I couldn’t even see myself anymore.

[WHIRRING]

And then I was clawing my way up out of the ground.

And then I was at the surface,

gasping for air, rain pouring down on me.

Thunder and lightning.

And I was finally back there.

Back at our old sleepaway camp.

And just like I was waking up from a bad dream,

that whole life…

that whole reality where I was Maddy Wilson…

drifted away.

Like a brief hallucination

that, after a few moments, I could hardly even remember.

And all those memories that had felt so real

washed away with the rain

back at our old sleepaway camp.

And I was me.

I was finally me again.

And it was the season six premiere.

I tried looking for you,

but Mr. Melancholy had covered his tracks too well.

I knew you must be buried somewhere close by,

but I didn’t know where.

And your signal…

That signal that I used to be able to close my eyes

and feel so vividly…

was nowhere.

I wasn’t picking up anything on the psychic plane.

I found my heart.

Isabel, oh, my God!

I found yours, too.

And it was still beating,

stored indefinitely in… [BREATHING HEAVILY]

In an industrial freezer!

I left our hearts there

because I knew I wasn’t done yet.

And I found Mr. Melancholy’s cauldron.

I found the Luna Juice

he used to send us to the Midnight Realm,

then I took a big sip straight out from the ladle.

And I laid back down…

and I waited to fall back asleep.

I knew I needed to come back here.

I knew I needed to come back and save you.

So that the show can continue.

So that we can get to season six.

Maddy.

That’s not my name.

[MUSIC FADES OUT]

And I haven’t told you anything tonight

that you don’t already know.

Tell me.

Tell me you know it’s true.

I…

You told me yourself you felt it.

Remember? On the bleachers?

You know what he put inside you.

This… This is insane. I…

I remember… I remember…

playing in the snow.

Driving to baseball games with my dad.

Cooking with my mom.

Those memories were put there to distract you.

To keep you trapped.

This isn’t the Midnight Realm, Maddy,

it’s just the suburbs.

I told you that’s not my name.

And we need to go back down into the soil.

Tonight.

The longer you wait

the closer you get to suffocating.

I’ve got everything ready.

That spot behind the football field

where the stoners used to get high after school.

No one will find us there.

[MUSIC FADES OUT]

Come on.

I know it’s scary. That’s part of it.

It’s like the Drain Lords.

Just like the Drain Lords.

It’s not real if I don’t think about it.

Isabel.

[GRUNTING]

[PANTING]

[TV PLAYING]

[LOCK CLICKS]

[CROWD LAUGHING ON TV]

[CROWD APPLAUDING ON TV]

[CROWD CHEERING ON TV]

[CROWD LAUGHING ON TV]

OWEN: After that night on the football field,

I locked myself inside.

I didn’t leave the house for days.

I kept waiting for her to show back up

to force me underground.

But she never did.

I never saw her again.

[RIDING AROUND IN THE DARK BY FLORIST PLAYING]

I told myself I made the right choice.

Maddy’s story was insane. It couldn’t be true.

But some nights,

when I was working late at the movie theater,

I found myself wondering, what if she was right?

What if she had been telling the truth?

What if I really was someone else?

Someone beautiful and powerful.

Someone buried alive and suffocating to death.

Very far away,

on the other side of the television screen.

But I know that’s not true.

That’s just fantasy.

Kid’s stuff.

The movie theater closed the next fall.

My manager brought me along with him

to the Fun Center.

I work there now restocking the ball pit with balls.

My father passed away in 2010 after his second stroke.

Time moves fast these days.

Years pass like seconds.

I just try not to think too hard about it.

I decided to stay in the house.

It was time for me to become a man.

A real adult.

A productive member of society.

And that’s exactly what I did.

I even got a family of my own.

I love them more than anything.

[FIRE HISSING]

[MUSIC FADES OUT]

Anyway, like I was saying,

it was raining the other night and I couldn’t sleep,

so I started The Pink Opaque again.

It’s available to stream now.

[TV CHIMING] You don’t even need a disc.

I started The Pink Opaque again.

[DRAMATIC MUSIC PLAYING ON TV]

And it was nothing like I remembered it.

Hey, Mr. Ice Cream Man.

Stop turning all my friends into popsicle sticks!

MONSTER: But I’m so lonely.

I have nothing to do all winter.

OWEN: The whole thing felt cheesy and cheap.

Dated, and not scary at all.

[TATTOO CHIMING]

FAKE TARA: [ON TV] I know!

In the winter time, instead of selling ice cream,

you can sell soup instead.

[OWEN GASPS]

[PLEASANT MUSIC PLAYING]

MONSTER: Why didn’t I think of that?

Let’s all have a soup party!

ALL: Yay, a soup party!

[WHEEZING]

[CONTINUES WHEEZING]

OWEN: I just felt embarrassed.

[CONTINUES WHEEZING]

[ARCADE MACHINES BEEPS ECHOING]

[UPBEAT MUSIC PLAYING OVER SPEAKERS]

[ARCADE MACHINES BEEPING]

AUTOMATED VOICE: Marco.

Polo.

[LAUGHS] You got me!

[OWEN WHEEZING]

[CHILDREN CHEERING AND LAUGHTER]

CHILD 1: Go, go, go! CHILD 2: Get it! Get it!

CHILD 3: Money! CHILD 4: Money! Money!

CHILD 5: Money! Go, go, go, go!

Get that money!

[INHALES]

[INHALES]

Come on, get in there.

Come on, we’re doing it. All right, guys, come on!

♪ Happy birthday to you

Come on!

ALL: ♪ Happy birthday, dear Charlie

♪ Happy birthday to you

DAVE: Come on!

ALL: ♪ Happy birthday to you

Everybody!

ALL: ♪ Happy birthday to you

♪ Happy birthday, dear Charlie

♪ Happy birthday to you

DAVE: [LAUGHS] Come on!

[CROWD CLAPPING]

DAVE: Let’s go again from the top!

One more time!

ALL: ♪ Happy birthday to you

DAVE: Faster!

ALL: [SINGING FASTER] ♪ Happy birthday to you

DAVE: Louder!

[LOUDER] ♪ Happy birthday, dear Charlie

♪ Happy birthday…

[SCREAMING]

[SINGING STOPS]

[WHEEZES]

[SCREAMING] You need to help me!

I’m dying right now!

[WHEEZES]

[SOBBING]

[SPARKLERS CRACKLING]

[CONTINUES SOBBING]

Sorry. Ignore me. I…

[WHEEZING]

[COUGHING]

[SCREAMING] Mommy!

Owen?

You okay in there, buddy?

[WHEEZING]

I’m fine.

Out in a minute.

[FLESH SQUELCHING]

[SQUELCHING STOPS]

[ANTHEMS FOR A SEVENTEEN YEAR-OLD GIRL BY YEULE PLAYS]

[WHEEZING]

[TV PLAYING]

[WHEEZY CHUCKLING]

[WHEEZES]

[TV VOLUME SWELLS]

[WHEEZES]

[WHEEZES]

[CONTINUES WHEEZING]

[WHEEZING SLOWING DOWN]

[SOFT WHEEZING]

[CONTINUES WHEEZING]

[ARCADE MACHINES BEEPING]

Sorry about that before.

[WHEEZES]

Sorry about before.

Just a new medication I’m on.

Sorry. [WHEEZES]

I’m sorry about before.

[WHEEZES]

Sorry about that before.

Sorry.

I’m sorry. [WHEEZES]

[STATIC NOISE]

[ANOTHER SEASON BY FRANCES QUINLAN PLAYING]

[MUSIC FADES OUT]

[BURY BY KING WOMAN PLAYING]

[MUSIC FADES OUT]

* * *

REVIEWS

“I Saw the TV Glow” Is a Profound Vision of the Trans Experience

In Jane Schoenbrun’s new feature, two teens search for their true selves through their shared obsession with a horror TV series.

by Richard Brody

The new movie by Jane Schoenbrun, “I Saw the TV Glow,” is among the most nocturnal films I’ve seen. Even in the handful of scenes that take place in daytime, the sun seems dark, shadowed by the dominant form of light in Schoenbrun’s world: the screen. There are cell-phone screens, computer screens, arcade games, glimpses of movies at multiplexes, and, of course, above all, televisions. Schoenbrun’s first dramatic feature, “We’re All Going to the World’s Fair” (2021), revealed the artistry of a notable new filmmaker who developed a distinctive central theme—the obsessive power of media for troubled teen-agers—and an original aesthetic with which to express it. There’s something in Schoenbrun’s sense of style that captures the alluring yet alienating essence of screen-centered lives: the feeling of not being where one is, the feeling that what’s happening elsewhere, on those screens, is more important, even more real, than one’s own life.

Schoenbrun’s earlier film, set around the time that social media came into wide use, is centered on a teen-aged girl, a goth isolated in a comfortable suburb, whose participation in an interactive horror-video craze leads her into an intense online correspondence with an adult man. In the new film, the action starts in 1996, when the protagonist, Owen, a suburban seventh grader, a bit overparented and conspicuously lonely, tells a ninth grader named Maddy about his fascination with a TV show called “The Pink Opaque.” (Maddy is played by Brigette Lundy-Paine; Owen is played as a middle schooler by Ian Foreman, and as an older teen, and as an adult looking back on these events, by Justice Smith.) Initially, Owen hasn’t seen the show that so interests him, but only commercials for it. Because it’s broadcast Saturday nights at ten-thirty, past his bedtime, Maddy makes VHS tapes of each week’s episode for him, and he studies them with a Talmudic intensity.

Two years later, “The Pink Opaque” is still past Owen’s bedtime, but he and Maddy have—haltingly, non-romantically—bonded over it. Maddy identifies as a lesbian; as for Owen’s sexuality, it’s complicated, as he tells Maddy: “When I think about that stuff, it feels like someone took a shovel and dug out all of my insides, and I know there’s nothing in there, but I’m still too nervous to open myself up and check.” While Owen is mainly bewildered about himself, Maddy is miserably lonely—she has a violent stepfather, and her only friend has outed her and joined the cheerleading squad—and she hatches a plan to run away with Owen. He’s too scared to go, so she goes without him (leaving a burning TV set in her family’s back yard). Now he has to endure school alone, with nothing but old episodes of “The Pink Opaque” to make him feel as if he’s living, albeit vicariously. (The final episode airs shortly after Maddy leaves, and she mails him a tape.)

For Schoenbrun, the theme of a mediated life is not quite a metaphor but, rather, a portal. Schoenbrun is a trans, nonbinary filmmaker, and their films have a place alongside other recent major films of trans life by trans filmmakers, such as Paul B. Preciado’s “Orlando, My Political Biography” and Vera Drew’s “The People’s Joker.” But, unlike those movies, which depict trans characters speaking about trans experience, Schoenbrun’s work expresses that experience more obliquely. Both “World’s Fair” and “TV Glow” are tightly attuned to matters of gender and sexuality but in refracted ways, and this very refraction can perhaps be understood as a distinctively trans aesthetic. Schoenbrun’s young characters are experiencing dysphoria—not, explicitly, gender dysphoria but a general sense of deep-rooted unease with their lives, with themselves, and with their identities—and it gets expressed in ways that, for the most part, involve gender implicitly.

The show that Owen and Maddy obsess over, “The Pink Opaque,” is a loose parody of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” It features two teen girls, Isabel (Helena Howard) and Tara (Lindsey Jordan), who meet at sleepaway camp, discover that they are bonded on the “psychic plane,” and use their connection to combat the machinations of an arch-villain, Mr. Melancholy (Emma Portner). The character of Isabel, like Owen, is Black (Owen’s mother, played by Danielle Deadwyler, is also Black; his father, played by the musician Fred Durst, is white); Tara, like Maddy, is white. Owen and Maddy initially meet when he sees that she is reading a book about “The Pink Opaque” and, having never seen the show, asks whether it’s for children. She explains that, though it’s marketed that way, it’s too “scary” for kids and its “mythology” too complex. Owen is drawn to the promise of metaphysical-horror world-building, but the adventure into which the show first draws him is real-life and familial: in order to watch it, he lies to his parents about a sleepover at a friend’s house and instead sneaks over to Maddy’s and watches it with her.

Schoenbrun’s vision of adolescence is finely detailed, with a clear understanding of the relations of adolescents to their parents and to each other. The movie catches the way that blameless parental attentiveness can produce a feeling of intolerable oppression—as when Owen’s mother brings him with her into the voting booth for the 1996 elections, or when she waits in the car and watches as he heads to his friend’s house. It also catches Owen’s awakening to the contrast between his parents’ protectiveness and the familial abuse to which Maddy is accustomed. The movie expresses the peculiar relationship between its main characters—what Maddy eventually calls “a psychic connection”—in keenly observational vignettes. Maddy speaks to Owen confessionally from across the den while he’s lying in his sleeping bag. Another time, they meet up in the empty stands of the high-school football field and have an earnest talk from an uneasy distance. (She asks him if he likes girls or boys; he answers, “I think that I like TV shows.”) After a particularly emotional episode of “The Pink Opaque,” which leaves Maddy sobbing, she lowers the collar of Owen’s shirt and uses a pink glow-in-the-dark marker to make a design on the back of his neck like the ones sported by the show’s heroines.

Above all, though, “I Saw the TV Glow” has many scenes in which nothing is happening—and in which that nothingness fills the screen with a bittersweet desperation of suburban alienation, of deadening calm. The movie’s main story line unfolds as flashbacks: throughout, Owen, as an adult, is seen sitting alone, in his home, or in a back yard, before a bonfire, reminiscing—sometimes in voice-over, sometimes speaking directly to the camera—about his time with Maddy, and with “The Pink Opaque.” He recalls their obsession, their togetherness in isolation, and what turns out to be, for Owen, the long and complex aftermath of a connection that, for all its intensity, was indirect, mediated, focussed more on the show than on each other. Theirs isn’t so much a friendship as a kinship; they don’t really overcome their solitude but connect two impenetrable solitudes together, with “The Pink Opaque” as the glue. All three actors deliver performances of a rare inward intensity balanced by a rough-edged naturalness. Their pensive manner vibrates with febrile tension, and their actions have an impulsive urgency that energizes the movie’s careful composition.

Owen’s unbreakable isolation is the main subject, and Schoenbrun films it relentlessly, setting it in motion and giving it visual variety. The images are composed with delicate attention to light and décor, adding inner dimensions through voice-overs and onscreen superimpositions of drawing and handwriting in the TV show’s emblematic fuchsia. Quiet moments are amplified with flashes of recollection and oddly abrupt incidents—a downed power line, a sudden storm—that create sensory hooks for deep and memorable moods. Long takes and oblique angles lend the solitudes in Schoenbrun’s world a pensive solidity that belies the cold, often flickery glow of the screens in which the characters immure themselves. The filmmaker would be a poet of solitude if there were poetry in Owen’s life, but his daily existence is adamantly prosaic, even ascetic. His one devotion is to a TV show that, while ubiquitous in the film, remains enigmatic.

Owen’s mediated world reflects his sense of being somewhere other than where he is, someone other than himself—not exactly someone else but not anyone he recognizes himself to be. He’s searching for a true self that he can’t yet identify. No spoilers, but it’s Maddy who attempts to shape their connection to make it resemble that of Isabel and Tara in the series, and it’s Maddy who undergoes a transformation—not explicitly of gender but of self-identification nonetheless. (Her repetition, when Owen addresses her, of the phrase “That’s not my name” has a mighty authority.) As in Schoenbrun’s previous feature, self-discovery and escape from the suburbs are achieved by way of confrontation with danger. Maddy, in her ever-deepening fixation with the show, embarks on a journey to outer and inner realms that make for both an ordinary yet harrowing odyssey, a near-metaphysical journey into a level of fandom that verges on madness. The scene in which she conveys this to Owen is among the most dramatically intense in recent memory—with a performance by Lundy-Paine to match, a plugged-in outburst like a furious guitar solo. Schoenbrun builds an impressive, virtuosically edited extended sequence of this impassioned reunion, involving memories and fantasies and gentle jumblings of time and space, which push Owen direly past several personal breaking points.

Owen’s story leaps through years to an adulthood for which he’s hardly prepared, and into a realm of horrific fantasy and macabre symbolism that nonetheless marks the grim and desperate real-life aftereffects of his adolescent obsession—of his unrelieved sense of closeness to the show and distance from himself. Owen’s ultimate reckoning with “The Pink Opaque,” when he’s long past the age of its target audience, comes off as another skirmish in the forever war between cinema and television. In these scenes, showing how the series appears to Owen from many years’ remove, Schoenbrun stakes out a position of skepticism about the artistic value of such a TV show, contrasting the transitory and targeted fascinations of the series to the enduring power of compression and composition that are the essence of movies. The TV series and its appeal are portrayed not as aesthetic experiences but as raw materials. Even if Schoenbrun may have no movie without these materials, their lasting significance is solely what the filmmaker makes of them.

The New Yorker, May 3, 2024

SHARE THIS ARTICLE

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read More

The Exorcism (2024)

The Exorcism (2024) | Transcript

A troubled actor begins to exhibit a disruptive behavior while shooting a horror film. His estranged daughter wonders if he’s slipping back into his past addictions or if there’s something more sinister at play.

The Bikeriders (2023)

The Bikeriders (2023) | Transcript

After a chance encounter, headstrong Kathy is drawn to Benny, member of Midwestern motorcycle club the Vandals. As the club transforms into a dangerous underworld of violence, Benny must choose between Kathy and his loyalty to the club.

The Garfield Movie (2024)

The Garfield Movie (2024) | Transcript

Garfield, the world-famous, Monday-hating, lasagna-loving indoor cat, is about to have a wild outdoor adventure. After an unexpected reunion with his long-lost father – scruffy street cat Vic – Garfield and his canine friend Odie are forced from their perfectly pampered life into joining Vic in a hilarious, high-stakes heist.

Weekly Magazine

Get the best articles once a week directly to your inbox!