I rarely binge watch anything. I am more the type to stay up late to finish a good book.
But then Perry Mason showed up on one of our streaming services this winter. This was good news because my mother has lost the ability to operate her TV or to hold a conversation, so when I bring her home for a meal, it helps to find a show she enjoys.
Seems like we watched Perry Mason any chance we got over the years. The joke was that no matter how many times we watched an episode, we never remembered who did it. On the other hand, we knew the killer was usually on the witness stand in the last ten minutes of the episode.
After awhile, I got sucked in and started watching the show on my own. I enjoy mysteries in general, and these stories entertained me. Yes, I roll my eyes, often, at the stereotypes, not to mention the shocking number of affairs between boss and secretary (not Della and Perry, for the record). I also grind my teeth more than once at the sight of Perry or Paul acting as if Della needs their help to walk. In general, these episodes depict a world that never existed, but instead replicate false definitions of gender, race, sexuality, and power. All fair critiques, but I still like the stories, even the cheesiest ones, where Perry intones deep insights like a prophet.
This time, though, I realized watching was a way for me to travel through time. I seem to be climbing into the screen to stare at this city in black and white, the long angular cars, the jazzy street scenes, all depicting a Los Angeles that doesn’t seem quite as endless as what we have now. Not that I know anything about L.A., just my own corner of the world that continues to expand and shift around me.
I took my mother to the eye doctor yesterday. “Hold this over your eye,” she was asked, several times. Eventually, she did.
“Can you tell me what you see?”
“What about now?”
Letters changed to pictures.
No response. The questions did not mean anything to her.
It will be her last trip to the eye doctor, at least for an annual check-up. You have to be able to answer questions. You have to read.
Afterwards, I felt gravity pull me down. Maybe if I am smaller. Maybe if I roll myself into a curve so I take up as little space as possible, maybe this won’t hurt so much.
Later I queued up the next episode of Perry Mason. Only five episodes left, the peril of binging. The screen is full of black, white, and gray tones, flickering, fading. There is chaos, but it is predictable. We know at some point, someone will find a body. Usually it’s the defendant, who sometimes gasps and then picks up the murder weapon. It’s hard not to hiss: What are you thinking?
But there will be a trial. Berger will be cranky, but in the end he will be grateful, mostly, that the real criminal is revealed.
There is always a light note at the end of the show. Someone died, someone else will face the death penalty, but there’s always reason to laugh.
Another episode is over, and a small box appears, inviting me to click to watch more. My mouse hovers over the _next_ button. I am running out of episodes.
Whether I click now or later, there are only a few left.