Modern Movie Theory: Old Enough!

In this installment of the Modern Movie Theory series, Scott Ferguson explores how a complex aesthetics of omniscience raises important questions about dependence, care, and responsibility in the Netflix show Old Enough!. Recently repackaged by Netflix for streaming audiences across 190 countries, Old Enough! is, in fact, a long-running Japanese reality show titled, “My First Errand,” which began airing on television in Japan during the 1990’s. Each 10 – 15 -minute episode of the series follows the triumphs and tribulations of a small child (and occasionally two), as they venture out for the first time to complete a series of routine tasks without parental chaperones. A flurry of commentary about the show in Western media has worried about televisual claims to realism; the ethics of sending toddlers out into the world; the politics of cultural differences lost in translation; and the dangers of inadequate urban and suburban infrastructure. Shifting our attention to the abstract moving image forms that shape Old Enough!, Scott by contrast teases out how the series routes the collective pleasures, anxieties and responsibilities involved in creating mobile personhood through a subtle aesthetics of omnipresence, which dominant blockbusters and video games repress, and film and media theorists tend to jettison. Irreducible to all-controlling surveillance or to individual embodied action, this omniscient televisuality harbors important lessons about money, mediation, and coordination that we cannot afford to overlook.

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