Why I Saw The TV Glow is Better Than You Think

Starring Justice Smith and Brigette Lundy-Paine, A24’s visually stunning new horror-drama is an underrated gem. Keep reading to learn exactly why.

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A dark background with a glowing tv in the middle, the silhouette of a boy facing it. Under that is the title "I Saw the TV Glow" in neon bubbly pink letters.

Directed by breakout talent Jane Schoenbrun, I Saw the TV Glow is an absolute masterpiece of a film. It is an enchanting yet unsettling allegory for the trans experience that leaves a lasting impact on anyone who is lucky enough to see it.

Synopsis

Focusing on the character of Owen, played by Justice Smith (All the Bright Places, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves), the film explores a strange television show called the Pink Opaque. Owen and his best friend Maddy (Brigette Lundy-Paine, Atypical) spend their evenings exchanging tapes of the episodes and coming up with theories about new seasons. I won’t spoil the rest because, trust me, it gets INSANE, but when Owen’s world starts to unravel in front of him, he realizes that pretty much nothing is what he thought it was.

A teenage boy and girl sit on a couch. In the background is a glowing green fish tank, and the girl is staring off-screen in a daze while the boy stares at her.
IMAGE VIA A24

My Reaction to Watching It

While watching I Saw the TV Glow at an early screening in Portland, OR, I was immediately sucked into the world Jane Schoenbrun created. The visuals were stunning and harrowing and dazzling, the acting was incredible and moving, and the story was riveting. It kept me on the edge of my seat until the credits rolled. Although I hoped there would be more of a horror aspect to the film, the sparsity of those frightening moments made them all the more impactful.

A close up of a man's face as he is mid scream, looking at something slightly off-screen. The background is blue and half of his face is bathed in a slightly pink glow.
IMAGE VIA A24

The Controversial Ending

I won’t spoil it, but the end of the film left everyone in a state of confusion, feeling like it was missing something. We thought it ended abruptly in a place that left much to be desired from audiences. But isn’t that the point?

At the end of the film, there is a lot that Schoenbrun could explain that they just…don’t. And that’s actually incredibly fitting! Trans stories, in real life, don’t just “end.” They don’t end with a discovery, they don’t end with a transition, they don’t end with coming out. They keep going and going, and the community keeps growing and changing and learning along with those stories.

A young boy stands under a parachute with stripes of blue, purple, pink, and white.
IMAGE VIA A24

The experience Schoenbrun wants to relate here is that being trans is more than just a sequence of events; it involves a lot of confusion and epiphany. Especially when it comes to someone else’s story, you will never know everything. That is why the ending of this film is so important; it’s not a tidy little ending with all the loose ends tied up. It leaves you questioning, thinking, and talking about it; it prompts discussions, arguments, and lots of googling. It’s not neat. Because nothing is.

A man in a blue collared shirt with a name tag that says "Owen" stands in front of a movie theater screen that says "Thank you for watching" with a bucket of popcorn design. We can see from his bicep down, and he is facing to the right.
IMAGE VIA A24

There Is Still Time

Near the end of the movie, a message is written in chalk on the road, as plain as day: “There is still time.” This simple message is incredibly important for the LGBTQ+ community and one that Schoenbrun found very personal.

A street with several drawings on it including the large words "there is still time". On the sides of the street are average looking houses. It is nighttime.
IMAGE VIA A24

There’s a massive community of young people out there who have luckily found themselves early on, who have discovered who they are, and presented that to the world. But there are so many more people who don’t begin to realize who they are until much later in their lives, and it’s incredibly important that these people feel seen and know that their self-discovery is just as important, no matter when it happens. This movie explores that idea; it doesn’t try to “solve a problem” or tell the individual story of one trans person, but it simply explores an idea.

Two people sitting on a wood dock ground looking down, with the tops of their heads pressed together. On the back of both of their necks they have a pink ghost with glasses tattoo.
IMAGE VIA A24

“This was both, like, incredibly exciting because I was for the first time in my life having some hope of like a future that could feel real, and whole, and also like, it was completely destabilizing and terrifying… this movie was written in that storm… I want the movie to feel like an honest like portrayal of the magnitude of all that and how that felt to go through and not, sort of, water it down or try to translate it… and there should be monsters in it.”

Jane Schoenbrun on coming out and directing this film – Q&A May 9th, 2024 (edited for filler words).

A movie like this isn’t going to solve all your problems or tell you the correct answers. But if you need it, it will be there for you. And it might push you in the right direction.


Obsessed with A24 like we are? Check out our article on their new line of physical books.

It’s Pride month! Take a look at our carefully curated bookshelf of LGBTQ+ reads.

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