A rocket launches. A champagne bottle erupts. A train enters a tunnel. You know what I’m talking about – Hollywood has forever associated these images with sex. But a slow TV train trip across Australia? How could anyone possibly make that sordid?
While watching the Indian Pacific going into, out of, and back into tunnels as it thrusts its way across this Great Southern Land, there's no denying the pulling power of a rugged engine hewn from steel and brawn. But we're very mature and (some of) our interests are far more cerebral (though if you do like a good ride, rest assured you’re not alone).
Rather than the train or imagery, it’s the slow TV experience itself that is cerebrally arousing – a kind of slow build towards what can only be described as the ultimate head orgasm. And like so many other attempts to understand the modern world, explaining this requires a detour into the sexy underbelly of Internet subcultures.
If you’re unfamiliar with ASMR videos, congratulations, you spend just the right amount of time on the Internet. ASMR, or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, is a very fancy way of describing the kind of warm, tingly feeling people get when exposed to certain images or sounds, which leads to a state of utter relaxation. It’s like the spine-tingling sensation you might experience when you hear a song you really love dialed up to 11, hence the idea of the head orgasm.
It’s certainly catching on. Even Zippo have started offering not only ASMR videos on YouTube, but a line of ASMR-friendly lighters. If flicking and running your fingers along a small box full of fluid gives you the warm and fuzzies, these are the lighters for you!
While there’s supposedly nothing sexual about the state ASMR videos induce in some people (it’s been likened more to experiences like synaesthesia where people like Charli XCX see sound), there’s mounting evidence that it’s a legitimate phenomenon. And even though ASMR videos are significantly shorter than your average slow TV event, the shared focus on repetition and calm might explain the unexpected popularity of both.
Where ASMR primarily concerns itself with sounds, slow TV is about the journey, removing yourself from the moment – a kind of psychic detox. But it’s easy to see the crossover between a slow TV knitting show and someone who gets all tingly at the sound of clacking needles. If ASMR is a quickie, slow TV is a solid day of tantric pleasure.
The thing is, there’s an undeniable pleasure to slow TV, beyond challenging the idea of what a TV show can be. It allows us an escape from modern life, a sensory escape experienced from the comfort of our lounge room recliners. Slow television experiences connect us to something that’s often lost in the bustle of everyday life: the enjoyment of being outside time, just watching things as they unfold. Even though it’s not scripted television, it still manages to build to a climax.
So this summer, why not take some time out from family and tradition, and treat yourself to a little down time? Turn on some slow TV, let go of your inhibitions, and ease the seat back.
Slow Summer rolls out slow TV every Sunday in January 2019 from 7:30pm and all day on Australia Day, on SBS and SBS On Demand, with Australian, New Zealand and UK train journeys to chill to.