Pay Tribute to Bankrupt Columbia House with The Target Shoots First
Given the news that Columbia House — the mail-order CD club that famously promised eight CDs for a penny — is filing for bankruptcy, there’s no better time to (re)watch Chris Wilcha’s The Target Shoots First, his 2000 documentary about his time working there in the ’90s. What once played as a blackly funny portrait of trying to stay sane while working in a cynical corporate culture is now oddly nostalgic, given the relatively relaxed working environment.
For more context, it’s well worth reading this AV Club piece by Annie Zaleski, in which she interviews four former Columbia House employees (including Wilcha) about their time there. Sasha Frere-Jones’ comments about the ever-increasing stresses of having a job are dead on. Speaking about how working at Columbia House allowed plenty of time for outside creative projects, he notes: “Let’s say we were all engaged in any of the stuff we were talking about: outside writing, film, or writing a book. I don’t know what the analog to Columbia House would be now, but on top of it all, you’d be asked to hand in a blog post, and you’d be oliged to tweet about it, and you’d be obliged to do some other thing. And your work day would just be filled with all of this pointless content creation.” For many working in media, that’s just too spot-on.