I Saw the TV Glow (2024) Ending Explained – Is The Pink Opaque real?

I Saw the TV Glow Plot Summary

In Jane Schoenbrun’s I Saw the TV Glow, young Owen (Ian Foreman) becomes obsessed with a supernatural show called The Pink Opaque, introduced to him by schoolmate Maddy (Brigette Lundy-Paine). As Owen (later played by Justice Smith) grows up, the line between reality and the show starts to blend.

What happens to Maddy after her disappearance?

The same night The Pink Opaque is cancelled, Maddy disappears. Years later, she returns with a message for Owen. She’s been inside The Pink Opaque, having discovered that she and Owen are Tara and Isabel, the show’s protagonists. Mr. Melancholy took out their hearts, buried their real bodies, and trapped them inside this world. She says that, to join her and become Isabel, Owen must bury himself alive like she did.

Owen is transfixed by Maddy’s words, but still disbelieving. Ultimately, he refuses to take the plunge and goes on with his life. But we do see a sign for Owen–chalk on the street, spelling out the message “There is still time.”

How does I Saw the TV Glow end?

Twenty years later, Owen has a family of his own and continues to work at the arcade. His asthma has worsened. He’s confused at how different The Pink Opaque feels when he rewatches it as an adult; it embarrasses him how cheesy the show is.

During a birthday party at the arcade, he breaks down screaming, then shuts himself in the bathroom. Looking into the mirror, he cuts open his chest with a box cutter knife to reveal a bright light. He’s found the supernatural of The Pink Opaque inside him.

When Owen leaves the bathroom, he shyly apologizes for his breakdown to everyone, who have no inkling of the revelation he’s just had.

What does the ending of I Saw the TV Glow mean?

I Saw the TV Glow is a metaphor for coming out as trans, but it can speak to anyone who is living in fear and hiding from coming to terms with who they are. Everyone goes through this process at their own pace, just as Maddy/Tara came to the realization very young, while Owen/Isabel was much older. Schoenbrun gently reminds viewers, “There is still time.”

Whether The Pink Opaque is real or not remains a mystery, but the show’s importance to Owen/Isabel and Maddy/Tara can’t be denied. It might not be true that Owen is technically “Isabel” and that he’s from the TV show. But the supernatural aspects of the film at the very least function as metaphors, leaning into just how huge a revelation of identity Owen has–how intense being closeted and the journey to coming out of that closet is. Maybe Owen didn’t literally have to die. But in a way, an old version had to die for the new version to be born.

When Owen revisited The Pink Opaque in adulthood, I think it embarrassed him how big his feelings were as a child. Everything felt like life or death. Schoenbrun validates those feelings even in Owen’s adulthood.

There’s hope and wonder in Owen’s revelation at the end of the movie, but there is also a tinge of sadness. Like many trans people, Owen feels the need to apologize for his existence. Still, despite how meekly Justice Smith carries himself in the ending, there’s a new peacefulness to his expression. It’s a scary world out there that will greet him (or her, or them), but I think he’ll be okay.


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