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On Television

Today a conversation was on Twitter about tv.  No, I’m not talking about the Pregnancy Pact movie that came out this weekend (though I did watch it).  This particular conversation was one I’ve heard in educated circles many many times.  It goes something like:

OMG the television is evil and will destroy us all!!!!

I get where people are coming from.  I do.  The tv is full of advertising and bad ideology and unattainable goals and….well, the list could go on and on.  I used to think this so much so that I actually gave up tv for a year.  Well, I owned a tv but I got zero channels on it.  I used it to watch movies sometimes.  I thought some earth-shattering freeing feeling would happen.  But it didn’t.

On the other hand, when I was in highschool, I was completely tied down to the tv schedule.  I had my shows that I absolutely had to catch to the exclusion of everything else, and that wasn’t right.

The thing is, folks, life is largely about our relationships with other people, and tv can be a really fun way to enhance it.  I love the Lost discussions I’ve had with various folks, ranging from in-depth analysis to superficial debate over which Lost hottie is hottest.  So when people say tv keeps us from engaging with others, I say, screw you.  It can actually bring us together.

The problem comes about when you have a relationship with tv.  When I didn’t have a tv I had just as much of a relationship with it as when I was glued to it in highschool.  It’s just that my relationship was about not having it.  It’s like how they say it takes energy to hate something, so it winds up just hurting you.

The thing about tv is, it needs to not be central to your life either due to what’s on it or due to not having it.  A tv should be an accessory in the house that’s an option.  That’s it.

When I started having this healthy mind-set for tv, I didn’t suddenly revert to watching something every night.  Some nights I read.  Some nights I play videogames.  Some nights I go out to concerts or bars or what have you.  When I do watch tv, it’s just as a fun thing to do, and no I don’t believe that subliminal (or not so subliminal) messages are eating their way into my brain, because I don’t take it that seriously.  When you view something as entertainment, it really won’t maliciously, secretly attack you guys.  When you talk like that, you don’t sound educated.  You sound like a bunch of superstitious nut-cases.  So just relax and live your life.  I swear you’re not going to magically overnight transform from your counter-cultural self into a Stepford wife.

  1. January 25, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    I never watched TV at Brandeis. I had no interest really. Friends all watched various shows, but I didn’t really want to. I think it’s because my dad ALWAYS has the TV on, even though usually he’s doing something else. He’s always watching some terribly depressing news program or game show or reality show, or my mom has on a soap opera or a show about various celebrities, and it’s fine if you (anyone, not you especially, Amanda!) likes that, but I really don’t. I watched a few shows in high school, but generally holed up in my room reading instead. I was pleased that I didn’t watch TV.

    Interestingly, since I started book blogging, I have become more aware of TV as actually having good shows sometimes. Surprise, I actually like dramas and comedies. With plots. And I love history shows, although I have to avoid my own specialty because I tend to get annoyed at generalizations or inaccuracy. We have a DVR now and I freely admit that it is awesome to automatically have The Big Bang Theory recorded every Thursday. Plus, Keith and I mostly enjoy solitary activities, and since we mostly like the same shows, we can watch together when we have the time. It’s nice – not at all what I expected TV to be from my parents.

    • January 26, 2010 at 9:00 am

      My parents also always had the tv on, so I think my total rejection was partly a rebellion against that. Now though I’ve realized like you have with your husband that tv can be fun and not addicting if it’s more about who you watch it with than a loyalty to a certain show.

      Also, the Big Bang Theory is the awesome.

  2. January 25, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    I really liked this post. I hadn’t thought about television watching this way (treating it as a relationship v. as a piece of furniture), but I think you’re right on the money with your analysis. Last year, I spent much of my time at home and was suffering a weird variation of housewife depression, and my TV was my companion; I had shows I had to watch every night, and would often watch TV even when nothing good was on. Now I don’t have a TV, but watch a few hours a week at my sister’s apartment, just as a social activity. I also watch some shows on DVD or occasionally Hulu episodes, but when I do that, it’s either because I have a relationship with a well-written show that I love (marry me, Dr. House!), or am using it in moderation to unwind, the same way I use reading or computer time. Much healthier than last year!

    • January 26, 2010 at 9:01 am

      Thanks for the complement, TKOG! It sounds to me like you’ve found the tv balance. (BTW, you’re so lucky that your sister lives in Boston too. I wish my brother lived so close!)

  3. January 26, 2010 at 10:01 am

    We don’t have cable at the house, and the shows that I used to crave (Bravo & BBC shows, How I Met Your Mother), I miss, but don’t fret over. Although I will admit to getting onto Hulu a couple times this week…but it was my first time! 🙂

    • January 26, 2010 at 10:14 am

      Ah yes, I probably should have pointed out that my reacquisition of tv channels is mainly because DirecTV comes free with my rent!

      I can’t believe it took you this long to discover Hulu. It’s so convenient! You must watch 30Rock. 🙂

  4. January 27, 2010 at 10:08 am

    You are so right. The best invention for me was Sky+ I set any series I really like to record and watch it whenever I like at the speed I like. I hate being tied to the programmers schedules. As you said one night I may catch up on telly, another I’ll read or perhaps go out with my friends. Plus with everything recorded on channels that aren’t the BBC I can fast forward those ever so annoying adverts!!! Even though in the UK we have less adverts than you guys!!

    • January 27, 2010 at 11:07 am

      Oh, yes, the ads! I have so little tolerance for them after using other folks’ DVRs and watching shows on the internet. However, some stations are worse than others. An hour show on MTV you can watch in about 40 minutes online, so I do that a lot! The only thing ads are good for is doing a bunch of dishes. 🙂

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