Tuesday, October 1, 2013

My Thoughts on TV

I have two problems with scripted television, and they are interrelated.

First, I think that scripted TV is entirely too pervasive in our society.

Second, I think that people who watch extensive amounts of scripted TV are wasting their lives.

Let me explain.

I basically only use television to watch sports. I'm not going to lie, I look down on people who are obsessive TV watchers. The fact that millions of people sit in front of a screen for hours at a time and fill their brains with the thoughts and actions of other people, all of whom are acting (whether or not their actions are purported to be "real") is, to me, deplorable. You only get one life. You'll never be as young as you are RIGHT NOW, at THIS MOMENT. You don't get this moment back.

It's hard enough for me to drag myself to work every day, knowing that I'll sit in front of a computer for eight hours when I could be outside exploring some new neighborhood, taking a last walk with my dog before the fall turns to winter, or literally doing anything else.

St. Ignatius, the patron saint of Boston College (I'm not exactly sure how patron saints work, I'm not Catholic), echoed Plato's assertion that the unexamined life is not worth living. Examine your own life, not those of fake people who are the product of a man's imagination. Millions go home every day eager to fall onto their couches and watch characters who, in many cases, have a more pronounced hold on the viewer's emotional state than some family members. This is simply wrong. Don't give your own, actual, tangible life away for the promise of entertainment at the foot of some monolithic fiction factory.

Of course, this all sounds hypocritical, since I could spend entire days (and indeed have) reading fiction books. And again, fictional entertainment in all forms has existed since the invention of language. But my outrage is not directed towards any level of consumption, nor towards any media type. Rather, it is aimed at the people who use fictional television (or books, or video games, etc) as a way to pass the time - a way to spend valuable hours that they will never recover doing something that gives them no benefit except the empty, unrequited relationship between viewer and character and the cultural capital to hold essentially pointless conversations with others of their ilk.

Every form of media is a product of the society in which it was conceived. Great art is a reflection, and often a criticism, of its culture. The people who consume fiction and have the wherewithal to understand this concept, and to internalize and converse with others about the lessons/ideals/values/maxims that this fiction is trying to convey, are not the people that I'm worried about. It's the others. The people who veg out, content to let an endless parade of fictional characters shepherd them from young adulthood to the grave, content with being passively entertained, content with living an unexamined life.

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