Why I Eat TV

August 2, 2010

Old broken TV

My parents used to attempt to limit my television intake.  Right through high school, they would yell down the stairs at me when they heard the set click on.  When I was nineteen and on a lazy hiatus from college, they’d do the same.  In their opinions, hours during which you are physically idle should be spent on more phrenic pastimes, like reading books laced with boderline-racist suppositions for what really happened to the Native Americans (sorry Mom and Dad, it was on the coffee table last time I was there).  So when I finally moved out, I was free to gorge myself on all the television I wanted. I’ve spent at least a couple of hours almost every day since doing just that. Trust me. I’m an expert.

One of the reasons my mother gave me to explain their unjust and completely atrocious not-that-much-TV rule, at least up until I was twelve or so, was the proverbial “It’ll rot your brain.”  And whenever she said it, I felt universally justified, ’cause I knew even then that’s just something parents say because they’ve heard people playing parents say it on sitcoms.

In fact, television itself, especially the constantly evolving medium of “reality” TV, is a perfect place to see people acting like people they’ve seen on TV: incorrectly parroting cliches, projecting stereotypes on themselves, churning out rote advice that would help no one, things like this.  It’s a subtle art, picking up on these things, one that requires deft avoidance of manipulation, a constant awareness of influence (in the forms of cameras, editing, adrenaline, what have you), and a penchant for schadenfreude.  Judging by ratings, lots of people think they like it, but a taste for trash is an acquired one. Once you realize it’s garbage, it doesn’t go down easy.  This is what Mom and Dad never understood.

I say, how can something that is already rotten (i.e., trash) be the conduit of rot.  Is rot something that is transferred?  Is that what they mean by the whole bad apple thing? I guess it is.

Say hello to my rotten brain.

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6 Responses to “ Why I Eat TV ”

  1. Dan on August 3, 2010 at 8:14 am

    Thanks for linking to the definition of schadenfreude, it’s always good to start off assuming you’re smarter than your readers.

  2. Kiren Valjee on August 3, 2010 at 11:34 am

    Dan, don’t be an asshat. I’m a Ph.D. candidate and I didn’t know what it meant. Surprisingly, I don’t know every single fucking word in the dictionary and appreciate it when am conveniently provided with definition of words that are not in everyday use. Is it Sarah that’s assuming she’s smarter than you? Or you assuming that your smarter than everyone else? Think about it. And don’t be an asshat.

  3. Melissa on August 3, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    I first heard the word schadenfreude in law school in a class called “Persuasive Narrative,” which I called “Creative Writing for Lawyers.”

    What does that say about my college education? Probably that I also watched too much tv.

  4. Sarah Gibbons on August 3, 2010 at 8:47 pm

    There is no such thing as too much tv.

  5. Matt Erickson on August 4, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    I knew the definition of schadenfreude, and Bret Michaels probably doesn’t. But he has a TV show where Penthouse models compete to sleep with him, and I don’t. So, who’s smarter?

    Maybe your parents were wrong about reading after all.

    But you must have been forced to do enough that you can translate the impenetrable wisdom of reality TV into my language. To that I say welcome, Sarah!

    Let the cultural lobotomy begin.

  6. Jackie Jardine on August 6, 2010 at 1:10 am

    On a related issue: Asshat is a great word. In fact, the term asshat should be used here more often. I say we at nonpretentious start nominating honorary asshats of the week.

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