Why I Eat 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.