I wrote a short blog a couple months ago about television and how there are some who may very well need medical intervention just to turn the thing off. I think maybe three people were reading MaryMind at the time; now that I’m up to at least double that, I thought perhaps I’d revisit the subject.
I have a confession to make…I do love a good Facebook discussion. I resist on most occasions, but the other day a friend of mine posted a comment about unruly children. Her assumption was that the kids’ behavior stemmed from their having an absentee father. That’s a fair and valid statement, but I also suggested that television may play a large role in their behavior, as well. Yep, I just had to go there.
I asserted that television, particularly sitcoms, use sarcasm and disrespect as a form of communication. Sarcasm itself is the lowest form of humor, as its purpose is to generate laughs at someone else’s expense. Sarcasm also feeds the “intellectual” ego of the viewer who understands the joke, as well as the ego of the character delivering the line. It also peeves my pet when the fathers in those sitcoms are portrayed as idiots. Shows like According to Jim and Everybody Loves Raymond are clear examples of the father-portrayed-as-buffoon with prepubescent children running the house, rolling their eyes at parental ineptitude, and resorting to a fusillade of sarcastic quips to thwart and undermine parental authority.
Let’s just say people don’t take to kindly to having their TV viewing habits criticized.
I’ve grown weary of the argument that many claim to watch only family oriented, “wholesome” shows. While it’s true that some do, the entertainment business is not a multi-trillion dollar industry because everyone is watching PBS documentaries. Furthermore, TV is the most low brow form of information transmission/reception available. It’s equivalent to listening to Mel Gibson pontificate on the benefits and finer points of anger management.
A friend of mine believes that “TV is OK as long as parents are involved.” Really? How does that work exactly? As long as mom and dad are in the room to have a healthy discussion concerning the behavior of an abusive cheerleading coach or a glorified pregnant teen, it’s OK? How many parents are doing that? Can I get a show of hands, please?
Dr.Herbert Krugman, psychologist, researcher, and author of the article “The Impact of Advertising: Learning Without Involvement,” noted that after only one minute of TV viewing subjects brainwaves switched from beta waves; waves associated with active, logical thought to alpha waves; waves associated with a relaxed, meditative state. I suppose that’s fine if you’re doing yoga. But since most people spend more than one minute watching TV, the low alpha state can lead to lack of focus and an inability to concentrate–both characteristic of a child with ADHD. I actually know of a few parents who would rather medicate their child for exhibiting ADHD symptoms, rather than shut off the television, or even admit television played a role at all in their child’s behavior.
We quit watching television in our house, except for the occasional movie. I’ve mentioned my daughter’s obsession with Cats, and although I believe it has peaked, I see no indication of her obsession reaching it’s nadir any time soon. We’ve opted to read newspapers rather than watch the news. It was actually a difficult decision to make and we vacillated back and forth for months. I’m not suggesting anyone follow suit; if you like to watch television, fine. This is in no way meant to judge, but let’s be honest and regard TV for what it is. In our receptive alpha wave induced condition adroit advertisers take full advantage of our passivity by telling us we are not attractive enough, that we are not driving a new enough car, and that we don’t make enough money. In essence, we associate a brand name with something positive. Television reinforces the idea that marriage is fleeting and temporary(The Bachelor/Bachelorette). Good looks are important for success (American Idol/ America’s Next Top Model). If I have to explain an adult theme at bed time to my ten year old daughter after watching Glee, then there’s a problem.
So, we can justify our TV habits because that’s exactly what it is–a habit. I challenge those of you whom I offend with my exhortation of the evils of TV to turn it off for just a month. It is a hard habit to break; it certainly was for our family. We finally decided to switch off the talking box a few months ago when we witnessed our ten year old watching some inane show, slack-jawed and trance-like. It gave me the creeps. Initially, I missed Law and Order and and The Office. My husband fondly remembers NCIS and Heroes. My daughter had the least withdrawals, oddly enough. I won’t say she is better behaved; she’s always been kind and respectful. But she is calmer…and happier, if that’s possible. I get joy, immense joy, at watching her play and create. She’s loud, messy, and all over the house. And I deal with it; heck I relish it! The chaos is wonderful. I much prefer “Hey, wanna hear my new song I just made up” or hear her tell me about the latest Molly Moon book than to see her in a vegetative state laughing at someone else’s jokes or misfortune.
Dennis Leary said it best in a commercial for Hulu, “…TV is slowly rotting your brain and turning it into a slimy, gooey, mushy glob of pudding and there’s nothing you can do about it. See, I told you what was happening and you’re still watching TV….” Hulu provides a faster, more efficient means to accomplish this task because, as Leary claims, “you ain’t soup yet.”