“Camera’s got them images, camera’s got them all…Nothing’s Shocking”.“I have a vision…television!”“Honey, where’s the remote?”
A funny thing happened to me about six months ago. See, being that I’m pursuing a career in the entertainment/music/radio industry, I’ve been pretty broke. An offset of my being broke is that I had to decide which expenses and bills to keep and pay, and which ones I could do without or get away with not paying for. I’ve eliminated such luxuries like buying new sneakers, switched from drinking Guinness to drinking PBR, and, my hardest transition was going from smoking kind nugs to cheap schwag. All of this took some adjustment but I began to fare well with my new financial state.
One of the bills that I decided to blow off for “just a couple more weeks” was my cable bill. The notices started coming more frequently and the phone calls began, but I felt that I didn’t really need cable so it wasn’t on the top of my priority list. Eventually, the digital part of my service was shut off and I was left with just the basic channels. That lasted about two weeks until, finally, the axe fell and I was left with a pair of rabbit ears that could pick up three channels on a clear day.
My first few days without television were like the first few days a junkie tries to kick heroin. I needed those Seinfeld reruns. My day wasn’t complete without at least an hour of “I love the 80’s” on VH1. I didn’t know how I’d survive without my ritualistic Sunday night Simpsons. How would I talk about Friends with my friends?
It felt very similar to getting out of a relationship that both parties involved knew was no good for the other, something I have also become something of an expert on. Yes, breaking the habit of not watching television was the same as breaking up with a bad girlfriend, but the true test was to see how long I could go without that comfortable booty call.
After the first week or so, I started to feel less of a need to lay motionless on the couch, scratching my nuts and farting into the same couch cushion every night for upwards of three hours on end. I found myself writing and reading more. I went to HACC and registered for some courses. I got my own business going again and started working part time with a radio station. I go out and see original music at least 5 nights a week. I genuinely feel as if I’ve just now started to truly realize the world around me for what it is.
As the weeks went on and the momentum built from my new found energy, I began to think more about why I hadn’t started doing all of the things I’m doing now sooner. Was it the divorce? Was it the psychological toll that a custody battle took on my mental constitution? Or, just maybe, could have it of been the fact that I, just like every other American, was spending an average of 7.2 hours in front of the television every single day?
That’s right! 7.2 hours of each day (on average) is spent staring at a flickering screen filled with images that do nothing but distract, coerce, and waste valuable time of the viewer. 49 hours of every week is what it adds up to. Sure, right about now you may be saying, “Well I don’t watch TV for 7 hours every day”. Sure you don’t. Not every day. But think about this: Have you ever spent an entire weekend clutching the remote control as if it were a morphine drip button after painful surgery? How many days off from work have you woke up with Katie Couric, had lunch with Bob Barker, and went to bed with Raymond?
It all adds up to an average of 7.2 hours every day that we spend watching the television, and in my experience, I can tell anyone reading this that your life will become dramatically better if you just turn it off. Period.
In my 27 years, according to the institute that figured out that Americans watch 7.2 hours of television every day, 65,318 hours of my life has been spent in front of the television. Holy shit. That’s a lot of hours. And what have I gained by watching that much television in my life? Nothing.
Television is not real.
Nothing we see on the television is based on or presented to us in a realistic setting. Sure, they try really hard to convince us that it’s real, but what is reality? Reality is what we make of it. Reality is the color of the walls in your bedroom; reality is the itch on your back that you just can’t reach; reality, to me, is the notion that marriage is over rated; reality is the fact that I’m not worried about my daughter getting stung by a bee or falling down the stairs, because those things are going to happen; Reality is the fact that I’m actually afraid of when she goes to kindergarten and has to pass her Hello Kitty backpack through a fucking metal detector.
With the exception of The Simpsons, The Sopranos, and good old porn and movies, the main purpose of the television and networks, it seems to have become, is to force us into being bigger, more gluttonous, greedy consumers than we already are. Sure, America is based on capitalism, but when did it become a requirement for me to sit in front of an electrical box and be forced into a decadent mental deterioration that is being brought on by massive psycho-seductive efforts enlisted by multi-national corporations all fighting for dibs on my hard earned money? Every image we see on the television is shown to us in order to convince us that what we see is how it is, and I just am not buying what they’re selling anymore. From what I’ve seen, what they’re telling us just doesn’t add up.
Personally, I don’t like being told what to do. I’ve always had a problem with authority and to me, the television seems like it has become the most respected, and feared, authority that we know. Where do you go to get the scoop on what semi-developed country Baby Bush has decided to go into and fuck with? Where do you go to find out what all the cool kids are wearing to school this year? Where do you go to sneak a glance into the life of some homogenized, dramatized, idealized life of a family that you wish you were a part of?
Right after they tell you what to be afraid of (Sars, Y2K, Aids, child pornographers, a suspect described as a black male in his 20’s, virtually anyone of Middle Eastern descent, road-rage, air-rage, airbags, con-men, a suspect described as a black male in his 20’s, killer bees, brain cancer from cell phones, cell phones causing explosions at gas pumps, the imminent threat of a terrorist attack at any given moment, Anthrax, West Nile, a suspect described as a…get the picture?) they tell you what to buy. Go lower your cholesterol with Cheerios and then brush your teeth with Colgate, pick your kids up from soccer practice in the all new, gas guzzling SUV, make Kraft macaroni and cheese with your Swanson fish sticks (and remember, Kraft is made by the good people that bring us Marlboro cigarettes, Philip Morris), get that purple pill to keep it up for the wife, and don’t forget the duct tape and plastic sheets, and then, if you’re unemployed because of an accident, call Angino and Rovner and get the compensation that you deserve. Sue somebody.
Know who I think I’m going to sue? ABCNBCCBSFOX. Yes, I’m going to sue them for wasting 65, 318 hours of my time. I wonder how much I can get? The television has given me plenty of skewed, spun, and unreliable information that I had to un-learn in order to function properly again.
“But how do you get the news?”
The news. Ah, good ol’ Tom Brokaw. How about this theory: Ever stop and think that “The News” is just another program that is “brought to you by our sponsors”? That’s all it is. Your nightly news broadcast is no different than an episode of Roseanne. How can I say that? Well, I’ll tell you. The news programs that we watch are scripted, choreographed bits of fluffed up crap that are sponsored by a variety of corporations. Yes, all of the things that they show us on the news do actually happen, but it’s nothing news worthy and most times all of the good news (good, in this case, meaning positive or heart-warming) hits the cutting room floor because it’s not as interesting as someone getting shot or a fire burning down three houses on 6th street. Notice this next time you see a segment on 20/20 about how unsafe your car is: immediately following the broadcast about car safety or dangers, I guarantee you that you will see a commercial for Volvo, or Volkswagen, or Subaru telling you how safe this new $32,000 MSRP piece of machinery is. Brainwashing.
I’ve spoke with a lot of people about kicking the habit and I get almost the same response every time: “I don’t watch that much TV.” Know what that sounds like to me? An alcoholic saying “I don’t drink that much” or a smoker saying “I really need to quit”. Television can be considered an addiction. That’s a good way to look at it if you truly want to eliminate it from your life. You need to tell yourself that you’ll be all right without CSI or RAW! on a Monday night. Trust me, you will be able to get to sleep without the 11:00 news flickering in the background with the sleep timer set on “90”.
Know what else is interesting to me? Now, being an ex-watcher, I notice how many times during a typical day that people reference or mention TV in conversation. It’s crazy! It’s almost as if the television is the most interesting thing in peoples lives. When in reality, it’s a box of transistors and wires blaring enticing images with the sole purpose of selling you something. And I’m not just talking about the commercials either. The following is taken directly from author Ron Kaufman who published this on the Website http://www.turnoffyourtv.com (go ahead, click the link…just make sure you come back and finish reading my article).
The Beautiful People Syndrome is what happens when you watch too much TV. You begin to believe, or expect, regular people to act, behave, and look like television stars. Does TV imitate life, or does life imitate TV, or does both happen? Television images portray people as beautiful, smart, wealthy, quick-witted, creative, instantly compelling, and exciting. Television wouldn't be worth watching, for those who watch, if it wasn't unbelievably interesting.
In the book Amusing Ourselves to Death, New York University Professor Neil Postman explains how television has changed modern imagery: "It is implausible to imagine that anyone like our 27th President, the multi-chinned, three-hundred pound William Howard Taft, could be put forward as a presidential candidate in today's world. The shape of a man's body is largely irrelevant to the shape of his ideas when he is addressing a public in writing or on the radio . . . but it is quite relevant on television. The grossness of a three-hundred-pound image, even a talking one, would easily overwhelm any logical or spiritual subtleties conveyed by speech."
Postman goes on to explain that "on television, discourse is conducted largely through visual imagery, which is to say that television gives us a conversation in images, not words . . . You cannot do political philosophy on television. Its form works against the content."
After watching hours and hours and hours of television imagery, those "Beautiful People" will become burned into your mind. The handsome, pretty, skinny and witty characters on the show "Friends" are more famous than writers, poets, politicians and more important than teachers, policemen, or firemen. The characters on "Friends" or "Ally McBeal" live the lives we all should live -- and they don't even have to work that hard.
The Beautiful People Syndrome is attacking the psyche of television-addicted America. For a man, if you are not 6'1'', handsome and wealthy you are not ideal. Any woman who isn't bone-thin with a large chest certainly is below the standard. Television is warping the American mind. Unfortunately, the Americanization of the rest of the world may contribute to mind-warping worldwide. Everyone wants to be one of the beautiful television people.
And now, a word from our sponsors:
So what should we do about this television thing? Most likely, a lot of you will just keep watching. Some of you will actually close your web browser, disconnect from the internet, go lay down on the couch, and turn on your TV. And that’s okay; just do me a favor? Next time you’re watching some kid in the mall in Camp Hill strut around like a street thug from The Bronx, or your kid tells you that she absolutely has “to have the new DVD from Jessica Simpson” that she saw on MTV, or your annoying co-worker feels obliged to engage you in a conversation about which American Idol character he thinks Simon should take it easy on, just remember this: it’s not too late to turn it off.
Have a comment about this piece or want additional information? Let me know email@example.com.