Sunday, February 8, 2009

Look at the Captain With the Galaxy Right Off His Balcony

Yesterday, I said that the theme of the week was "Video Game School Blah Blah Blah," and promised not to talk about video games for the rest of the week. (I think I'll also extend that to not talking about school.) There was another sort of theme which I did not, however, mark or denounce: "Complaining About Stuff." While it might sound like an interesting challenge to blog without complaining about anything for the next week, it's important to remember that these are contradictory concepts. To blog is to complain. And so, with that, here's something that always strings my cheese.

People who brag about not watching TV. Does cutting yourself off from a major medium really make you a better person than me? If I told you that I don't read words, would you be impressed? What is so freakin' noble about not watching television?

Let me first acknowledge the reasons why a life without television could be viewed as positive. The obvious argument is that there isn't much worth watching, and I can totally get behind that. Infomercials, judge shows, reality programming, cartoons that teach moral lessons, a dozen CSI spin-offs - most shows aren't worth watching. No disagreement from me on that front.

But, like I said, I like TV. Actually, wait, no, I didn't say it. I'd like to declare it right now, in no uncertain terms: I like TV. Do you think less of me?

Anyway, I was saying, I like TV, but I don't like most shows? You know what I do? I don't watch 'em. It's pretty simple, really. If the TV is on and you don't like something, change the channel or turn the TV off. It's that easy. If you start reading a book and you don't like it, do you keep reading it? And if it's bad, do you assume the problem is that it's made from paper with words on it, and that all other books must be bad, too? When I walk into a library, I don't want to read every book I see. Some books are appealing to me, so I try them. Most books don't interest me. That's fine. I ignore them and look for the books that do. I don't dismiss books as the opiate of the unthinking masses.

Most anti-TV people I've met have no problem with movies. Do I even have to point out the hypocrisy? There are some differences between the average movie and the average television series, but they're insignificant next to the similarities. You know the main distinction? Arrogance. DVDs do not make the content any more sophisticated than if it were to travel via airwaves. Please get over yourselves.

I mentioned the other day that I don't get TV signals here. I get, like, Univision and a few religious channels, but no real networks. I don't watch TV, but I don't think that gives me any right to brag. On the contrary, I feel like I'm missing out. It's not a big deal; I don't panic because I don't have the chance to watch three Seinfeld reruns a day. But I do feel like I'm a little less connected to the world. My roommates didn't know Obama was the president until the day after his inauguration, and I don't think that would've been the case if we had TV. To me, that's more sad than watching a mindless sitcom now and then.

I don't have TV, but I still watch the shows I like online, and even in this, I feel like there a few things I'm not getting. People say that DVD compilations and online shows are great because they don't have commercials and you can watch them any time. I disagree. If you read this blog, you know that I have some real problems with advertisements and consummerism, but it's not all one-sided. I hate commercials, but I love them, too. Like TV shows and books, most commercials are rotten, but occasionally you find one that's genuinely entertaining. Even the duds have value. They are, like it or not, a part of our culture. We're living at a time in history where people are growing more distant from each other, where there is less and less that ties us together, and trivial and empty as they may be, commercials bind the collective conscious. When I moan about moronic Esurance ads, you likely know what I'm talking about. It gives us common ground. Shut yourself off from the undesirable parts of the world, like commercials, and you shut yourself off from society. I find isolation far less desirable, and I think it's an ignorant choice.

Same thing with the lack of time slots. I like the idea of a show being specific time. I like that I might miss it. "Did you see Scrubs last night?" Shallow, but what an easy way to start a conversation. It's so common for people to silence conversations about new episodes because they haven't downloaded them yet. I like to have to wait for reruns. I like a sense of time and history. I like having to choose to set the VCR to record a show for me because I think it's that important.

I didn't suddenly become more productive when I moved to a world without TV. I didn't take the time I formerly spent watching TV discovering the cure for oesophageal cancer studying foreign languages. I found different ways to waste it. The truth is, I rarely just watch TV. I do homework while the TV keeps the silence at bay and provides with a subtle sense of time, enough to keep me from wandering from my task. I quietly pick my guitar. I eat lunch. These people who "don't watch TV," what are they doing? Do they want us to believe they're squeezing the value out of every minute of their day? Because they aren't. And if they really are staying active and engaged non-stop, is that really so great?

I like relaxation. Is there anything wrong with that? Sometimes, after a long day, I don't want to hold a book up to the light. I can't set a Sleep Timer on the Internet, and even if I could, I couldn't lazily enjoy its presence from my bed. Forget the shows for a moment, and think about the television for what it is. It gives you moving pictures and light without waiting to load, without asking for any effort from you, and I think that that's alright. What is wrong with taking a break? Relax.

The next time someone tells you they don't watch TV, don't compliment them. Don't tell that that's great and that you wished you watched less. Don't lie and try to keep up, saying you don't watch much, either. Tell them the truth.

My name is Jake, and I think television is okay.


Jake said...

Can I get a little feedback? I've broken out of the habit of leaving huge comments on my own posts that eclipse the blog itself, but a big part of that is that the blog posts themselves are soooooo long.

So tell me the truth. Does anyone read this stuff, or do you just scroll down and assume it's not worth reading? I think I would. It seems like far too much for a blog.

Trying to be less wordy, but I also keep coming up with subjects that I enjoy writing about. Trying to find a balance.

... and it burns, burns, burns said...

Here's someone who read it all and didn't feel the urge to scroll down to the end and bemoan the entry's length. In that matter, you shouldn't care for our opinions though, in my omniscient opinion (yet another acronym: imoo).
Yay for fixing oesophagi! (plurals make everything so much sexier)

Nor said...

i like this one in particular because i also hate people who look down at me because i enjoy tv. i, however, hypocritically, look down at people who enjoy reality tv, so.. i guess i should work on that?

Jake said...

No you should not.

Anonymous said...

I love TV-especially the mindless stuff.
Your blog is very entertaining, but I'd rather be watching TV!