Alternate Option
Thoughts from me.
Monday, May 16, 2005 10:55 pm
Not missing television
Less than ten years ago, I remember a television advertisement for the Commonwealth Bank (one of a handful of large Australian banks).

It was one of those “lifestyle ads” so it wasn’t much about the bank services at all, rather aimed at inspiring us consumers to get out and do something with our lives. There were images of smiling people, traveling, playing sport, smiling and so on. The soundtrack consisted of a enthusiastic speaker. During a montage of several images in the middle of the 30 second ad, the speaker said “…switch off your television…” and this was accompanied by a close-up image of a television falling from a height, hitting the ground, and breaking.

If the creator of that ad is reading this: kudos to you. I’ve never seen anything like it since.

Since then I kept hearing this thing about television. This was the time when shows like the X-Files and ER were popular. I did notice that television shows were becoming increasingly sophisticated, and targeted at the younger generation. Think “The Jeffersons” vs “Friends”.

In the name of “being daring”, and “pushing the envelope”, television shows also started to insidiously (or not) include more sexual, realistic violence, and profanity.

“So what” I thought—this has probably been happening since movies were first available. Complainants could either be luddites, or oldies (yea, like my dad). New TV was cool—and surely openly portraying sex, homosexuality, realistic crime, torture, murder, and other “issues” was a good thing? Everyone else—magazines, movies etc—was doing it, and the public demands it. Or pays for it.

However, something was bothering me—Were we buying televisions just to watch commercials? What’s this bad rap about television, as opposed to radio, movies, computer games? Movies and games have been criticised for worsening violence, but there criticism is usually limited to the content. The act of watching movies, or playing video games—aren’t usually the problem.

(I do recall an argument that video games indoctrinates the “save game” or “restart” feature into people’s minds, causing them to be poorly prepared for making choices in life.)

On the other hand, television itself, and not just the content, seemed to be a bad thing:

The Red Hot Chili Peppers sang:
“Throw away your television…”

Bruce Willis in The Fifth Element said:
“…rot your brain…”

The narrator in Fight Club said:
“By the end of the first month, I didn’t miss TV.”

Steve Jobs said in an interview: “The most corrosive piece of technology that I’ve ever seen is called television…”

Another interview: “The majority of people in this country want to turn on a television and turn off their brain and that’s what they get.”

Cameron Diaz said: “I don’t even own a TV because I think it’s the devil.”

Frank Lloyd Wright said: “Television is chewing gum for the eyes.”

One of the senior doctors at my previous hospital had 3 boys at home, and rumours started to circulate that he did not have a television in the house.

These are all non-idiots. There had to be a fragment of truth to all that. So three months ago, I unplugged the television. And now I think it is true: television is bloody evil.

Now, I pretty much regret even owning a television. I was going to buy a personal video recorder, but no longer have that urge with television out of my system. I no longer feel the urge to buy a plasma television. I no longer feel compelled to watch every episode of… anything now (exception). I no longer get aggravated when advertisements come on, and are too loud, strident or repetitive; or that TV shows are too bland and boring. Sitcoms, dramas, Big Brother, Dr Phil… all come and go with me oblivious.

Getting rid of the television has to be one of the best things I have done recently. Highly recommended… Even the space the television occupies, I wish could reclaim it and put an exercise bike (or whatever) there.

[posted with ecto]

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