Wednesday, March 11, 2009
In Defense of Television
Mother, teacher...secret lover?
A few years back, in their always-entertaining best-of-the-year lists, the Citypages had a line I often like to steal that went something like "Saying you don't watch television because there's bad shows on it is like saying you don't read because Danielle Steele writes bad books." And while there's obviously a bit of difference between the two, I think it's a pretty apt metaphor for those people who like to think themselves better than the unwashed masses because of their lack of television viewing/ownership.
This is not to say there's not valid reasons to dislike the boob tube -- for instance, pretty much anything on MTv, VH1, or any other Viacom-owned station (save, of course, Comedy Central). But think of all the good things on television: the aforementioned Comedy Central with Stewart and Colbert, nightly broadcasting anti-establishment satire reaching a much wider audience than any other political parody you'd be able to name, or the new generation of fast-paced, highly literate sitcoms like 30 Rock or the dearly departed Arrested Development.
Historically, television has served to make the great moments of American collective consciousness that much more impacting and real. In fact, you could go so far as to argue the Civil Rights movement would have been seriously negatively impacted without television; even Dr. King famously argued that what made his brand of non-violent resistance so successful were the nightly television images of peaceful demonstrators beset by angry dogs and fire-hoses.
Or maybe it's just because of the personal impact television has had on my own life. As I'm teaching my first course this semester, I've been watching a great deal of old Simpsons episodes to use in class (it's a three-hour long night class, so you gotta break up the monotony somehow). Anyway, as I've started to re-visit the show that was so central to my childhood, I've realized pretty much all of my distrust of authority figures and general critical-thinking skills largely came from watching the Simpsons. In fact, I recently read a great interview with Matt Groening in which he said the reason he chose to go with television as medium (over the comic strips he was already creating at the time) was specifically so he could reach out to the kids like me -- kids is small towns who know something isn't right about the world, but don't exactly have a local radical bookstore they can go to.
But in the end, I keep coming back to the Citypages quote -- please don't judge my most beloved medium simply because some people have used it poorly...
Posted by Woz at 9:52 PM