We watch... so you don't have to.

The Medium is the Message, and I'm the Messenger

My name is Lisa, and I stopped watching television last night. I stopped because it's made me a lowbrow prole, and because doctors have discovered the adverse effects television wreaks on toddlers, so I can only imagine what it's doing to my as-yet-unborn children. If I keep watching Sci-Fi channel programming, I'm likely to produce babies sporting cloven hooves and bat wings, or at least normal-looking babies who will turn into teenaged habitues of MUDs, sporting user names like Theodar-thane-of-Gynnwechfachal and insisting that fluency in Elvish is a sign they're not on drugs.

So I gave up television for the sake of the children and for the sake of my brain cells. I'm rejoining the culturati. You know, all those erudite people who read Martin Amis and listen to Phillip Glass instead of working themselves into foamy rages over the latest clumsy writing on ER. These are the same people who stare across the table at dinner parties when you let slip that you were watching the Ben Stiller Show marathon on FX instead of reading Rigoberta Menchu in her native language. It doesn't matter that the Ben Stiller Show features some of the smartest comedy the Nineties has seen; it aired on television instead of some cockroach-infested Off-Off-Broadway dinner theater, and watching the show is an implicit admission that you're a mouth-breathing dunderpate.

See? I stopped watching television twelve hours ago, and my vocabulary is improving already. I also started reading about media. C'mon -- ask me about Marshall McLuhan! Go ahead! I'm all about discussing how books are a hot medium and television is a cool medium. Just don't ask me to try and use actual television programming to illustrate my new viewpoint, because I only read about mass media now. I don't actually consume it.

I think I'm also going to quote a lot of Neil Postman, since he writes about other people's regrettable tendencies to settle for predigested amusement instead of rigorously examining the role of the media in our lives. Thanks to all the free time I have on my hands now, I can deconstruct Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and George Orwell's 1984, and stun the Vidiots with all my insights on how television is an opiate that introduces dictatorial doublespeak into daily discourse.

Now I ask you: would I have been able to make that kind of analytic statement if I hadn't forsaken the idiot box for a more culturally enriching activity like reading? Or, more importantly, reading in foreign languages, as I've begun to do with Michel Foucault and Jean Baudrillard. Then I wouldn't be able to realize that television is a simulacrum of the real world, perpetuated by a ruling class that "masks" itself in broad view, and which televised media self-replicates until it loses all semblance of reality. Indeed, if I were still watching The Man Show, I wouldn't have been able to read and understand a sentence like the one I just wrote!

So you can see that I now stand apart from the lumpen masses by my bold refusal to watch television. I'm one of the outsiders in this sham society, a lone intellect striding free of the shackles of NBC. I am The Other, as explained by Simone De Beauvoir, striving to free myself from the male-perpetuated gaze of television-drenched culture. I am a Derridean monstrosity, producing a society-changing viewpoint that is rejected by those caught in the net of basic cable. I am--

Bored silly is what I am, and Sliders in on in ten minutes. If I use The Collected Works of Michel de Montaigne as a makeshift television stand, I'll be able to view Quinn Mallory from any angle in my apartment.

What do you know? Reading did make me smarter after all.


TeeVee - About Us - Archive - Where We Are Now

Got a comment? Mail us at teevee@teevee.org.

* * *