How TV is Changing Your Life
Narcissus did it in a pool of water. Humans do it on the box. The question at this much-publicized moment is, what do we see when we gaze back at our own reflection? Should we preen and gaze with wonder as our magic little box captures a Technicolor portrait of civilization, or should we be worried about the state of our mirror image? Is television used to challenge, or is it merely a gala for the suburban dream? If so, how does that dream world relate to reality?
Travel anywhere in the world today, and turn on the telly. Take in the ads, the humor, the news, the innuendo, and what do you get? A feast of double standards that encourages a kind of semi-conscious catatonic state in viewers dulled by reams of violent imagery, repetitive advertising and low-level values.
Just as television is a political tool easily used to sway the masses with political rhetoric, it also shapes the social psyche of nations who passively lap up both the subliminal and more obvious mind-altering dogma. Judging from the state of the global value system where war and economic privilege are dominant, it is inconceivable for us to hope for a wise group of elders whose vision could steer us on a fast evolutionary track. Who, with the help of television, could gently plant new ideas in our consciousness.
Think you’re being fed ideas of compassion, tolerance, altruism, or community, or ideas that keep us abreast of advances in knowledge of the scientific-spiritual realm? If only… Alas, those values don’t convert easily to cash.
Unfortunately, we have to contend with re-runs, low-level soaps and deceptive mistruths about reality. Perceptions of women are still shaped by local TV advertising, which uses women’s bodies to sell products. Women are still portrayed as sex-toys or busy little cooks desperately in need of Tupperware or cellulite cream. An unhealthy cocktail for a captive audience absurdly open to persuasion. While medicine and technology stride forward at a back-breaking rate, profound changes in the social arena are dismally slow. The reason behind this is that when a public communications medium such as television is fueled by stagnant ideologies, a non-thinking culture soon translates into a slow evolution of the nation’s consciousness.
Yes, we can say that society has bulldozed its way through a list of historical imperatives, but on the grassroots level the essence of reality remains unchanged. Although it doesn’t have to be, local TV still excels at being mundane. It offers a blueprint of the social skeleton of suburbia. It’s a neighborhood, which thrives on stereotypes, and mostly celebrates a lookist culture obsessed with body image and the so-called economic stature.
Typecast categories remain the staple diet of sitcoms, police dramas and game shows, and we have to sit through a seemingly endless obsession with the gender war theme – an insidious doctrine that reinforces destructive behavior patterns, which filter down into damaging interpersonal relationships.
News bulletins bemoan murder while heads of state spend millions on their killing armory, while the populace makes daily use of slaughterhouses yet doesn’t want to see the results of their preferences and actions, animals are subjected to unimaginable torture in experimental labs and backyards, the disabled, the aged, or the different are ridiculed or subtly ignored. We don’t see strong characters in wheelchairs. We don’t see the inside of factory farms.
The question is, are those characters (or lack thereof) moral and do they create a flourishing culture of new thinking? Or, is TV training a camp of social retards and mindless consumers?
Most people remain entranced in a humdrum existence that doesn’t question routine or tradition. Instead, the god called convention, which is constantly touted on TV, is often used as a weapon to oppress and justify all manner of restrictions on the powerless.
Just as certain types of killings are justified (e.g. army maneuvers or abattoirs or game hunting), certain types of oppression are seen as acceptable. No one, unless they are cognitively impaired, who engages in an abuse of power is unaware of what they are doing, whether it is in the personal, domestic or business arena.
Politics begins at home. It’s just that no one seems to know. Women’s liberation has been nicely sidestepped and, in many ways, the inequality has been entrenched even further (despite the Constitution).
Just tune in to a program about teen sex and sit back and gasp at the gender myths still flourishing in ordinary day life. Myths that place us squarely back into the lair of the caveman.
Although there are pockets of educative features, the tide is not strong enough to counter the plethora of patriarchal popularisms. These cement the mindset of the nation. They include supposedly innocuous themes (such as: women are bad drivers, men are good at barbecuing, sissy men, whorish women, old men f*cking young women, and ugly old people), which constantly re-affirm the power imbalance between people and encourage lopsided role-play in the human drama.
Educational content on nature and wildlife fares no better. While some programs valiantly try and highlight hot-potato issues, dualistic thinking that separates society from its immediate reality fuel a cruel speciesism: the prevailing assumption that humans represent the pinnacle of planetary achievement, and are therefore justified in exerting force on lesser species. A fact which supposedly allows us to sacrifice other living creatures or tracts of the earth or the biosphere for our own temporary gain. Yet we jump up in outrage if somehow that fate comes close to us in the form of a mugging or urban terror.
We, with the help of television, have confused ourselves with our own double standards. It is commonplace to use language to hide the suffering of others or to justify the destruction of the environment in the name of so-called progress. As a result, consumer culture is blind to environmental concerns that will ultimately dictate our future.
The next Y2K fiasco that we’ll soon be facing will be the pending string of environmental disasters that are poised to impact on us in the next century. Yet there is virtually no informative material which addresses issues like pollution or nuclear power. Certainly, one can’t expect to be educated about this through television. And as long as networks aren’t broadcasting ways that we, as a community, can temper this inevitability, people will continue to think that it’s not on their shoulders. Meanwhile, nothing could be farther from the truth.
For local TV to evolve into the constructive social force it needs to be to turn our future as a race around, there needs to be an unprecedented shake-up in program content and a re-evaluation of values. In short, television needs a miracle. We must ask ourselves what we want our society to be and what we hope to see when we look into the mirror as the year 3000 dawns. But always remember: the power is ultimately in the hands of the people. All they need to do is force themselves into uncomfortable consciousness and vote with their dollars (or remote control). Simple, right?