So I was just reading this entry by Emilin at Name That Mama, and of course, it got me to thinking. The tangent it sends me on to isn't really all that connected to the original issue Em was talking about, which has to do with her family's decision not to expose their daughter to television, but that's where I started thinking about it.
So I grew up more or less without TV. My parents weren't/aren't "against" TV, but we didn't have any capacity for television reception where we lived for most of my "developing" years. My folks have digital satellite now, which I think they got when I was about halfway through high school, but between three and fifteen, say, there wasn't much TV at my house, and what there was was viewed through a pretty thick static reception haze. We got "one channel and not well." I did have exposure through friends and family and stuff, and we watched videos fairly regularly.
I received a small TV as a gift before I went to college. I was one of the few (only?) people in my dorm with a television, and it was a bit looked down upon among the Reedie intellectual snobs (unless they wanted to watch The Simpsons, that is). But I watched quite a bit of television in college. I recorded General Hospital every day for years. I marathoned Roseanne reruns. I rented movies. I could make an argument (and it would probably have validity) that I numbed myself with TV in college, but mostly it was used for brainless entertainment purposes. I worked hard in college, read for hours a day, and thought so hard my brain hurt. TV was a reprieve.
Since college I haven't ever lived without a TV, and for the last several years Mark and I have willingly paid through the nose for extended cable programming. We watch a lot of TV at my house. Mark watches more than I do, for sure, and is much more likely to just "watch whatever is on," but I am, without a doubt, a TV-watching person.
There is still a fair amount of anti-TV sentiment around me. Of my close friends, I'd say probably half live in TV-free or nearly TV-free households. Many, though by no means all, of my parent friends are choosing to raise their children without TV, as discussed in Em's post. I have been privy to many, many discussions about about the evil influence of television.
And, bottom line, I don't buy it (surprise!). Television is a medium. It's an empty vessel, with it's own strengths and weaknesses as a vessel. It's morally neutral. It is not inherently better or worse than film, or radio, or (and I feel the flames at my toes already when I type this) books. It serves a difference (and, to my mind, complimentary in many ways) purpose, but to think it is somehow inherently sub-par is ludicrous.
First, there is good TV and bad TV, just like there are good and bad examples of any other form of media. Yes, I absolutely agree that most of what shows on the modern American television set is crap. However, I also think what is played on most modern American radio, shown in most most modern American movie theaters, and shelves in most modern American bookstores is crap. And the argument that it is somehow better, more involved, more active, to read a bad book than it is to watch bad TV just doesn't work for me. Which brings me to point two.
Clearly, from my posts about Buffy and other shows, I see TV as an active medium with which you can interact. You can, as is argued in this great book, "read" television the same way you do with a book, not just passively watching it, but thinking about it, analyzing it, connecting it to other stories in your mind, rewriting it in your head, imagining about it. Rhonda Wilcox (the book's author, if you didn't click on the link) makes an argument not only for the importance of her subject (Buffy) and its legitimacy as a text worthy of literary analysis, but of the legitimacy of television as literature in general. Certainly not all television, but good television, she argues (and I agree) can engage and stimulate you the same way good books can.
If this is true, if the importance is not what the vessel is (book, radio, film, TV, etc.) but what you put in it, then how can it possibly make sense to restrict the medium?
What do you think? Those out there who are pro- OR anti-TV, I wanna hear from you!