Thursday, January 31, 2008

In defense of TV

As someone who works in television and consumes his fair share of popular culture, I get a little perturbed by the scolding and self-congratulatory tone of those behind TV Turnoff Week and similar campaigns against the big, bad box. We can agree that obesity and childhood literacy are problems worth fighting. We can agree that there is a lot of garbage on TV. But is the solution to bad viewing habits to disregard an entire medium?

After all, I assume that these people wouldn't advocate a Closed Book Week. There's plenty of trash available on bound printed pages, and reading is just as sedentary of an activity as watching TV. Stop sitting on your tailbone and go for a walk, bookworm! Yet reading is perceived as being more noble. I love books and the written word, but those who want to encourage more reading don't help by elevating it to the level of lofty pursuit.

Those working to get people to make the TV turnoff choice refer to it as a fast. If the problem is poor eating habits, the solution isn't to stop eating, is it? No, it's a matter of eating less and eating better. To me, assessing what is being watched and how much is being consumed is a more sensible way to attack the issue rather than preaching the virtues of going cold turkey. Even then, junk food of the edible or televised variety is OK in moderation.

There's no pressing reason why I'm writing about this today. It's just one of those things that can get under my skin, and it came to the fore when coming home from work the last several days. I've been tired and not up for much more than watching TV. I'm sure that plenty of people feel the same way. If it's how one relaxes after a long day of work, what's the harm in it?

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At 9:42 AM, Blogger Doniamarie said...

The only time I become concerned with TV habits is when I see my niece and nephew sitting three feet from the TV screen, and staying like that for hours - they're literally hypnotized and it's a struggle to get them to eat sometimes! For parents, I think it's become a crutch - a way to keep the kids quiet for extended periods of time. Where are the days when kids went outside to play?

I'm all for TV after a long day, however. I just wish I had cable! :-)

At 9:57 AM, Blogger the secret knitter said...

My argument above is intellectually lazy (or not well defended), so let me clarify...

Like many other things that take the rap for society's ills, TV is not intrinsically bad. How people use it determines its value. So yes, I agree that kids shouldn't be watching it all day just to keep them out of their parents' hair.

What gets me bent out of shape are the people who wear their avoidance of TV like a badge of honor. If people held the same attitude about books or art museums, they would likely be looked down upon.

My point (or one of them): a medium should be judged by its best and worst. It seems to me that TV and films come under special scrutiny for their worst than other media and art forms do.

At 10:38 AM, OpenID ruthsplace said...

We don't have tv, mostly because there's not much we want to watch on South African tv and because we want to avoid the situation where the child is glued to it for hours on end. That being said we do watch dvds to unwind at the end of a day and really enjoy it. I think that the problem with tv is that it's very easy to watch it for the sake of watching it rather than making discerning choices about your viewing.
That being said people who are proudly anti-tv need a smack up-side the head to rid them of their self-righteousness.

At 10:55 AM, Blogger Karen said...

Well-said, Mark. All things in moderation.

My kids have limited TV time during the week because school needs to be the focus, and with short daylight hours right now, they need outside time when they can get it. We keep a list of things to do other than watch TV on the refrigerator.


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