I have a dirty little secret: I’m tangled up in a tawdry love triangle. Here it is: I love watching television. I’m an English teacher, so I feel I should be lauding the written word, scowling derisively at people who watch hours of television while affecting a slightly British accent. We seem to have this dichotomous approach to media today. I do love the written word; I have two whole rooms in my house with wall-to-ceiling books. I have old books, new books, paperbacks, hardcovers, audiobooks, fiction, and non-fiction. Books are my mature, dependable relationship. This relationship nurtures me intellectually, makes me feel better about myself; I know it’s right. We have fun, too: It’s not all War and Peace; we’ve shared The Hunger Games and Confessions of a D-List Superhero.
Ah, but television is my young, vital, unpredictable Don Juan. Could I give him up for the intellectual depth of the written word? I fear not. What about the hours of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Star Trek TOS, DS9, and Enterprise we shared? And sometimes we head over the Masterpiece Theatre for some culture. Let’s not forget The Fog of War and those other documentaries that taught me so much.You know Hamlet was once the popular entertainment of the day. If the Elizabethans had had television, those groundlings would have been glued to their sets, calling in sick to the stables to see if Claudius was going to get away with killing the old king to marry his widow. It’s a condensed soap opera. As an English teacher, I love Shakespeare. One of the greatest elements of Shakespeare is how enduring his plays are because they are so universally appealing.
Are these two really at odds? I would say no. One could potentially read only trashy novels or watch engaging television, read classic literature or reality TV. The entire spectrum is available in both media. The key is to engage one’s mind while reading, watching, or listening. Even when I’m watching a sit-com, I like to think about why certain bits worked while others didn’t. I like to analyze why I enjoy one show but not a similar one. Television certainly can be the opiate of the masses; if you sit slack-jawed and absorb whatever is in front of you, television is definitely not intellectually stimulating. Of course, if you’re reading Fifty Shades of Grey over and over, you’re not exactly giving your gray matter a workout either, so the mere process of reading is no guarantee of an intellectual pursuit. (And, yes, I did plow my way through some of Fifty Shades–anti-emetic on hand– just to see if it is was bad as I thought. It is; I came close to needing those meds.
Do you have a strong affinity for one form of media, or do you enjoy a wide variety?