Watch TV!
April 20, 2004 4:01 PM   Subscribe

In defense of television. Bob Sassone's response to all this TV Turnoff Week talk.
posted by braun_richard (99 comments total)
 
Eh, within the first paragraph he fails to realize some people might like it and decide to do it forever.

Whatever, though, right? Self-improvement is for people with time, and who has time when Rachel is watching Ross fuck a monkey or something?
posted by jon_kill at 4:05 PM on April 20, 2004


They fuck monkeys on this television? What else have I been missing?!
posted by xmutex at 4:09 PM on April 20, 2004


TV sucks because it's an advertising medium -- a medium in which each second is crafted to keep you watching one second more. That's what makes it simultaneously addictive and unsatasfying, like eating a jar of sugar, or cocaine, or something. In that sense, watching TV all day isn't like sitting around reading all day, partly in the sense that cigarettes aren't the same as candy bars, partly that candy bars aren't the same as dinner. (Caveat: I smoke.)
posted by Tlogmer at 4:13 PM on April 20, 2004


Only during sweeps week xmutex.
posted by substrate at 4:13 PM on April 20, 2004


what Sassone said.
posted by amberglow at 4:14 PM on April 20, 2004


So his argument is that Turn Off TV week is a meaningless gesture because Alias is a great show? Or something to that effect?
I know its not that cut and dried but I think he's missing the point of the week. Turning off the tv means that some people will have to find some other way to amuse themselves instead of staring at the mesmerizing flickering images. Those people may realize that there is alot more to life than TV. And they might even replace that tv time with more useful pursuits.

His stance of moderation does work but there are a huge number of people that come home from work, turn on the tv and don't move or turn it off until its time to go to bed, they eat dinner while staring, they rush to the bathroom during commercials so as not to miss a single moment of the utter hilarity that is "Friends" or "Will and Grace". These people could do well to read a book or go outside or do something else for a little while.

Me? I've got my shows I like to watch and have no trouble turning off the box when nothing I want to watch is on. But I still need a Tivo.

xmutex, I don't know about tv and monkey fucking but you can get vids of dogs humping women on something called the internet.
posted by fenriq at 4:19 PM on April 20, 2004


Television is nothing less than a vessel for avarice and idiocy, and I urge all able resisters to get a baseball bat and smash in their Sony Trinitons into a thousand magical shards. Now. Before it's too late.

I've watched capable minds transform into globular gelatinous life forms after three weeks of the latest "reality TV" show. I've watched healthy human beings get so enraptured by The Sopranos that they forget to feed their goldfish. Long have I been mystified by conversations in which everyone around me is quoting the latest dialogue from Friends, and yet remain simultaneously incapable of providing even a half-assed answer to a casual question because it's not in the script. And I really don't know who the hell these Alias people are. They could suck my balls for all I care. Sorry. I'm too busy living. And I value those two or so hours a day that television watchers devote to becoming a vapid, quiescent pod person.

You snooze, you lose.
posted by ed at 4:23 PM on April 20, 2004


TV keeps people I don't want to know off the streets and out of my way. What could possibly be wrong with that?
posted by badstone at 4:41 PM on April 20, 2004


ed, the bitterness is strong in you.
posted by fenriq at 4:44 PM on April 20, 2004


I never really understood the point of TV-turn-off week. But then, until the middle of high-school, I went through TV-turn-off MONTH every year, when my family went on our annual vacation.

Of course, in Canada, it's also a lot easier to turn off the television for an extended period in August than in April.
posted by djfiander at 4:45 PM on April 20, 2004


Bah.
posted by scarabic at 4:47 PM on April 20, 2004


Tlogmer, pretty good analysis. All mediums are addictive in their own way "the book was a real page turner I could not put it down".. TV though is the worst because the addiction is being created to sell product, to manipulate and use the viewer in ways they might not understand or realize.

For the same reason self-links are not allowed on MeFi, why would anyone willfully subject themselves to self-links (commercials) on TV -- the power of images is beyond ones ability to filter, once you turn on the TV you give up control.
posted by stbalbach at 4:49 PM on April 20, 2004


It’s a fairly meaningless gesture

A change in habit is never meaningless.

And there’s a fallacy that people who watch a lot of TV don’t read.

More of an axiom than a fallcy.
posted by the fire you left me at 4:55 PM on April 20, 2004


I love how when people talk about other people watching teleivision everyone magically transforms into a fucking moron incapable of understanding the "subtle" nuances of advertising.

Whatever, though, right? Self-improvement is for people with time, and who has time when Rachel is watching Ross fuck a monkey or something?

How does not watching t.v. improve you? Is your life more fulfilled if you spend six hours a day studying obsure Russian writers of the mid 19th century? Only if you like obscure Russian writers of the mid 19th century. Television, like anything, is as important or "right" as anything else. It's not like when you die there's a big get-together where everyone compares what they did and the people who "did it the best" get some reward handed to them.

"Hey, jon_kill, I love how you didn't watch t.v. That was totally rad. Here's a gold star."

TV sucks because it's an advertising medium -- a medium in which each second is crafted to keep you watching one second more.

Watch HBO.

Or buy DVDs of good television shows.

To suggest television is addictive in the same way nicotine is addictive is absurd.
posted by The God Complex at 4:59 PM on April 20, 2004


TV though is the worst because the addiction is being created to sell product, to manipulate and use the viewer in ways they might not understand or realize.
TV doesn't just sell product--it educates, entertains, and enlightens. We know far more about the world than our tv-less ancestors did, and can see events happening almost anywhere live. I can watch britcoms, sitcoms, nature shows, history shows, news, performances, documentaries, see art, theater, bollywood movies, chinese soaps, spanish soaps, hungarian nightly news, slovenian folk dancers, talking heads spewing hot air, reality stupidity, sappy tear-jerking tv-movies, movies with amazing special effects and/or amazing stories, leaders of the world addressing their people, what space looks like, what the deep sea looks like, yadda yadda yadda.... TV is not just a vehicle to get you to buy stuff.
posted by amberglow at 5:00 PM on April 20, 2004


A change in habit is never meaningless.

More of an axiom than a fallcy.


Note to self: the fire you left me is more interested in baseless conjecture framed as universal truth than making sense.
posted by The God Complex at 5:04 PM on April 20, 2004


Kill! Smooch!
posted by ed at 5:07 PM on April 20, 2004


Meh, I'm not turning off my TV this week ( It's not on right now, but that's because I just got home, and I have not yet played the 'guess where you left the remote control last night' game. ) but this guy clearly misses the point of the event. In the same way that the Run for the Cure is about more than raising money for breast cancer research, TV Turnoff Week is about more than getting people to turn their TV off for the week, or even forever.

An event like this gets coverage because it provides a time specific focus that an ongoing campaign to rethink your television habits does not. So it brings awareness to the potential issues with watching too much TV and gets people thinking and talking about it. Some people have a problem, some people don't. Some people are sanctimonious asshats, some people are in denial. Dialogue between these groups is good.

Personally, I thought about it, and decided it's pointless because TV is harmless background noise to my life (see my posts in the other thread). But I consciously thought about television and how it fits into or affects my lifestyle, something that I wouldn't have done without prompting. I didn't opt for a change, but that doesn't make the introspection useless.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:14 PM on April 20, 2004


Turning off the tv means that some people will have to find some other way to amuse themselves instead of staring at the mesmerizing flickering images.

...but if we stop watching television, members of the TV Temperance Movement won't be able to insult us for how we choose to spend our leisure time any more! That hardly seems fair.
posted by Lazlo at 5:31 PM on April 20, 2004


If this country had a healthy relationship with television, we probably wouldn't have a growing movement against it, and we almost certainly wouldn't have two front page threads in two days about how controversial that movement is.

I think we're pretty much in denial about a psychological addiction most of us share, and I'm getting more and more unnerved at the number of people who are saying things like, "No, I'm not addicted to TV, and NO, I will not turn it off."

I'm not convinced that television is a bad thing, but I'm becoming more and more convinced that we need to face up to our dependence on it. That's what I think this campaign is about -- turn off the television for a week and see what it does to you.
posted by Hildago at 5:46 PM on April 20, 2004


A lot of people are asking what the difference is between a book and a TV program. The difference is simply quality. I'll not argue whether or not TV could be equal in content to a book, I'll just say that it's not at present equal.

Let's look at a TV show that TV advocates hold most dear: The West Wing. Now, the West Wing may be a nice show. It may be better than most other shows. It is, in fact, a show I watch fairly frequently. But it is not a particularly good look at politics. It's an issue advocacy show where usually there's the good side (Usually, but not always the President) and the bad side (an evil Republican, or a Democrat that is foolish enough to disagree with the president). They battle, and one of them comes out ahead. Then a character makes an impromptu stirring speech to his colleagues. Almost any book written by anyone with any political experience would be more intellectual, and more accurate, yet the West Wing is held up as a paragon of fine television. What it's really good at is painting a blank-and-white picture that audiences want to hear, and passes it off as sophisticated and realistic. The fact is that it's only good by comparison; it's better than most other televsion shows, but that's not saying much.

Let's look at an easier target, the writer's beloved Alias. It's a spy show. It's not even a particularly good one, like the classic "Danger Man". It's a show about a girl who is a spy who has a mother and father who are also spies, who looks for mystical death dealing devices invented by people in the Renaissance. And she's got amnesia. There are numerous entertaining spy thriller books much better written than this show.

My point isn't that good television is impossible to come by, or that we shouldn't watch any TV. My point is that it's a fallacy to compare books and television, because books are quite simply better in their content and methodology. Books have detail, as Bradbury said. They let us think, rather than absorbing like a sponge. True, both TV and books are information media. But TV is the junk food of media, and books are the balanced meal. It may be all right to have junk food every once in a while. But it's bad news when you let junk replace a balanced diet.
posted by unreason at 5:52 PM on April 20, 2004


you guys are absolutely fucking insane
posted by Satapher at 5:53 PM on April 20, 2004


I wonder how everyone here would feel about a "Turn Off the Net" for a week?
posted by amberglow at 5:55 PM on April 20, 2004


hello, using trite american shite such as the west wing or alias as examples of what is good on tv...? good goddess, talk about a weak defense.

unreason you would sound a lot more reasonable if there were no such thing as a bad book. unfortunately most books are crap, just like most tv shows are crap.

and let me point out that the most successful publishing house currently, and for the foreseeable future, is harlequin.

and you may freely blame canada for that without me jumping to our defense.

I wonder how everyone here would feel about a "Turn Off the Net" for a week?

heh. mefi tv snobs responding with denials that this would be a problem for them in 4, 3, 2, 1...
posted by t r a c y at 6:36 PM on April 20, 2004


Sassone also has some funny comments about it in his blog.
posted by braun_richard at 6:36 PM on April 20, 2004


Hey Ed, shut up, I can't hear the game.
posted by jonmc at 6:53 PM on April 20, 2004


I used the West Wing and Alias because they were two of the shows that the writer of the article mentioned; and The West Wing is often touted by such people as a paragon of intellectualism. Tracy, it wasn't my intent to claim that all TV is crap, merely that most of it is, and that in general, a good book is better than a good TV show. This isn't always true, there's some truly great TV out there. But it's often difficult to find, and it isn't what people are watching. I'm not trying to give a snobbish "books good TV bad" argument, what I'm trying to say is that it's a lot easier to find really good books than really good television; and that those good books contain a lot of things that TV watchers are missing out on.
posted by unreason at 6:55 PM on April 20, 2004


I took the plunge in 2004. I have cut my cable, so my 1000 dollar 32" TV runs static. It's April and I am still saying I need to sign up for NetFlix but have not done it yet. Somehow I am reading more, must because I am not drooling in front of the TV for the two hours.
It's an experiment on my part, can I do this and what am I really going to miss. Why? I was astounded by the number of people engaged by the reality tv shows, which I just don't understand - I look forward to this fad passing but then again I said that when "Is that your final fucking answer" was all over the map and here we are with people trying to "survive" in some remote location. Yeah, right - get wet and sandy with the SEALS and let's see how they survive. I would watch that!
My second reason is the costs for 60 channels of junk, when I want about 12 of those channels. The screams of the cable companies having to do this don't wash with me, but then again neither does the sales pitch for undercoating on a car.
posted by fluffycreature at 6:57 PM on April 20, 2004


I don't trust people who don't watch television.
posted by eyeballkid at 7:04 PM on April 20, 2004


wonder how everyone here would feel about a "Turn Off the Net" for a week?

Did it for 9 months. Also basically no computer usage for that time. What did I do instead? Watched TV. Was suicidally depressed. I don't think it was entirely coincidental.
posted by Hildago at 7:05 PM on April 20, 2004


I've watched healthy human beings get so enraptured by The Sopranos that they forget to feed their goldfish.

the sopranos is an hour in length. my fish require feedings 3 times a day. i think you're maybe being just a tad dramatic?

satapher, i love you forever.
posted by glenwood at 7:08 PM on April 20, 2004


Let's look at a TV show that TV advocates hold most dear: The West Wing.

Yes, let's. The West Wing is just Baywatch for people who think they care about politics. Pure pornography.

And yes, the only reason I don't have cable is because my life would be over at that point.
posted by majcher at 7:36 PM on April 20, 2004


Living in Berkeley, I feel more good might come from a National Put Down the Bong week, than TV Turn Off Week, for what it's worth.
posted by garethspor at 7:40 PM on April 20, 2004


Yes, let's. The West Wing is just Baywatch for people who think they care about politics. Pure pornography.


That's my point. "Intellectual" television for the most part isn't designed to be intellectual, it's designed to make the audience feel smart.
posted by unreason at 7:45 PM on April 20, 2004


I haven't owned a TV since college. I've lived with roommates that have had TV, but my TV watching has been basically nil since university.

I keep up with the news on the Intarweb, and I dont miss TV at all. Every week is TV Turnoff Week at my place. I love it!
posted by gen at 7:50 PM on April 20, 2004


[geek] I'd much rather have IP than TV. [/geek]
posted by gen at 7:51 PM on April 20, 2004


The best TV is the shit on Nick At Nite and TV Land.

Keep your fuckin' West Wings and ER's, just gimme my Musters, Get Smart, Green Acres, and I Love Lucy.

These shows give you the ultimate TV buzz, the overruning of hifalutin culture by unvarnished American rubitude in all it's wonderful glory.

They had no pretensions to be anything other than belly laughing inducing braincandy. After a long workday that's all most people want, and that's fine.
posted by jonmc at 7:53 PM on April 20, 2004


I don't think this thread should really be about books vs TV, but I like the point that Barbara Kingsolver makes in an essay I can't find at the moment, that a written source offers the reader a choice of which parts to skip, concentrate on, etc. If you already know about the lifecycle of a fern, you can just scan that chapter, or skip to the one about daisies, freeing up your time to cover more subjects or the same ones in greater detail. TV just doesn't offer the same flexibility and I don't think channel surfing counts, considering the way it gruesomely dismembers my attention span. I'm not a patient person, I want to get right to the parts that interest me.

All in all, the week w/o tv strikes me as more beneficial for families with kids, but any benefit will be determined by the activities that replace tv. Leaving the kids unsupervised and at loose ends on, say, a rainy day, probably isn't an effective replacement unless you're prepared to have them stuff the cat down the laundry shoot or make "pies" out of your Chanel bath powder. TV may not be good for kids' brains, but it keeps them quiet and in one place (neither of which seem like benefits to me, but then I'm not a harried mom). As my boyfriend's mother says "He was such a good baby. I could put him in front of the tv and leave him there for hours, he never fussed or cried."
posted by Pyth at 7:56 PM on April 20, 2004


Some people have low opinions of other people simply because they choose to use a television.
posted by John Shaft at 7:58 PM on April 20, 2004


The West Wing isn't supposed to teach you about politics. It's supposed to entertain you with sharp dialog and likable characters. It succeeds at that goal at least as well as most movies, live theater, books or familial/friendly conversations that you might be likely to have over the dinner table (at least it did until this season, I personally don't feel like the show is as good without Sorkin).

Television is entertaining.

Life is short. Soon, you will be dead. Enjoy your existence while you have it.

Some people don't enjoy TV. That's fine. There's lots of stuff to do on this planet. Nobody says you have to watch TV. I'm sure you can find something that you will enjoy.

However, while you might not like TV that means it's wrong for you -- not that it's wrong for everybody. That assumption that because you don't like it, it must be bad is offensive. It's pretentious, and when you try enlighten somebody for their own good or just brag about a personal preference, you look like an ass. It would be like me bragging that I don't eat mushrooms. Nobody fucking cares. Some people like them, some people don't. You can't assign an objective value to the entirely subjective experience of eating a mushroom. If you were to suggest a don't eat mushrooms week, people would rightly think you were crazy. Some people have some bug up their butts about TV though that allows them to take a subjective experience and assign objective, qualitative values to it.

Some people enjoy a sharply written drama, or a witty sit-com, or a familiar sit-com, or the voyeuristic charge you can get out of watching somebody eat something gross for money. There's nothing wrong with any of those things, and it's entirely possible that somebody who watches 60 hours of TV a week is enjoying themselves as much (and hence living as good a life) as you are when you build boats in bottles or read Chaucer in the original middle english.

To suggest otherwise makes you a giant, flaming, pretentious asshole. If that's what you want to be, fine. More power to you. You should know that's what you are though.
posted by willnot at 8:35 PM on April 20, 2004


Would I have to own a television to know who Bob Sassone is?
posted by subgenius at 9:09 PM on April 20, 2004


Eh, give me channels ala carte and I'll be able to justify the cost of watching TV again. Otherwise, I'm content to wait for DVDs.
posted by Sangre Azul at 9:16 PM on April 20, 2004


It's a show about a girl who is a spy who has a mother and father who are also spies

posted by unreason at 5:52 PM PST on April 20


see also Spy Kids, Spy Kids 2...
posted by Miles Long at 9:17 PM on April 20, 2004


...and am I the only one around here who watches The OC?!?
posted by garethspor at 9:29 PM on April 20, 2004


Why is this a separate thread?
posted by Vidiot at 10:08 PM on April 20, 2004


it's entirely possible that somebody who watches 60 hours of TV a week is enjoying themselves as much (and hence living as good a life) as you are when you build boats in bottles or read Chaucer in the original middle english.

Dzzzt. Survey says : dumbass!

I wouldn't have called you that if you hadn't have said this afterwards, though :

To suggest otherwise makes you a giant, flaming, pretentious asshole. If that's what you want to be, fine. More power to you. You should know that's what you are though.

Because, you see, there's a great big goatse-asshole-(pretentious or otherwise)-size hole in your thesis, willnot, and that is (what I can only assume to be) your unquestioning assumption that the (or even 'a') good life = enjoying yourself.

Get back to me on that, and I'll withdraw the 'dumbass' if you withdraw the 'asshole'. Maybe.

For extra points, would your stance be the same if I were to replace 'build boats in bottles or read Chaucer in the original middle english' with 'sail boats around the world or do charity work for homeless people in middle America'?

'cause, you know, that might be germane to the whole 'living as good a life' question too.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:50 PM on April 20, 2004


es, let's. The West Wing is just Baywatch for people who think they care about politics. Pure pornography.

Ok, see, now I'm going to switch camps for a minute and say that back when The West Wing was good, it was probably the best written television show that I am ever aware of having watched. And the fact that one man wrote every episode made it that much more unbelievable. Fuck the politics, it was just amazing to watch Aaron Sorkin set up 8 different point of interest and then make them fit inside each other, perfectly, in the last ten minutes of the show -- like Russian dolls, or properly-nested HTML. God DAMN.
posted by Hildago at 11:06 PM on April 20, 2004


You watch TV for the feeling of satisfaction it brings you. You sail boats around the world and help the homeless for the satisfaction it brings you.

It's the same thing.

You can make the argument that society should encourage one over the other because society benefits more from one over the other. You can even make the argument that where society thrives, the individual has a greater chance of thriving, so it might be in my best interests to do it (though that would require everybody being self-sacrificing to an extent that the world has never seen).

At the individual level though, it's the same thing. Each is as valid a choice as the other. It's also a false dichotomy since the choice is unlikely to be that of help the homeless or watch TV. It's more likely to be play a game or read a book or go for a walk or watch TV, and to suggest that one is better than the other is purely a matter of personal preference.
posted by willnot at 11:57 PM on April 20, 2004


Well, OK, but I'm not making an argument about how or whether society sees one activity as intrinsically better than another.

More, I was trying to start a fight (just kidding -- a discussion, I mean) about what The Good Life is, or even a good life, and challenging your statement that a life that is merely enjoyed, if you examine it, ain't.

It certainly is a personal preference as to what sort of life one wants to live, and the choices one makes about what one does while that life is happening carves out the rough shape of it. But to suggest that 'each choice is as valid as the other,' while unassailably true (and pretty much tautological, when you get down to it), is an entirely different conversation that the one about whether one 'valid choice' or another will actually lead to a good life.

It's the second conversation that interests me, at least in this thread, but probably one that would lead in circles, as these things usually do.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:01 AM on April 21, 2004


and challenging your statement that a life that is merely enjoyed, if you examine it, ain't.

Whoops. Replace that with 'suggesting that, in challenge to your statement that a life that is merely enjoyed is a good life, if you examine it, it ain't.'

Which is marginally more comprehensible, maybe.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:28 AM on April 21, 2004


So, er, who defines this high-falutin' capitalised "Good"? You seem to be suggesting that there's some difference between the subjective good of what somebody wants to do (ie, sit on their ass and stare at the idjit box) and an external, objective Good. But how do you define that? Are you talking the good of society, the good imposed by some sort of moral value system, some abstract Platonic quality, what? Don't get me wrong, on an emotional level, I kinda agree with you--TV watching seems to encourage people to passively absorb entertainment, as opposed to creating culture--but I'm guessing the logic ain't there to back you up.
posted by arto at 3:28 AM on April 21, 2004


To suggest television is addictive in the same way nicotine is addictive is absurd.

Thanks for your omniscience, God, but it ain't necessarily so. I never had a problem with nicotine, but I kicked the TV habit in 1996 because I had to reclaim my life.

Nowadays I can handle it in small doses at other people's houses, but I still walk out on violence porn regardless of social niceties.

Issues of addiction and self control go way beyond chemical substances, and denial and hypocrisy about it are rampant in our culture. (I am a USian.) (Not accusing anyone here specifically.)

I blame our recent political dysfunction (pre-emptive invasion, tolerance of lies) on the fearmongering and graphic violence delivered through the TV. Like lead water pipes were to the Roman Empire, TV is to us.
posted by anewc2 at 9:27 AM on April 21, 2004




I get the feeling that if I really did turn off my TV, a lot of people would be secretly disappointed that there was one less person to sneer at.
posted by Skot at 9:57 AM on April 21, 2004


You can make the argument that society should encourage one over the other because society benefits more from one over the other.

That's not the argument that's being made, however. Your premise is that watching tv and say, sailing, are equivalent because they can both be enjoyed. Flawed premise, because heroin can also be enjoyed. Self-mutilation can also be enjoyed, theoretically. People can enjoy things that aren't good for them, and whether or not it benefits society is unimportant. I'm not saying that heroin and television are equivalent -- what I am saying is that your premise can be contradicted by certain activities.

So, what we have to figure out is whether watching TV is bad for the individual. No, scratch that -- what we have to figure out is whether being addicted to television is bad for the individual. For the time being, we'll assume that sailing is not.

One way to tell if an activity is harmful is to cease it and see if your quality of life improves. Isn't this true? That's why I think people should stop watching television for a while (personally, I'd say longer than a week) and see how they feel. It's not all that difficult a proposition.

And: I never heard someone say, "well, sailing is OK, but I'd rather have be watching television."
posted by Hildago at 10:09 AM on April 21, 2004


I get the feeling that if I really did turn off my TV, a lot of people would be secretly disappointed that there was one less person to sneer at.

Who is sneering at you, or anybody? Honestly, the rudest people in the thread are the ones who are being defensive.
posted by Hildago at 10:11 AM on April 21, 2004


Who is sneering at you, or anybody? Honestly, the rudest people in the thread are the ones who are being defensive.

Hmmmm.

They could suck my balls for all I care. Sorry. I'm too busy living. And I value those two or so hours a day that television watchers devote to becoming a vapid, quiescent pod person.

TV keeps people I don't want to know off the streets and out of my way. What could possibly be wrong with that?


But hey. Sorry if I was rude.
posted by Skot at 10:21 AM on April 21, 2004


Watching television is less energetic than staring at a blank wall.
Look at at the shiny. Television sucks time.

All this protesting about people being 'superior' by not watching TV says more about the protestors attitudes and insequrities than the television abstainers, possibly.

Television addiction at Metafilter.
posted by asok at 10:25 AM on April 21, 2004


OK stavros - I'll have that fight discussion with you. I say that the best life is that life that maximizes joy during the all too brief period in which you have awareness of yourself as an individual.

Joy is by definition pleasant. Pleasant is in my experience better than unpleasant. Therefore it seems intuitively obvious to me that the life that maximizes joy is the best life. You say no, there's more, but you don't offer alternatives. What is the best life if not the life that maximizes joy?
posted by willnot at 10:48 AM on April 21, 2004


i havent had sex since i stopped watching television
posted by Satapher at 10:51 AM on April 21, 2004


What is the best life if not the life that maximizes joy?

A life that involves not being a junkie for starters. Nothing maximizes your joy more than smack, but I just can't envy the lives of the prostitute addicts that work my corner.

And thanks for the SciAm link creamed corn. I wanted to come back in here and post that. Television addiction is just as physical and measurable as nicotine addiction. The most important quote to take away from that article is:

What is more surprising is that the sense of relaxation ends when the set is turned off, but the feelings of passivity and lowered alertness continue. Survey participants commonly reflect that television has somehow absorbed or sucked out their energy, leaving them depleted. They say they have more difficulty concentrating after viewing than before. In contrast, they rarely indicate such difficulty after reading. After playing sports or engaging in hobbies, people report improvements in mood. After watching TV, people's moods are about the same or worse than before.
posted by badstone at 10:57 AM on April 21, 2004


Willnot, the best life is the one that has had the most joy? Does that mean a heroin addict has a better life than someone who works hard to provide a decent life for their family? Or what if someone finds their joy is in torturing cats? Does that mean the more cats they torture the better their life is?
posted by fenriq at 11:05 AM on April 21, 2004


i havent fallen in love since i decided to turn off my television.
posted by Satapher at 11:11 AM on April 21, 2004


Why is it that threads about television watching bear such a striking similarity to threads about vegetarianism?
posted by purplemonkie at 11:11 AM on April 21, 2004


That man has bad TV if he thinks Alias is a great show. That dreck makes me want to pick out my eyes and ears with a fork, but I won't as then I couldn't watch movies.
posted by dabitch at 11:12 AM on April 21, 2004


Say what you will about television, no other media can offer anything to compare to the experience of lying inert for six hours straight watching dvr-commercial-skipped Most eXtreme Elimination Challenge (that Takeshi's Castle remix). Of course you can only do that once, then you've seen all the episodes. You'll be saying "indeed" and "what a shame" in an dryly ironic tone for weeks.

Having done that, I'm just keeping my TV around in anticipation of watching the next America's Cup races. Mostly, it sucks.
posted by sfenders at 11:16 AM on April 21, 2004


Would I have to own a television to know who Bob Sassone is?

No, subgenius, just a fan of good writing.

Sorry for the snark, but your sarcastic post has this "if they are not famous, then it's not a valid opinion/good article/good link for Metafilter" attitude. (And btw, he's actually a pretty well known writer, especially on the web).

He's also a MeFi member I think.
posted by braun_richard at 11:19 AM on April 21, 2004


I think people can get a sense of satisfaction or joy out of providing for a family. I think people can often get greater gratification long-term by delaying immediate gratification. There's nothing wrong with doing that if you think that's going to bring you the most joy.

I've never tried heroin. It doesn't look very interesting to me personally, but if somebody thinks that they can maximize their joy in the 70 to 100 years they have (or maybe the 20 to 30 they might actually get with hard core heroin use), then why shouldn't they do that?

What is the alternative? The alternative to the life with the most joy must be a life with less joy. So you have to get something else in return that is better than what you give up. I can't imagine what that might be.
posted by willnot at 11:23 AM on April 21, 2004


None of you people better come across Sydney Bristow on the street. Alias is simply an updating of old dime serials. It's fun. That is all. It's not supposed to be important.

The West Wing is just Baywatch for people who think they care about politics. Pure pornography.

Seems to me genre films/ shows work on the porno format: some buildup, money shot, release. The trick is finding a genre you like. I don't know there's anything wrong with however you choose to get an endorphin release (or what-have-you) in the privacy of your own home.
posted by yerfatma at 11:34 AM on April 21, 2004


braun_richard, check out the 3rd to last bullet point here.
posted by badstone at 11:34 AM on April 21, 2004


i havent eaten a good meal since i decided to pawn my television.
posted by Satapher at 11:40 AM on April 21, 2004


Glad to see you've stuck to your guns over the years Satapher. you totally rule.
posted by badstone at 11:59 AM on April 21, 2004


thanks ace! right back atcha! sorry to ruin your black and white affairs... ill let you get back to grey hairs.
posted by Satapher at 12:25 PM on April 21, 2004


At first glance, I read that headline as "Bob Saget's response to...". I would've read that, I think.
posted by john m at 12:30 PM on April 21, 2004


Why is it that threads about television watching bear such a striking similarity to threads about vegetarianism?

throw in anti-suv (or pro-biking, anti-car) threads and you've got yourself a nice trifecta.

mefi seems like a fairly libertarian bunch. anytime you start talking about stopping or decreasing actions that some of us might find extremely detrimental to society, somebody on the other side is gonna push that issue off the slippery slope and assume that you want to outlaw said detrimental actions.

or they feel like they're being scolded for behavior that 90%+ of the population believes is perfectly fine.

however, while it's possible to argue that meat-eating and personal combustible engines are not sustainable on a planet with 6 billion people, TV is harder to argue against b/c it's its purest form (delivering information through airwaves) its a beautiful concept. in practice, it's pretty ugly.

(from personal anecdotal evidence) TV is definitely addictive and it has diminished the social aspect of our culture. some might see that as a good thing, others not. in my view, a comparison to Huxley's soma is not a bad one. (i'd be taking that soma like crazy, btw.)

nothing Bob Sassone has to say convinces me that TV Turnoff Week is a bad thing. i'm not participating (b/c i'm so high and mighty i don't think i need to miss the Giants games), but i have b4.

I don't trust people who don't watch television.

i'm not sure if that's a joke or not, but i'd be much more inclined to trust a random non-TV watcher than any random TV watcher. how many Americans think Iraq blew up the WTC? what do you think the percentages of TV watchers and non-TV watchers are who believe that? i'm curious (b/c there are surely a lot of wackos who don't watch TV). i'd be inclined to think non-TV watchers are better informed, but i honestly don't know.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:02 PM on April 21, 2004


Why is it that threads about television watching bear such a striking similarity to threads about vegetarianism?
They fill the same psychological niche that fire-and-brimstone preaching occupies, in the religious.
posted by darukaru at 1:07 PM on April 21, 2004


Why is it that threads about television watching bear such a striking similarity to threads about vegetarianism?

throw in anti-suv (or pro-biking, anti-car) threads and you've got yourself a nice trifecta.


What? I can't hear you over the steak sizzling on my dashboard grill in my Hummer and the laughtrack from Sanford & Son on the in dash TV...
posted by jonmc at 1:16 PM on April 21, 2004


I guess one difference is that you rarely hear anyone saying something like "Those damn TV turn-off idiots make me so mad, I'm gonna go home and sit on the couch in my Cheetos crumbs-covered tighty-whiteys watching nothing but 'BJ and the Bear' reruns for two weeks straight, just to spite them."
posted by purplemonkie at 1:34 PM on April 21, 2004


my Cheetos crumbs-covered tighty-whiteys

If the Internet has taught us anything, it's that someone has that fetish.
posted by yerfatma at 2:02 PM on April 21, 2004


didn't we have this conversation yesterday?
posted by sharpener at 2:10 PM on April 21, 2004


or maybe the day before...?
posted by sharpener at 2:13 PM on April 21, 2004


I don't remember, sharpener--I was hyp-mo-tized by the glowing box in my living room. ; >
posted by amberglow at 3:49 PM on April 21, 2004


yerfatma, the sad thing is that there probably are Cheetos fetishists out there who drool for fat slobs in orange encrusted briefs. Luckily the chance of them procreating are pretty minimal but still. Its just sad.

Its even sadder that, because of the explosion of niche fetishes, the used to be fringe stuff like barefoot women stepping on bugs is almost mainstream pron.

I should note that foot fetishes completely escape me, feet are ugly. Feet squishing bugs are worse.
posted by fenriq at 4:11 PM on April 21, 2004


So, er, who defines this high-falutin' capitalised "Good"? You seem to be suggesting that there's some difference between the subjective good of what somebody wants to do (ie, sit on their ass and stare at the idjit box) and an external, objective Good. But how do you define that? Are you talking the good of society, the good imposed by some sort of moral value system, some abstract Platonic quality, what?

arto, I don't know. I was asking, see. Wondering what might pop up.

willnot : Fair enough. Others have answered in the way I would have, before we got back to our steady diet of semi-amusing jokes.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:30 PM on April 21, 2004


But hey. Sorry if I was rude.

Ok, point conceded. Yet, careful observations indicate bidirectional vitriol.
posted by Hildago at 4:57 PM on April 21, 2004


On the question of why the choice of watching TV might be problematic:

Maybe it's OK to always do whatever gives you the most pleasure, although of course that's not all there is to life. But, even conceding that point, certain actions that give you pleasure could be harmful to society or to other individuals.

As a hypothetical, if an implant that directly stimulates the pleasure sensors of the brain is developed and people begin hooking themselves up to it we might not have a problem at first. But as such addicts grow in number, problems would arise, especially if they began to change the world to suit their needs at the expense of others. Slowly, overtime, those that didn't choose the simple mastrubatory type of pleasure that the implant provides would find their choices increasingly more difficult.

A lot of people believe that TV is a similar thing. Check out that wonderful link ed posted earlier - TV really is changing the way people approach the world. Not every particular person - some watch only educational programming - but the mass of the US public is affected. And this affects the world as a whole, and in particular the ability of many individuals to make their (now less-popular) choices that bring them pleasure.

This is not an indictment of all people that watch TV, and especially not of any specific person. However, the mass culture of television is insidiously and subtly harmful to many individuals and to our world.
posted by yoz420 at 5:37 PM on April 21, 2004


A lot of people believe that TV is a similar thing.

Anyone who believes a TeeVee is analagous to an implant that constantly fires the pleasure center of the brain should turn the damn thing on some weekday. That will quickly disabuse anyone of that notion.

certain actions that give you pleasure could be harmful to society or to other individuals.

No. Not watching tv. It's not worthy of that kind of discussion. If you're worrying that much about the Beast in the Living Room, you've got problems that go far beyond my tv viewing habits. Just shut the damn thing off and do something else. It's not rotting society any more than jungle music, women's ankles or any other societal ill.
posted by yerfatma at 6:54 PM on April 21, 2004


Every time I turn on someone's TV, I become so disturbed that I switch it immediately off . I have a TV, but I only use it to watch videos on. The reception in my area sucks anyway. I have a TV antenna on my roof too. It came with the house - but I somehow can't overcome my innate inertia to hook up that antenna to my TV.

As a teenager, I used to watch an awful lot of TV (now I have hobbies other than TV watching. Not better ones, perhaps. Just different.)

Around the time, I developed an obsession with carrots. I would eat 1-2 pounds a day. Eventually I turned yellow-orange. One day, at dinner, my siblings noticed - "hey! - you look kind of orange!" - I looked in the mirror, and it was true!

I laid off the carrots.
posted by troutfishing at 9:11 PM on April 21, 2004


yerfatma - what's "jungle music" ?
posted by troutfishing at 9:13 PM on April 21, 2004


It's what they originally called Rock and Roll, no?
posted by amberglow at 9:16 PM on April 21, 2004


certain actions that give you pleasure could be harmful to society or to other individuals.

More to the point, many actions that give you pleasure are harmful in themselves. Our sense of what's pleasurable is not at all a reliable indicator of what's good for you. If it were, we wouldn't have smoking, drinking, gambling, or McDonalds.

The large part of the harm to society at large done by these things is the cumulative effect of all the harm they do to the people that indulge in them.

In the case of television, I'd say the harm isn't all that great. In large doses (ie. 3-4 hours a day, which I read somewhere was about average) the medium itself probably does have a large influence on one's way of perceiving and thinking about the world, but it's not necessarily a really bad one. The stuff that most people watch also has plenty of destructive memetic content, but that's only a problem if one already has a problem with critical thought.

It also has the effect of employing millions of people and billions of dollars in the service of television-based marketing (which includes 98.37% of all programming.) That may or may not be a bad thing, depending on your point of view. If you're an economist or a marketer you probably think it's a good thing. On the other hand, all the (three) people with whom I've conversed on this subject who work in the advertising industry itself, actually making the ads, seem to think the world would be better off if their industry didn't exist.

It wouldn't exist if people didn't go for it. Television is easier, cheaper, and more entertaining than other things people used to do for fun; hence we get more television, and less other things to do that involve interacting with other people. However, it hasn't taken over to the point where there aren't other things left to do, so I'd call it more a symptom of something than a problem in itself.
posted by sfenders at 9:55 PM on April 21, 2004


TV. Something I watch to fill time between dinner and bed, when my eyes are too tired to focus on a book or a monitor.

Good TV: The justification for television is (takes gold envelope and tears it open)
M*A*S*H

Laugh to tears to laughs in less than 30 minutes. Amazing.

Westwing: I noticed no one showing a hint of understanding of the artform. Mind, some of the posts were the size of novellas, and got skipped. Westwing at least WAS good. (I've not watched since season 2, I think). But you have to consider it at the gut level.

Turning it off: Not a bad idea at all, but I wouldn't know what else to do in those 2 hours. As I said, I use TV as a means to escape the computer. But then, I didn't grow up on a TV-only diet, I'm older than that tendency. And when I became a teen, I discovered books were a great way to avoid talking to parents!!
posted by Goofyy at 7:59 AM on April 22, 2004


Goofyy - That's an awful lot of screen time. What about a staring at different sorts of things, non-screen things - like trees, plants, living creatures.....?

sfenders - TV watching is one of the top Alzheimer's risk factors - it's passive, doesn't seem to involve much learning, and seems to correlate with weight gain, general un-fitness, and circulatory problems.

"It wouldn't exist if people didn't go for it. Television is easier, cheaper, and more entertaining than other things people used to do for fun" - Well, I beg to differ. But, anyway - better than sex and violence? Or smashing rocks together against other rocks? Better than fighting for one's life? Better than clean air, pure water, organically grown free ranging food and death from septicemia? ; }

Drop the Lotus Flower and sail home, Odysseus - Your life is waiting!
posted by troutfishing at 8:27 AM on April 22, 2004



fenriq: Its even sadder that, because of the explosion of niche fetishes, the used to be fringe stuff like barefoot women stepping on bugs is almost mainstream pron.

i would disagree vehemently. the rise of "niche porn" has corresponded with the rise in overall porn--there's surely lots more non-foot porn out there as well.

and now, those previously marginalized groups of fetishists have a community and outlet for their sexual orientation, which they likely previously believed was abnormal, wrong, immoral, sinful, etc. it's good to find out you're not alone.

if you want to be the guy who tells everyone else how to have sex, go for it. i'm not sure we'll listen, though.

posted by mrgrimm at 10:33 AM on April 22, 2004


So, what would it take to show that television had harmful effects on individuals or on society?
posted by Hildago at 10:40 AM on April 22, 2004


TV watching is one of the top Alzheimer's risk factors - it's passive, doesn't seem to involve much learning, and seems to correlate with weight gain, general un-fitness, and circulatory problems.

So it's about as hazardous as you would expect sitting around doing nothing to be, and a lot less bad for you than, say, driving.

Okay, being lazy and unfit is not a good way to go through life. And sure there's a correlation of bad health with television watching. But like I said, I think that's not likely to be a sign of causation. If someone is not mentally disciplined enough to do any kind of physical excercise, has no healthy hobbies (like metafilter, skee-ball, poker, or fishing) to keep busy, and has a tendency to do the easiest, least-energetic thing around, whatever it is... then they'll naturally watch television a lot. TV is not what's causing those problems, it's just gives people an easy way to avoid dealing with them. There are plenty of other ways to do that, many of them worse (large quantities of beer, to name a popular one.) So giving up this one may not be all that helpful.

harmful effects on individuals or on society?

So I think the commonly-cited harmful effects on individuals are over-stated. The psychological effects of the dreamtime-trance tribe-mind state that it induces are often underestimated, and probably account for its semi-addictive properties. But I'm still not convinced that the effect is directly harmful (to adults, anyway).

On society as a whole, it does have the effect of reinforcing the dominant cultural paradigm, since everyone is basically watching the same thing. Where the internet brings out the weird sexual fetishists among us, TV does the opposite; it brings us together, moves everyone a little towards the minimally-offensive common ground.
posted by sfenders at 12:24 PM on April 22, 2004


This thread makes me want to buy a TV just so I can turn it off.
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:48 PM on April 22, 2004


i definitely agree with your last graph, sfenders, and it's both the most dangerous and most appealing part about TV, i.e. e unibus pluram. why else would i watch a movie on TV that i already own? crazy stuff.

however, it's hard to think that the deleterious effects on diversity of opinion are worth the shared sense of national/global community.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:54 PM on April 22, 2004


Or smashing rocks together against other rocks?

btw, I've often enjoyed doing that. Fun! In particular I remember last summer. My dad has a boat, and we went to this anchorage that's somewhat hard to find. Used to be we were about the only ones who knew about it, but the popularity of kayaks has made it a bit more crowded; we saw at least half a dozen people over the course of the week! Far too crowded for my dad, the old curmudgeon, so he had me go knock down the pile of rocks someone had carefully constructed to mark the entrance. I can think of nothing better than heading out in a Zodiac on a mission to get some rocks and throw them into the lake; but it's not exactly the kind of thing that comes along every day.

Maybe the real problem is not television, but that we spend so much time indoors.
posted by sfenders at 2:11 PM on April 22, 2004


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