I hate to admit it – I really do, but in the interest of full disclosure to the masses of strangers that, of course, read my blog religiously, it must be done!!
Here is goes … I have been watching a lot of TV lately … I mean, A LOT! A couple of clarifying points are needed here: one – I’m technically not watching TV, seeing as how I don’t actually own one; I am, rather, watching – in rapid succession – season after season of Veronica Mars on my computer, courtesy of the network execs who realized that they could make SO much more money if they could get people to buy multiple series on DVD. Two: I have been working furiously to get an art piece done by last Saturday for my nephew’s birthday gift – the project ended up taking about 100 hours, and exactly two weeks before the party I was only about 40 hours into it; as most of this work is anally repetitive I generally do it with a show playing in the background. So … yes, a lot of TV watching!
The purpose of this post is not, however, to reveal my secret shame – no, no my friends – but rather to add my two-cents to a long-standing debate: do the things we watch affect us? You know the one I’m talking about; it goes something like:
Person one: “I think watching violent movies and playing violent video games makes kids more prone to violence.”
Person two: “I think your stupid face makes me more prone to violence!”
Oh yes, a civil debate if ever there was one. Perhaps my stance on the matter is obvious from my grossly simplified characterization of the debate itself, but let me take you through my journey of choosing sides …
Like I said, this journey involved a lot of TV watching in a very short period of time: 2.5 seasons in 1.5 weeks … yup, yup, a lot of TV! I think it is this very circumstance, however, that intensified an effect already taking place – that being that the entertainment that we choose to partake in, perhaps especially the shows/movies/games/etc. that we choose to watch very much effect our everyday lives – but one that is generally subtle enough that we often don’t make the correlation between what’s happening in our own personal lives to the effect entertainment has on us.
I don’t know how many of your are familiar with the show Veronica Mars – it’s basically about a girl detective who picked up her skills working for her private-investigator father. She tries to solve the mystery of who killed her best friend, who killed a bus of kids, who raped the girls on campus, etc., lolley-pop licking fluffy-bunny, uplifting topics all, I assure you! As with all shows aimed at the high school/college crowd, it’s full of high emotion, passion and angst … ahhhh television! I just recently, within the last couple of days, began to notice a correlation between my mood, emotions and interactions and what was happening on the show – a correlation that at first I denied, then was weirded out by, and finally knocked my on my ass because of the implications. I have always been a fence-sitter on this “effect of entertainment” debate, not because I haven’t noticed the correlation before, but because it was subtle enough I could easily pass it off as something else, but this experience was so dramatic and obvious that the connection, for me, could no longer be ignored. I began to notice that if I stopped watching the show when the main character was angry about something – which happens a lot, you have to keep the people coming back to find out what happens! – I was much more likely to be irritable and cranky; if the main character was dealing with the fallout from a particular sexual encounter (which is dealt with throughout the show), I would find myself dragging up issues from a similar, but not exactly the same, encounter that have been dealt with years ago and are really best laid to rest; if she was having problems in her relationships, I would be more irritable with my partner, and alternately if things were going well I would be more understanding and happier. All of this from a show that, although I find interesting, I barely (consciously) paid attention to – it was noise in the background, a way to keep time; how was I to know that my brain was absorbing the emotions from the show and forcing me to act them out in my own life?
Like I said earlier, I think this affect was exacerbated by the amount of time I spent watching the show, but I don’t think it was caused by the amount of time spent. I really have to conclude that all those times in the past when I thought to myself, “hmmm … I don’t understand what’s wrong! I felt fine an hour ago!” after watching a show is much more than coincidence, but rather my response to what I’m seeing. I have to believe that this is true for the greater population as well, but – again – the affects are so subtle that it can be difficult to see the relationship. I have to wonder, as well, about the specific affect on children.
At 26 I didn’t at first realize what was happening – I accepted my emotions as my own and never questioned if they might be a figment of television. Imagine, if you will, a pre-teen who has grown up in American society – watching violent television, cartoons, movies, playing violent games. How is this child supposed to separate her own emotions from the “figment” emotions? When do those “figment” emotions honestly become his own? Are our brains actually wired to separate television “reality” from actual reality? Certainly I have not experienced the violent murder of a best friend, then think her brother/my ex-boyfriend killed her, then realize – when he tries to kill me too – that it was actually the father of my best-friend’s then/my current boyfriend, then experienced the violent murder of a bus full of children which I think is my fault and that someone has a hit out on me, and then experienced multiple attempted/successful rapes all within the span of 3 years, and all the accompanying emotions associate with such experiences … I doubt many people have, but I imagine that if my best friend was going through everything I just detailed – everything that the main character of Veronica Mars, or any other television show experienced – it would affect my life in some of the same ways the show actually did. Perhaps our brains haven’t evolved to distinguish the difference between entertainment and reality yet, and if this is true, perhaps the loads of money spent on counseling and drugs for violent, troubled, “misbehaved” children is misdirected. Could it be as simple as turning off the TV?
Image courtesy of this website.