Tube Boob

I spotted an article on Pandagon this morning that reviewed yet another book about how TV is causing the downfall of American childhood/culture/whatever through those pesky commercials, among other things, and was stunned by the number of commenters who were wholesale anti-TV, and who, moreover, had the strange idea that TV and books cannot coexist.

This is really, really stupid.

To say that I’m a compulsive reader is slightly misleading; it implies someone who has more money or time than I have to go out and acquire new books. I am a compulsive rereader, though. By which I mean, if I’m home, I’m either reading on the computer or I have a book in my hand. Long bath? Book in my hand. Going to sleep? Book in my hand. And not once in my many years of life has this impeded my ability to watch vast amounts of TV.

See, my mother is a crime show buff. When I was three, I could have told you what a cockatoo was because of Freddy on Baretta. Later on, I had a special dispensation to stay up late and watch Remington Steele (and still remember my disappointment when Murphy left after the first season, because I was into blonds when I was 7, but that is another story).

And then we got cable.  All four (at the time) movie channels plus Disney when it was premium, before original content beyond the occasional HBO movie, when all they had was the same movies everyone else had.  I have seen The Secret of NIMH over 50 times (read the book, hated the book–Justin gets exterminated) and an obscure Disney movie like Child of Glass well over ten times (read the book by Richard Peck, hated it, even though it was the prequel to one of my favorites at the time).

See what I’m doing there?  I’m reading books because I’ve been watching tons of TV.

All this is not in aid of making sure this blog consists entirely of posts in which I trace the state of something through my whole life (thank heavens).  It’s in aid of suggesting that people, when they look at TV and kids, are not always looking at the right problems.  What seems to be missing from discussions of whether this or that phenomenon is brainwashing The Children is any sense at all that cultural input should be regarded as interconnected.  That if a movie is based on a book, the book might be worth checking out.  That if you like mob movies, it might be worth reading Donnie Brasco to see what the Mafia was really like.  That if you spot a reference to a song or a movie in a book you like, you should give it a try.

I have no idea whether kids today regard TV as an influence unconnected to anything but buying more toys, but critics of the medium certainly do.  Maybe the kids are not the problem here…

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