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Ed Waffle

I hate television.

41 posts in this topic

I hate television.

Not because there is never anything good on it--we never know what is on because we don't watch TV. The only reason we even own one is for those time when it seems one has to watch--like a war, assassination or other calamity.

But it is impossible to get away from television. It is too much a part of the culture to avoid. I hate its ubiquity and the way its stupid catch phrases have become a subsitute for a common language, at least in the United States.

The most recent example is from a review of Cannes excerpted by Alexandra. Part of that review said:

the year that every critic became an incarnation of the Comic Book Guy on "The Simpsons," pronouncing the 56th edition of Cannes the worst festival ever.

I have never seen the Simpsons, although, of course, I know that they are a cartoon family. But the assumption is that everyone watches TV, everyone watches the Simpsons and everyone who reads the New York Times knows the Comic Book Guy.

I don't know who he is and and don't care to find out.

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i sympathise, ed.

however, with the utmost respect for YOUR point of view, i'm afraid that *I* LOVE TELEVISION!

;)

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Originally posted by Ed Waffle

I have never seen the Simpsons, although, of course, I know that they are a cartoon family. But the assumption is that everyone watches TV, everyone watches the Simpsons and everyone who reads the New York Times knows the Comic Book Guy.

I'm sorry that you feel that way Ed, but writers are always making references to other sources. They've been doing that for a long long time. It's like allusions in literature. The article was written for today's society, and many people do watch the Simpsons and will know what it's talking about.

If I may, may I correct you on that the Simpsons is an "animated sitcom"? I know you probably care less either way, but I feel like I have to make that statement.:D

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Originally posted by Old Fashioned

The article was written for today's society, and many people do watch the Simpsons and will know what it's talking about.

I realize that knowing how the Comic Book Guy in The Simpsons thinks about things in 2003 is pretty much the same as wondering if Little Nell was going to survive in The Old Curiosity Shop in 1841.

There is probably a grumpy person who complains about everything in The Simpsons, and he is probably a lot like me. :D :D

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Ed, I agree. There has to be a difference between a society whose communal frame of reference was the Greek myths and one whose communal frame of reference is anything on television! (I don't hate TV per se, I'm mistrustful of its influence. Nothing wrong with watching anything on it, as long as one knows the difference between something on prime time networks or cable and art, or literature. Of course, that difference is no longer being taught, and I really think the impetus behind that is that if you don't ever tell them that filet mignon is better, don't ever let them taste it, you'll sell a heck of a lot more hamburgers.)

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Don't feel alone, Ed, I don't care for The Simpsons either; now InuYasha....;)

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Ed and Alexandra, why do you hate TV? Because it's pervasive, because it's ubiquitous??? Isn't that just being snobbish - like Groucho Marx (or Woody Allen??:D ) saying they wouldn't join a club that would accept them as a member. What is so innately elevated about the Greek myths or about ancient Greek society? I agree that you can't call someone well-educated (in the Western, dead white male sense) without that person being familiar with the Greek myths - however in the context of the period in which they were transferred into written form, I surely wouldn't have wanted to be a Spartan nor would I have wanted to be a woman or a slave in the Athenian 'democracy'. You just have to read Lysistrata to know that.:D

I also disagree, Ed, with your list of times that one has to watch TV. War, terrorist attacks, suicide bombs, assasinations - those are the times when we should try not to watch TV, when we should try to understand what's going on as individuals and not see only the picture that is most suitable or appropriate or palatable to the masses. That's when the pervasity and ubiquity of TV is really dangerous - when we all have just the one memory of an event. Obviously, I don't follow my own advice - I share everyone's indelible memories of many tragic events (and a few happy ones). But that's just the point - these memories belong to everyone and therefore to noone.

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TV gets me crazy. I turned mine off in '91. I still own one and use it to view and edit dance tapes, but that's it (in Manhattan, I don't get any reception anyway so there's little temptation without cable.)

Why does TV make me crazy? The bottom line is, as structured in the US, TV is set up to support itself by selling you stuff. The more stuff you buy, the more money they make on TV. If it doesn't sell advertising, it doesn't stay on TV.

People used to use irony as a defense against the idiocy of network television. Then they discovered that irony sells. Now we're deluged in glib irony.

TV wouldn't bother me so much if it weren't commercial. I'm not even going to try and defend myself against charges of snobbery ;)

Germane to this issue [though veering into politics, my apologies], the FCC has just voted to remove more restrictions against cross-ownership in markets. Arguably, this could lead to mass communication ownership in even fewer hands, something that I think will unfortunately make the information (especially news) on TV of even lower quality.

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All intellectual snobs welcome here. :D

Does one really still have to make a case for why the Greek myths (or Indian, Persian, Chinese, Japanese, Norse, Roman myths) served art for so long? First, because they did provide a common frame of reference. If one needed to show Wisdom, the gods offered Minerva, or Odin. And second, because what high art has that popular art does not is layers -- layers of meaning, symbolism, etc. etc. etc.

If people want to watch tv -- and they obviously do -- fine. But I just saw a serious attempt to make a classical ballet by someone whose frame of reference reached no further than sit coms. And that's not the road to anything that lasts.

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I make adverts for a living and I don't even have a TV at home! I don't have TV per se, The Simpsons is very good, I miss seeing the news sometimes, other programmes... But there are too many other things to do I've found I don't have enough time for, without 'vegging out' every night as well.

I need to watch adverts though, so I get them at work and watch them in secret. No one at work knows that I don't watch TV.;)

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I'm sure there are wonderful things on TV. And just as soon as I get done reading all the Great Books, reading all the great commentaries on them, then reading the original books again, I'm going to find out what those programs are!

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I watch quite a bit of TV. No apologies.

The advertisers subsidize the programming, which is why we have commercials. As in many other areas of life, it's a tradeoff, with its good and bad points.

As a member of the lower class vulgarian hordes, I for one would not like to contemplate life without the occasional re-viewing of the Nairobi Trio....

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I love TV

If it weren't for it, I might not have read half of "Oprah's" books, knew what people were talking about when they referred to "Soup Nazi", or learned that you really can't see the Great Wall of China from space.

I admit to watching must see TV, American Idol and lots of MTV. If anything, I feel a bit smarter b/c of it.

TV, the 'net, radio...it's mass media. We'll never get away from it. They're part of our classrooms. My mom used to yell at me for playing video games, now they've released a study saying they're not all that bad, but I'm still respectful enough not to tell her.

I just finished reading "The DaVinci Code" and there's a discussion between characters and they talk about Disney and how the films are loaded with meaning and symbolism (Snow White, eats the apple and dies...a la Eve)

So I think popular art can have the same qualities as high art, sometimes it may not be as obvious.

I think people are to quick to dismiss tv as bad.

Just like there's bad tv shows, there's horrific high art.

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I agree with you, Calliope. This reminds me of when I went to Columbia J-school. In our TV news class, our professor went around the room and asked what peopole watched on TV. "Kathy?" "I don't watch television, I reeeaaad...." "Jack?" "I only watch the News Hour?" "Dale?" "Like, Oh, great, let me see, I love Beavis and Butthead, all the shows on Nick at Night and TV Land, lots of Sports, Seinfield, the Simpsons, the Young Ones...." "Ok, we get the idea."

Why is it more exalted to sit in a movie theater for 90 minutes-2 hours and stare at a screen, but to do it at home with the TV and you're considered witless? As Calliope said, yes, we're being sold to on network tv and there's lots of crap, but there's crap out in films, theater, ballet, etc...

What do I watch now? I have to say I have never, ever watched reality tv shows. I just don't like them. But, I have a passion for the Sopranos, OZ, Sex and the City, the first 4 seasons of Law@Order, Frontline (on PBS), sports (although I can't stand the announcers anymore), and the Gilmore Girls (a passion a share with a certain Ballet Alerter). In addition to Gilligan's Island and some other old shows on TV land and the Food Network-typle stuff (love Nigella Lawson). Although I do watch certain news shows, I can't take the talking-head syndrome - no new news, but just rehashing and speculation.

That said, I take Ed's point, not everybody watches the Simpsons and it is strange that a NYTimes writer would just assume everyone would be able to make the connection with a side character from the show. The use of popular references has just gone overboard (although the Gilmore Girls use them, they also make references to history, music and literature).

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Originally posted by Ed Waffle

But it is impossible to get away from television. It is too much a part of the culture to avoid. I hate its ubiquity and the way its stupid catch phrases have become a subsitute for a common language, at least in the United States. But the assumption is that everyone watches TV, everyone watches the Simpsons and everyone who reads the New York Times knows the Comic Book Guy.

This is true of all aspects of popular culture, including pop music and mainstream films. I'm at a similar disadvantage, Ed, because I don't follow this kind of stuff either. Actually, I think it's more insulting to assume that everyone likes rock music; it offends me more than dumb TV. I saw Movin' Out last weekend and found the Billy Joel songs to be unbearable caterwauling — and he's far from the worst out there. And it irritates me that the actors who are lionized by the media are often just good-looking celebrities with a hunger for fame, not serious artists. But it's a fact that more people are familiar with crummy pop culture than even good pop culture, and when you're trying to communicate, it's effective.

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I agree with Ari. If people want to watch TV fine -- and the point that there's good pop art and bad high art has been made over and over on these forums in several contexts; same goes here. It's the relentlessness of it, and the assumption that if someone hums a few bars of a pop song, everyone will be able to sing the rest of it -- and the reverse snobbery. That if you say, "I'm reading the Divine Comedy" (I'm not, but just to give an example) the response is likely to be, "Well, la de dah" or something of that sort. This is the same attitude that stifles the drive of students not to succeed, mocking them for getting As.

The point is not what people like or dislike but the way pop culture in America has wormed its way into everything, leaving no nuclear free zone.

I'm editing to add: I don't think anyone is trying to put down someone who likes The Simpsons or (I think this is off the air; it used to be my example of the Death of Civilization) "Married with Children"). And of course, it's possible to watch and enjoy television and still watch and enjoy art.

My complaint -- and I think it's Ed's, and some others as well -- is having to live in a society where that IS the culture. It's not the counterculture anymore, or even pop culture. It's American culture. Every civilization gets the culture it deserves....... And I do fear that, like children brought up on Wonder Bread who will scorn either the finest French bread or peasant black bread because it's too tough and dry, as each succeeding generation becomes more blanketed by popular culture, and as the arts try to attract those people as audience members, fine art is going to become so diluted and coarse as to be meaningless. My plea is for some little corner of the society to be Not Pop Art.

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1. I'm sensing an age divide here (but I'm willing to be proven wrong). Perhaps those of us who have TV references older than us (as I said in my earlier post, I have these pre-birth memories of the Moon Landing) find the TV medium easier both to digest and to ignore and therefore it is less irritating and 'in your face' for us.

2. There is some excellent stuff on TV. You have to look hard for it but - Buffy the Vampire Slayer is an epic work of art (IMO and the 6th season has only just begun to be broadcast on Israeli cable TV), BBC's early '90s 2-season series 'This Life' was wonderful.

I don't think Sex and the City, Gilmore Girls, WEst Wing are on this level but they are well-crafted entertainment - I agree with Dale, why would watching them be any less 'worthy' than going to see a mainstraeam Hollywood movie...

3. A true confession - I didn't 'get' the reference to the Comic Book Guy:o

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But isn't it pop(ular) culture?

What isn't nowadays? Botticelli's on mousepads, Pachebel's Canon is sampled in rap songs.

But each generation has it's own pop culture. In the 60's there was Archie Bunker and now there's Homer Simpson (there's actually websites dedicated to their similarities-which is a little much)

The turnaround of the pop culture is what's mind boggling. In the magazines that have "in, out and so gone" type articles.

Society seems to have a need to have to keep getting constant and new stimuli.

For me, I wish ballet would stop looking for the next Balanchine and focus on what we he is listed in the "so gone" column. But it's society's want/need for new & improved. Technology, cars, even classrooms. I don't know that kids are not getting A's because they feel peer pressure, but there's a pressure of being street smart and book smart. Some kids don't feel they have a choice between the two. Some prefer to be "stoopid smart"

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Calliope, I didn't really understand what you meant about "stoopid smart". Can you clarify.

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I think there's an age divide here -- although I know several people in their 20s who share my views on pop culture! -- and also a geographic one. I don't think Europe bathes in pop culture the way Americans do. The last time I was in Denmark, the TV doesn't even come on until evening. I saw a quiz show there once. It was a word game, between two players, who used legal pads and pencils. There was a moderator and a young girl with every Danish dictionary at her disposal to check entries. The winner got.....a handshake from his opponent and looked very happy about it. I think Leigh's right -- here, it's all about money and commercialism.

But I grew up in the '60s, and pop culture was not nearly as pervasive as it is now. One could easily ignore it. (I write as a Beatles fan; you had to dig through newspapers to find anything about pop music. Hah! The stars' love affairs were not on the evening news, but in movie magazines. Etc.)

I heard an interview with a Singapore pop singer about five years ago that sticks with me. He was vehemently anti-American. He was a classically trained musician (violin) who switched to pop music for two reasons. One, because he didn't want to play for small audiences -- he wanted to reach everybody. And two, because if people in Singapore, and other Asian countries, didn't try to create their own pop culture, they would be forced to always buy American culture, which, he felt was vile, and against Asian traditions. (He also thought the government should fund native pop culture and musicals rather than the traditional arts because "the old people will take care of them anyway.")

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Just for fun, I went to Yahoo and looked up the local TV listings for Washington, D.C. Here they are. (For our non-American posters/readers to have a context for what we're talking about.)

I've been so out of it I've completely missed "Dog Eat Dog." I hope that's not literal, but ya never know. the numbers before the listings are the channels on my cable system, then they're in time order. If there are three listings it's 8, 9 and 10. If they're more, they're half-hour shows. Hope that makes sense. I guess TV 14 and TVPG are ratings -- (14 and up only, Parental Guidance). Channels 6, 8 and 13 are our PBS (public broadcasting) channels. Odd, they're not doing 2 hours of "Antique Roadshow," our usual fare, tonight.

4. Dog Eat Dog CC TVPG Miss Universe Pageant CC TV14

5 · FOX American Juniors Premiere CC Keen Eddie Premiere CC TV14 Fox 5 News at Ten

6 · PBS Globe Trekker CC Nova CC TVG P.O.V. CC

7 · ABC St. Jude Children's Research... According to Jim Repeat CC TVPG Less Than Perfect Repeat CC TVPG NYPD Blue Repeat CC TV14

8 · PBS The Chieftains: Down the Old... CC Michael Ball Live at the Roy... CC >>

9 · CBS AFI's 100 Years ... 100 Hero... CC TV14

10 · FOX American Juniors Premiere CC Keen Eddie Premiere CC TV14 News at 10 CC Sports Unlimited CC

11 · WB Gilmore Girls Repeat CC TVPG Smallville Repeat CC TV14 Will & Grace CC TVPG Just Shoot Me CC TVPG

12 · UPN America's Next Top Model Repeat CC TV14 America's Next Top Model CC Everybody Loves Raymond CC Dharma & Greg CC TVPG

13 · PBS Masterpiece Theatre CC BBC World News Dateline: Africa

15 · USA Bulletproof (1996) CC ® *+ JAG CC TVPG

16 · TBS

17 · CNBC Kudlow & Cramer CC Capital Report The News With Brian Williams CC >>

18 · CSPAN2 Public Affairs

21 · A&E Biography CC TVPG Cold Case Files CC TVPG

22 · DSC The New Detectives: Case Stu... CC TVPG Laci Peterson: Search for Ju... The FBI Files CC TVPG

25 · CNN Larry King Live CC NewsNight With Aaron Brown CC

26 · TNT Law & Order CC TV14 Law & Order CC TV14 Charmed CC

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I hope I did not sound like I was making a case that television is as important as Greek mythology. I actually watch very little, the exceptions being the Simpsons, Will & Grace, and the occasional interesting program on PBS. Sadly, to some, tv does serve as "art," and that's what I was pointing out. People become absorbed by anything easily accessible and easily understandable to them and miss out on "real art." If anyone is vexed by how influencial pop culture is today, it's me. Once I heard a student at my school claim her dad was so old-fashioned that he listened to classical music on the radio (ummm, doesn't exactly qualify someone as being "old-fashioned"); in another similar instance, my friend overheard a group of teenagers saying no one their age would listen to classical, and if there were, they would be shocked (ha! girl standing in front of you in line). It makes us angry at times, not because they're mocking people like us, but that they could be so lowbrow.

What's funny is that pop culture partially turned me on to the arts. Watching the movie "Selena" prompted me to take dance lessons, and the tv show "Hercules" and "Xena" sparked my fascination for Greek myths and Greek culture. However, the turning point was attending my first live theater performance, "Ragtime," on a 6th grade school trip. Thank God for that, because I certainly would not be the same person I am today (jeez, that sounds cheesy) since I had not grown up in an environment rich in art.

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My original thought was that I hate television, written specifically in response to a post that referenced a review that referenced the Simpsons, which I now know is not a cartoon family but a animated sitcom. But it was purely a personal reaction.

GWTW wrote:

 I agree that you can't call someone well-educated (in the Western, dead white male sense) without that person being familiar with the Greek myths

As Western white male who will be dead soon enough, I am not unhappy with that definition of well educated or cultured. It is narrow and excludes most of the world’s population, but it will have to work for me.

Calliope wrote:

If it weren't for it, I might not have read half of "Oprah's" books, knew what people were talking about when they referred to "Soup Nazi", or learned that you really can't see the Great Wall of China from space.

I admit to watching must see TV

I don’t know if I have read any of Oprah’s books, although I have seen some of them stickered as such in bookstores. I didn’t know what people were talking about when the referred to “Soup Nazi” and still don’t. I am no worse off for it, although I am disgusted with the use of the term “Nazi” in an offhand way.

Regarding must see TV: For me, it remains wars and rumors of war. Plus a few very special events, like Ladies Figure Skating at the Olympic Winter Games, just about any track and field competition at the Summer Games and the Women’s World Cup in soccer. Each of them every four years.

Dale wrote:

Why is it more exalted to sit in a movie theater for 90 minutes-2 hours and stare at a screen, but to do it at home with the TV and you're considered witless?

This is a false dichotomy. I don’t go to many movies and I certainly don’t feel exalted when I do. I generally leave before movies are over—sometimes long before. And I certainly don’t consider people who watch TV, especially those who can write about it so articulately on this forum, to be “witless”. It just isn’t for me, nor will it be.

GWTW wrote:

I'm sensing an age divide here

Very likely, at least as far as I am concerned. There are lots of age divides. When I was an undergraduate at a not particularly distinguished Midwestern university, one needed to have taken separate courses in Chaucer, Shakespeare and Milton, in addition to the regular surveys and genre classes, in order to get a bachelor’s degree. I am not sure if one even needs to have read those authors to get into graduate school in English now—or perhaps to get an advanced degree.

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Ed, I agree with most of what you're saying. It is true that you should not have to know about Greek myths to be considered 'well educated' but to gain a degree in English one would expect to have had to have read at least Shakespeare et al. This, as far as I am aware is still the case at most universities.

And it is not fair to people who choose not to watch television when there is a casual reference to a catchphrase or personality in other forms of the mainstream media. It also makes more 'highbrow' publications seem to be 'dumbing down' when they do it too.

But in culture people are always excluded in one way or another. I'm not in the least interested in football, opera or poetry, but when my newspaper uses a 'well-known' sporting personality or poem to prove a point or make a comparison this is generally meaningless to me. The same goes for when a level of historical or geographical knowledge is assumed in an article. We well-educated people (I'm not sure WHAT is meant by the 'dead, white male' sense of the phrase) exclude less educated people with our language and our interests. And it is often not their fault if they don't know things.

When people are excluded in these varying ways, two things can be blamed. Either, like me and poetry and sports and tv, people are not interested or lazy in various things or they have never been given the opportunity to find out that there is an enormous range of knowledge and opportunity beyond what is offered by Fox and AOL and whatever other network they are watching. It is up to free thinking people to remember this when they make statements and generalisations about what makes someone 'well-educated'.

Anyway, the other thing is, I think in Europe, it might be easier for us to 'bathe in pop culture' and then talk about something else! I don't know why this should be, but I know amongst my friends the conversations range from what is happening on 'Big Brother' on TV to the state of the world to who was the greatest French novelist of the 19th century to the demise of Britart to what is number one in the charts and which popstars are going out with who!

I hate TV because it drains people's energy and curiosity. A lot of stuff on TV is terrible. And even the good stuff can be bad if people don't realise that it is only one person's - or one network's - opinion of events.

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