Monday, November 24, 2008

Holding Television's Reins

I've an opinion piece in today's Age, on television.  My intention isn't to demonise television - and even if it were, I quite like demonised television (vale Buffy).  Instead, I'm suggesting caution and self-discipline. A taster:

When I was little, my Mum sometimes took me to the butcher's.  Amidst the blood and sawdust, they'd have a yarn about the weather, politics, or food prices.  It was a tiny parliament, with its own question time and partisan bunfights.  

But when I take my son to the local butcher's, we don't talk so much.  Why?  I blame the huge plasma television on the wall.  Even if customers weren't distracted by the box's hypnotic glow, they'd have trouble discussing foreign policy over the sound of music videos.

The ubiquity of the television today is astonishing - in bars, restaurants, cafes and salons, in kitchens and toilets.  There's a huge one in Federation Square, our very own public square.  And more importantly, television takes up a large chunk of our leisure time: on average, about three hours a day, according to pollsters Roy Morgan.  What does this do to us?

Criticism of television often attacks the content: too violent, too sexualised, or simply unedifying.  And often this is true.  But this all-too-quickly degenerates into a slanging match, where holier-than-thou moralists decry imagined ills.  Perhaps glorification of violence is a dubious way to raise children, but there's no evidence that CSI breeds killers.  This argument was bad in Plato's day, and it's bad now.

And it misses the deeper point.  The medium of television itself has serious shortcomings, even if the message is ethically pure.  


knittywomanonatrain said...

Enforced knitting sounds very reasonable ;)

Damon said...

You know, you're not the only one to say this!

When I'm Supreme Tyrant, I'll keep your request in mind.

ausxser said...

Making something....anything is so good for the soul.

Knitting, crochet, embroidery, carpentry, it's all good. Making music works too!

Everybody should have some kind of 'making things' hobby. I'd settle for that when you are Supreme Tyrant.

Elisabeth said...

Hi Damon

Twelve years ago I carried our television out of the house and into the workshop in a fit of rage after my children had refused for perhaps the third time to come for a walk. They had wanted to see what happened to the pregnant woman in Neighbours.
Normally I am the more restrained and indulgent parent, but this time my wishes stuck. I did not relent and we have not had a television since. Although my daughters during adolescence suffered profound shame at being part of the only household in their school that did not possess a television, they have adjusted well enough. They might disagree. But I can recommend a TV free home. We watch DVDs on computer screens, but at least you can control those and there are no ads. So you see, in this one area, I join you as the supreme tyrant.

Damon said...

Thanks, Elisabeth.

Er. I agree!

(Nothing more to add, really.)