Is the couch-potato really dead?
The other day, I was listening to the radio in the car and I heard the host say that TV watching is no longer considered to be a ‘lazy’ past-time. This got me thinking and since deep thinking is not usually conducive to good driving (the dent in the back of my car can confirm this) I’d like to revisit this idea now.
Television is something that comes up a lot at university. Many a time have I bonded with a fellow student upon discovering our shared hatred of Joffrey Baratheon from Game of Thrones (although this isn’t really surprising, who doesn’t despise that kid?). Turns out all us bring, young things are spending a lot of time in front of the screen. We freely confess to that weekend spent watching the first five seasons of a newly discovered show and we spend our lunches discussing its finer plot points, highlighting its hidden intellectual significance and complaining about having to finish our 3,000 word research essays at dial-up speed after exceeding our download bandwidth, yet again.
So what is it that really attracts us to television?
For me, watching TV was the answer to all my procrastination needs. I never watched a lot of television until my final year of high school – the most stressful and demanding year of my education to date. Finding a great TV show was like discovering a favourite film that never ends, delivered in short, convenient instalments, catering perfectly to the shrinking modern attention-span. It was a means of postponing the depressing reality of study and the nightmarish visions of failing all my exams and joining the circus. In the past 18 months, I’ve accumulated an impressive watch list. Currently, I’m powering my way through season four of Gilmore Girls. Don’t judge.
Of course, I’m not alone and I’m definitely not the most impressive example of a contemporary couch-potato among the so-called educated elite at university. Paradoxically, my attention-span is so modern, it’s actually too short to sustain the level of emotional energy that some shows inspire within their fandoms. But I think that even the most devoted followers feel a certain amount of pressure to demonstrate the value of the shows they enjoy. And it seems like the best way to do that is to somehow prove its artistic merit.
TV watching may be a more acceptable pastime these days – I guess I’m too young to judge that. But when it comes to getting intellectual about television, whatever spin we apply, whichever postmodernist reading we identify and however long the novella we feel compelled to write dissecting the delightful intricacy of that brief, soulful look – TV watching is lazy. It’s true that switching on the TV switches off our brains. But seriously, who cares? At the end of the day, I don’t have any leftover brain power for poetry writing, classical music and existential musings. Being educated is hard work and a certain amount of slack-jawed staring becomes necessary for mental health reasons. And we love it, so why not own up to it?