What Hollywood doesn't want you to know
Says Robinson, "We had many people tell us that they didn't have any free time because they were busy watching television. People do feel rushed, harried, and stressed because they spend so much time in front of the tube." Robinson and his colleague, Geoffrey Goodbey of Penn State University have written a book describing their findings, "Time for Life: the Surprising Ways Americans Use Their Time".
Pervasive television is no longer a problem of the home where communication has been reduced to "Change the Channel" and "What's on TV tonight?" You can no longer enter a retail establishment, doctor's office, barber shop, pharmacy, or grocery store without the constant noise and glare of television blaring in your face. The worst case of this form of pollution is restaurants. Once the quiet solitude and escape for an evening out for conversation with friends, the restaurants, hotel lobbies and lounges are now the haven for TV overload. Charles Timmons of Columbia, South Carolina came to visit friends at a favorite restaurant in Montgomery, Alabama called "Adams". The restaurant was a favorite gathering place for friends who enjoyed hours of conversation discussing their day at work, problems with the boss, a good report card from the children, seeing old friends and telling jokes and sharing anecdotes on everything from politics to fishing. As Timmons recalled, "It was one of those congenial places where you could strike up a friendly conversation with a total stranger and bump into old friends and unwind after a long day at work."
Timmons had been away for ten years having retired from the Air Force and was anxious to renew old friendships. Timmons and his wife, along with their mutual friends Robert and Cathy Johnson, decided it was time to eat dinner at their favorite restaurant. When they arrived, the atmosphere was strangely quiet and low-key. As they sat around one of the high tables, Timmons noticed that most of the patrons were staring up at the ceiling; or so he thought. As he looked around, Timmons noticed a television set where people were transfixed on an old rerun of "Laverne and Shirley." At the entrance where diners came to hang their coats, a group of people were staring up at another television broadcasting a basketball game, which was a rerun from the previous week. Standing up, Timmons began to count the number of televisions which were all tuned to different channels creating a disturbing mix of play-by-plays, music, ptiches from the Home Shopping Network, and canned laughter from old sitcoms like "Roseanne." After touring his old hang-out, he had counted 18 televisions. He spotted Randy Bergen, an old friend, and rushed up to greet him. Bergen quickly looked over and gave Timmons a big bear hug and before he could say, "How are you doing?" he quickly pointed up to the screen which was playing the weekend wrap-up of drag racing. "Now watch this Charlie - this guy in the left lane is going to wipe out before leaving the starting gate." Charlie watched out of courtesy as the car exploded into a ball of fire. "How's the kids Randy?" Charlie interjected trying to pry his eyes off the tube. Without turning, Bergen said, "Oh, they're great, couldn't be better...Now, watch this!" Charlie walked off and went back to the table.
"Pretty sad, isn't Charlie," remarked his friend Robert. That why we don't get out much. It's not like these people don't have televisions at home with a hundred channels to choose from. Take a look; nobody is really talking. They're keeping one eye on the tube and the other on their companion." Robert continued, "The whole town is like this. Everytime they open a new restaurant, the grand opening ads proclaim "We have more TVs' and there's two restaurants that are having a television war. One boasts of 27 televisions and the other just came out with a new add that proclaims 30 sets."
Charlie Timmons realized that conversation and laughter had vanished from his old hang-out, as it has been doing all across America; zombies to the tube who no longer can speak except in short blurbs and grunts during comercials. If smoking is being banned from public places due to claims of second-hand smoke, what about second-hand television? Maybe its time to take TV out of public places and keep it in the home where it belongs.
As the Timmons and the Johnsons left through the hotel lobby entrance Charlie and his wife recognized Connie Taylor, who has worked there for years. As they approached to say hello, Ms. Taylor gave a big over-the-counter hug to both and without skipping a beat pointed to the wide-screen TV in the lobby where the kitchen help had gathered. "Get out the way you idiots!" she screamed and said, "now I bet you anything he is going to the corner, climb up and slam the entire force of his body on the guy below." The TV was blaring with "wrestlers" screaming at the fans and the camera. The two couples walked out as Connie said good-bye without leaving her gaze. It was a sad day for Charlie. He saw the life zapped from a community in the threshold of anything that moved on a tiny little screen.
Now multiply that by 23 million, the number who watched that travesty on Fox last week called "Who wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?" Not only during their leisure time, but around the water cooler at work they most probably consumed valuable work time talking about the absurdity of it all and, like hungry wolves, kept right on watching every newscast for more tid-bits on the lives of two people who before that night had never been heard from and had much too much exposure than their supposed "fifteen minutes of fame" as Andy Warhol coined. Because of the legs gained by an added week of programs like "Dateline" and "Good Morning, America", not to mention the nightly entertainment schlock shows and late night talk entertainers, possibly ten more million people were caught up in the frenzy with each person no doubt giving their opinion of the whole thing.
My question is: If it was so offensive, if it was so ridiculous, then why do they continue to perpetuate it by talking about it? Aren't all of us just giving credence to this trivial garbage by making it more important in our lives than our own families and friends? That, unfortunately is what is happening to family values in America today. Too many go out to eat and pass on warm conversation for something they "might miss" - a television program. Never mind that almost everything on television will be rerun again and again, even sports. Never mind that feelings can be hurt by ignoring loved ones and things that are really important. Never mind that precious seconds, minutes, hours, days, even years are wasting away as we are mesmerized by those who control our lives...those who we willingly surrender our thoughts, actions and souls to and make it all the easier for nihilistic Hollywood to continue on the pagan, pantheistic path. Leisure time may have increased for Americans, but we have made watching television not something to relax in leisure, but a full-time obsession that makes us all edgy with blinders on, insulted if anyone comes into our view or distracts our "leisure concentration." Like Charlie Timmons, we can sadly see the erosion of the family and friends, sacrificed on the altar of the boob tube!
February 25-27, 2000 |
volume 11, no. 40
MOVIES & MORALS
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