July 25, 2006

What We Watch

The multi-talented Emma Bull authors a most readable blog (Dark Roast) in which she recently expressed an opinion about Showtime's relatively short-lived series Dead Like Me.

Her opinion, summed up, was that it was an excellent show that would appeal greatly to young adults... and which she thought parents would not allow their teens to view, due to graphic language and some sexual content.

I agree with her views on Dead Like Me. We watched each of the seasons as they came out in dvd. We watched it with the Vampire, who was a huge fan from the age of 14 on.

And why not? The writing was sharp, the characters interesting, and it followed a recipe that the best of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer seasons had established: the language and tone were cynical enough to appeal to the younger set, yet the core messages were all about hope, responsibility, love and the self-sacrifice it often demands. In fact, Dead Like Me follows the heroine through her transition from a young adult with a particularly tough case of cynicism through to the final, tender episode in which she expresses fully her hard-won understanding and
appreciation of how precious life is because of its flawed and transitory nature.

Shows like Buffy and Dead Like Me are, in fact, about growing up - the very process that teenagers are going through, whether they wish to do so or not. Teens see and appreciate that these shows are holding up a mirror to their lives, and finding the view a bit messy, but interesting and exciting and yes, lovable.

Reasonably alert parents understand that cynicism is the refuge of frustrated idealism, and that young adults are the ultimate idealists. A veneer of ennui and fashionable social rebellion comes with the territory, but by and large that is protective coloring, a middle- and high-school survival mechanism that sloughs off like a snake's skin when they graduate from that hyper-cliqued environment.

Our society spends too much time concentrating on trying to control that predictable and transitory veneer, and too little time paying attention to the inner idealist. We do a disservice to our kids when we keep them from seeing shows like Dead Like Me, but encourage (or at least allow) them to deaden and degrade their minds and spirits on stuff like Fear Factor, Unanimous, and Windfall.

When deciding which books/shows/films/games are going to get the parental blessing, I try to remember to value a package by its contents, rather than its wrapping - and to trust that I've taught my child to do the same.

Certainly it wouldn't be a bad idea for us to judge people that way...


6 Comments:

Blogger mrspao said...

Don't judge a book by it's cover even?

12:17 PM  
Anonymous mamatulip said...

So I can blame my faltering spirit on watching too much Fear Factor? I love that show...Joe Rogan's funny and I like seeing just how low people will stoop for The Almighty Dollar, but damn right -- I'd never let my kids watch it. At least not right now. It would send them a message I'm not sure I want them to receive.

1:12 PM  
Blogger mE said...

Mrs. Pao - would YOU judge a book by its cover, darling Pao-iest of Sams? (I don't believe it for a minute) :)

MamaT - The message is exactly the problem - so many shows nowadays are about how low people will sink... and often, how low they start out before they even bother to sink. What message do we give our kids - and ourselves - when we normalize that people are basically venal and untrustworthy and greedy? What expectations do we learn to have of each other, and of ourselves... and what sort of world/society does that lead to?

I don't disapprove of all reality shows. We enthusiastically watch 'So You Think You Can Dance' and 'American Idol'. Those shows are about aspirations towards excellence, and at least on camera the contestants are supportive of each other.

But the Vampire and I decided not to watch what we thought would be the promising 'Treasure Hunters' show because of the so-called Christian family (the dad is a minister!) that repeatedly and self-righteously PRAYED for the people that they had just lied to and stolen from and cheated. It was making me literally sick to my stomach... but more importantly, it made me sick to my spirit.

2:46 PM  
Blogger renee said...

I'm always really interested in what people think about television shows. TV is so ubiquitous that I think it brings out a lot of strong feelings. I was wondering why you put Windfall in with Fear Factor and Unanimous, though? I actually think Windfall is pretty decent drama, with some good actors and interesting storylines for both some of the teenage characters and the adults. I've seen parts of Fear Factor and Unanimous and I'd have to agree that those two shows are crap.

3:07 PM  
Blogger Carrie K said...

Someone once told me that like most cynicists I was a romantic at heart. And after I stopped slapping him upside the head, it occurred to me that he had a point.

What? Not judge people by first impression? Although I did read an article recently how you truly could judge a book by it's cover. Something about the artwork being standardized in the industry.

The message is exactly the problem - so many shows nowadays are about how low people will sink... and often, how low they start out before they even bother to sink. What message do we give our kids - and ourselves - when we normalize that people are basically venal and untrustworthy and greedy? What expectations do we learn to have of each other, and of ourselves... and what sort of world/society does that lead to?

I don't disapprove of all reality shows.
ITA.

2:40 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

So am I missing out or not by not watching TV?

I will have to check out Emma Bull's blog - thanks for the link!

6:00 PM  

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