Social Science Entertainment Psychology Media

There is one reason and one reason only for commercial television: It is designed to separate you from your income.

Global effects of television include information, entertainment, education, and connection.  At worst, also produced, is apathy to real life, pollution, climate change, conflicts over resources, suggestible violence, and insensitivity at worst.  Surprise! Television is not good or bad, but a reflection of all that society is.

Obviously, commercial television is supported by advertising.  If we did not respond to the commercials by buying the products, the industry would quickly fade to black.  Let us first examine the commercial aspect of the industry, and then we’ll discuss the shows themselves.

There are many effects of commercial media, the most insidious one is that you are told constantly that you are inadequate, or more subtly, that you could be even greater, by the purchase of said product or service.  This produces an infinite cycle of craving; not so much the product, but for what the product represents.  “That cheeseburger is so tantalizing, and, look how incredibly happy those feasting on it are!”  Or, “This automobile is designed specifically for someone as sophisticated, intelligent, informed, or sexy, as I am, I better buy one.”  Most of this occurs on a quite subconscious level.

 The products almost never live up to their implied promises, but it never stops us from watching, and hoping for the next thing.  Maybe the next thing, if we get it, will surely make us fulfilled.  Thus a perpetual, never ending pool of wanting, needing, and craving is continued.  Even though most of us realize we are being manipulated, we accept it.  Entire families now are busy with their electronic devices such as television shows,  to which they have chained themselves to a degree that they do not share meals, conversation, bonding, or lost family connection.  Adults and children eat and grow fat never leaving the sofa.  Adults use shows as baby sitters.

 In recent years, political agendas have largely overtaken the news media.  You can find the station that supports your views, nod and knowingly disparage the “falsehoods” of the other side, or you can keep an eye on “the enemy camp” just by flipping the channel. It would seem only public television is the last bastion of unbiased “news.”

 The shows themselves have become increasingly designed around the idea of “selling an image.”  Reality shows have the effect of suggesting you can be as cool, talented, or eccentric as all these would-be celebrities, and/or that you are superior, smarter, kinder, more creative, etc, then they are.  Also, both dramas and sitcoms alike, promote the idea that the ideal person is attractive, slender, bright, witty, resourceful, and adventurous. 

On the other end, comedy characters (usually male) are buffoons, over-weight, clumsy, clueless, or just some kind of lovable doofus. Many sit-com and cartoon dads are portrayed this way.  Females are portrayed as universally attractive, helpful, slender, and in most cases the kind of idealized person the ads for the show are selling to the audience.

 Viewers can see that they are superior to, or as interesting as the characters.  You can congratulate yourself if you see how inferior they are.  Or, you can aspire to be like them, or admire and/or live vicariously through fictional others that are portrayed in a positive light.  Television is therefore a medium that to some degree mirrors reality, but in another way it relies on being able to convince  that YOU can create a better reality by buying into the messages, and purchasing things being sold by the sponsors.

 If you do not wish to be manipulated, or if you are just fed up with the mediocre quality of television, its messages and its meaninglessness, turn it off and go outdoors.  This is becoming not just a good idea for a relief of fresh air, but a requirement, if we are ever to realize as global citizens, that real value exists not in ever increasing our stores of accumulated junk.  A deep breath of clean air, (if you can find it) will fill your lungs and restore your mind.  It will fill your heart and soul in ways that other stuff cannot. You will discover there is a whole world of living beauty out there to discover, protect, cherish, and appreciate.