fading_girrl (fading_girrl) wrote in mediahysteria,

Can't think outside the box.

 Television messes with your head. This is particularly the case now we're wandering parched through the death valley non-ratings period, when watching TV is akin to having dust blown in your eyes by the networks.

If you're a couch potato like me, it's a good bet you're resorting to DVD sets of hit shows you got for Christmas, which also means you can watch five hours of True Blood, The Wire or Entourageback to back and that's when things can get weird.

Watch enough Dexter (which, if you don't know, is about a serial killer) you start to daydream about dismembering people who tick you off in real life.

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"I just have to plan it carefully like Dexter does, cover the room in plastic, then use my uncle's boat to drop the body pieces off the continental shelf," you think, before walking into human resources for your performance review.

Do a weekend retrospective of HBO's excellent western seriesDeadwood and you might find yourself swearing artfully like the characters do incessantly on that show – which can actually be pretty handy when dealing with HR.

Too much Mad Men makes you think chain-smoking and cheating on your wife are kind of glamorous and if Gyton Grantley can get away with dealing methamphetamine on Underbelly, surely I could earn myself a deposit for an investment property doing the same?

By episode 20 of Packed to the Rafters, you might think every family's issues can be resolved in 44 minutes, and if you can sit through the execrable Charlie Sheen on Two and a Half Men, you might actually believe misogyny is a handy way to shag endless hot women.

Intellectually, we know we're watching a TV show but, as shown by the mania generated by programs such as Sex and the Cityor Gossip Girl it's all too easy to be drawn into these wonder worlds, to subconsciously believe the characters and their adventures really exist.

In 1978, Jerry Mander wrote an interesting book titled Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, one of which was that TV actually affects our ability to differentiate between what is real and what's not.

He asks readers to imagine scenarios like the American old west or an Eskimo village, which most people have never experienced in real life.

"Obviously the images were either from your own imagination or else they were from media. Can you identify which was which?" Mander writes.

It gets really interesting if you try to picture something as prosaic as a wedding or a mother cooking dinner. Despite all of us having experienced these events in reality, there's a good chance when you summon these scenarios you'll see images you've watched on TV or in a movie, often because they're more visually pleasing.

Mander's argument was that technology has moved faster than our brains, to the point many people's entire library of internal images now come exclusively from media.

Social commentator Chuck Klosterman takes up the point in his book Eating the Dinosaur, writing that since 1903, with the advent of moving pictures, our "reality" has changed forever.

"Humans have existed for 130,000 years," he writes. "The Great Train Robbery was made in 1903. For roughly 129,900 years, any moving image a human saw was actually real. It was there, right in front of you.

If a man in 1850 saw a train chugging toward his face, it was actually a train. For 129,900 years, we were conditioned to understand that seeing something in motion had a specific meaning."

Klosterman argues that intellectually, we understand the difference between someone being shot dead or raped, or winning the lottery on a TV screen and it happening in real life – but "is there any possible way that 129,900 years of psychological evolution can be altered within the span of a single century?

Is it also possible that the wonder worlds we've created for our entertainment in fact control us so profoundly, inform our motivations and desires so fundamentally, that we've ceded our intellectual freedom to moving pictures and their creators?

Me? I know I sometimes catch myself pondering what the characters from Lost or Band of Brothers or Love My Way are doing with themselves now, so I can't help puzzling what else I've absorbed from these strangers as I became part of their lives.

It's certainly enough to make me pick up a book this summer.
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