I have watched TV in every state of our great country, in Paris, in Quito, in Whistler (BC Canada), in various islands of the Bahamas, and in Puerto Vallarta. Watching a movie with Vin Diesel’s sexy voice dubbed in a high tenor ruined the experience for me. And slang, sarcasm, and idioms really don’t translate well. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” in French loses all its sassy Valley girl attitude. Reading subtitles gets distracting and amusing. I remember watching a Chinese action movie in which the bad guy, an evil warlord, spewed a long venomous diatribe to his troops. The subtitle read something along the lines of “let’s destroy them.” Was the translator censored, lazy or perhaps having fun with us?
I blame untold lost hours of 3D living on American Philo Taylor Farnsworth who invented the TV in the late 1920s. Television really took a foothold in the American household in the late 1950s with a handful of broadcast stations that ran only part of each day. According to a recent press release by the Federal Communications Commission there are 1,785 broadcast stations in the United States. We are a country of freedom of expression. Libya with its twelve stations, um, not so much. Kuwait has a whopping thirteen stations. Cuba boasts around fifty eight.
Our family owned a black and white television for most of my childhood. I was in middle school when I finally saw The Wizard of Oz in color. It took my breath away. Cookie, my BFF, laughed at me and asked why I hadn’t seen the movie before. I told her I had seen it, but it was a different movie in color. From then on, I dreamed in color.
Today in America we have over a thousand broadcast stations and a multitude of technologies to enjoy them. If not for my year of television abstinence, I could watch shows through network websites from my desktop computer and my laptop. Hubby bought a Roku that picks up even more channels that can be viewed through the television, and wirelessly through my iPad, and my oh-so-smart phone. Surrounded by temptation, my soul quakes. Hubby mentioned the upcoming two-hour “Major Crimes” episode and my knees buckled. Eeeep!
Stopped by my daughter’s house where she was watching an episode of “Once Upon a Time” (also set to record on my DVR). Sigh. To top it off, my once-beloved child’s parting comment was delivered in a sing-song voice, “You’re not going make it a year.” That did it. I’m revising the will so all our televisions go to the nearest daycare.
Down with the flu and all I wanna do is curl up on the sofa with a steaming cup of broth and watch romantic comedies. But no. No, streamed on demand viewing of Lucky You with dreamy Robert Downy Jr. No original or remake of Sabrina.
That stack of to-be-read books beckons for me to escape into a book, to fall headfirst into a story and be swept away into vicarious experiences and new perspectives. Reading requires something from the reader that television does not require from the viewer—imagination. Even the great film maker Hitchcock understood this. In his movies he terrorized viewers by forcing them to fill in the gaps with their own imagination. In the shower scene in Psycho, for example, the knife is never shown touching the woman.
I find it illuminating that so many television series are based on books, even children’s stories like Grimm’s Fairytales. Reality television shows offer repellent behavior, which grants fame to those who set themselves up for ridicule. What does this say about our society that we find entertainment in either ugly reality or fantasy?
So I’m off to read my book club selection Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. I adored Moriarty’s otherworldly story The Night Circus. After that I’ll sort through my clothes. Spring cleaning perhaps. This is so much more difficult than I thought it would be. Old habits die hard; temptations even harder.