Pop Culture Binge

Family watching television, c. 1958

Quality Family Time

I think I’ve mentioned before that I don’t have a TV.  I’d love to say it’s for some noble reason, because really, I do approve of all the noble reasons: the anti-consumerism, anti-rudeness-masking-as-comedy, anti-sit-in-front-of-a-box-and-miss-out-on-several-years-worth-of-life, anti-violence, anti-laughtrack, anti-paying-Telus-more-than-I-already-do reasons.  Those are all good reasons.

But none of those is my real reason.  My real reason is that I am a TV addict.  If I start watching it, I will keep watching it until my eyes burn, I am starving, and my ass has become one with the couch.

And when I watch, I don’t watch anything educational, like the discovery channel or the history channel or the news or anything like that.  I watch garbage.  I am particularly partial to

  • sitcoms
  • evening dramas (which seem to be pretty indistinguishable from soaps, but are somehow less embarrassing for people to talk about at work)
  • “reality” shows about insane brides-to-be
  • infomercials about fancy new technologies in cooking and fitness tools
  • the final five minutes of home make-over shows

Years ago – even before it was possible to find these shows on at every hour of the day – I realized that if I was going to have any sort of life at all, I would need to cut this part of it out.  And that’s worked out well for me.

But something that happens when you haven’t watched TV in years is that you become strangely out of touch with pop culture.  People at my work seem to watch a lot of TV and they talk about shows that I have never seen, characters I have never heard about.  Often I have been lured into thinking they are talking about actual people.  This usually leads to laughter at my expense when I express horror at whatever series of events happened to those poor TV folks.

So occasionally, I will decide it’s time to catch up a bit.  I’ll pick a show I’ve heard about from more than a few people, go to the library, take out a full season, and watch the whole thing on my laptop all in one weekend.

I did that this last weekend.  (Yes, when I should have been studying, but my mid-term isn’t for another four days, so hey-ho, we’ll worry about that another day.)

What did I watch, you ask?  With what show did I choose to sate my brain candy cravings?  I picked Gossip Girl.  I have a friend and a sister who are fans, and there’s a guy at work who’s pretty into it.  (He says he watches it because of his girlfriend, but he likes talking about it way too much for that to be the only reason.)

This is a title card for Gossip Girl (TV series).

So much intrigue! So much drama!

Well.  Quite the show.  Overwrought teen drama at its height, so I was in my element (I was a big fan of Dawson’s Creek back in the day.)  Although the teen thing is questionable.  I saw season one, so apparently these people were supposed to be 16, but not one of them looked under 25.  At the same time, a lot of the parents looked oddly youthful, as though maybe they had chosen to breed at the age of nine.

What killed me though was the action.  These kids are bad-asses in a way that makes the 90210 (considered a bit smutty at the time) of my youth look like Sesame Street.  The drugs, the gambling, the strip-clubs, the jailable offences, the almost incestuous sharing of sex partners among a small group of friends.  (Yes, this happened in 90210 too, but over the space of several years, not one season.)

To be fair, I am the opposite of a bad-ass, and as a teenager was even less of one, but I hope I’m not naive in thinking that this is not a realistic portrayal of modern adolescence.  If nothing else, I have a hard time believing that trendy bars in Manhattan serve cocktails to 16 year-olds, even if they do look a little old for high-school.

So, I was equal parts entertained, engrossed, and disturbed by the show.  (Disturbed about what the future holds for the world if this is what teenagers are really like.)  I have got the TV thing out of my system for a while and I can look vaguely plugged-in at work when these conversations happen around me.

I also have a sneaking suspicion that I’m dumber now than I was last Friday, but I can live with that.  Because I learned a valuable lesson from that show:  You don’t need to be smart to get ahead.  You just need to be rich and evil.  If only someone had told me before!

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28 thoughts on “Pop Culture Binge

  1. How interesting! I prefer video games to television, but have to temper my gaming time with active time. I found your blog through Rian’s challenge and I just love your style of humor. 🙂

    • Thanks! Yeah, I’ve never really trodden the video game path, but based on the number of hours I clocked playing minesweeper while procrastinating when I was in school, I have a feeling it would be a bad idea for me.

  2. “If I start watching it, I will keep watching it until my eyes burn, I am starving, and my ass has become one with the couch.” Ha! This was a really great post! I love your rundown of the types of garbage TV, especially the “infomercials about fancy new technologies in cooking and fitness tools.” Do you ever purchase said tools? 😉

    Although I’m not a TV addict, I can relate in that I either watch no TV or one series obesessively on Netflix or DVD until it’s finished. I’m not a channel surfer– I like to be totally immersed in a show–otherwise, I don’t see the point. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks for visiting and thanks for the lovely sharing idea. I’ve never bought anything from an infomercial, no. But I did get somewhat obsessed with Nads back when they were advertising it. I bought some once it came to drug stores and was very disappointed. Turns out it is similar to regualr leg wax, but messier and less effective.

      Oh I agree about watching a whole series. It’s much more satisfying. I actually don’t know how people with normal TV can stand the annoyance of commercials and the suspense of waiting for the next show to come out.

  3. This is absolutely hilarious! I could not be in a more similar boat. Except that you have shown tremendously more self-control than I have in combatting this addiction. My show of choice: The Real Housewives…(any and all of them). Am I dumber after watching? Without question. But can I stop? Well, this post gave me hope that tv addicts can get better, but it has also made me feel much better that I am not alone in this–a thought that may comfort me just enough to allow myself to settle in again in front of my computer (hulu…saving/ruining my life one program at a time), to waste another 45 minutes of my life.

    • Oh I’ve somehow misled you. I am not recovered. I’ve just cut out temptation by not having a TV. If I had one, I assure you I’d be watching it. (Ive never seen Real Housewives, but I’ve heard it’s horrific.)

  4. It’s literally AMAZING to learn how much free time you have when you give up TV. I was actually raised without one (my parents refused to get one until my little sister could read, but she preferred to just memorize books instead of learning, and consequently I was 14 before we got one in the house). I know exactly what you mean about the insults – my boyfriend still makes fun of me when I ask things like “Who is Buffy?” 🙂

  5. I love this…I went for quite a while without a TV. It was blissful, but I did miss alot of pop culture references during that time. It finally drove my dad so crazy that he bought me a TV! 🙂 Thanks for a great post and a giggle!

  6. I totally understand your show addictions, although I’m much more weak willed and watch all the time. I get really in to Gossip Girl too. The music is so good. I’ve gotten some of my favorite new artists from that show.

  7. I commend you on getting rid of your TV. I got rid of cable a few months ago and still find myself watching all those classic shows from my youth (why hello, Buffy!) on a WiFi blu-ray player. I think it’s safe to say I have a problem.

  8. It might not be such a bad thing to be out of touch with pop culture sometimes! Though I get sucked in, too. I’m always amazed that after 5 days camping in the mountains, the stuff I missed really didn’t matter at all… yet fall right back into the cycle! Love the quote on your masthead… thanks for writing!

  9. Yeah, it’d be really terrify if teenagers were that uninhibited (I know they largely are but thankfully there’s still some sense left in teen-ville). I have TV addictive tendencies (who doesn’t?) but college work kind of regulate me, so now, I only get to indulge during the break. Even at that, once am hit in the face with more than a healthy dose of unrealistic casting/story/dialogue/continuity, that effectively ends my dalliance with the show. Enough of the (dumb)junk, I want a story that will at least stimulate my creativity.
    Interesting read :-).

  10. Oh, goodness. I already feel as though I’ve walked several hundred miles in your shoes (or at least as many hours as the Gossip Girl series would take up!) I have the same problem/relationship with television and TV series and was woefully engrossed in Gossip Girl last winter/Spring (F-you, Netflix.) While I kind of loathed all of the characters, I am still waiting for the day I can use “I’m Chuck Bass” as an excuse for doing something questionably immoral.

    Bless you. I feel your guilt.

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