Sunday, March 13, 2011

How TV Ruined Your Life: Aspiration

Last night, Peanut showed me this really amazing series on the BBC, "How TV Ruined Your Life" (I know - ironic!). Anyway, the third episode is REALLY interesting and disturbing. Here, take a few minutes to watch it:

What I love so much about this is how it so eloquently explains the phallacies of the modern mindset - that we're all supposed to be beautiful, rich, perfect beings, because of the people inside a little box that have handlers making sure they appear beautiful, rich, and perfect while they're posing for endless re-takes by a camera and have editors standing by in case somehow real life intrudes. Because we're not capable of living in this perfect world, we hide from it, spending ever more time watching television (or browsing the internet...that could be a whole new series for the BBC to explore).

I didn't grow up watching a lot of television. My parents didn't get cable until I'd moved out of the house, and what I could watch on the broadcast networks was pretty heavily censored (I didn't see Friends until I was in college, during the very last season) and ridiculed (as a family, we watched SeaQuest, which my parents made fun of endlessly until we kids gave up and went to our rooms). Peanut and I don't have cable, so we tend to hear about shows with real sticking power and watch them in marathon sessions (like The IT Crowd, Downton Abbey, and Mythbusters) but without advertising. We don't really have a television - one of our computer monitors doubles as a TV but that means in order to use it, you can't be online, and we almost always would prefer to be online.

As an adult, I've never willingly had cable - I only had it when I lived with roommates who insisted on it. And I've noticed a correlation with dissatisfaction with my life during times when I've had cable. I'm a sucker for makeover shows like What Not To Wear - but the more I watched them, the more unhappy I felt with my own looks and wardrobe. I considered getting a haircut by Nick Arrojo at one point, even though it costs about the same as one of my rent payments in a Manhattan apartment.

How TV Ruined Your Life has made me extremely wary of having a television in my home when I have kids. I used to think that my parents' heavy-handedness over what I watched was unfair and restrictive, but I also think that the shows then were a lot better than today's Cribbed and Jersey Shore. I think I'll be just as strict with my kids.

If you're interested, here are the other episodes in the BBC's series:
How TV Ruined Your Life: Fear
How TV Ruined Your Life: The Lifecycle
How TV Ruined Your Life: Love
How TV Ruined Your Life: Progress Part 1 and Part 2

The last one will air later this month. Wikipedia


  1. That was both good and horrifying. I've also wondered if the internet isn't just speeding up this process by adding even more aspirational things -- blogs and Facebook posts that crow about the perfect life by doing this and that, advertising galore, etc. I realized a few years ago I'd been sucked into it all and had to make the conscious decision to keep myself from being affected by it, but it certainly can be hard.

  2. I grew up the same way -- I wasn't allowed to watch much TV as a kid. As an adult, I've never willingly paid for cable (unless my roommates outvote me). The consequence? I never spent my childhood fantasizing about expensive things.

  3. I also grew up mostly without cable. We didn't get it until I was 16 I think. But even then I wasn't allowed to watch particular shows and couldn't watch television past a certain time. I don't know if it has anything to do with my limited television watching or just having frugal parents, but I was never particularly consumer driven. I hated shopping at the mall because everything seemed so expensive, and I couldn't understand shelling out $60k for a car that got you from point A to point B the same as a $15k dollar car.

    Although I guess I can see how watching such opulence day in and day out could make someone crave a lifestyle like that. It is just a shame that people don't realize that what they see on TV isn't even a fraction of how 1% of the world population lives...

    I'm going to have to check out the other episodes of this television show now!

  4. Thanks for posting--I'll definitely be watching this series.

    BF and I spend a lot of time reading, and we don't have cable. We do have Netflix, and now that we also have Netflix Instant, I've noticed that we've let some less-than-intellectual offerings creep into our viewing *cough* Jersey Shore and Khloe and Kim Take Miami. :)


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