Recommending the Library
On June 17, 1994, a white Ford Bronco SUV progressed down Interstate 405, four LAPD cars in tow, their sirens howling. With over a dozen news channels broadcasting the live pursuit, ninety-five million Americans put everyday life on hold, their eyes locked to the television. The OJ Simpson car chase triggered such a high caliber of media attention that it is considered one of the most widely publicized events in American history. Most Americans even remember where they were and what they were doing when that white van made its way through the heart of Los Angeles, sadly comparable to how they remember their whereabouts on September 11, 2001. My parents, however, remember turning the TV off.
I’ve realized that the entirety of my young life has been prominently affected by that historic moment in media history. My parents canceled the cable in our home that year, and thus cartoons were eliminated from my adolescence, sitcoms from my pubescent years, and reality shows as I entered adulthood. Instead of feigning that I knew the details of popular TV shows growing up, I usually admitted to the misfortune of not having cable to my friends and peers, collecting a variety of different reactions. Most people were stunned I couldn’t even watch the news and one classmate asked me if I was Amish (really, buddy?), but I didn’t see the absence of television as any sort of tragedy, nor confirmation of an isolated form of existence. I view my circumstance as a privilege that vastly changed the trajectory of my life, for instead of picking up a remote every day, I picked up a book.
I don’t think that reading books throughout my childhood instead of watching TV made me any wiser than my classmates nor am I criticizing modern technology. It’s because of the Internet that I am able to follow the news, and at this point any TV show I want to watch can be found online through portals like Netflix and Hulu. But there was something about being raised without cable television that makes me shy away from spending hours in front of any screen, especially now with emerging hits like The Kardashians or Jersey Shore. I mention these shows particularly because of how they portray young people, especially women, setting an unsettling foundation for many, many reality TV shows of their kind. Of course, these shows are popular because of their characters’ ridiculous behavior, but I guess I’d just rather learn about heroines like Elizabeth Bennett than about Kim’s latest love interest. I think following the lives of women in fiction or nonfiction, unimpeded by the tactless nature of scripted reality TV shows, can give young women a more powerful status in modern society.
For most, TV is a part of everyday life and seems hard to live without, but it is possible. My dad and I listen to the Red Sox on the radio regularly and I read the newspaper in my college’s campus coffee shop every morning. See, there are ways to survive without it. I’d also like to clarify that I have obviously watched TV. I am a big fan of shows like SNL and yeah, I do compare my life to The OC every now and then, but I will always recommend reading over turning on the ol’ boob tube. I know too many college students my age who don’t read outside of school assignments, which I think is largely attributed to the fact that it’s simply easier to turn on the TV.
While I used to resent my parent’s decision that catapulted me into pop-culture exile, I now appreciate their choice as OJ made his way down Sunset Boulevard. My life without the incessant buzz of a television in the background has facilitated my growth as a person and my love for English. And while it may be easier to turn on the TV, what you’re getting out of it in the end is far less valuable than opening a book.