Where T.V. Fails Us

This weekend, as we watched the weather report, the newscaster said, “Wow, it is going to feel like a frigid winter day! 35 degrees! Better bundle up and stay inside!” and I couldn’t help but think to myself….is this REALLY the definition of frigid?

Of course, because I “trust” the network in which the weather report was showcased on, I therefore also “trust” the newscaster to present reliable, accurate, and truthful information to me. So, when the newscaster says 35 degrees is FRIGID, I, inherently believe that to be true. Frigid, therefore, equal 35 degrees or lower, because the newscaster is trusty, because why would a network put something on T.V. that isn’t trustworthy?…

We watch T.V. and because we perceive these as REAL people, in REAL situations, discussing REAL topics, we also internalize these conversations as having “REAL” conclusions. We trust that the networks provide reliable information, credible sources, and honest people.

The same is true for what we dubbed ‘romance’. As I caught up with my Bachelor programming this week (due to the ‘frigid’ winter day that, as the newscaster recommended, I shouldn’t go outside),  I couldn’t help but notice how hollow Colton’s conversations were with the women. Because Colton is “The Bachelor”, I assume that he is now an EXPERT on love and romance and cultivating strong relationships (right, this is why we have a panel of Demi and Ben and Blake show up and we care about their opinions–because they were on The Show, they must be leading experts in the field of dating and romance). So when Colton says, “We really connected”, “I really saw a side of her”, “She opened up to me”, “I’m falling in love with you”, I assume these must be the true, accurate, necessary things to say while falling in love with someone (and, if these things aren’t said, then it must not be true love, right?)

Colton and his date never give examples of WHY they specifically like each other (so that, we as viewers, could maybe compare and contrast to our own relationships–like, if Colton were to say, “I love her because she only talks about how handsome I am all the time”, then I could effectively say, “That’s totally my dating style too!”, and should only date people who say the same flattering things about me). We don’t see HOW and WHICH side, exactly, the girl displayed–was she fun and flirty, because she told him a joke and tickled him? was she intellectual, because she asked him about Derrida? was she boring and bland? Because Colton is a REAL guy, taking a REAL girl, on a “REAL” date, and because the show is advertised to us as an exemplar of a REAL romance, then we think that “We connected” and “that new side of her” and “opening up” and saying “I’m falling in love with you” are valid, truthful, honest things to say in a dating relationship (and, if my dating relationship does NOT follow those guidelines, then I should probably leave, like Cassie tried to do?).

Or, we listen to a political debate (you can find these plagued on any Sunday morning news station–no need to ostracize any one particular station), and all we witness is people yelling back and forth to each other. The debaters never cordially agree to disagree. We don’t see a respectful shaking of hands at the conclusion. No one even makes the comment, “I see where you are coming from”. These shows present no resolution to the debate, but rather, consist of people yelling back and forth to each other until someone is so red in the face, they have to walk away. And, because I “trust” these T.V. shows to give me “accurate, reliable, and timely facts”, and I, as the viewer, never witness a resolution, I assume that, therefore, all debates must be like this. When I debate at my dinner table, during happy hour with my colleagues, with that rich uncle, I assume, then, that, in order to cultivate an authentic debate, we, too, need to yell back and forth at each other until someone gets so mad, they must walk away, and our relationship forever tarnished.

I think the problem here is that–because we TRUST the T.V. stations to give us TRUTH and FACTS and an AUTHENTIC representation of the weather, of relationships, of philosophical and political conversations–of the world, we, as viewers, internalize these potentially faulty statements as truth. If the weatherman says 30 degrees is “frigid” and “unbearable”, because he is an ‘expert’ on the weather, therefore it must be true that I should bundle up and wear my Arctic gear outside. because Colton, crowned an expert in dating now that he is The Bachelor, makes those superficial statements about love, then he must really have a unique and intimate relationship budding with his date. If the politician yells and screams at the questioner during the interview and never resolves the issue cordially, then, because he is a politician–an elected official who obviously knows more about the issue than we do–then it must be OK to end a conversation in that way.

We wonder WHY our country is so polarized? Perhaps the malefactor is simply in the T.V. shows that we watch. Perhaps we could simply change this by requiring our weathermen to use more direct, and less dramatic language, by asking Colton to be more specific with his statements, and to ask our leading political analysts to simply show resolution at the conclusion of their debates.

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