As my “about me” stated long ago, television is a distraction. A good one. Offering entertainment, fun, escapism and is often more enjoyably palatable than reality. Before social media it was the ultimate distraction.
A show that captures this notion is Big Brother, the final topic of this series. Debuting in 2000, Big Brother is a platform where young diverse strangers bond. A very artificial platform with little connection to reality and always under scrutiny and surveillance. It was the first Facebook.
It offered distraction for us and especially them; literally swapping their life for this fantastical fishbowl, they’re twisted away from their original focus of attention (the definition of distraction) and into this diversionary environment where any real-world issues were replaced with concerns regarding who to evict or who to kiss on national Tv. It’s like how our real-life priorities dramatically alter while on Facebook ; where the urgency is the amount of likes we get on photos, comments and whether our crush will poke back. Distraction is a dreamstate where the bigger life issues needn’t apply and the only concerns are the fun, gratifying stuff that hide the scary things but they’re sadly only ever that, distractions; mobile phone games you play during a high school class which are eventually turned off by the teacher that is life.
It was blogged here; http://ma.tt/2012/05/culture-of-distraction/ that we ‘re in a “culture of distraction”. Matt offers the valid sentiment that we can become addicted to distraction and that, like Aldous Huxley theorized in “Brave New World”, any culture overly fixated on self-gratification and trivial distractions will destroy itself. While I don’t necessarily agree with Huxley’s extreme hypothesis, I do agree with the rationality of Matt’s mentioning it. That we must find balance between the real and distraction because reality will always catch up and triumph. That despite more and more of us are constructing time according to our online or “distracted” lives and chipping away at the importance of clock time and real-life contemplation; distraction ends and soon real-life sets in.
This was tragic ally indicated in this year’s Big Brother series; the shock death of a housemate’s brother forced his understandable withdrawal from the show . Any fun, diversion that he found in there vanished in the face of the sad, real event that diversion can’t remove. Reality always wins-out over a distraction and leaves us with the hangover of the distraction; facing up to the ridicule over what you undertook in the Big Brother house that may result in job loss or unwanted infamy and the same extends sadly to social media too. There’re daily headlines of people facing negative consequences in reality for what they did while distracted online and it’s reality which inflicts the worse consequences and clearly it’s reality that you should try to please. Like the Robert Hassan lecture on the 16th of October stated; distraction may be caused by outside stimulus but it is the individual’s problem and the individual “needs to manage it”.
So there you have it; while no-one, not even Big Brother can tell us what to do and how to spend our time, we can only hope that as a collective whole we will allow time for fun and distraction but allow even just a little more effort and time toward are own realities and making the best of our lives we can. Distraction should always have some part in our lives though; whether television or social media or whatever, it’s there to be enjoyed, to offer a variety of means to enjoy ourselves and we should all enjoy it while we can. And thus the Television Code is cracked. 🙂
A major issue in blogging is that of free speech, do we have a right to offend and can/should it be punished. This issue is also just as topical in television and its content.
Before 1987 a Freedom Doctrine was in place in the U.S that made it compulsory for any show to be balanced in its handling of news or controversial topics, it was also an environment that sought to protect commercial interests by not alienating any audience segments, so all shows were harmless and inoffensive like cheery sitcoms e.g. Bewitched, children’s programming e.g. Disney and entertainment variety shows e.g. The Ed Sullivan Show. Anything offensive or satirical like South Park or Jon Stewart etc was absolutely non-existent but that changed. Following 1987 and the abolition of the doctrine, news programs began to reflect political bias more strongly like the awesome Fox News which launched in 1996 and the more controversial satirical shows came in large numbers beginning with the 1989 launch of The Simpsons and continuing.
It is safe to say that following this trend we have become a society of more acceptance toward people exercising free speech for the sake of comedy or opinion, for the most part.
The reason I say for the most part is that there are varied sources who say people who are behind shows that may offend or offer sharp satire do receive backlash; one of these sources is http://mercedesmccormick.wordpress.com/2011/11/30/30-rocks-use-of-satire/ a 30 Rock-centred blog who reports that the show has a large amount of “not-so-fond critics”, “non-believers” and that series creator and writer Tina Fey has received a large amount of “grief” for the content on her show. While that blog may be correct, it also ends with an equally correct point that at the end of the day “[30 Rock] is still funny”. I agree that no show can ever be totally free of criticism, particularly one that pokes fun at society left, right and centre but at the end of the day it is quality that wins the battle and negative feedback can only remain just that; an exercise of free speech regarding a show that exercises free speech.
Although the line of what’s acceptable has been stepped over in numerous occasions on many shows, to my knowledge there has yet to be anything so bad as to warrant mass protest, censorship or cancellation. We will always appreciate quality no matter what, a pleasing illustration of this is the fact that the very satirical and forthcoming shows like 30 Rock and the Daily Show continue to be very successful in ratings and the winning of awards and many blogs that put forth strong and perhaps controversial opinion do tend to attain solid readerships; tv like blogging can enjoy a free platform for whatever expression they choose and long may it continue.
In the established theme of time, few shows have so extensively and epically explored this than the hit drama Lost. Beginning in 2004, it documented the trials and tribulations of a diverse group of people whose plane crashes on an island but while beginning as an intense Gilligan’s Island it quickly manifested into a mysterious, supernatural extravaganza where smoke monsters, polar bears, time travel, a scientific organization and society of armed “others” etc all pepper what is just a simple journey to go home.
Like the Robert Hassan “Network Time” article explains, time is a construct and it’s the way in which we organize our lives and determines the rhythm in which we move and act. On the island however, without clocks or any reference to time the survivors experience the condition of being “released from the domination of the clock” and acquiring the very primitive concept of time that suits their predicaments like how long it takes for them to dig a hole or walk from one place to another; like a character on the show so aptly states “Time doesn’t matter on a damn island”.
It is put forth there that those who are more in tune with the island (the mysterious “Others”) and the bizarre sense of timelessness are therefore the most deeply entrenched in that and that is why they do not travel into the future when Ben turns the magic wheel and moves the whole island into the future. I agree with his implication that time is not physical and despite the instance of physical time travel, it isn’t enough to alter the minds of those who have formulated their own concrete view of time and it supersedes anything else.
Even those of us who aren’t stranded on islands adopt similar ways of telling the time; thinking in terms of how long it’ll take this video to load, how long it’ll take the tram to get to a stop or for me to finish this sandwich. It’s a rather self-centered view of time but of much greater immediacy to ourselves as opposed to taking stock of every second or minute or (in the case of the tram) hour an activity takes to finish. We construct time as we see fit and even in spite of what a clock tries to tell us, like the Others we don’t allow the perceptions of others to alter our personal mindset of time and like the other island inhabitants we frequently judge time in accordance with our personal needs and activities.
So just like time doesn’t matter on a damn island, if we’re not looking at the clock and forming just makeshift ideas of time based on what we’re doing; does time really matter to us? In any case we can now see Lost is a show that truly offers more to ponder than just it’s baffling content and more to be impressed with than it’s high quality: it truly is an effective reference point and exploration of the idea of time which ties very much into our study of how we view and construct time in this day and age.