thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

Musings on Missing Television

In Uncategorized on July 27, 2011 at 1:54 am

Phoebe Bronstein

This week I am in Australia for a feminist television conference, Console-ing Passions, and truth be told it is a really fun conference. Plus this year, it is in Australia so I can’t really complain. But the result is that I’ve been listening to a lot of papers on television and also spending a lot of time thinking and talking about TV. Sadly, this means that I have not watched television all week, which seems weird. And quite frankly I miss it. Not in the way one misses people or puppies or cats, if those are your thing, but I still miss it.

Perhaps it is a weird thing to miss, but I think it is that I miss my alone time, my time spent relaxing in front of the TV and hanging out with the dog, or the times that I get inspired to write because I’m watching some awesome or crazy show. For me, not watching television feels oddly the way I used to feel when I would go without reading for some time and the way I imagine others feels when they too go without reading: uninspired, bored, in need of diving into someone else’s story for awhile.

Thus, this week I have rather little to say about what’s on television given that I have only watched The Bachelorette and that took a solid two hours to download and as I write this, I am patiently awaiting the downloading of Pretty Little Liars. However, realizing what I was missing yesterday I watched a few episodes of Season 2 of The Wire and then eventually the latest Bachelorette, which was hometown visits. Hometown visits are not my favorite episodes, they are more sentimental and melodramatic, and mostly not as awesome. Plus nobody seems as drunk as usual, which makes the show much less fun. And in this particular episode, I felt super bad for (spoiler alert) Ames who got kicked off. I think he really liked Ashley, poor guy.

Flash forward a few days and after the success of downloading PLL and the Bachelorette, I am on a kick and now feeding my TV addiction via iTunes downloads. Perhaps not the most economically sound solution, but I think it is keeping me sane. So yesterday, during a much needed break from the conference and after a panel on women in crime television, I wandered back to my hostel to watch the latest episode of The Closer and Switched at Birth. Then upon reaching Sydney, I watched Drop Dead Diva and the new show Alphas, which feels like a not as great version of Heroes. And finally, I watched last week’s PLL, replete with its crazy fashion show. Clearly, I am addicted to my stories. But they are awesome (don’t worry I am definitely getting out and about and seeing Australia too).

Generally, I don’t like watching television on my computer, but as it stands my computer is clearly the best option given my old school TV replete with VCR is at home in Oregon, and my computer is highly portable. Thus, I am grateful for downloads, although sad that I can’t watch Hulu or Netflix outside the USA. But I feel like I have learned something about both my TV habits and reliance on the medium this week. A few years ago, I might have been saddened by my reliance on television, and my pure enjoyment of it, but now I love it for more reasons than I have room or care to admit here.

However, among these reasons is the community created by television, something the conference made quite clear. But also we watch often together, or alone and participate in communities online, or talk to our friends afterwards. It is fun and exciting to guess what will happen next, to wait in suspense, and to fill in those narrative gaps. Despite decades of slamming TV for killing our brains, TV makes us think and makes us talk. It is only mind numbing when we let it be, when it washes over us, and even then I am not completely sure that it can wash over us. So perhaps this post is a defense of TV to all those out there who still turn their noses up at television or announce with pride that they don’t watch TV. Seriously, turn it on, check it out, it is pretty awesome.

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