Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Through the looking glass

(Pre-Script: This post will blow your mind if you read it as the song, " Good Intentions," F#63 on the playlist, plays in the background. Go down to the playlist, click on that song, then come back and resume reading. I'll wait...) (...still waiting...)
I remember being a cutting edge 4 year old in 1980. Two of my favorite TV shows were Sesame Street and The Love Boat. My favorite Sesame Street character was Ernie. Who could not love Ernie? Bert always had that pessimistic uni brow and was such a stick in the mud. But together, they worked.
My highly intelligent cutting edge brain also had a few things figured out. I knew, for instance, that Bert and Ernie could see me through the TV. I could see them from my side of the glass; surely they could see me from theirs.
I remember watching an episode of Sesame Street where Bert and Ernie were looking in a closet, then they looked up, right through the TV screen, and acted like they could see the children on the other side of the screen. I was delighted and thrilled, because it just proved to myself what I already knew, which my brothers had harshly mocked me for believing. Now, here was an episode of Sesame Street that completely proved my point. Bert and Ernie really could see me; at least on that one day, they could. Take that, brothers who thought they were smarter and wiser than me; especially to the brother with red hair.
The Love Boat was an entirely different TV show. Sesame Street came on sometime in the morning; The Love Boat was on in the afternoon, when more mature people turned on their TVs. I liked being part of that class. On the Love Boat, they always drank something that sounded like "Shampoo," and I remember thinking it must be so disgusting. Grown ups were weird like that. I enjoyed the theme song; "The Love Boat, soon we'll be making another run; the love boat, exciting adventure for everyone." And there was always a scene where two people would go outside and stand near the railing with drinks in hand, talking. Who knows what they talked about, probably more boring grown up things, but there was always a breeze on them, and it looked cold to me. It also made me nervous to see them standing so close to the rail. How easily either one of them could topple right over, his or her perfectly poised glass of Shampoo totally ruined by the ocean water. These are the types of things I thought about while watching television as a child.
As I got older, (read: 7,8,9 and beyond) I also developed a love for sitcoms. The first thing I noticed and fixated on while watching sitcoms was the way the rooms were decorated. I payed more attention to the background behind the people saying their scripted words than the people themselves, and tried to pick up on even the most minuscule details. I then tried my best to decorate my bedroom to match as closely as possible what I saw in the houses of the sitcoms.
The other thing I noticed in sitcoms was that people would come in the front door, then leave the door wide open. They never took the time to close the front door.
Families in sitcoms kept a lot of bottled juice in their refrigerators. I was jealous; I wanted there to be more bottled juice in my own refrigerator, so that I, too, could casually saunter into the kitchen, open the refrigerator, pull out a bottle of juice, take a sip, close the lid, say something witty, then leave the room with my bottle of juice in hand. Sitcoms made me realise that my own parents required me to drink from a cup far too often; juice from a bottle was oh so glamorous to me. What a luxurious way to live! Just imagine!!
Also in Sitcoms, if a family was sitting around a table to eat a meal, there was always one side of the table that no one would sit on. This was as annoying as an unscratchable itch. I vowed that if I ever created a sitcom of my own, the characters would always close the front doors they walked through. The family would sit on all sides of the table.
In fact, I did make up my own sitcoms, several, and I would act them out in my room. I would provide my own laugh track. I would make up many a theme song, then rehearse the staging of how we/I would present myself to the camera as the song played behind me. Usually I would laugh infectiously at the camera, or at my imaginary sibling who had just said something witty that the TV viewing audience could not hear, but could only wonder about.
So be careful lest you assume you know just what a child is picking up on in the Television he or she is viewing. Sometimes what you think may be damaging will fly right over their heads. Other times, the things you think are innocuous are exactly the thing the child is fixated on, and fascinated by. Watching television as a child gave me something to mentally chew on, process, wonder about, and in general, made me a more well rounded, creative person. Which completely defies most conventional current wisdom. But it's like I always say, sometimes conventional wisdom is not conventional, not current, nor wise. Think about it, people. Enjoy your TV, children of all ages.


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