I saw my brother for the first time in months this last weekend. As insufferable as we are as individual units, we’re exponentially worse when we get together. Every other word is an inside joke (Sleepy Richard, earning your lunch meat, Pretzel Boy, moving about the house), and all the words in between are movie and TV quotes. This earns us little respect from the people around us. But this sibling shorthand we’ve developed comes from a shared childhood experience: we were raised by TV.
To be clear, we had great parents. We were always clean (ish), well-fed, and adequately loved. But when both of your parents work full time, TV is often used to fill the gaps. And when you come from a family of renowned movie buffs, a certain level of cultural literacy is expected. The problem is, when people learn this about you, you get a very specific look. It’s a look that says, “I’m so sorry for your unfulfilled life”. My response usually reflects my impeccable upbringing and unimpeachable manners.
I appreciate your thinly veiled shade, but it is unnecessary. TV made me who I am, for better or worse. From a early age, I was exposed to movies and shows written by some of the cleverest people in the world.
I learned social graces.
I learned how to carefully formulate a snappy comeback.
I realized that not everyone can be trusted.
Sometimes these stories reflected my own experience.
And sometimes they didn’t.
But without them, I’d never be able to feel another person’s crushing disappointment.
Or mortal terror.
I wouldn’t know how it feels to watch someone you love die.
I’d never understand how it feels to lose everything you have.
Good TV, like a good book, gives us a window into another person’s experience,
and explore realities that otherwise wouldn’t exist.
TV made me empathetic, and forced me to experience emotions other than my own.
So don’t be worried that your kids watch TV. Worry about what they watch on TV. Make sure that what they watch reflects the kind of person you want them to be. If it doesn’t…
Make sure their shows are funny and smart.
Make sure that they are gaining experiences beyond their own.
And remind yourself to thank me later. I’ll wait.