The other day, while walking on a beautiful forest trail, I suddenly thought “this would make a nice scene in a movie.” The thought was so out-of-the-blue, it really struck me. I had been thinking about what the North was like before pharmaceuticals, how people truly lived off the land. They used the plants that grow naturally to cure things that bothered them. They learned what plants helped what problems by trial and error, and by following their intuition, and the knowledge was passed down verbally from one person to another. I was completely focused on nature, which is why the thought about movies was so surprising, and, of course, it got me thinking about media.
I wonder how much of the time we relate our real lives to things we see on film and on TV. How often do we compare our lives to the glamour we see on screen, and feel unsatisfied or inadequate? How often do we think about what we look like from the outside, or how our situation must look? I think we do it all the time, sub-consciously. We are all like Abed from the show Community, we just don’t say it out loud. And I just did it again.
Go back in time (like Michael J. Fox), in your mind (it’s such a beautiful one) and imagine a time before there were movies, TV or the internet. Think of Little House on the Prairie. See how it goes? By just mentioning shows or actors you know, I can very quickly get us all on the same page and go from there. Starting with the obvious things, before there was TV, people never thought about getting home in time for a show, or recording it, or when the next episode will be or what might happen. They never shopped for a new TV or a flatscreen. They never thought about bandwidth or usage. There was no Hollywood and they never thought about what the stars were doing. They just went about living their lives — okay, they might have listened to the radio! — and they never talked about something they’d watched with their family or friends. They must have talked about other things.
Think of how much we refer to media in conversation. We do it to make analogies so that we understand each other. A friend recommended I watch Warm Bodies. It’s a love story about a young-man-zombie who falls in love with a normal twenty-something girl. He saves her life and cares for her, and she gradually starts to like him, too. As a result, he comes back to life and starts a biological/spiritual movement that sweeps through the zombie world, causing lots of others to remember their humanity and come back to life. It’s a great story, and because my friend and I shared the experience (even though we didn’t watch it together, we can talk about it now), we have all sorts of great zombie jokes and references.
It all seems harmless until we think about the deeper consequences. Watching a lot of media makes us think of our lives as if they were movies. We want to be entertained, informed, or get caught up in the drama, like when we watch media. We subconsciously expect everything we do to fall into one of those categories. We think of our life as it if had a plot. We hope there’s a happy ending. We want our love lives to be full of romance, and we want our vacations to be glamourous. We love hanging out with that funny friend of ours because he makes us laugh. If one day he goes through a tragedy and isn’t funny any more, we don’t know how to relate.
I wonder if too much media might make us seem less vibrant, more shallow. Comparing our lives with movies or TV can lead to discontentment. Of course, it’s not all bad if it gives us jokes and helps us relate. But if we need media to relate to one another we’re in trouble. I have an acquaintance that watches very different things than I do (I’m almost completely off-TV as it is), so it can be a challenge to find something to talk about. When we do find something, however, we have great, meaningful conversations — much deeper than which shows are good and which aren’t worth the time.
Another thing to consider is this: how would you cope without any media? Would you be able to have conversations with others? How would you keep yourself entertained or spend your time in general? Would it be so bad if you didn’t watch the news? You know I love making you think, and that’s really all I am doing in this post.