Thursday, October 15, 2009


I used to be a daily Today Show viewer. Most of the time, I complained about it. I disliked Katie Couric and how she really, really, really wanted the families of the Columbine victims to squeeze out a few more tears. But it was better than the other network morning shows, I liked watching TV while eating my breakfast, and it made me feel like I was somewhat informed about national news. So I watched it, and I ridiculed it.

I didn't want to watch it with Thumper around, though, so we've been daily viewers of Sesame Street instead. Elmo is a whole other kettle of fish when it comes to the horrors of television, but I certainly haven't missed Matt and Meredith at all. In fact now, when I do catch a few minutes of it because Thumper isn't up yet, and Aerie was watching the local newscast for the weather which then bounced back to the network feed, I'm mildly horrified. It's an endless parade of tragedies and celebrity freak show voyeurism. Why did I watch that?

This morning, Thumper was still asleep, and Aerie was hanging around the house a little later than usual. She had Today on when I walked through, and I caught a few details. The sad story of Michael Brewer was particularly bleak, and it made me realize another way in which parenting has changed me. Before, I would have consumed the entire segment and felt superior to the people who could commit such an atrocity and to the parents who spawned them. I'd feel a twinge of empathy, a hint of horror, and my certainty about the black pit at the center of human nature would be confirmed. And then I'd sit there and wait for the next three-minute segment of human depravity to be paraded before me.

This morning, I had to walk away. As soon as I heard enough of the story to imagine Thumper as the victim of such an act, I couldn't watch another second. Now I know what people mean by "chilling."

Hypocritically, when I thought about writing a blog post, I searched for the segment on the show's website and watched it in its entirety. I wanted to see if I could find an answer to the question in my mind: Why would the mother agree to be on the show, to let herself and her child be this week's morsel drooled over by Meredith as she serves it up for our consumption, to be forgotten in favor of some other morsel tomorrow or next week? The mother did make a plea for peace, for the rejection of violence as a solution to human problems, but Meredith sidestepped that plea without comment and came right back, prodding for the soft spot that would get the tears flowing. The mother didn't break down completely during the interview, so at the end, Meredith tells Matt that the interview was filmed before the show went on the air, and the mother did break down after the interview was over. While still on camera! And we have it here! We asked her if it was OK if we showed it, and she said yes! So they show several moments of her sobbing, and we, the audience, we slurp it up.

I don't want to be a part of that anymore. The celebrity gossip! The murders! The rapes! The abuse! The 18-year-long kidnap victim! and Michael Jackson on endless loop! I mostly get it now only from the magazine covers when I stand in line at the grocery store. I'm going to try to avert my eyes from now on. I also watch TV Guide Channel because we don't have digital cable and never know what's on. I put the Mute on and suffer through the slow motion scrolling of the schedule beneath Michael Jackson and Flava Flav and New York and Ashton Kutcher, but still. Even muted, it seeps in through the eyes. If this is being informed, I'd rather be ignorant.



neill said...

Over the summer our family went tv-free. It was one happy summer.

Purelight said...

You are one talented dude in the word department, son. Great post!

I, Rodius said...

Neill, I don't think I'm man enough to go completely TV-free, though I'll keep the dream alive. Like all addictions, it delivers more disappointment than satisfaction.

Thanks, Ma!

suttonhoo said...

I'm not familiar with the story you're referring to, and on your advice I'm going to avoid looking it up. but I had similar thoughts as this whole balloon boy story broke -- I'm in the camp that thinks the dad orchestrated the whole thing, and if he did?

wow. that's some seriously messed up stuff.

what price fame? are we really teaching our children that attention matters more than living honestly and with integrity?

because -- to state the obvious -- it doesn't.

Purelight said...

You are very welcome, but Ma is your MIL, aka Mungo.


I, Rodius said...

No, you don't want to know, Ms. Hoo. And yeah, the Balloon Boy, I hope we don't recall this story as part of the cultural tapestry years from now.

I am reminded of a wall photo I saw on Facebook: Kanye, superimposed over a shot of the balloon, saying, "Yo, Balloon Kid, I'm real happy for ya, and I'ma let you finish, but Baby Jessica was the best news-making baby of all time. OF ALL TIME!"

Speaking of which, Kanye's kinda guaranteed his spot in the zeitgeist, no?

She Said said...

Bravo! Amazingly stated.

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