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Monday, May 13, 2013

Contrary to Popular Belief, Television Will Not Rot Your Brain and Here's Why

So, how many of us have heard over and over through the years that TV will rot your brain and that you should read a book instead?

Thought so.

Now, don't get me wrong. Books are incredibly important. I'm an English major, so clearly I think books are pretty snazzy. I just don't think there should be a polar binary between books and television in which books are endless pools of knowledge and imagination while TV shows are evil, nasty brain suckers.

The main thing that this cliche glosses over is that there is good and bad in both mediums. Actually, good and bad is a, well, bad way to put this. There are books and TV shows that stimulate the mind and get our brain juices going, and that's awesome. There are also books and TV shows that are mindless fun, and that's also awesome. The point is that neither is all good or all bad.

Another thing that tends to be glossed over is that books and television actually function in very similar ways. They are both portals into worlds and experiences we would never have access to in our own lives. They both tell stories that we can invest in and learn from. And, most importantly, we can see ourselves reflected in them.

Here's another question. How many of us have felt connected to a fictional character presented either in print or on a screen because you related to their experiences?

Again, thought so.

If you have never seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer, please skip over the following paragraphs until the bolded lettering so as to avoid spoiling yourself, proceed to the nearest television, and watch it immediately. It's for your own good.

When I was sixteen, I was starting to figure out that I maybe, kind of liked girls in a friend way and also a more-than-friend way. The main catalyst of this was that I was sort of in complete puppy love with a girl who was sort of one of my best friends.To make matters worse, I lived in a one stoplight, bible-thumping, everybody-knows-everybody's-business town where I felt I needed to stay deeply closeted for my own good. Yikes.

Me at this point in my life

This was when I watched my first ever episode of Buffy. Unfortunately, it was the episode where Tara dies. Even though I had jumped into the middle of the story and had seen only that episode, I was so emotionally affected by it that I couldn't really function for a good hour afterwards.

Accurate representation
Even after this emotional scarring, I was hooked. I started watching the show from the beginning and fell in love. The first few seasons of the show were amazing, but I waited with bated breath for the introduction of Tara. The brief glimpse I had gotten into the relationship between her and Willow was the first time I'd seen my feelings reflected at me in a way that reassured me that they weren't wrong.

Seriously emotional just looking at them
When Tara finally turned up in the fourth season, I marathoned like nobody's business, locked away in my basement with the remote at the ready to turn the TV off should anyone come downstairs. I lived vicariously through their relationship, with all of its ups and downs, until the bitter, tragic end. Even after it was all over, I felt complete in the knowledge that I wasn't alone. I wasn't the only person who had these feelings, and my feelings were okay. A television show helped me accept myself and gave me the courage to come out.


Books have that power as well. I've read Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters at least four times for the same reason I've rewatched every episode of Buffy at least twice (and any episode involving Willow and Tara together in any capacity more than that). I still connect with the characters in them on an emotional level. Books and television are both incredibly powerful mediums that, in my opinion, can work in tandem very well and change our society for the better. They can live together in peace and harmony.

Yes, I'm ending this post with an Avatar reference

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