FILM AND TV
By Roland Watson
From print and music we can move on to video: to movies and the TV (including films on the internet). And, for them, you should avoid all shows and films:
- that promote ugly and unethical people, including people who reflexively choose competition over cooperation, i.e., who act as if the most important thing in life is to win, and by any means. (You avoid such people in real life; you should avoid them in "entertainment" as well.)
- that glorify crime, violence and violent competition, and also the police and the military. (As with scientists and the worst technology, just because Hollywood can make extremely violent and manipulative movies doesn't mean that it should.)
- that present ridiculously simple caricatures of unethical behavior.
- that revel in obscenity.
- that rewrite history (without a strong disclaimer or which do so to promote an agenda).
- and that convey such messages as it's us versus them, nice guys finish last, the most important thing in life is to be young, rich and beautiful, etc.
You should turn off these types of shows, and if you are in a theater you should walk out. Do not pay for your own brainwashing, your own debasement. However, if you find that you have been misled and that this is what is happening, then give it up - your ticket price - and accept it as lost. (Even better, demand a refund!) Let your action make a statement to the rest of the audience, and try not to make the same mistake again.
In any case, of the hundreds of films that are produced each year, and which make it into theaters and onto television, very few, hype notwithstanding, are worthwhile. If you can withstand the initial marketing assault, and read deeper than the "great film" reviews that are always advertised (they are an integral part of the marketing plan), you will find that after a few weeks the hype subsides: it moves on to the newest releases. And after a while a fallout will occur, and it will become evident which are the truly noteworthy films. Then, you can watch them at your leisure (and save a lot of money and time as well by passing up all the other, lesser films). In addition, we can exclude from this guideline "independent film," the efforts of up and coming, and established, cinema artists, who are not bankrolled by Hollywood since (with our current level of brainwashing) they are not commercial.
It is also worth noting that it is rare for any film to convey deep or important ideas, at least lastingly. The visual stimulus of a film often detracts from such ideas, and in any case the overriding purpose is almost always entertainment. It is no coincidence that the books from which many films are adapted are almost always better. (This is also why some rock and roll bands have problems with music video as a form, since the visual imagery can easily divert "viewers" - not "listeners" - from their music.)
As to the different types of TV programming, soap operas, game shows and talk shows are so riddled with modern conformity, are in fact among the most important purveyors of it, that perforce they should be avoided. The same goes, to an even greater degree, with all "tabloid" news shows and other programs about the entertainment industry. The merits of other shows, though, the comedies and dramas, vary widely. Some are outright garbage, but others, well, a few at least, are excellent. However, they should all be scanned for biases and other unacceptable messages, as should the news. The only really positive content on modern TV, the only shows that are actually worth watching, are the special interest programs, about nature, culture, art, and science, and the presentations of legitimate theater and cinema. And, in this regard, in the U.S., the best source for this type of programming is PBS.
Your basic goal with the TV is to turn it off, and keep it off. You want to reduce to the greatest extent possible your number of viewing hours. But, to do this you will have to fill these hours (like an alcoholic filling time normally spent in a bar), by pursuing other interests, by returning to real life. A few alternatives that you might want to consider are as follows:
- Plan and take trips, especially with your family and friends
- Take long walks or camping trips in natural habitats (and study and photograph them)
- Make love
- Pursue creative interests: make or enjoy music; or arts and crafts (buy drawing, weaving, potting and woodworking materials); or become a fan of high culture (go to museums, concerts, the theater, the ballet, and the opera)
- Learn a foreign language (and then take a trip to a country where it is used)
- Read books
- Study natural and social sciences (and even get a degree)
- Or just play games: cards, chess and other board games
As you can see, there is a lot to do.
In addition, don't get cable television, or a satellite dish. If you pay for it, you will feel compelled to use it. Your goal is to cut your links to the modern media. That way, they cannot affect you.
Regarding your family, when your children watch television you should do it with them. After all, your goal, as a parent, is to spend a lot of time with them. Also, you need to supervise their viewing, to protect them from the worst content. The programs and ads that are targeted at children have many messages, both spoken and unspoken (they are nothing short of predatory), and kids understand them. To repeat, they are not stupid, only young. And, they are learning very, very quickly.
When you watch TV with your children, this is an excellent time to teach them about form. Explain to them what the messages are, and how they have to be alert to them. Help them understand what these messages really mean, and why it is so important to reject them. For instance, show them how programs and ads encourage materialism, and such ideas as the most important thing is to win. (You should explain to them the difference between competition and cooperation.) There are so many messages out there, and they need to learn how to interpret, and guard against, all of them.
As another example, consider modern "action" cartoons, which are the animated versions of the action movies that are made for adults. In these cartoons the villains never smile, which might lead children to draw a number of conclusions, such as:
- People who do not smile are bad, and should not be trusted.
- It is important that you always smile, that you appear to be happy.
- If you feel pain you should not show it, but instead keep it inside.
- And, more generally, in the world there is good and evil, and we are good and they are evil. It is us versus them.
As to direct TV activism, one of the best techniques is to write to corporations and complain about the programs on which they advertise. (Have your children write letters as well.) Our goal is to pressure the corporations themselves to reject violent, salacious and form-ridden programming. Additionally, you should write to the production companies that are responsible for the programs and the networks and stations on which they are broadcast.
An even more impressive means of activism is to reject TV culture entirely. Never watch it: do not own a TV, not even one. Also, a public demonstration of this is to organize a "TV smash." What you do is collect a number of televisions, and then destroy them with sledgehammers in a public place, with banners set up to explain your action. (This originated on university campuses, but another excellent location would be in front of a television network or station.) It is a dramatic act, it makes a point, and it's fun.
At this point it is appropriate to consider the idea of reform from within: that the media might somehow be persuaded to reform themselves. Unfortunately, given that people in the media are for the most part also slaves to it, this will be a difficult task. And, it is not only a matter of encouraging restraint. For example, actors and actresses, who could gain great publicity for activist causes, are actually in a position where, except for the most famous individuals, they are precluded from doing this: they must avoid any such associations. Also, the competition for parts is so great that it is almost impossible for an actor to discriminate. Virtually no role refusal is permitted. Up and coming actors have enough difficulties "making it," what with "casting couches" and other demands; they are not in a position to speak up and take a principled stance. (As with independent films, this does not extend to actors and actresses whose major goal is artistic excellence, not public fame, but, of course, such people rarely make it into the big films and network shows.)
Another approach to media activism is an extension of the earlier idea about changing the legal foundation of corporations. We need to reverse the trend of media consolidation and cross-ownership, by creating an effective anti-trust mechanism against it. Also, the ownership of media outlets by industrial companies (and by the military in developing nations) should be prohibited. As an example of the potential consequences of this, the television network NBC is owned by the industrial giant General Electric. Because of this, NBC censored all references to "radioactive waste" in their movie Atomic Train, instead using the phrase "hazardous waste." General Electric is a leading producer of nuclear power plant equipment. (Earth First! Journal, June-July 1999, page 11) Similarly, we need to analyze the membership of the Boards of Directors of the major media conglomerates, to uncover other such links and potential sources of censorship and other interference. (A related phenomenon that must be opposed is that corporate advertisers now regularly demand changes to television scripts, away from contentious subjects or to avoid possible unfavorable references to themselves.)
Also, an approach that other nations can use, particularly lesser-developed nations, is to set limits on the foreign ownership of domestic media. India, for instance, sets such limits, and this has served as a barrier to the takeover of its market by the leading international media companies.
© Roland Watson 2016