Listen, I’m not trying to say all media is bad; it’s not. Movies in particular can be wonderful works of art or much-needed distractions, and there’s nothing inherently evil about television, radio, print, or the internet; quite the contrary, all forms of media provide wonderful channels of communication.
Furthermore, I’m not blaming the media for anything. I want to be clear: I do not believe there is any media conspiracy. I can attest from my days in radio that the media is simply a collection of independently owned businesses, working for profit. An argument can be made that we have ourselves to blame for all this negative media (a solid argument indeed), and that television, radio, and print are simply providing what sells.
Of course, I agree with all of that. But in their quest for profit, the media does pander to the lowest common denominator, like a giant lens magnifying and reflecting the darkest parts of human nature. I’m not saying it’s wrong; I’m simply saying it is.
And we’re receptive to it.
Earlier this year, I watched a short film entitled Evidence. More art film than documentary, the film focused on the faces of a group of small children as they watched television: their blank expressions, comatose eyes. Every now and then, their facial expressions hitched in response to some image on the television, but for the most part, they appeared undead.
I’ve never forgotten that film. And now, whenever I’m watching a sitcom or gameshow, I think of the way my own face must look, staring blankly up at the glowing screen. Sometimes, this compels me to turn the tube off and go outside, exchanging the gloom of the TV room for the calming brightness of sunlight, the sound of commercials for the chirping of birds; detaching from the hive mind long enough to find some peace and quiet and develop some memories (and a few ideas) of my own.