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Why I Don't Own a Television

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 Recently I found myself in a debate with the clerk at my grocery store about technology. Six months ago, I bought a cell phone (my first in five years), and before that splurge, I had a rotary dial telephone – you know, the kind you have to plug into a wall jack and dial with your pencil eraser if you want to keep some semblance of a finger tip. It suited me just fine, until it went the way of the Dodo bird last spring. I explained to the clerk that I’m just not a technological person. I mean, I had my BlackBerry for months before I figured out how to change the ring tones or add e-mail. And if I had it my way, I said, I would write my Master’s thesis on a typewriter instead of a computer. His counter? Well surely you have a TV, and that’s technology. No, actually, I do not have a TV. Which isn’t to say that I don’t watch TV, because I do—on DVD, on my computer. I’m not against technology, I just don’t see the merit in owning a television anymore.

Why don’t I own a television? Why would I?! The only thing worth watching anymore is the news, and let’s face it, even that is becoming a depressing chore. Then there are all those reality shows … Whatever happened to sit-coms and dramas and those Saturday night movies they used to show? Now when I mention that a film was “made for TV,” I get funny looks. It’s a foreign concept, that much effort being put into something that will be watched once, maybe twice if the ratings were stellar. Television has been dumbed down lately, catering to a demographic of viewers who don’t want to think about real reality (as opposed to the reality show variety) while they’re lounging in front of that boob tube every night.

In the fall of 1988, Murphy Brown started broadcasting on CBS and the show ran a whopping ten years. This was a good reason to plunk down in front of the TV. Murphy had it all—she was successful, outspoken, she didn’t need a man, and, yes, she was a bit of a bitch. We loved her for it. And the show was politically relevant. Thanks to Murphy, I knew who Dan Quayle was before I understood fractions, and I knew that there was still a stigma attached to single motherhood when Murphy had a baby, way back in 1992.

Shows like Murphy Brown, if they aired now, would not last ten years—probably not even five. Now it’s almost unconscionable to turn politics into a comedic tool (outside of comedy news shows), or for TV shows to force their audience to actually think about the information being given – or lack thereof. The current top ten TV shows include vampires, zombies, sex, murder, drug addiction, and pampered teens. Where are the role models? It’s no wonder teen girls, and even grown women, have lower self esteem now than at any other point since the birth of television. Everywhere we look, we’re told we aren’t pretty enough, skinny enough, or rich enough to be valued.

If there was a modern-day Murphy Brown out there, a loud-mouthed, opinionated feminist over the age of forty, well then I would happily run out and buy myself a TV and a subscription to cable. Until then, I resign myself to watching bootleg seasons of Murphy Brown (you didn’t hear that from me) and her predecessor, Maude. And maybe the occasional few minutes of news.


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