HE’S DEAD, JIM. The Effect TV and Movies Have on Us

January 22, 2003

Honesty is the best policy. I know, I know. You want to be cool or ignore the idea that you’ve done what countless others have done, but I’m here to hold my head up high and say, “Yes. I’ve said “He’s dead, Jim.” Okay it was probably at a most inappropriate time but I admit I said it.

Too many of us stick our faces in front of the TV and inside movie theatres and figure we’re being “cultured.” Okay, that’s debatable. I, however, am frightened by the number of children I see walking around with what I term “TV face.” They wait on me in menial minimum-wage jobs in local stores. It never fails to amaze me when I ask them a question about a service or product they sell and they respond with a, “Huh?”, jaw open and eyes looking dazed. I’m sure you’ll counter that you’ve seen many perfectly normal people do this. Haven’t we all? But I see them talk to each other with the same kind of “no one’s home” look and I begin to wonder.

Do I have to go into the tired old question of “what is culture?” Okay the dictionary says it is, “the act of developing by education and training.” (Merriam Webster 1989).

So, then the question becomes are we being educated or trained by Star Trek, (any version of it) or Friends or other favourite shows?

I know some of you will get huffy and insist that you only watch educational shows or concerts on TV. Fine. Me too. I’m doing a lot of research on “society” by watching mindless nonsense. What will Monica say to Ross to humiliate him this week?!

I’m guilty. I watch it too. I like TV.

Okay. What about film? Has it helped us become educated or better trained? Ummm…we learned about the aborigines of Australia with The Gods Must Be Crazy. Does that count?

Now let’s get down to it. How are TV and film impacting us? Never mind society as a whole. Sit down, pull up a chair and sip some coffee. Now relax. Lean back. How are you feeling now? Good. How about a few comments about favourite TV and film moments? No? Okay, I’ll start (as usual):

I’ll admit something quirky. I can’t think of the word “library” without harkening back to the original Star Trek series, where Captain Kirk’s says to an older Irish wench in an alley on an “amazingly earth-like planet”!

“Where’s the library?! Where’s Spock?”

The wench looks around at the empty alley and then in a thick sing-songy Irish brogue cries out,

“Show me Li-brary and I’ll be after followerin’ you!!”

I still can’t stop hearing her voice and that was like eons ago. AHEM! Of course I saw it in a history class – not like I’m really that old!

So then there’s music. I hear certain movie music and I’m instantly transported back in time to a few favourite movies. Isn’t that the real hidden purpose to buying the soundtrack? Yeah, I know some real good music groups gave their best work to the film, but don’t you also think of the scene those songs were in?

I admit to being a dozy fan of Dude, Where’s My Car? I laugh hilariously at the stupid one-upmanship scene with Fabio and the two stars. Somehow it gets sillier every time. And who can resist adorable Ashton Kutcher interacting with a dumb blonde?

“Have you seen my car?”

“I saw the back seat last night.”

“Oh thanks. But I was talkin’ about the whole car!”

Or maybe you remember the original Austin Powers film and that classic nonsense line. Austin strolls into a party and says,

“Ahhh. There you are!”

The snobby guy gives him a “Do I know you?” and Austin whips back with:

“No. But there you are!”

My husband Larry said that the other day at work someone started emailing lines from movies that you can’t stop using.

When something stupid happens you might say,” Hello, McFly?” or “And now for something completely different.”

I think you will probably admit that we are all imagining pretty scenes, cool car chases, lovely holiday moments or hearing key lines or music when we think of film or TV.

Think about it and let yourself hark back – it’s okay. I won’t tell a soul.

Laura Seymour first published herself, at age 8. She has since gone on to publish a cookbook for the medical condition of Candida. She is working toward her B.A. (Psyc).

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