July 12, 2009

Few sources are better than the popular media to express the current acceptabilities of the viewing public. In a bottom-line superficial world, nothing can survive on the airwaves unless it reflects either actuality or hidden desire.

Many years ago, I drew from such an illustrative example while I was discussing the topic of modern marriage with a former professor of mine. I did not then understand his reaction: more a matter of body language and shortened conversation than of anything actually said. It took me years to understand that he had assumed I was pulling from television as a role modelling structure -- which would have come as a sharp surprise to him -- and equally that I watched television the same way as most people, either as passive entertainment or as "educational".

(This last btw is absolutely impossible for me. There is nothing from which we cannot learn. Non-fiction weaves factoids into an information framework of the director's choosing, fiction creates a living context to give them meaning. Neither gives anything near a complete picture. To rely entirely upon one or the other is to cultivate a very distorted view of the world. Not only is a sharp division between passive entertainment and "educational" television alien to me, but to watch/read/listen to something -- anything -- and simply absorb, never once asking questions about what I had just seen, never once thinking about why this was said and not that, never once wondering what lies outside the presented picture ... it is something that would come very close to hell for me.)

Is it from isolated incidents such as these, combined with the firm scientific belief in causality, that the psychology field has come to see television's influence solely as formative? and thus to ask only those questions that can arise from this assumption?

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