Posted by: sailingspirit | May 18, 2011

Lingering at the Tomb of a Great Book/Series

Is there a standard grieving period, or rebound period, after the end of a great book or TV story? Why do we feel like we need a little time, we’re extra-cautious about how we choose the next one? As if we just lost a beloved pet? Do we read books/watch TV shows, or do we develop relationships with them?

I had a similar experience just last night–I was catching up on some recorded TV, a show I’ve been following for a few years, and in the episode one’s shocking past is revealed shortly before two characters unexpectedly die. I reacted so strongly to the betrayal and death with shock and grief, as if these people were actually my friends, yet at the same time I was wanting to shout defiantly at the show’s writers to go back and change it. It was such a bizarre dual-mentality experience…like the writers were mini-gods I could persuade and the non-reality would actually change. I’m still puzzled why this non-reality has become so close to reality for me.

Best I can figure so far, these well-developed characters (especially the ones on TV where ultra-zoom cameras look deep into their eyes and facial expressions as we would) become surrogates for relationships in our actual lives. Spots capable of being filled, however we choose to fill them. On the surface we claim it’s entertainment and we’ve become such entertainment addicts. But is that really the whole story? I think it’s something deeper. Are not the most successful entertainments the ones containing lots of human interest? Underdogs and tear-jerkers? For example, consider those contest shows. There is nothing in a contest that requires we know the personal history of the contestants. But don’t these shows all make mini-documentaries to get us invested in the people enough to keep watching? Most people probably can’t tell you who won the previous three years but they can tell you all the details about this year’s contestants. Something happens, like an injury or unexpected score, and everybody’s buzzing about it for the following week. I assert we’re not addicted to entertainment, we’re starving for connection. Yet we won’t invest in the actual people around us, to get to know the aspirations and struggles of the people at our church or corner market or the neighbors two doors down. They’re regular people like our contestants and characters but why aren’t they good enough? Instead we claim we’re bored and default back to the boob tube on a daily basis. We allow Hollywood to edit which stories we will be exposed to and which we will never hear.

I know in my life right now, I have virtually no close relationships so TV surrogates are all I’ve got. And not for lack of trying; I’ve twisted myself in a knot trying to make friends around here but everyone hides behind the unchallenged lie that they’re “too busy.” I can’t help but wonder if they’d be more interested if I had someone follow me around with a camera all the time; are people better able to decide they like me if they see my face on a screen rather than with their own eyes? Do they need the recommendation of a producer to consider me worth a try? That’s just dumb. This season of my life is almost over and I’m certain God has lots of great people lined up for my future. I very much look forward to new friends that can make up their own minds who they like. But, I can’t help wondering if the significance of the TV characters in my favorite show will change after all my relationship spots are filled with real people. I may watch less regularly, but will I care about them any less?

And, too, is it ethical for producers to put us through such unnecessary grief? How is the constant relationship building and ending affecting us as a society? Which came first, our total disconnection from real human contact or the TV-land lesson we ought not invest too much because in a season or two they’ll be gone anyway? We commit because we feel if we consistently show up, so do they. And we receive something from them. But it doesn’t last. We truly are serial monogamists.

As we all sit here to type or read these blogs, are there 3D people with faces in our lives we could be sharing the same thoughts with? Then why don’t we? Why does the virtual world feel more welcoming than the real one? Are we not the same people?


How has this impacted your thinking on the matter?

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