Jewish Journal


August 22, 2012

An ode to television



My worst nightmare.

Israel’s image worldwide may be not so great, but Television’s image is much worse. When we think of television we think of low culture, something that fits all people, even the less intelligent ones. In our minds, television appears to be the lowest common ground of mankind, unlike books, for instance, which we see as high culture, as it symbolizes intelligence and education. When we have spare time, we will always find watching television as the “lazy” alternative to relax our minds. Just sit back and stare, no thinking is required.  This perception became more intense and more realistic when I started University. In “Mass Media” class, we examined media content throughout the prism of critical theories, such as Feminism, Frankfurt, Economical-Political theory, and more. We saw how television “drugs” us, as we stare at the screen all day, living throughout the television without actually living. We also learned how media content preserves the Hegemonic way of life instead of criticizing it. I see myself as a critical person, so I was enthused and eager to learn more. That until during one of the classes, Gal, the TA, showed us a scene from Mad Men.

While Gal used that scene to demonstrate the effect media has on people by showing us Don Draper’s work, I couldn’t help but thinking: this is not garbage. Mad Men is, to me, a fine piece of art. It is the highest level of quality possible, and way more educating and intelligent than any book I’ve ever read. That was my turning point, that moment when I realized television is not what it used to be. It has entered a new age, the golden age of art-making. Television is no longer just a platform for commercial content and low-level entertainment. It is also where your mind is stimulated and your intelligence is constantly being challenged. 

In the past couple of years, television has proven to be both the lowest level of culture as much as it is the highest level. Television series are no longer low-budget sci-fi/sitcoms. They are high-definition, high-quality dramas and sharp, sophisticated comedies. Television series are not only for illiterate, lazy couch-potatoes, but also for intelligent, well-educated people as well. Watching Black Mirror made me completely speechless. I was blown away by the way the creators managed to capture our reality, our culture, and shove it in our face, and hitting us right in the guts. Every episode made me think, first to myself, and then with my friends. Modern Family does the exact same thing, only while making me laugh while getting a reality check. An episode of Revenge leaves me speechless, every time, as my jaw is being pulled down by the brilliance of the script. Smash makes my heart pound. Once upon a time takes my childhood and makes me examine it in a different way. All of those shows are art to me. They stimulate all of my senses, and most importantly- make me think, revise the world I live in. Some show me worlds and cultures different from my own, helping me get out of my bubble. Others teach me some history, but not in a bookish way. I can always read about the 60’s, but only by watching Mad Men will I know how Kennedy’s assassination affected the American individuals. I can read about the Middle Ages, but only by watching The Borgias will I feel the atmosphere in the streets of Rome.

Whether they have visual qualities or a remarkably interesting script, I believe television series are a brand new form of quality art. It is the kind we usually see in museums, only this time, we don’t have to spend millions of dollars to have a masterpiece hanging in our living room. All we have to do is pick up the remote.

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