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OPINION: We Can Be More Conscious About What We Watch

1 Jul 2020

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Please note that the views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpoilerTV.

Many of us watch TV shows for escapism, and though it is understandable to want to unplug and just watch a show without having to think that much, the situation changes when what we see on TV affects the way we see the real world. Most of us, are able to watch something and filter the information we’re getting, once there are things we do know, we’re able to recognize that what we’re seeing is just one side of the truth. But the same way we can root for a serial killer or an assassin when the story is told from their side, while still knowing that’s not (hopefully) something we’d root for in real life, sometimes things slip by, especially when what’s portrayed is not part of our personal everyday life.

It has taken me a while to understand the power culture has on us as a society, but now that I feel like I do (there’s always more to learn), I think we can’t just say “this is not my problem”. It can’t be a coincidence that so many countries in the world are experiencing so much unrest. I will not be going into specifics because that’s not what this particular post is about, this is a site about TV shows and that's my main focus here, but the fact that we’re all more connected than we've ever been can’t be denied.

The world is always evolving, by the time you think you’ve learned everything about something, the landscape changes again and you have to adapt. And change is hard, on all of us, but we have to keep at it or the world itself will run us over. We can’t be afraid of making mistakes (though I am and I can understand anyone who is too), I’m sure there are things I’m saying here that I'll at some point believe to be wrong, or at least incomplete. And I’m sure that, even if I’m not wrong, there are people who will hate me for what I believe. But I still see no other way forward than to be open. If we see there’s a good intention behind criticism we should be able to ponder and maybe learn some more. But we can't deny that there are people in this world that prefer spending every ounce of energy they have into fighting change instead of learning from it. We have to be able to hold both truths in our conscience to move forward even if at times they seem at odds with each other.

I know we can't get the people who run this multi-billion-dollar industry to stop seeing it as a business, but we can stop making excuses for ourselves and chose better. There are so many great shows out there, so many great movies and books. We can choose to find other ways to spend our free time than watching shows that specifically and purposely reinforce some of these views that have become so dangerous in real life. I am one of those people who learned a lot by watching Black-Ish, and I’m sad to say I was reluctant to watch it when it first came out, the same way I was with any show I knew to be political in general. At that time, I didn’t understand politics are in everything and not just in political parties, and I still believed in pure objectivity (yeah, I know). I do believe in facts, but I also understand that choosing which facts to highlight, and which to ignore, always has a subjective reason behind it.

I personally have watched and loved many cop shows, there are some that have been over for years that I still miss, but the enjoyment I get from watching a specific show is not more valuable than other people’s lives (and I hate that sometimes I feel like I have to say this and it’s not a given). I have watched all of the Chicago shows, and have even rooted for characters like Chicago PD’s Voight more than once. That’s until I realized that I was no longer okay with his behavior. Because once you truly internalize it, it’s actually hard to continue to watch it week after week. And that doesn’t mean everyone needs to stop watching every single problematic show, especially since we’re still learning how many things we’ve normalized aren’t okay. But once you realize, once you start to see it, you can’t unsee it.

This is a learning curve and I don’t think we can expect people to be perfect, but we can do our best, and more importantly, be willing to listen. Whether we like it or not, TV is a powerful tool and it has the ability to affect our society. The truth is, most of us can often be scared of what we don’t understand, and TV can help us understand and empathize, see realities we're thousands of miles away from. But it’s on us to set the bar higher for the industry and for ourselves.

I believe, if the people who are getting paid millions to bring these shows to our screens are unable to create new ones with better stories, ones that reflect the changes we want to see in our society, then, maybe, they don’t deserve that money, or at the very least, not OUR money and time. I’m aware there are many people who work on different shows that don’t have a say in what goes on, but there’s so much out there, so many Pilots waiting to get a chance, so many people who’ve been ignored so far. Those new shows will also create jobs for the industry. No individual excuse is good enough to support the system the way it currently works, and though they have made improvements, there’s still a long way to go and we can’t let up.

I’d love to get a list of recommendations, any show (old or new) you believe has something to add to the conversation, anything that raises an issue or provides a new perspective, anything you think is a building brick for the kind of community we want to be. And please be kind.