So Why Does My TV Dislike Me?

Moxey takes on Aspirational TV

Time was when I got on with my TV. It would sit in the corner of the room and gurgle sweet noises to me. Like a square Furby. But in the last few years it seems that Old Flickering Faithful has it in for me.

This all started with soaps (as it always does). In the UK, sometimes these shows can be a great exponent of social change like the AIDS story lines in Eastenders in the 1990s when even the mention of “AIDS” was enough to give people the heebie-geebies that the ‘gay cancer’ would lurk around corners or on toilet seats to get them and make them look like those folks on Children In Need. Frequently UK soaps show people on the breadline or in ‘working-class’ areas like the East-End or Manchester. Or a farm. But across the pond, soaps have an all-together more bubblegum appearance. Think Days of Our Lives and the poor acting that Joey from Friends put in, then double it. That’s about right. And this lack of any social punch means that they are able to dispense with any reality like jobs or bills and go right for the fluff.

Dallas wasn’t the first but it is the biggest culprit. The premise from the off is a wealthy Texas family who make their money in oil and in cattle-ranching. That’s it. They don’t have a disabled cousin, they don’t have to scrape by on food stamps. They don’t even do their own laundry. So with a show so disconnected from the public, the ratings must have reflected this? Wrong, it was the number 1 ranked show in the US for 3 years in the 80s. It seemed that people wanted to see their TV have fun with money and be rich and spit at us for not being. It created the worst thing to come from America since the word ‘gotten’; it created ‘aspirational TV’.  You must aspire to be like them.

Here however the word ‘aspiration’ isn’t used like it would be in the sentence “It’s that young boy’s aspiration to climb the Himalayas after his foot transplant”. No, it’s used in more of a “I aspire to be so rich I have money oozing out of most of my pores like a teenage Midas” kinda fashion. The shows like Dallas and the Young and the Restless show you that while the characters in the show have ups and downs with murder, pregnancy and alien abduction it has nothing to do with the fact that they have money, yeh? They are just bad people, but imagine how much worse their life would be if they were poor? They couldn’t afford that massage to help ease the pain of a long-lost Spanish brother showing up! For shame! So you want money don’t you? Lots of it? Good, that’s the capitalist way!

Cycle forward 30 years and what are we left with? Shows where the central plot and premise are as bland as communion wafers and just lauded. People go out of their way to shit themselves inside out about Gossip Girl, The OC, 90210 and One Tree Hill to name just some. The central premise hasn’t made huge leaps forward: rich people with oodles of cash so they do not have to work live in swanky, spacious and well-heated apartments in New York or villas in California. They have maids, they have blogs they updated in Starbucks while drinking a mocha-frocha-choka-hoccus-poccus with extra pretentiousness and they all, to the person, are vacous and vain and other v words that make them sound like bastards.

Why does my TV show me this? Why does it hate my lifestyle of being a poor student? Why does my TV hate me? Problem is that many young people watch these shows in their droves and seem to think that either this life is attainable or that it should be celebrated in some way.

Years ago, the American dream was that freedom created the opportunity for prosperity and success and that every man had the right to start a business and make a success “regardless of social class or circumstances of birth”. Let’s gloss over the race bit though. Now however the ‘dream’ is to suddenly discover a large wad of cash and not to work for it. To have a large Manhatten apartment, ignoring the fact that city rates are exorbitant in the area and that it regularly reaches 30C and higher in the summer making the place unliveable. To have a maid that you treat like shit and when an out-sider (or in this case, a non-viewer) asks why they are so mean, just brush it off with a “it’s our little joke” and flutter your eyelashes.
In the last sentence I came dangerously close to singing the Internacionalé so I will back track. I am not one of those people who will happily camp on the steps of St. Pauls like it is a concrete Butlins, wailing about capitalism and still buying a Panini from Costa. I have no large issue with capitalism, it works for me. I know it does not work for a lot of other people and that is where people like me can help by giving money or time to go and directly aid them, not having a drum circle. But when it comes to my TV telling me that to have a great life I need to be rich and have a smug and conceited blog/band/child, well then I think it is time for me to fetch my beret, dig my tent out of the cupboard and march on Wall Street……Arise, ye workers from your slumber, Arise, ye prisoners of want…….


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