TV does not create stupid viewers, viewers create stupid TV

Daniel Serrano
February 26, 2013
Filed under Opinions

If I hear someone say that television is making people stupid one more time, I might just lose my mind. Blasting television as a brain-frying time-killer is a favorite idea amongst budding intellectuals and conspiracy theorists. I’ve heard it dozens of times from as many different people and in numerous contexts.

Television will never make you stupid because television can’t make you stupid. In order to make someone do or become something, you have to force him or her into that situation. It’s not really much of a choice. If I make you give me your wallet, it’s because your other options are broken bones or death. With alternatives like that, it’s no wonder that my theoretical mugger counterpart is maxing out your credit card.

But no one is holding a gun to anyone’s head and forcing them to watch eight hours of “Family Guy” or the “Real Housewives” of whatever city. That’s a choice. I’ve heard this idea that media moguls with malicious agendas plan shows to brainwash and distract people, dumbing us down so that we don’t care about important social issues. Again, not true.

Television mirrors a society’s thoughts and wants. People want to laugh, so the sitcom is born. People want to be informed, and the news does that. Others want to condescendingly judge people in ridiculous situations that they perceive as dumb, and reality shows make that, well, a reality.

Television doesn’t create the demand for a particular kind of programming; the audience does. The shows simply supply that demand. If most people loved to learn all the time, documentaries would air in prime time and “Jeopardy” would get Super Bowl ratings. But that’s not the case.

Television is a business like any other industry. TV executives sell a product – the show – and what people want to watch, they’ll air. So if you see television as a cesspool brewing up idiots seven days a week, don’t look at the stations in disgust; instead, look at the viewers. The shows are giving them what they want, making their mind’s desire actualize in the form of colored pixels representing people and situations.

Most people who do indulge in the simple pleasures of dim-witted programming, myself included, use it as nothing more than a temporary break. I’ve never met a person whose intellectual inabilities stemmed from too much television.
Beside, there is a lot to be gained from television, if viewed critically. I guarantee you that you can learn something from Kim Kardashian if you watch her show once, even if it only concerns the pitfalls of vanity and the subsequent pursuit of trivial material goods.

The point is, there is no show that creates stupid people. Rather, the desire to see dumb, mindless entertainment creates shows that fit the bill. Television isn’t a weapon waging a war on our intelligence; it’s a mirror for society’s collective thoughts and desires, especially the dumb ones.

Daniel Serrano is a senior double major in English and journalism and an assistant city editor for the Daily 49er

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