“Television Shapes the Soul”
Television is a teacher of expectations. In his essay “Television Shapes the Soul” author Michael Novak stresses the many different effects television has on its viewers. Novak states that T.V. can guide the way people perceive things. He says that from watching T.V. our minds have become molded into a fast moving pace. In every different program, the viewer must figure out the connections between people, between chains of action, and between scenes, which often change in a matter of seconds. Viewers learn to detect clues and look deeply into a scene to figure out what is going on without actually being told. Novak implies this to students’ writing, since they are used to a fast pace change of scene and subject, they tend to write their papers the same way. One may swiftly change the subject, shift the scene, and drop an argument in order to pick it up later, without losing organization.
He also examines the format of television and its’ importance because it influences the periodization of attention. With that being said, the director or writer of these shows and movies must neatly divide the segments in order to develop a climax, subclimax, or build suspense while holding the viewers’ attention. In the same way, a professor learns over time how much can be accomplished in a timed lecture. This encourages producers to “pack” as much action, intensity, or entertainment into each show as possible.
Novak explains how many adolescences spend very little time having serious conversations with adults, the only real human exchanges they have are with other peers. The images children have of adults and how they should act, often only come from the media. That meaning that media constitutes as a major source for behavior which could lead to serious consequences for the American psyche.
Throughout this essay, Novak shows how television mixes all the cultures into one. People will not understand what life is like in other cultures through watching T.V., television does not represent the real world. In my perspective, I believe that the author makes a very good point when stating that “the media exerts a strong influence on perception and response”, which is very true because whether it’s on TV, in a magazine, on the internet or radio, society takes what they understand from it and uses the information they have gathered how they choose to in their everyday lives, sometimes without even realizing it. The media affects peoples’ attitudes, the way we dress, the way we talk, basically the way we live or ‘should be living’. The media has such a big impact on our perception of reality, that most of the time our grasp of reality becomes unrealistic. People who watch hours of television usually get caught up in their shows. Rather than just watching these shows for entertainment, the lifestyles and sayings of the people on television tend to rub off on us. We may do these things to either fit in or ‘look cool’ or simply because it’s contagious. In my opinion, television has crossed many limits in this generation due to competitive pressures of programming. I feel that back in the day television was way more monitored than it is today, shows were more conservative. Whereas nowadays there is a lot more reality T.V. and T.V. programs are nowhere near as censored as they used to be. Since reality shows are not scripted and are said to show how celebrities really live, I believe that viewers feel they can relate to these shows. I think this plays huge role on the way people act, their standards and values. For example the show 16 and Pregnant not only portrays that being that 16 and pregnant without at least completing high school or even a job is okay but also most of the teens on the show treat their parents with little or no respect. How people behave in the media isn’t always the correct way, thus setting bad examples for viewers’ of all ages and eventually people amongst all age groups will be doing or trying things they shouldn’t. With that being said I definitely agree that the media is a major source for behavior. Another statement that I believed to be as true is that television does not reinforce the concrete ways of life but instead shows the way things are done in the “big world”. I can relate to this statement because most of the shows I enjoy watching are reality shows such as Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Million Dollar Listings, The Real Housewives and more. These shows causing me to want and try to dress in all the latest trends, buy the latest gadgets and nice things that the celebrities have. I believe that these shows teach people that they should compete with one another, or “try to be better” than one another by having nice things. Although I do enjoy watching how the upper class people live and act, I know that in reality the average person cannot live this way but tend not to believe that. If you think about it, you hardly ever see a television show produced in an unfortunate place showing the daily struggles of people. That to me just shows that television shows how things are done in the “big world”, a world that does not truly exist. Furthermore, I do agree that television does not do a good job at showing how the real world works. By this I don’t mean only the rich and famous but also culture and nationality. Television is very inaccurate about the actual diversity of life in the United States. You could be watching a show based out of china where the people speak in French, eat Italian foods, and watch American programs. Don’t get me wrong, I know it is possible for these things to happen but generally they don’t. When people begin to see these things I believe that they are going to start thinking that places all over the world are just like the United States. What we watch really represents nothing or no one. Also, the makers of these shows don’t live in these worlds so what they are trying to make people perceive the world as is so unreal. Television shows don’t show the culture differences in the United States the way they really should. Not only does this occur on reality T.V. and sitcoms but also on the new and documentaries. Newsman often takes sides in a conflict and don’t show the whole story. As you can see, television may shape the soul but I believe it does so negatively. The fact that Americans depend on T.V. for their public sense of how other humans behave in diverse situations is a huge way of how television shapes the soul. Since many children do not spend time having serious conversations with adults, I do think that they use T.V. as a guide to their lives. Without having someone to show these children right from wrong, they are going to start believing what they see on T.V. is okay. I don’t believe that T.V. is a good sense of how people should live. I’m sure parents tend to wonder why their kids begin to act the way they do but in reality it’s not a child’s fault. They are going to repeat what they see being done constantly. Teens these days are spending more time with their peers rather than adults. As I mentioned before I watch “Keeping Up with the Kardashians”, there are two teenage daughters in the show and whenever the parents try to hang out with them, they shut them down. They don’t talk to their parents or really even spend any time with them, but more so with their friends. All in all, although it seems absurd people really do learn their behaviors from watching many different programs on T.V. One thing that took me by surprise is how carefully and precisely a director organizes his or her program. It never really occurred to me that all shows and movies are around the same length. I truly do believe that a person’s attention span is influenced by the format of television. When I watch a movie that go beyond the typical two hours, I begin to get antsy and restless. I just think that it becomes too much information to gather and we become uninterested after a certain point. Since directors don’t want this to happen as viewers watch their programs they have learned to pertain as much content in a certain amount of time to keep people watching. Not only does this occur when watching T.V. but also when reading and writing. I’m sure we could all agree that if T.V. didn’t capture our attention the way it does we would not watch it in the amounts that we do. At the end of the day people really do need to stay in touch with reality and remember that what we see isn’t always what we get. We all need to realize that there is a huge balance between what is real and what is seen in the media. The life of a “superstar” seems wonderful but we need to stop letting it effect how we as average everyday people live our lives. We need to realize that things don’t always work out our way like they do on T.V. We need to stop investing so much time watching T.V and fantasizing about the lives of others, and take the time to enjoy and appreciate our own lives.