Saturday, April 29, 2006

Television: A Quote to Ponder

From All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes, by Kenneth Myers, Chapter Ten:

Television is thus not simply the dominant medium of popular culture, it is the single most significant shared reality in our entire society. Christendom was defined as a region dominated by Christianity. Not all citizens of Christendom were Christians, but all understood it, all were influenced by its teaching, all institutions had to contend with it. Christianity was the one great assumption of Christendom. I can think of no entity today capable of such a culturally unifying role except television. In television, we live and move and have our being.

What do you think?

5 comments:

Samara said...

I agree only in the sense that most of us are familiar with television as a medium, if not a source of cultural knowledge. I watch things ON a television, but I can't equate that with the meaning that the author of this quote may intend- the sense of television PROGRAMMING as the source of cultural familiarity. I hardly ever see television "programming" anymore- though I did, back in the day (including the once-beloved Square One"). :)

Jessica said...

Hello! Well, this has nothing to do with your post (which was interesting, but I can't think enough right now to answer it!)...but thank you for the birthday wishes comment you left on my blog...it was sweet of you to say something!

Excuse my lack of knowledge, but what is an Omea Reader? From stuff you said, I think I know what it might do...but what is it exactly?

Hope you're having a great weekend!

helen said...

In general, I would agree; but it's not true for everyone. Also, I think that TV as the medium might be becoming a bit outdated, with computer/internet things coming in ahead. (just a guess - not that I would really know)

Susan said...

I agree with you, Helen and Samara, that the quote is not true for everyone. I think Kenneth Myers meant "we" more in the sense of our culture as a whole, rather than each of us individually. I watch very little TV, so the quote wouldn't describe me either, but I think it accurately depicts our society as a whole. Just as Christianity (the values, not true faith necessarily) was a common thread understood in Christendom, TV is a binding tie today. I like your point about the internet, Helen; I hadn't thought of that. I do think, though, that the TV "culture" is stronger. It's something that's interesting (and daunting) to consider. Here's another quote from that same passage. Maybe it will explain Myers' take a bit better:

Miller reflects on how ignoring television is the modern equivalent of monasticism:

Certainly you could choose not to own a television set, but such refusal would condemn you to a life of touristic ignorance, for TV had now become the native language. While variously emulating TV's look and tempo, the other media - films, books, magazines, newspapers - were also referring endlessly to TV's ephemeral content: the only referrent of our "public discours" in the Eighties, when TV finally became the one subject of stand-up comedy, the context of rock music, a frequent news item, a common talk show topic, the scene and arbiter of politics and the major source of political rhetoric ("Where's the beef?" "How do you spell relief?" "We make money the old-fashioned way," etc.).


Myers' point, btw, is not that TV is in and of itself evil. His point is just what a dominating force it is in our society, and the idolatry with which it is too often treated.

Susan said...

Oh, perhaps I should have also included this quote from the same passage. This was a really interesting bit:

Media guru Tony Schwartz describes the electronic media as "the second god." Of course we should recognize that Schwartz has a vested interest in hawking such a metaphor. After all, if radio and television are a god, then Tony Schwartz is the second Moses. But there is something sound about the analogy. If not omnipresent, the elctronic media are everywhere we want them to be. If not omnipotent, they have substantial social and political power. If not omniscient, they are nonetheless the source of all sorts of knowledge for many people. If not eternal, they do (thanks to oldies stations and reruns on cable) have a certain timelessness.

But more consequential than these superficial analogies is the fact that the media, especially television, serve in our culture a role once reserved for God: the role of defining reality. According to Biblical Christianity, it is God's will and God's word that establishes the meaning and significance of all things. In Christendom, God was publicly recognized as the ultimate arbiter and judge of all things.


Once again, Myers (nor I) is not saying that TV is by definition an idol, but that it is that for many (or most) people, and for our culture as a whole. Everyone really just needs to read the whole book on culture :-D.