Television, Thou Art a Heartless Bitch

Song of the moment: непара Potap and Nastya Kamenskih

This may surprise you, galleons, but I really don’t watch that much television. I have the shows I enjoy, true enough, but I don’t tend to spend a lot of time parked in front of the TV. But I am an episode re-watcher, so I have a tendency to acquire (usually through sordid, piratical means) complete seasons of my favorite programs so that I can watch and re-watch them at my leisure.

That being said, when I love a television show, I love it hard. I watch every episode ever made. I tend to read up on trivia. I delight in devoting a half hour or hour on the night it airs to watching the latest episode.

And I’ve always been torn, in relation to my love affair with my television shows. On the one hand, I adore sharing my favorite programs with other people. I love when my friends all gather together to share in something I love. But… why? Well, I guess it’s the fact that it gives us an easy thing to converse about (something we obviously all enjoy). And sometimes they give me a fresh perspective on the show and/or clarify something that flew over my head. And it leads to some fun “inside jokes” (e.g. the RIVALRY! joke).

But there’s the flip side. I get people hooked on the things I love, and then they ruin them for me. I can’t enjoy my shows anymore because other people are quoting them left and right. A girl I know frequently uses a quote from a show I introduced her to as an away message. It has recently begun to irk me, but I can’t really put my finger on why. But the same holds true for when Sean quotes Charlie at me one too many times. By sharing, I’ve diluted the unique, special power the show used to hold over me.

Both sides tear at me pretty equally, and it’s a cause of a fair share of stupid distress. Because I hate that the second side even exists… it feels as dumb and selfish as it sounds. But the fact of the matter is, it does exist. Sometimes, I need things that belong solely to me. That remind me that I am my own person.

But… if nobody watched the same shows as me, how would they know that the sweetest housewarming gift I could receive would be a set of whimsical adhesive duck stickers for my bathtub?

***

One thing television does, I’ve noticed, is shape the personalities of people. The shows you watch influence your personality. And I’m not just talking about the catchphrases and quotes you pick up and insert into your everyday lexicon. I’m talking character quirks and mannerisms that start to bleed through and become a part of who you are.

Derek was always such a great example of this. All you have to do is watch the Tenth Doctor to see where Derek took so much of who he is. A large part of that is probably because he really identified with the character, but the fact still stands that, by watching and admiring Tennant’s Doctor, Derek incorporated parts of the character into himself, altering his own personality permanently.

We’re creatures that practice mimesis on a daily basis. It’s how we learn what is and is not acceptable behavior in society. It’s how we connect with other people. We bend, we change, and we become something a little different than we used to be. Is it really any surprise that the same behavior occurs when we watch television or movies? We see, we admire/respect, we emulate. It’s how humans operate.

***

Why do we relate to characters on television? How can we have emotional attachments to fictional people? Well, it’s the same thing that happens in a play or a book- we empathize because we recognize.

We either personally identify with characters or relate them to someone we know. Or multiple someones. That’s another thing the human brain does all the time– it finds patterns. It looks for connections. It’s a survival trait that bleeds into everything we do. So, when we watch characters on television, we look for echoes of ourselves (or our friends/family/enemies/what-have-you) in their actions and thoughts. If we find a strong connection, we tend to enjoy the show more than if we can’t find a way to relate to the people. It’s much the same as starting a new friendship- you are looking for familiar, common ground. You have to have a little of that in order to relate to the other person in a meaningful way.

***

The Fictional Character Collation

Recently, I’ve come to see why I so enjoy the character of Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory and his interactions with Penny. It’s because he reminds me of one of my favorite (real) people and our interactions. I crave your indulgence for a moment, galleons, as I enumerate some of the silly little comparisons between my friend and this television character.

Now, my Sheldon isn’t the anal, OCD, genius scientist of the television series. He lacks many of the particularly insane traits TBBT has built up in Sheldon. Still… there are some rather amusing similarities:

  1. Both my Sheldon and television Sheldon have remarkable memories. While my Sheldon’s may not be eidetic, it’s still sufficiently impressive. He can remember the oddest details, things an ordinary person would forget (like my hatred of Neruda, which has only ever been mentioned once). True, as a person who loves and studies history, I suppose it makes sense that he’s developed a sharp memory (even if he claims it’s not that good… he’s a fucking liar). He can pull names and facts out of seemingly nowhere. As someone whose memory often operates like a sad little sieve, I find it impressive.
  2. Like television Sheldon, my Sheldon is extremely intelligent. Maybe not off-the-IQ-charts-genius-level but still goddamn smart. In his presence, I always feel so stupid, even though I am a pretty intelligent individual myself.
  3. Both Sheldons have the ability to speak, at length, about a wide variety of topics. All you have to do is get him started, and my Sheldon will just go, telling you more about the topic at hand than you ever knew (or, perhaps, wanted to know). Unlike the characters on the show, though, I’ve always found it endearing. I’ve always enjoyed hearing someone speak passionately, even if I don’t really care much about the subject matter.
  4. Just like television Sheldon, my Sheldon often comes across as condescending, smug, or just plain rude. This is because of my Sheldon’s East Coast roots. Fact of the matter is, to the rest of the country, typical East Coast mannerisms can come across as brusque and cruel. But that’s not often the intention. Their mindset is just a little different. They don’t bother with pleasantries. When they are done talking with you, they don’t feel obligated to explain to you that they are leaving- they just go. My father’s originally from Massachusetts- trust me, I’ve seen this behavior my whole life. It’s not always rude, it’s just perceived that way because us Westerners (and Midwesterners) have slightly different codes of conduct. Television Sheldon comes across as rude because he really doesn’t understand the basics of social interaction (or doesn’t care about them). My Sheldon doesn’t understand the finer points of Midwestern niceties (or doesn’t care about them).
  5. Like Penny and Sheldon, my Sheldon and I have wonderful sparring matches. Sometimes, I find myself disagreeing with him just to start an argument. We push each other’s buttons. We have raucous faux debates. Penny and Sheldon have this amazing chemistry (no, not romantic) onscreen- their scenes are my favorite parts of the show. Like them, my Sheldon and I have personalities that tend to spark off each other. It leads to some really amusing battles.
  6. My Sheldon, like television Sheldon, always seems a little bit… separate from the rest of the group. There’s a wall between him and everyone else. Part of it could be that they are both primarily introverted, but it’s also an issue of trust. Neither of them are terribly liberal with that (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). As an extension of this, they are also slow to consider someone a “friend.” Television Sheldon didn’t consider Penny a friend for a long period of time. I don’t think my Sheldon did, either.
  7. My Sheldon also “bazingas” me, though he learned that from television Sheldon. Still…

There are more examples, of course. A lot of them are little things that would require a great deal of explaining on my part to relay to you all. Suffice to say, I find some amusing parallels between these two.

In an odd way, it fits.

On the topic of Penny/Sheldon, would someone please explain to me why anybody would “ship” these two characters?

***

Of all the god awful things on television, Nascar is the worst. Period. There’s nothing even remotely interesting about watching cars drive around in ellipses 400 fucking times. Nothing.

The really sick thing, though, is that people watch and are just hoping for a wreck. That’s right- they want to see an awful, metal-crunching, flaming disaster. Who cares that someone will more than likely be seriously injured in just such an event (or even killed)? It’s fucked up.

And they say that violent video games are the biggest problem with the entertainment industry. Please.

***

Speaking of violence in video games, a buddy of mine is doing a project on the purported link between violent video games and violent crime. Namely, he’s trying to prove there’s not a substantial link between the two. I’m helping him find sources, because I have so many resources available to me (because I’m a total gamer geek and spend too much time in such areas on the web) and because I’m actually a solid researcher.

Still, if you can think of a particularly compelling article/study/bit of information, please post it here, and I’ll pass it along to him.

I personally used this “research” as an excuse to read some Penny Arcade. Which, funnily enough, led me to this. It was so fitting that I couldn’t help but laugh.

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