Friday, April 15, 2011

TV watches us!

My son is 3 months old now. One of the things my wife has read (or heard in her Child Ed class) is that it is not good to expose one's child to too much TV (I believe she said 2 hours max). I of course said no problem because generally TV shows are not that interesting, and I would rather have my son build a puzzle or read a book when he gets old enough. However, what I found was how hard it was to be in the living room without the TV on! That almost as a unconscious reflex I would walk into the room and immediately go for the remote and turn to something I did not predetermine I would watch. For example, even when I am trying to give my infant son his bottle I'm mysteriously drawn away from my attention to him and instead gaze at the stupidest TV commercial. Why?

According to Zizek, quoting Lefort (I think), this is due to the fact that the TV serves as the opposite logic of what we think. In other words, it is not us that watch the TV at times but it instead watches us. It is like the opposite of George Orwell's book 1984 where he talks about the Big Other that has a universal gaze of society (proto-totalitarian society where we have no freedom because of its watchful eye).

In our reality TV world, in fact the terror is in the realization that actually nobody is watching us. Think about the explosion of Youtube videos of people of all ages exposing themselves in all manners of speaking (and I mean this literally-music, politics, sex, comedy, random, boring events from life, etc.); it is almost like they cannot live without the thought that the camera is not there to capture them. The same thing goes for reality TV shows, according to Zizek. He notes that reality TV show's characters are fictions; what is so funny is that a real person (Kardashian X) plays herself (Kardashian X) as an actor-why this works is that they really are there own sitcom (we often note how made-up the "drama" really is)! This mirrors the way you have the "real" Youtube videos or even functions as analogy of the potential masks that we put on in everyday reality.

Perhaps that is why we have the TV on even though nobody is really watching. We need the background noise to fill in the reality that someone is really there. Try to get comfortable with the silence of your living room...

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