Sunday, March 15, 2015

Television! Horrible Sin or Blessed Distraction?

This week I've been watching Netflix's comedy "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" and laughing my ass off! Jim didn't like it much the few episodes he watched with me but I loved it! It has the same goofy sweetness that a show I used to love, "Ugly Betty" had.

Here's the theme song, which kind of says it all. It's a parody of Antoine Dodson's viral video "Bed Intruder"

The entire show is about a girl who was snatched by a cult leader when she was 12 or 13, hidden away in an underground bunker before emerging and starting her life outside of the cult. It is pretty funny, if not sort of slapstick and farcical. I love it! The fact that some of my favorite actors from "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad" have popped up in surprising roles on the show only ads to my goofy glee over this show. I binge watched it on Netflix over the course of three days.

That's one of the things I love now about not having a cult church part fundy/part evangelical set of rules constantly hanging over my head, I love, love, love being able to watch television without the guilt. I remember my old church days of sneakily taking a peek at "Sex and the City" and other television shows on those rare occasions I had to travel for work or conferences and feeling bad about it for weeks.

Television that wasn't 'The 700 Club" or sporting events was super frowned upon. Even our pastor kept his television set in the large upstairs closet of his house, only to be used for news and sports. Most of the members either didn't have television sets or had no cable or television reception, trading VCR tapes back and forth of various ministers and church approved kiddie shows.

I always thought it was very hypocritical because anything that even slightly possibly might smack of sexuality was perma banned but the action movie with killings and explosions was not. I remember taking my children's brand new VCR copy of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" to another church family's home, a home where we'd watched oodles of violent action movies that I never liked that were somehow "okay" to watch because there wasn't even a whiff or hint of sexual tension, much less anything remotely sexual.

We settled in to watch the movie, moms and kids and got to the part where Esmeralda was dancing during the Festival of Fool when the man of the house, lover of action films, came into the living room and started screaming about how we were exposing the kids to unHoly, unrighteous S-E-X. He punched stop on the VCR player so hard while I observed the veins bulging in his neck while he shouted out that I could take my filth home and never bring it back. Seriously, over a Disney movie!

A week or so later I got a call from Mr. Violent Movies sheepishly asking if they could borrow our copy of "Hunchback". I had to ask him why the change of heart and he told me that Pat Robertson had given the film his approval, saying that the film showed people praying in a church. I refused this man's request and told him I was refusing because of his initial overreaction when his kids and mine got together to watch the movie.

During my years at that church I learned to keep to myself the fact that I was watching "Homicide: Life on the Street" and some movie musicals that the church would have frowned upon lest someone tell me how 'sinful' I was being. It kept me from watching much television beyond a few shows and movies secretly.

As soon as we left I started indulging in VH1's pile of sleazier reality shows such as "Rock of Love" and "Surreal Life" and "Celebrity Rehab" and discovered shows such as "The Tudors", "Mad Men", "Ugly Betty" and "Law & Order: SVU" just to name a few. The same fall I left my old television-watching eschewing church was the same time my asthma went batshit crazy. I started a love affair with the old boob tube while I was wheezing and horizontal. Many many times when the asthma is super bad, or they've given me some rather odd treatment for it, like the six months I was on chemo to turn off my asthma and I cannot function I can turn off my anxiety, my pain and my struggling against the whims of my body by picking up my crochet hook, some plarm, sitting back and escaping some place I can never really go, like "Game of Thrones" Westeros or "Breaking Bad" Albuquerque.

How can anything that legally lifts you out of your physical pain and sad condition really that bad? I no longer watch any reality television or the talk shows, but I cannot wait till the rest of "Man Men" and the return of "GoT"


Karen said...

I watch very little TV. It's partly because I prefer to read, and partly because violence has become so graphic in TV and movies. Reading about violence is different, because I can constrain my imagination when necessary to keep my dinner down. :)

But the concept that the distractions of entertainment are somehow evil goes right past me. Even when I was a Christian, that wasn't part of my religious culture, so I just don't get it. I do avoid certain genres of entertainment because they violate my values (generally those that celebrate violence, dishonesty, racism, sexism, and/or non-consensual sex). But I'm not going to be morally corrupted because a whodunit starts with a murder or a tale chronicles the story of a rape victim. I'm not going to start flirting with every man I meet (I'm married -- I gave my word and it means something) because a character in a book or video does so. Honestly!

Calulu said...

Karen, I'm a voracious reader, always have been, but the television is good when your brain is stuck on stupid because of a lack of oxygen or the drugs. I do not like violence either and usually do not watch shows or movies that glorify that. "Breaking Bad" is the rare exception of violence I watched on purpose. I'm just happy this is no longer an issue for me because there has been such a Renaissance of quality in the medium on the non-broadcast networks. Used to be the Big Three, NBC, CBS and ABC dominated everything. Now it's wide open.

You are lucky that your religion didn't frown upon television.