Sometimes it’s the little things that we experience in our childhood that shape us into our present selves. We often do not know how the effects of a unique experience can affect the life of a child.
For me, it was, and continues to be, TV.
In the early 2000s, my generation and myself included spent about half of our time gathered around the living room watching TV. Back then, I thought of television as simple entertainment, though what I discovered later on was that it had been providing me with knowledge and helping build my character.
There are three important lessons I could gather from my years as a TV enthusiast, and here they are:
It all started with Disney movies. The idea that I could be anything and have everything if I just wished for turned me into a very hopeful person. However, those classic Disney movies developed into more complex ones in recent years. Happy endings became harder and harder to reach. There were a series of obstacles and challenges the lead character had to overcome in order to get a happy their happy ending.
Surprisingly, I thought the optimism those movies created on me was actually getting in the way of the world’s cruel reality.
Now, if you would evaluate the effect of old cartoons were teaching children from the 90s, you would be surprised to find out how influential it can be.
The lesson being: In life everything comes easy or happy endings are for everyone, which does not teach little kids anything about hard work and compromise. Then I had an obvious realization: no 9 year-old boy or girl would enjoy a film where there is no magic, hope or easy happy endings.
Had I not experienced those hopeful films I wouldn’t have developed the imagination and the creativity that lead me to become a writer. That is what TV is for, to distract you from the world’s cruel reality and to help you appreciate the positive in every situation.
When we watch TV, we encounter so many unrealistic situations that would not likely happened to us in real life. When our favorite character in a show dies or something horrible happens, we feel the pain the character is feeling. We feel the lost of a mother, the betrayal of a brother, or the disappointment of a friend. Why does this happen? Mainly, because we are drawn by tragedy. I know, pretty unsettled thought but let me elaborate on that.
In his book The Storytelling Animal, Jonathan Gottschall explains to his readers the power of a tragic story. In chapter 3, for instance, he tells two very similar stories but with a twist to them. In the first one father and daughter are in the supermarket, dad does not pay attention and the daughter is kidnapped. While in the second one, the kidnapping never occurs.
Gottschall states that no one would ever want the first story to happen to them, but they would pay a ticket to watch it at a movie theater. When I watched shows that made me emotionally affected, I always imagined it happening to me which made me appreciate my life as it was, with all of its ups and downs.
And last but not least,
I recently noticed how different my criteria has changed over the years. And I thank TV for that. Without being aware of it, my brain designed my own personal taste and selection. I can explain why I think a show is good based on many factors I defined as good TV – and I don’t have to be a film expert to know this.
I also acquired knowledge on many topics without leaving the comfort of my home. Shows like How I Met Your Mother and Friends taught me the meaning of friendships, of heartbreak, of problem/solving situation even before I had experienced them enough in the real world. Romantic movies such as Ps. I Love You and The Notebook taught me that the smallest details could be the grandest gestures (I even got dating advice from the romantic comedy Hitch).
I recognize TV makes me think differently of the real world, and for it to have that much power over our society is unbelievable. Television makes every person connect to a story or a person we may have no connection to. It can make you look at an issue or a personal situation you are experienceing with a totally different light. That’s the power TV has over the world and myself.
This article was written by Oriana Valderrama, journalist student at the University of North Texas and VIDGO TV blogger.