Wednesday, August 30, 2006

TV and Movies

You may know, from previous posts, that I’m not generally a big fan of watching television or movies. I cannot even remember when I was last in a movie theater; all I remember is that the experience was (for me) awful. In a good month I may watch two or three movies, and an hour of television. Maybe. But clearly most of the world is not like me. My wife, Debbie, is much more typical — she absolutely adores old black-and-white movies. And many of my friends have similar interests — in fact, an email from one of those friends provoked this post. She wondered why it was that she, and so many others, enjoy television and movies so very much.

I have a theory about why I’m not very attracted to TV and movies, and also why most people are. My theory could easily be wrong, perhaps especially because a non-enthusiast came up with it.

The theory: people like activities that are intellectually passive without being boring. TV and movies are a passive activity; you don’t have to think about them, you just have to experience them. But they are (at least most of them) also not boring. The combination of the two makes them attractive — even very attractive — to most people.

Reading fiction, if you’re an expert reader, is not quite as passive — you have to use your imagination to envision the places and people in a book — but otherwise, I think it has similar attractions. Inexpert readers have to work very hard to read a book, so for them it isn’t a passive activity at all. That’s not all bad — people I know who have to work hard at reading also pay more attention to detail, and seem to have more appreciation of nuances. It’s an interesting tradeoff. I suspect this may also be true for anyone reading in a language other than their native language.

I think a big part of the reason why I am not particularly attracted to movies and TV is because I much prefer intellectually active pursuits. I have to be tired, or in the right mood, to really enjoy a movie. But learning something new about technology or science or history — I can get very engaged in those activities just about anytime.

Another phenomenon that I suspect is related: I’m not bothered in the slightest by leaving in the middle of a TV show or a movie. Once I get to a point where I’m bored, or I just can’t stand the passivity of the experience, I’ll just leave. Nearly everyone I know finds that behavior to be bizarre and/or obnoxious. It’s as if they think about sitting down to watch a show or a movie as an obligation — once started, they simply must complete it. This makes no sense to me at all! My attitude is that if there’s something I’d rather be doing (and there usually is), then by golly I’m gonna do it, and not just suffer in front of the screen.

What do you all think about my theory? It fits this non-enthusiast, but does it fit you enthusiasts (e.g., most of the world) out there?

Enquiring minds want to know…

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