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Why Characters in Books, Movies and TV Shows Don’t Watch TV

[Disclaimer: I know that the characters in books and on TV are fictitious. In this piece I’m not implying that these people are “real” in any way. I’m merely using them as an example to make a point. So no, I’m not nuts enough to really believe that these people live real lives inside the box in my living room. Now back to your regularly scheduled article.]

Have you ever noticed that when you pick up a good book or watch a good TV show/movie that the characters rarely, if ever, watch television? You don’t read about someone coming home and plopping down in front of the TV and that’s all they do for a whole chapter. You don’t see someone on TV come home and do nothing but watch reruns of old sitcoms. Yet the characters you read about and watch are almost always well-off financially and have a lot of social interactions. They have busy lives, cool jobs, nice cars, and swanky apartments or houses. They travel and have adventures. And there’s always romance, friendship, and lots of socializing. Fictitious characters have great lives and are successful, but they don’t watch TV.

Think about that for a minute.

We always hear that people who watch a lot of television or movies want to emulate what they see. Studies show that we want the same things these characters have. We see the nice cars, clothes, trips, and friends and we want them, too. TV supposedly influences our behavior. It must not, though, because from what I can tell, watching TV isn’t making anyone watch less TV. And the benefits of watching less is exactly what TV shows us. If these characters aren’t watching TV and are so successful and happy, what makes us think we can have their lives by plopping down in front of the tube every night? If we want to emulate their lives, we shouldn’t be watching so much television.

I’ve been aware of this twisted bit of logic for some time, but recently I started to pay attention and wonder why this should be. So why don’t people on TV, in movies, and in books stare at screens all the time and how are they able to be so successful, well off and happy? Here’s what I’ve come up with based on many years of reading and watching.

  1. People sitting around watching TV don’t make for interesting plots. Neither does it make for an interesting life. If you want an interesting and successful life, you have to get out and do things. You can’t sit passively and watch other people do them.
  2. Fictitious characters are so successful because they spend their time working at their fabulous jobs or starting their own businesses, not staring at screens. Heck, in some shows or books they don’t do anything but work. If you want to be successful, you have to work. Watching TV doesn’t get it done.
  3. Fictitious characters have a lot of disposable income because they aren’t throwing away $100 or more every month on cable packages. Advertising doesn’t lure them into buying random crap. Because they aren’t spending so much on other things, they have a lot more money to buy the clothes, cars, and furniture that make them look so cool.
  4. They all look so good because, without TV, they have a lot more time to exercise. They also snack less (since snacking and screens tend to go hand in hand) and probably consume less fast food.
  5. Their houses look so good and unique because, without TV, they have time and money to dedicate to home improvements and furnishings. Plus, their taste isn’t dictated by what they see, but rather by personal preference which almost always leads to cooler looks than canned mass market decor.
  6. These characters are so happy because they aren’t depressed by all the negative news circulated in the media. They aren’t depressed and down about the economy, elections, or the crime rate, they just go on blissfully unaware of impending Armageddon. Since happiness equates to a can-do attitude and success, they are more likely to be successful.
  7. Characters are more social because they aren’t at home waiting for their show to air. They meet their quirky neighbors and the guys down at the bar. They connect with their kids. Spending time with friends and family leads them to develop deeper relationships than those who watch TV all the time.
  8. Their kids seem better behaved (not on reality TV; those kids watch TV) because they aren’t exposed to all the violence, sex, drugs, and mayhem shown on screen. Their kids are also thin because they don’t spend time plopped in front of the screen.
  9. Characters are awesomely talented because they have the time to practice their talents. Screens aren’t sucking away their music or athletic practice time so they get better at what’s important to them.
  10. Some of them are super-smart because they spend their time reading and learning things rather than watching every re-run of King of the Hill. Lack of television means they have more time for education or, heck, being a child prodigy like Doogie Howser.
  11. They have much higher self esteem because they aren’t getting the destructive messages from the media that they are too fat, skinny, short, tall, stupid, out of the loop, or ugly. And we all know that a high self esteem correlates to success.

All of this kind of makes you wonder, if we base our lives on what we see on television, why are we watching so much TV? If we were truly basing our lives on what we see, we wouldn’t be watching television. We’d be out and about, meeting people and working hard. It’s a funny irony that watching TV is not the way to become like the people you see on screen. Turning it off is the way to become better off financially, healthier, happier, better looking, smarter, and more social. So start emulating your favorite characters and turn off the tube.

(Photo courtesy of Marketing-ASS)

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