World Television Day is upon us. Now I know TV has gotten somewhat of a bad rap in recent years, but TV is crucial to humans. When television was first invented in 1927, it was viewed as a luxury most people could not afford, as some households still didn’t have electricity. But when TV became more popular, it changed the way we look at the world. My mother still remembers huddling around the black and white screen with her family to watch Neil Armstrong take the first steps on the moon. At that time, the miracle of television was made more miraculous by everyone being able to watch history in the making. But as we grew as a society so did TV. We began to watch our world reflected back to us. As a nation, a world, we shared moments. TV became the eyes and ears of other countries and cultures with programs like National Geographic. We finally got a glimpse of the secret world of animals when we watched Wild Kingdom.
Then the 80s TV hit like a sonic boom. Cable, HBO, MTV, CNN all came into our living rooms. Music videos, 24-hour news, movies at home, like we were able to watch in the theater, commercial free. We were now able to not only hear music but see it. America’s youth fell in love with everything about TV. We could now almost reach out and touch our idols, every minute of the day or night. Life was good but TV was almost always better, a way to escape reality. TV no longer reflected our nuclear family but blew it out of the water. TV began to portray not just our lives but the lives of everyone else. People that we would never get to meet or talk to, we were now able to see in our living room. So many “firsts” were happening. The first gay kiss, the first non-white president. Things people that had been glued to their TVs in the 50s and 60s had never seen before.
I and so many others, have fallen in love over and over again with the people, the stories and the love affairs we have watched in our homes. We cry when our favorite characters cry, we rejoice when the characters we never thought would be together, finally get together. We love TV. But as we have evolved, so has TV. We, the watchers or participants, now expect more than just entertainment. We expect representation for all of us, color, creed, religion, sexual orientation, all of it.
As viewers we no longer accept what someone else tells us to be or to watch. We love TV with all of its flaws, we adore it. But now as a viewer, we expect more than watching the perfect family with 2.5 children and the perfect homogenized married couple, and we are getting more of what we want and need. As a latchkey kid, TV raised me, and while I now have a different relationship with my screen, (often preferring the smaller, handheld one) I still cherish TV and all that I have learned, danced with and loved.
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