Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Couch Picasso - A study of television and its impact on human creativity.

Television: both the babysitter-of-convenience for modern parents and the drug of choice for our time's kids (or at least the ones with meagre allowances and less meagre morals) and a good number of the rest of us too, has never been bigger. Countless different shows (of equally countless degrees of quality) have the potential to bounce in and out of our magic picture boxes every day. The ol' teevee is one of the most exciting (to the average Joe) and certainly the most convenient source of entertainment to society at large, but does so easily being able to watch the fruits of others' creativity discourage the viewer to create something worthwhile themselves? Wouldn't the creative juices poured into our better spent as oils for the creation of (what is commonly considered to be) fine art?

"But is it art?", is a question that the world's elitists constantly stamp on all forms of modern entertainment, and television is no different. It's certainly true that the vast majority of "The Box's" programming is uninspired rubbish (the words "Reality Shows" spring instantly to mind), and I have no doubt that the human race would be a fat lot more cultured if the time spent watching a group of sweaty and grimy Americans scheming against each other on an island were spent on reading (or better, writing) a fine work of fiction.

On the other hand, high budget affairs such as "Lost", "Heroes", "House" and (I reluctantly admit) "Desperate Housewives", although doomed to sink into mediocrity due to the thoroughly un-bottomless well of human creativity, are shining examples of storytelling and cinematography in their early seasons. The really good episodes can leave the reader asking themselves deep moral questions, and the soul searching from these art-induced (and yes, I said ART) dilemma can be more enriching than a lifetime of staring at the Mona Lisa and trying to decide what the frigid bitch is smiling about. Of course, one can vegetate mindlessly in from of these shows (as many pretentious gits would do in art galleries and claim to be "cultured"), but ultimately it is up to the calibre of the viewer to determine whether any deeper message is gleaned from the dancing screen. In that sense, good television is just like any other art form, and is just as worthwhile to create.

Of course, even with the wealth of quality entertainment that television provides to the enlightened few, if those with the potential to make a valid contribution to the global culture pool needs only to press a button for his or her daily culture fix, how can they have any incentive to create art of their own? In my opinion, artists do what they do for two reasons: Firstly, to express their own emotions and opinions on life, and secondly to fill a percieved gap in society's consciousness. I'm betting that one of the top reasons that Shakespeare pulled on his writing pantaloons and scribbled down his plays was that he wanted to make the usual incomprehensible grunts of the filthy archaic proleteriate and in-bred nobilty a tad more high brow. What with television, internet blogging, telecommunication and other such modern ways of forcing your creativity (or lack thereof) into the world's collective noggin, these days expressing oneself is just a click away, and with enough "culture" to fill ten civilisations similarly accessible through a simple grabbing of the remote control, the average Joe will be unlikely to be compelled to dig his pen out from the depths of his couch and write a sonnet.

Once again though, the choice to put in some effort and make something amazing is entirely up to "the Box's" eagerly watching (and sometimes drooling) public. Despite modern society's subtle pressure on its populace to become mindless drones chasing after the almighty dollar and eagerly following the "career" of Paris Hilton, and the apparent lack of a need for new art, the fact remains: new paintings still appear in art galleries, the occasional new symphony (classical or techno), and despite all apparent odds, yet another new quality show often makes its rounds in the T.V. guides. Visionaries still roam the Earth, gentle reader, and there's no getting rid of them. The times, bad luck and the omnipresence of cretins have always opposed the creation of art. Whether it be how Beethoven had to compose despite is nasty case of deafness or how Homer had had to write the Illiad while having to flee from the occasional barbarian horde. Art has prevailed, in all possible forms, throughout history and we should stop fussing over it so much. It's old enough to take care of itself by now, after all.

Television's impact on the modern world's culture and our minds is impossible to ignore, and I suggest we accept the intrusion with open sensory organs. Some television good, some television is bad, and some television is "The Bachelor" (*shudder*), as is the case for all of mankind's attempts at art, but it's in the eye of the beholder whether to take something meaningful from it. Television may rot the brains of the modern neanderthal and the lazy artist (it's not like we were seeing anything out of them anyway) and it might oppose the emergence of the next "Great Bard", but ultimately, it simply creates a new platform for art and abundant potential for the emergence of something new and beautiful.

It's a fair trade, I'd say.

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