virtual children by Scott Warnock

You dummies want screens…

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I know it’s all too easy to say “this jumped the shark” or “that jumped the shark” about moments in our entertainment-addicted/addled/saturated culture, but a few commercials I’ve seen have really pushed me to wonder how, well, stupid they think we are.

I was just trying to watch some NBA over the past couple weeks, as part of an annual ritual: I don’t watch a bit of basketball all year and then somewhere during the semifinals I watch a game and get completely drawn in.

Of course, if you watch any kind of continued sports series, you’re going to see the same commercials a lot, over and over again.

Two commercials in particular raised my ire.

One is this famous guy with triceps making it clear that we want to be entertained and we want TVs in every room because “rooms are better with TVs in them” or something.

The other is a commercial of a desolate summer scene where we discover at the end (sorry for the plot spoiler) that all of the people are inside watching what at first appears to be baseball but on closer observation turns out to be a bunch of people watching people playing a baseball video game.

Let me be clear: It’s not even a bunch of losers watching baseball during a beautiful summer day. It’s a bunch of losers watching other people play a baseball-based video game.

Look, we’re pathetic when it comes to TV, and we’ve been so for a long time. We know it. While there are many great TV shows, many high-quality narratives, screen time is still by and large a wasteland for many, a calorie-building, body-sapping, brain-draining dump.

But it doesn’t matter, and that just seems so brazen to me. No matter what cultural critics from Nirvana to Neil Postman have had to say, we indeed do want to be entertained incessantly, so advertisers have responded by saying, “Damn, let’s just call it what it is for these louts!”

In these commercials, they are overtly telling us that we’re a bunch of saps who need more screens, no matter how lazy and obese and mindless we become because of our reliance on and obsession over those screens. Their business is to get us hooked, and there’s all the subtlety of the street drug deal: We both know we’re in on the joke of the pitch — and the purchase.

I know people who are ripping off cable or satellite or whatever to get more channels. What will you do with more channels? How much screen stuff can you possibly imbibe?

One thing about these commercials is obvious: They are correct. Entertain us. The American consumer is a funny critter. How stupid are we? We will buy anything, won’t we, even when the sellers are laughing right in our faces.

Scott Warnock is a writer and teacher who lives in South Jersey. He is a professor of English at Drexel University, where he directs the University Writing Program. Father of three and husband of one, Scott is on two local school boards and coaches all kinds of youth sports.
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One Response to “You dummies want screens…”

  1. Good thing this was posted Fri of 4th weekend. Hopefully the other 3 people that sometimes read your blog have already headed down the shore. Have a great weekend. Now where did I leave that Clicker…

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