I know there are certain things you’re not supposed to say as an artist. Things like, I only work when I’m inspired, I’m in it for the money, or this is just a hobby. And although I’m pretty onboard with keeping those particular phrases to myself, even if I believed them, there is one sentiment that I’m certain is true, at least for me. I also know it will be unpopular. I believe television helps make me a better artist and a better person.
Like, whoa, right? That’s quite the blanket statement, Angela. Hold your horses, let’s back up, obviously. In my experience, of which I have the sage know-how of 32 years, I have found that watching a thought provoking, or maybe even a not so thought provoking movie, has given me fodder for my next essay, my next project, even a title or two. An idea, a character, a certain setting, or even a song has the ability to spark the first sentence of something that I know can take off. Sometimes, if it’s the right movie, I can feel my mind expanding just a little bit, peering over the cliff that I’ve been comfortably standing on top of, waiting for me to free fall from my old beliefs. A perfect example of this is when I watched an episode of Ozark on Netflix. It detailed specifically how a woman is treated in the workforce after being a stay at home mom for some time. It was so well executed that I turned off the episode with tears rolling down my face. It was everything I was scared of, everything I couldn’t express. It helped me write an essay that I am still working on, one that explores the way I feel as a mother, as a woman, and as a writer. Watching this episode took an hour, but was not a waste of my time and it didn’t deter me from my craft. It nudged me into my next idea.
This is why I’m nearly offended when I hear of artists without televisions. I respect the need to walk away from the noise and to get some good work done. I more than understand that in order to complete a project or see an idea through, certain pleasures must be lessened. What I don’t understand is the giving up completely because isn’t the brainstorming, the writing, the acting, the production, the creativity behind each scene of a show also artistry worth enjoying? Wouldn’t we be missing something if we completely cut out everything? Or as my grandfather would say, the television programs? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think binging every day is good for the mind or the soul, or if your reality begins to merge with the created reality of, say, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (remember when I called them my friends, mom?), but I do believe there is beautiful, thoughtful, provocative content on television that should at least be considered.
Here is my honest confession about becoming a better person through TV: I absolutely use it as an escape when I am depressed. When I was in my mid-twenties, freshly unemployed, and substituting elementary and middle school students, I’d come home to the apartment I shared with my now husband, click on our big screen, and watch as many episodes of Nurse Jackie as time would allow. I’d sit there, escaped from my less than optimal reality and give my overthinking brain a break. Some might call this severe depression, or avoidance, I’m not a doctor, but I am/was a confused young woman and leaving reality for a couple of hours was a way to nurse (you see what I did there?) myself back to a place where I could see the bright side. I am not a pill addicted ER nurse who cheats on her husband with the hospital pharmacist and that made me happy after clicking the TV off. My reality was far less complicated, if not far more boring. This binging technique, I feel, helped bring me to the writer I am today. I had to go through my depression, I had to allow the self-hatred to have the motivation to eventually remove myself from the couch and walk to the library to revise my book.
Recently, I watch shows that I know will elevate me, not make me feel alright by comparison. Since I have a two year old now and free time is a hilarious concept, positivity is at a premium. One must stay within the realm of relative happiness to continue feeling the will to live and my go to show is Queer Eye right now because those beautiful, beautiful men know how to convince you to take care of yourself. I feel just a little more healed after spending a half hour with them. And when I return to my toddler, who has no shortage of energy and doesn’t understand the concepts of depression, misplaced dreams, or stress eating, I’m better equipped.
I’m saying that television can be a useful aid for artists to open their minds. I’m saying I might use television as a crutch when I’m overwhelmed. I’m saying you should not throw out your big screen because someone said you won’t be productive. I am very much saying that even though I’ve watched The Office about eleven times since its creation, I still find something new about it every single time.